Friday, June 30, 2017

Eagle Nest

Our next New Mexico state park was Eagle Nest at a cool 8200 feet.  The campground itself is just a loop, but the scenery is 360 degrees with a lake surrounded by lovely hills and mountains. 

We asked at the visitors center about hikes in the area and they recommended the Clear Creek Trail, about 5 miles away in Cimarron Canyon.  Luckily there were lots of vehicles pulled off the road at the trailhead as the sign was pretty small.

The trail begins right at this interesting log with flowing water along it.  We had to wonder if it was natural.

Soon we came upon a large group of young people (and one not so young) doing trail maintenance.  We learned they were a church group from Texas.

How wonderful to see them taking such an interest in the outdoors.

The trail followed along pretty Clear Creek, with sounds and views of cascades.

We crossed the creek several times on improved logs.  I usually let Ron go first.

After about a mile, we were rewarded by the first substantial waterfall.

There were plenty of flowers to admire along the way, including wild roses.

We turned around at a mile and a half where we could barely see this major waterfall through the trees.

On our way down, we ran into the volunteers on their way up.  I guess suggesting they cut down the trees to improve the view of the waterfall would have been a bit much.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Storrie Lake, revisited

We had the option of moving to one of the parks farther east on the plains, but with the forecasted weather there in the high 90’s, we decided to return to Storrie Lake.  Even with the higher altitude there, the weather was predicted to be around 90, so we arrived mid-week with hopes of getting an electric site.  At first, the girl at the entrance said she had just sent three rigs racing to the last spot with electric.  Undeterred, I continued my interrogation, and she finally said there was one spot on the far side of the lake with electric.  And we were off like a shot.
Although there are about 50 designated sites, 21 of which have electric, this particular area only has four, two of which were taken by park volunteers.  Perfect!  Not quite as perfect was how unlevel the site was.  I think we used every board and leveling block we have.

But a little challenge is good for us and soon we were enjoying the spectacular sunset caused by high level smoke from a wildfire to the west. 

We took a day trip up into the nearby mountains and checked out Morphy Lake State Park.  What a gorgeous spot, but not someplace we could take the RV. 

We took a walk around the lake and spotted this hummingbird moth (or hawk moth.)  He doesn’t look that big here, but that thistle flower was huge.

Part of the ‘trail’ consisted of finding your own way through the woods.  But you couldn’t get lost by just keeping the lake on the left.

There are some pretty valleys in this area.  This is coming down into the town of Mora.

One day when it wasn’t as hot, we did a walking tour around Las Vegas (New Mexico, not Nevada.)  Las Vegas has quite a history, In the mid 1800s, it was an important location along the Santa Fe trail.  With the arrival of the railroad in 1879, Las Vegas really boomed.  In fact, in the early 1900s, it was New Mexico’s largest town.  According to the visitors guide, there are 900 structures on the national historic register.  We saw a few of them.

The Crockett Block, built in 1898, reflects the California Mission style.

I was very excited to see this sign on the building.  Imagine my disappointment when I discovered the whole building was a bank with no soda fountain in sight.

Old City Hall, built in 1892, is a fine example of Richardsonian Romanesque style.  (Obviously I’m just copying this out of the guide.)  The two-toned sandstone was locally quarried and cut.

Las Vegas was also the setting for many movies.  This house, built in 1886, was used as a movie set for Wyatt Earp and All the Pretty Horses.  It’s a mixture of formal Classical design with Victorian spindle work on the porch.

James H. Ward was the contractor for several elegant houses, including his own.  Built in 1883, this is an Italianate Villa.  What I found amazing was that the balcony and yard fence are original.

We were at Storrie Lake over Father’s Day.  Not only were all the sites full, but the shoreline was packed.  I’m glad we were off in our own little quiet area. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Back to Villanueva

After Santa Fe, we returned to Villanueva State Park for a week.  Despite the lack of phone or Internet service, we really like it there.   It’s located in a scenic canyon along the Pecos River.
This time we were lucky and grabbed site #1 right at the entrance.  It was perfect for us.  We had full sun on the solar panels until mid-afternoon when the trees gave us shade for the hottest part of the day.  It was also far away from those smelly campfires.

 We felt really lucky to be there when they were having a raptor demonstration.  These birds were all found wounded and cannot be released back into the wild.  You can see this magnificent great horned owl lost an eye.

The red-tailed hawk looks fine in this picture, but he is also missing an eye.

The turkey vulture is not actually a raptor.  She just enjoys the attention.  Her problem is obvious.

The talk had a huge turnout.  It was heart-warming to see all the interest, especially how attentive all the young children were.

One day we hiked up to a historic spot with signs of long ago New Mexicans.  There was supposed to be an defined area where they had winnowed their grain.  It was certainly a windy place, but the only unnatural spot we found looked more like a corral.

It sure is a pretty view though.

This guy was guarding the place.

Just look at the length of his tail!

Back down at the river, we followed the Pecos upstream to the edge of the park.

Another day we visited Pecos National Historic Park which consists of two very different sections.  First is the Pecos Pueblo.  Established in the mid-1300s, the pueblo survived the Spaniards, well-meaning missionaries, famine, disease, and raids by Apache and Comanche, but in 1838, the last few inhabitants left.  We toured this section previously, here, but we stopped at the visitor center for information.  The money for the visitor center was donated by screen star Greer Garson and it’s beautiful.

