Tag Archives: Camping

Las Petacas Campground

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I’ve never spent the night in Las Petacas Campground, but I did walk through it in mid-May of 2017 before the gate was open and while the waters of the adjacent stream were high.

Las Petacas (which means “the flasks ” according to Babelfish.com) Campground is located at an elevation of 7,400 feet, next to a stream called Rio Fernando de Taos on US Highway 64. This scenic highway is known as the Enchanted Circle and connects Taos, Angel Fire, Eagle Nest, Red River, Questa, and Arroyo Hondo. According to http://enchantedcircle.org/, the Enchanted Circle is an

the 83-mile loop through mountains, valleys, mesa, and national forest… all unique to Northern New Mexico.

The Enchanted Circle is centered around Wheeler Peak, the highest point in the state.  Culture and outdoor recreation are abundant around the Enchanted Circle…

This is the bridge in Las Petacas campground that spans the Rio de Fernando de Taos. Can you see the water only inches from the bottom of the bridge?

When I say the campground is next to the highway, I mean it is right next to the highway. Although I’ve never stayed the night in Las Petecas, I’ve slept in my van in other pullouts on the same highway. There wasn’t much traffic during the pre-Memorial Day times I stayed in the area, and vehicles virtually ceased traveling down the road by nine or ten o’clock at night. Highway noise is probably pretty low in the campground after dark.

The campground is small–only nine camp sites–and is sandwiched between the highway and a stream. In the middle of the campground, a small footbridge crosses the stream. Sites 3 and 4 are located across the water and are accessible via the bridge. Most of the sites are visible to the highway, but the two end sites and the sites across the stream offer the most privacy. Because of the water source, there are many trees on the river side of the campground.

The sites on each end of the camping area could accommodate a van or a small pull-behind camper or a small-to-medium Class C RV. While a pull-behind camper or vehicle couldn’t make it across the bridge to take one of the sites across the river, the parking area for those sites could accommodate a van or a small Class C. About half of the sites in the middle of the highway side of the river have large, flat parking areas adequate for a van or small-to-medium Class Cs, but other sites offer barely any room to park, which might make camping out of a vehicle tricky.

The stream–Rio Fernando de Taos–was quite high when I visited the campground. While the water was not flowing over the bridge, it was flowing just a few inches below. People who’d lived in the area for years were surprised at how high the water was. It flowed rapidly; I wouldn’t have tried to ford it, even if it hadn’t consisted of icy snowmelt.

The waters of the Rio Fernando de Taos were quite high in early May of 2017.

This is the building which houses the pit toilet in the Las Petacas Campground.

There is no camp host at Las Petacas Campground, but it does boast a pit toilet in one of those little Forest Service restroom buildings. The restroom was unlocked the day I was there, even though the campground wasn’t yet officially open. The restroom was stocked with toilet paper and appeared clean, although since I didn’t actually use the facility, I didn’t lift the lid to see how clean or dirty the risers and seat were. However, because there was toilet paper on the roll and the floor wasn’t filthy, I knew someone had been coming around to service the area.

Las Petacas Campground is a fee area. It costs $6 per night to camp there. Payment in on the honor system, with pay envelopes provided at the info board. A campsite may be occupied for 14 days. (I’m not sure if that means a campsite can only be occupied for 14 consecutive days or 14 days within a certain period of time or what.)

I think $6 is a fair price to pay to stay at a campground with a pit toilet in a busy tourist area. (The campground is only four miles from the town of Taos.) Of course, free would be better, but cheap is sometimes ok too. I would stay at this campground if I had a few dollars to spend and wanted to be close to Taos. I think it would be a pretty, tranquil place to hang out during the day and to sleep at night.

I took all the photos in this post.

The Forest Service website (https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/carson/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=44098&actid=29) gives the GPS coordinates of Las Petacas campground as Latitude : 36.382 and Longitude: -105.5214

 

Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area

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I heard about the Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area from Coyote Sue. She knows so many great free camping spots in southern New Mexico and Arizona, and  I’m so grateful for her willingness to share her free camping information with me.

