Tag Archives: mountains

Welcome Back! (An Update on My Current Situation)

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I hadn’t beein in the forest three minutes, and already a tourist was asking me a question.

The Man and I had been boondocking on public land just outside a mountain town, waiting around until we were

This was the view the last time I dealt with snow in May.

closer to the day we had to report for training for our summer jobs. We could make the trip from where we were to where we needed to be in two days. We were more than a week away from when we planned to leave when I checked the weather forecast and saw we were facing a cold snap. The report said the high on Wednesday was predicted to be 44 degrees with a 70% chance or rain or snow. Snow! In May? Snow in May is not unheard of in the higher elevations.

I could wait out a day of cold at the library or a coffee shop, and The Man and the dog and I could cuddle down for a night in the mid 20s, but I was concerned about what rain and snow would do to the road that brought us into and out of our camping spot. It was a red dirt road, already rutted and rocky. I was afraid a day of rain or a melted blanket of snow would turn it into a mudyy, mushy, soupy mess. I didn’t want to get stuck in the mud, and I didn’t want to get stuck on our campsite because I was avoiding the road. The Man and I decided we’d leave on Tuesday, before the weather turned bad.

We were up Tuesday morning early. We cooked and ate breakfast, packed up our kitchen and the last few items we had lying around. Our last two errands in town were to dump our trash and hit up the food bank. We were on the road by 9:30.

We drove through rain, but made it to our stopping point just fine. We hadn’t been there long when my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. When I answered, I found The Big Boss Man on the other end of the line.

He had a favor to ask, he said. Maybe we could help him. The crew was coming to the main campground on our side of the mountain in the next few days to put up the yurts. Once the yurts were up, he’d need someone to babysit them, especially at night. Did we think we could get up the mountain before the training?

That might work, I said and told him we were already more than halfway there. We could be there in the next couple of days, I let him know.

I asked him if he actually had work for us so we could start earning money and he said we could rake and paint and clean firepits, and do whatever needed to be done to get the campgrounds ready to open. He could certainly keep us busy and pay us for our work.

When I got off the phone, I talked to The Man about the situation. We agreed we were ready to get up the mountain and get to work so we could start making money.

We drove the next day and made it up the mountain. Before we’d left cell phone service behind, I’d called The Big Boss Man and left a message letting him know we were on our way. I knew once we got on the mountain, we’d have no cell service and wouldn’t be able to call anyone.

I decided to go to the main campground first to see if the boss was there supervising yurt construction. I found myself driving behind a medium-sized rented motorhome. It passed the trail’s parking lot and pulled into the lower part of the long, wide driveway of the campground next door. I pulled my van into the campground’s driveway too, and The Man followed me with his van. The gate was closed and appeared locked. I jumped out of my van to determine if the padlock was actually locked or only dummy locked. It was actually locked; no one was working in that campground.

I walked over to The Man’s minivan to let him know the gate was locked. We decided to go to the campground where we would be living for the summer and wait for the Big Boss Man to come to us. The Man zipped around the motorhome and was out of there fast. I was climbing back into my van when I saw a woman emerge from the passenger side of the motorhome. She walked over to my van, a yellow sheet of paper in her hand. Oh no! Here we go! I thought as she approached me. Then I realized if I let myself be annoyed in my first three minutes back, it was going to be a long season.

I opened my door (because my window doesn’t roll down) and said, Yes?

She pointed to the map on her yellow sheet of paper. We are here? Her accent was definitely not American. She was looking for the trail.

I pointed back the way we’d come. The parking lot for the trail is about 200 yards that way.

The tourist season had officially begun for me.

I took the photo in this post.

Purple Mountains (A New Mexico Story)

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It was my first time in New Mexico.

I was in an AmeriCorps program in Texas. I was offered the opportunity to go to New Mexico on Memorial Day weekend to work on a trail building project in the Gila National Forest. I was excited to go, to visit a new state, to get out of the Texas heat.