Our goal for the day was to see the site of the Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass.  In the early part of the war, the Confederacy tried to seize control of the Southwest.  In March of 1862, the opposing troops met at Glorieta Pass.  At the end of the 3-day battle, the Confederates held the field.  But because of a daring raid by Major John Chivington and guided by Lt. Col. Manuel Chaves of the New Mexico volunteers, the Confederate supply wagons were destroyed and their horses and mules were stampeded.  This forced the Confederates to withdraw and ended their southwest initiative.

I was  pretty disappointed by the 2-mile hike around the battlefield which looked like this.

During my last visit to Pennsylvania, my father, my daughters, and I visited Gettysburg.  Although I am still majorly bummed that the Electric Map is gone, I was impressed that they are trying to restore the landscape to what it was during the battle.  You can now stand atop Little Round Top and get a good view of the battlefield.  To be fair, I realize that Gettysburg battlefield gets millions of visitors each year, while Glorieta probably numbers in the hundreds.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Back into New Mexico

With the intention of fully utilizing the state parks pass, we returned to New Mexico after the graduation excitement.  However our first two stops in the state have been previous favorite boondocking spots rather than parks.

Our first stop was a spot in the national forest that we found several years ago.  It’s just far enough off US 285 to be quiet and hidden.

We were surprised to find another RVer there when we arrived, although he was just packing up to leave.  Ron walked over to say hi.  The poor man is suffering from PTSD and feels more comfortable in the wide open spaces.  So sad.
After setting up, we noticed a lot of activity out our rear window.  Two bluebirds were building a nest in a tree cavity.  It seemed they were afraid of being ousted because one would guard the hole,

Until the other returned with some nesting material.

We stayed two nights in our peaceful spot, but had quite a mechanical scare when we hitched up to leave.  We backed into the fifth wheel as usual, but when the jaws closed around the pin, the handle didn’t snap back into the locked position.  And no matter what we did (back the truck, lower or lift the fifth wheel), that handle didn’t move.  And we also couldn’t disconnect to start over.  I was panicking.  But Ron very calmly got his tools and started poking around under the hitch until the handle suddenly popped into place.  What a guy!  The next day, he called the hitch manufacturer and the tech support guy said we probably didn’t have enough weight on it.  That makes no sense to me, especially since he had Ron pop it by pushing on the open jaws and it latched fine.  With NO weight on the hitch.  We’ll see if it keeps acting up, but at least Ron can fix it.

Once the hitch was securely locked into place, we moved on to the Santa Fe Elks lodge.  It’s just a parking spot on their dirt lot, but what a perfect location only 2 miles from the downtown area.

We got our big city fix with laundry, grocery shopping, Sams Club, a breakfast and dinner out, and we got some extra keys made for the truck and RV.  Today we finally did a short hike in the foothills.

The Santa Fe Foothill Trail System includes 34 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.  We only did about 2 miles of that, but couldn’t believe how nice the trail was.  At each intersection, indicated by a number on the map, was a trail map,

And signs to point you to the next number.  I don’t think you could get lost if you tried.

The trail had great views of Santa Fe.  Although it is the state capital, they have building regulations to help it retain a small town feeling.  You can see there are no tall buildings.

And no matter how large the house, it must conform to the southwest color scheme and style. 

We saw this pretty cactus blooming.  The flower looks like the claret cup that we have in Arizona, but the rest of the plant looks completely different.

This horned lizard stayed still right along the trail.  I guess he thought we couldn’t see him.  Maybe he was correct because I managed to chop off the top of his head in the picture.  But I’m posting it anyway. 

Back at the trail head, we noticed someone had spruced up the parking lot.  I just love the color of this iris. 

And what a cool wood carving!  Only in Santa Fe would a piece of art survive in a parking lot.

Tomorrow we're moving back to Villanueva State Park for several days.  Despite the fact that the road in is rather frightening and, once there, there is no phone or internet, we really liked it when we visited about a month ago.

Sunday, June 4, 2017


Leaving Denver, we had our usual debate on which route to take.   Although we really like the views going southwest on US 285, Ron thought it would be rather cold.  But I wanted to return to my favorite town of Salida.  We compromised by taking I 25 south to Pueblo, then US 50 west to Salida.  It was a little longer, but US 50 between Canon City and Salida is one of the prettiest drives anywhere.  You might notice less in-transit pictures this year because I’m doing more of the driving, and that was the case during this scenic 50 miles along the Arkansas River.  Although pictures don’t really do it justice, you can see some from last year by clicking here.

We picked our spot at the free BLM campground just east of Salida, aptly named Salida East.  We met friends of Ron’s for lunch, attended a free Bluegrass concert, shopped, hiked, and ate – the usual.

There’s a hike we enjoy that begins near the campground.  It climbs up the foothills with lovely views of the mountains across the valley, 

And the town of Salida.

The funny thing is that I always forget how much it does climb,

But the scenery is so worth it.

Another day we walked around in the cute downtown area and watched these paddle boarders playing on the rapids.  And here I thought paddle board were for calm water.

Right across from the campground is a BBQ restaurant and small motorcycle museum. 

The motorcycles take up half of the dining room floor,

These lovely ladies are keeping an eye on things.

I was surprised to read this sign claiming the presence of an historical motorcycle. 

And here it is.

I remain skeptical about the authenticity.  How the heck would it end up in tiny Salida?