I was traveling with The Man before he became The Man and was simply a new friend, a fellow with whom I’d decided to go to New Mexico. His dog was with us too, of course, and ALL of The Man’s possessions, since he’d sold his car in California and planned to pick up a van in Oklahoma in April.

I think it was Wednesday when we left Quartzsite, where we’d met. We spent our first night on the road at a free campsite in the Buckeye Hills Recreation Area. (Read about my prior experiences at the Buckeye Hills Recreation Area here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/04/12/buckeye-hills-recreation-area/.) The man set up his tiny tent (which he returned to Wal-Mart the next day, as it turned out to be too tiny for him and the dog, much less him and the dog and his stuff), and I slept in the van.

The van was jam packed with all my stuff and all The Man’s stuff, and there was no path from the front of the van to my bed. The only way to get into my bed was through the back doors, which don’t open from the inside. I was too claustrophobic to get in the bed and close the doors completely, which would have given me no way out of the van in the event of an emergency. I had to get into the bed from the back, then close but not latch the doors. My main concern was rolling over in the night, pushing the doors open, then falling out the back. Thankfully that didn’t happen. If I had been traveling alone, I wouldn’t have slept with the doors partially open, but I felt entirely safe with The Man and the dog sleeping right outside my walls. (If I had been traveling alone, my van wouldn’t have been overloaded with the worldly possessions of two people.)

On our second night on the road, we ended up at the Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area.

It was dark when we exited the I-10 in the little town of Bowie, AZ, which is almost to the border with New Mexico. The town seemed deserted as we drove down the main drag. We joked about the zombie apocalypse, but the complete lack of any sign of human activity was unnerving.

I missed our turn onto Apache Pass Road because I didn’t see the street sign in the dark and ended up on the far side of the town, close to I-10 again. I was pretty sure we had gone too far, so I checked my phone to see if Coyote Sue had texted me better information than I’d gotten from Google Maps. In fact, she had. Her text said to turn at the sign for Fort Bowie. Sure enough, after I made that turn, I saw the sign for Apache Pass Road.

I drove through the dark and looked for Happy Camp Canyon Road where we would make a right.

On the right side of the road, we saw pale, leafless trees growing in neat rows. It was an orchard of some sort.

Are those pecan trees? I asked, but The Man was unsure.

Then I saw a street sign that read Pistachio Lane, and we decided it must be a pistachio orchard.

The dog saw a bunny through the windshield and The Man egged him on by telling him to get it! The dog went berserk and lunged at the windshield, cleanly removing the glued down guardian angel statue from her perch on the dash. The Man had to grab the dog and hold him down amid much barking and excitement.

In the light of morning, we saw the recreation area’s picnic tables and pit toilet.

We finally saw Happy Camp Canyon Road and made our turn. It wasn’t long before we saw the recreation area’s picnic tables and pit toilet. A group was setting up near the picnic area, and there were a couple of popup campers in the vicinity, but we decided to go further out before we made a decision about where to spend the night.

We found our spot and I parked the van. A million stars popped out against the incredibly dark sky. A strong wind made the air cold, but The Man set up his (new, bigger) tent by the light of his headlamp while the dog ran around, glad to be free from the confines of the van. I opened the back doors and climbed into bed, closing the doors behind me just enough so I could still come flying out if necessary. I snuggled under my down comforter and soon fell asleep, again feeling safe because The Man and the dog were nearby.

Other than the howling of the wind, it was a very quiet night. I didn’t hear a peep out any of the other campers in the area.

Since I’ve been traveling alone, I don’t typically arrive at my destination after dark. I like to arrive and settle in before the sun sets. I feel safer that way, but arriving in the sunlight robs me of the pleasure of waking up to beauty I couldn’t see in the dark. I awoke to such pleasure at Indian Bread Rocks.

When I popped out of the van in the morning, I literally let out a yell of pleasure. This place was gorgeous!

We were surrounded by mountains that looked to be composed of piles of loose, round, tan rocks. There were cacti and small trees throughout the large, flat valley where I’d parked the van.

One of the mountains in the distance had snow on it. That was exciting! The wind had died down in the night, so it wasn’t as cold as it had been, but we were early morning chilly, and I think seeing snow in the distance made us feel a little bit colder.