Our caravan made it as far as Las Cruces on the first day of our trip. I grew up in the flatlands of the Deep South, so this trip to New Mexico was one of my first experiences with mountains. Oh how I loved them! I’d barely been able to take my eyes off them since they’d come into view.

The plan was to spend the night at a state park outside Las Cruces. We arrived in the late evening, not very long before sunset. We began the business of settting up our tents.

At 29, I was the oldest person in my AmeriCorps program. (How impossibly young 29 seems now!) I was even older than the AmeriCorps boss on the trip, who was only 23. The other AmeriCorps folks on the trip ranged in age from 16(!) to  early 20s. Also, I really only knew two other people in the group, two guys who, like me, worked in the building program. The other people in our AmeriCorps group did trail building and maintence, and I hadn’t mingled much with any of them.

During my struggle with my tent, I glanced over at the mountains. They were purple, really purple, just like in the song! They were part of one of the most beautiful landscapes I’d ever seen.

I started jumping up and down. I was literally jumping up and down and shouting, The purple mountains majesty! The purple mountains majesty!

I’d been hearing and singing “America the Beautiful” for 20+ years, and I’ll be damned if I had any idea what “purple mountain majesties” was all about. How could mountains be purple? Here was my answer! Now I understood. These were the purple mountains majesties.

I looked over. It seemed as if all the young people had stopped assembling their tents and were staring at me. Who is this old woman, I imagined them thinking, jumping up and down and yelling about purple mountains?

I stopped jumping and shouting and went back to pitching my tent. I was a little embarrassed at my outburst, but mostly I felt grateful to have seen those purple mountains.

I first tell in love with New Mexico that evening, and I’ve been in love with the state ever since.

Unfortunately, I have no photos of those purple mountains near Las Cruces, but I did take this photo of Taos County mountains.

The Ten Best Things About Taos, NM

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The town of Taos is a rather small place, but there’s so much to see and do throughout the county. I really fell in love with New Mexico as I explored Taos County, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Today I’ll share my favorite things about the Taos area.

The Ten Best Things About Taos

#1 I love the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge! At somewhere between 565 and 680 feet above the Rio Grande Gorge, the bridge is high. In 1966 the American Institute of Steel Construction awarded the bridge “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in the “Long Span” category.

#2 A community of vendors sells on the side of the highway just off the west end of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. At various times since 2012, I’ve been a vendor there. I sell hemp jewelry and warm, colorful yarn hats that I make with my own two hands, as well as shiny rocks. (I can’t take credit for the shiny rocks; Mother Nature does all that work.) The vendors at the bridge are like an extended family in many ways; sometimes we argue and get mad at each other, but overall, there is a lot of love and generosity flowing among us.

#3 At almost 7,000 feet, Taos is cooler in the summer than a lot of other places. The

relative humidity typically ranges from 17% (dry) to 88% (very humid) over the course of the year,

which helps too. It’s not uncommon for the temperature to drop 30 degrees overnight, even in the summer, at least giving folks respite from the heat of the day. If day time heat gets too bad, I drive fifteen or so miles to the Rio Hondo, sit among tall pine trees, and put my feet in the icy snowmelt river water.

#4 Someone has added UFOs to many of the the cow crossing signs in Taos County! Sometimes the Department of Transportation removes the stickers or puts up new signs, but the UFOs always seem to reappear.

#5 I’ve never encountered a goathead in Taos County. I’d never even heard of a goathead until I traveled to Sierra County in southern New Mexico. If you’ve never heard of a goathead, here’s a description:

A mature goathead is a solid lump of wood a quarter inch or more in diameter, with several very hard, very sharp, quarter inch spikes arrayed around it…Goatheads are basically tetrahedral in shape, meaning that–no matter how they fall to the ground, no matter how they get kicked around–they will always have a spike pointing straight up…

As you may have guessed, if a goathead goes into a foot, it HURTS! They are a nuisance at best and a REAL PAIN at worst. Oh, how glad I am to be away from them when I leave Truth or Consequences and return to the Taos area.

#6 Taos (and especially the Gorge Bridge area) is known for its sunsets. Unfortunately, the camera on my phone does no justice to a Taos sunset, but believe me when I say I’ve seen some gorgeous ones.