The Man asked me to walk out to one of the rock formations with him and take his photo with his phone. By that point, I already had a little crush on The Man, even though I knew he wasn’t interested in getting into a relationship or even just having casual sex. My little crush made me very happy to go on a nature walk with him. My little crush made me very happy when he took my hand to help me up rocks. My little crush made me very happy just to be with him.

After our nature walk and photo shoot, we headed back to the van. We packed up, and drove up to the front of the recreation area to use the pit toilet, which was mighty disgusting. As a former camp host, I could tell the toilet hadn’t been cleaned in quite a while. The seat was so nasty, I broke my own rule and perched instead of sitting both cheeks on the seat. (Read more of my advice for using a pit toilet here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/08/27/how-to-use-a-pit-toilet/.)

Overall, I enjoyed my stay at the Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area and would stay there again, maybe for several days, but certainly any time I’m driving on I-10 between New Mexico and Arizona.

The Man took this photo of me at Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area in Arizona. I took all the other photos in this post.

The Free Campsites website (https://freecampsites.net/#!5545&query=sitedetails) gives the GPS coordinates of Indian Bread Rocks Recreation Area as 32.238617, -109.500099. The elevation is 4183′.

 

 

 

Reconnoitering in the Desert

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Last week my friend and I walked around the desert, looking for a place to make a good camp on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. While we were walking around, I took photos of some of the things I saw.

This photo shows the old car we found in the wash. It’s very rusty.

The most unusual thing we saw was the rusted remains of an old automobile. Believe me, the car was not in a place it could have easily been driven to. In fact, it was in a place that seemed impossible to drive to. It was high up in a wash, in a place I think no motorized vehicle could go.

How do you think that car got here? I asked my friend.

I dunno, he drawled.

I think it was washed here in a flood! I said. How else could it have gotten here?

The car seemed old, not just because it was rusty. The design of the car seemed old. I think the car had been sitting there for years, decades even. I don’t think anyone is going to drag the car out of the wash. I think the car is going to sit there until it becomes one with the earth.

This is the front of the car we found in the wash. It looks really old to me.

Wow! Look at that bug! I said when I saw a beetle sunning itself on a small rock. I like to see creatures hanging out in nature.

We poked at the beetle a little, just to see it move, then we felt bad about disturbing it. It tried to hide in the shadow of the surrounding rocks. I tried to move it back to the sun where I’d first found it.

Later, I almost stepped on it as I skidded down from a higher level where I’d climbed.

Watch out for our little friend, my friend said to me, but I thought he was talking about the dog. Luckily, I didn’t step on the beetle, although I was pretty out of control at the moment, waving my arms and trying to get down the steep, rocky incline without falling.

Here’s the rock formation I’d climbed up to look at more closely:

I stood at the base of it and looked at the openings in the rock. I think it was full of packrat nests. I saw what I thought was feces, and got away from it fast. I don’t need any New Mexico plague, thank you very much.

I think the formation was made of sandstone. It felt gritty to the touch, and seemed as if it could easily disintegrate or wash away. Although at first I thought camping up against it might make for a good campsite, we ended up deciding it was too unstable to trust with our lives.

After a couple of hours of walking around, we found a spot my friend liked. It was mostly flat and mostly secluded. He set up his tent and hauled his things over while I reorganized the van.

As I left in the late afternoon, I saw the sunset in my sideview mirror.

It was a lovely end to a lovely day in the desert.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

Knock in the Night

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I’ve been living and traveling alone in my van since the Fall of 2012. I’ve been through at least ten states and have stayed in cities and on public land. On only two occasions has anyone bothered me while I was sleeping. Once it was a cop harassing me (read about that experience here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/09/07/cop-knock/), and the other time–well, I’m still not entirely sure what that was all about.

I was staying at a free National Forest campground in Northern New Mexico. I’d stayed there before. It was basically primitive camping, but there were a couple of pit toilets there. I liked the place, mostly because there was no charge to stay, but also because it was next to a river, lots of tall trees grew there, and the temperature was cool.

I arrived late in the afternoon of the night in question. I’d been selling jewelry and shiny rocks all day. I was tired. I wanted to eat dinner, then crawl into my bed with a book, probably go to sleep early. I was scheduled to sell jewelry and shiny rocks the next day, so I planned to get moving early.

When I’d pulled into the campground, I’d found the most desirable spots close to the pit toilets had been claimed. I looked around until I found a spot to park the van farther out. There was a tent pitched in the general area, but I gave it plenty of space.

I went about my business of cooking and eating dinner. While I was outside, I saw at least one large dog and several young men around the other tent. A small pickup truck arrived, then left. I kept to myself, didn’t try to make conversation, but I noticed it wasn’t a family camping over there. I saw no children, no mother figure, just guys.

When the sky darkened, I got in the van, locked the doors, and closed the curtains. I read my book, then turned out my light. The night was going according to plan.

Suddenly I was jolted awake by knocking on the van’s exterior. It took me a moment to figure out where I was and what was happening. I’m in my van, I remembered. I’m parked next to the river.

The knocking came again.

Who is it? I yelled. Even to my own ears, my voice sounded grumpy and gruff.

The side windows were open to let in the cool night air, so apparently my voice was audible. I didn’t even move a curtain to peek outside, much less open the door.

A male voice outside the van identified itself as one of the neighbor campers. If their vehicle needed a jump start in the morning, would I help them out?

What the fuck? I was thinking. Who knocks on a stranger’s dark van in the middle of the night to ask for a jump start if the situation is not a full-blown emergency? Apparently this guy.

Sure, I told the guy, if you need a jump in the morning, I’ll help you out if I’m around.

I knew good and well that I planned to be out of there early. I’d likely be gone before the sun was up.

The guy seemed to wander away (I wasn’t trying to peep out the windows), but now I was wide awake. (If you’ve ever felt the burst of adrenaline that comes with waking from a deep sleep to the tune of someone knocking on your van, you know it’s not easy to drift off after.) I started wondering what was really going on. Why had the guy really knocked? He must have suspected I was asleep since it was the middle of the night (around 2am when I switched on my light to look at my watch), and there hadn’t been a single light on in the van.

As I lay there wondering if I were safe, wondering if the man would come back, I tried to remember the vehicle situation at the nearby camp. I didn’t remember seeing a vehicle parked near the tent when I arrived. I did remember the small pickup  pulling in, but I was mostly sure it had left. I hadn’t heard another vehicle arrive after dark, but I could have conceivably slept through a car or small truck’s arrival. Could I have slept through the noise of someone discovering a dead battery, discussing the situation with others? Maybe. But I was almost certain the man had asked for my help if the battery were dead. Did he not even know the status of the battery when he asked for my help?

I finally slept again for a few hours more. I woke early, but didn’t get out of the van. When I looked out of the windows, no one seemed to be moving on the other campsite. As I maneuvered my van out of my spot, the van’s engine noise awakened the large dog who barked and barked and barked. I felt satisfaction that perhaps the dogs’ barking would awaken the guy who’d disturbed my slumber.

As I left the camping area, I looked around for a vehicle that belonged to the nearby campsite. I didn’t see any vehicles–not a car, not a truck, not a motorcycle or even a bike. Did a vehicle start and leave sometime after the man knocked on my van? Maybe. But I doubt I would have slept through any noise after the knocking interrupted my sleep and shot adrenaline through my body.

I’ve often wondered what was really going on that night. I don’t think those guys had a vehicle at all, much less one that maybe had a dead battery. As I said before, barring a complete emergency, good manners and common sense dictate that one does not knock on a stranger’s dark van in the middle of the night.

I think the man just wanted to know what I would do if he knocked on my van in the wee hours. Maybe he’d acted alone. Maybe the other man had dared him to knock. Maybe they were drunk. Maybe he was hoping I’d open the door or step of the van so he could what? Rob me? Rape me? Did he just want to know if I’d agree to help? Did the men not want a camping neighbor and were hoping to scare me off?

I suppose I’ll never know what the intentions were that night, but I’m glad there was nothing scarier that night than a knock in the dark.

I took this photo. It is not the river I slept next to the night of this incident, but you get the idea.

I took this photo. It is not the river I slept next to the night of this incident, but you get the idea.