#7 I’m also seen fantastic rainbows in the rural parts of the county. During my first summer and fall in the area, I saw more rainbows than I had seen in the previous forty years of my life.  Some of those rainbows were absolutely vivid too! One afternoon I saw a rainbow so bright, I imagined someone had given a second grader a box of crayons and instructed the kid the draw a rainbow across the sky.

#8 There are natural, free, clothing-optional hot springs on public land in Taos county. My favorite is Blackrock Hot Spring near the John Dunn Bridge, but there’s also Namby (also known as Stagecoach) Hot Spring. I’ve never been to Namby, but I’ve been to Blackrock  several times. I’ve heard rumors of other hot and warm springs, so I may have new Taos County explorations ahead of me.

#9 The mountains around the town of Taos are fantastic! I grew up in the flatlands, and I didn’t even know I was missing the mountains, but now that I’ve met them, I love them! I especially enjoy the mountains when there’s a little snow on the top, but I could look at them all day, any day of the year.

#10 Most people around Taos don’t think it’s too strange when they hear someone is living in his or her van or car or an old school bus or even just camping out in the sage. Folks in Taos have seen a lot of people living in a lot of different ways and have maybe even lived in some unconventional housing themselves. There’s not a lot of judgment placed on people getting by without electricity or running water or even a permanent place to call home.

Any questions about the town of Taos or Taos County can be left in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

 

 

She’s Gone

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And by “she,” I mean me.

On Friday, April 17, I finally found out the date I was expected to report to California for my training for my summer job as a camp host. The date? April 27. Yep, they wanted me to arrive for training in ten days.

I was told that the snow on the mountain had melted, and people wanted to be up there camping, so they had to get the camp hosts in. They were getting all the camp hosts for that area together as soon as possible to get them trained and on the job.

At first I was kind of pissy. I had originally been told that the job would start in mid May. How is April 27th mid May? (Hint: It isn’t.) I had a job making $13 an hour (with the chance for bonuses) that was scheduled to last until May 20th. I had a place to stay paid for through the end of May. By leaving before April ended, I was effectively throwing away $300. Also, I was not ready to go. I still didn’t have new tires. I still didn’t have a back slider window. I still hadn’t replaced all the rusty screws holding the high top to the van. I still hadn’t bought a Luci light or a bunch of food or the cleaning supplies I need.

And then I just got over myself. I was on my way out. Out of the hot, dirty city. Out of a job, which, while well-paying was numbing my brain and causing me to have ideas about how I could really work better if I could could just get a little bump of speed, not too much, just enough to perk me up. Out of driving twenty miles a day through streets lined with strip malls and stores, supermarkets, restaurants, shopping opportunities of every kind. Out of the beautiful yet brown desert. Out of the rat race. Out of the game.

I was moving into free. Free on the road, with the Grateful Dead and Lucinda Williams singing through one cheap speaker and the tiny, cheap MP3 player which doesn’t even let me set up playlists, but instead plays whatever it wants, whenever it wants. Free to sing along at the top of my lungs or shout or curse or listen silently, no one in the passenger seat to judge or disapprove or be offended. I was moving into the mountains, into the trees, into a place that shows up on the map as a huge expanse of green. I was moving closer to the area of the magical hot springs I visited with my boys two and half years ago, knowing when I left that I would be back someday, somehow. Moving into quiet and solitude, but also into people from everywhere that I will meet as they too come to visit the trees. Moving into myself. Moving into the trees.

I wasn’t sure how I would scrape together all the money I needed to do all the things I needed to do before I hit the road. (In my original plan, I’d have had four to six weeks worth of pay from scoring essays saved up before I took off to Cali. The way things actually worked out gave me 34 hours of pay on April 24, with another two weeks of pay coming on May 8th.) But then I realized, it was only money. I’d gone farther on less.

No sense panicking. No sense worrying. All I could do was do what I could do, then hit the road.

The title of my post is a reference to the Grateful Dead song “He’s Gone.” I took the photo in this post.