Tag Archives: New Mexico

Rockhound State Park (NM)

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I’d been hearing about  Rockhound State Park near Deming, NM ever since I’d started hanging around rock people in Taos. It was a state park, they’d tell me with wonder in their voices, where you could mine for New Mexico minerals. Maybe I’m just a Negative Nelly, but I doubted there would be many shiny rocks left in the park after thousands (tens of thousands? hundreds of thousands?) of visitors had already taken home all they wanted.

I finally got to visit Rockhound State Park in December 2017. I was heading west from Truth or Consequences, NM, and I had a state parks pass, so I decided to spend the night in the park’s campground. I arrived late in the day, so I didn’t stop at the visitor center. I didn’t go to the visitor center the next day either. I can’t remember exactly why. I remember I was sad because of recent relationship troubles, so I guess I was content to stay close to my van home.

When I pulled into the campground late on a Sunday afternoon, most of the developed campsites without electricity were occupied. I didn’t want to pay an additional $4 for electricity I didn’t need, so I was happy to get what seemed to be the last available basic developed site. My site was close to the day use parking area and the adjacent trail. My site was also within walking distance of a clean pit toilet. I was grateful to have a flat spot to park my van.

This photo shows the view of the campground from the beginning of the Jasper Trail. I was camped next to the first ramada on the left in the foreground of the photo.

The campsites are quite close together in the area where I found my spot. During my first evening there, I very clearly heard my next door neighbor’s side of a phone conversation. He was sitting outside near his large rig, but I could hear him so easily, he might as well have been sitting at my picnic table. By the sound of his accent, he was from Wisconsin or Minnesota, and he wasn’t too impressed with the campground we were in. He and his wife preferred Oliver Lee State Park, he told the person on the other end of his conversation. I would have preferred silence, but I guess we were both destined to be dissatisfied that night.

I drove around the campground while looking for a site, but once I found my place, I didn’t venture away from my loop. I just didn’t feel motivated to walk around the campground. I suppose I wanted to stay close to the security of my cozy home. I certainly didn’t want to experience yet another cold New Mexico state park shower, so I didn’t seek out the bathhouse.

The loud Midwesterner and his lady left in the morning and I had a few hours of quiet early in the day. I cooked some breakfast, then tidied the van. I planned to leave the next day, and I wanted to be rested upon departure.

In the afternoon I decided to go for a walk on the nearby Jasper Trail. The trail started just across the pavement from my van, so I didn’t have far to go to get to it. I wasn’t so interested in the trail itself, but I did feel like I needed some exercise. I wanted to stretch my legs and get my blood circulating.

I walked for maybe half an hour. I saw scrubby bushes, cacti, and some rock formations, but no cool shiny rocks. I wasn’t really looking for shiny rocks, and I didn’t get off the trail, so I’m not really surprised that I didn’t find anything I wanted to load into the van. I’m sure a lot of people had walked that trail before me and any nice rocks were long gone from the immediate vicinity.

This photo shows a view of the jagged rocks I saw from the Jasper Trail.

The State Parks website says of Rockhound State Park,

Located on the rugged west slope of the Little Florida Mountains, Rockhound State Park is a favorite for “rockhounds” because of the abundant agates and quartz crystals found there.

I suspect folks who are interested in collecting rock specimens in the park know where to look to increase their chances of finding what they want. Perhaps the workers at the visitor center advise rockhounds on where to dig for the minerals they seek.

Not long after I returned to my camp, a loud, slightly dilapidated, medium-size motor home pulled into the campground. I noticed it right away. It circled the campground, then chose the site right next to mine. To be fair, the site right next to mine may have been the only available one in the place.

After the loud conversation from next door the night before, I was hoping for a quiet evening. Unfortunately, the man who disembarked from the noisy moter home was not a quiet man. Fortunately (for me at least), he latched onto the couple on the other side of him. The man was loud and animated and quite possibly on meth. There was just something about him that made me want to avoid eye contact.

The motorhome man built a campfire and convinced his other neighbors to sit around it with him. I avoided eye contact with all of them by keeping my head down while I cooked dinner. When my meal was ready, I ate it in my van. Once the dishes were washed, I got in my van and locked the doors. At some point the newcomer settled down and went into his own rig, where he was quiet enough not to disturb me for the rest of the night.

I was out of the campground the next morning before check-out time. I had a list of thrift stores I wanted to visit before I left Deming, and I was on a schedule, so my time of lingering was over. The motorhome man didn’t bother me, for which I was thankful.

I would stay at Rockhound State Park again, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to stay there. It was a fine campground, but not spectacular in any way I noticed.

I took all the photos in this post.

Primitive Camping at Brantley Lake State Park

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I’d gotten a New Mexico State Parks annual camping pass. It was The Man’s idea. I’d thought about getting the pass before, but The Man said this winter we could each get one and spend the season in New Mexico State Parks. He’d wrap stones with copper wire to make pendants, and I could write.

We met up at Leasburg Dam State Park after a month apart and stayed there a couple of nights. The Man thought he might be able to make some money in Carlsbad or Roswell, so we took off to that part of the state, planning to camp at Brantley Lake State Park.

Brantley Lake is between Carlsbad and Roswell, off of Highway 285. It’s closer to Carlsbad (about 12 miles) and is about 70 miles from Roswell. We’d stayed in the park’s Limestone Campground once before, when we’d been in the area the previous spring, after our visit to Carlsbad Caverns.

I remembered two important things about the park.

#1 All of the sites in Limestone Campground have electricity, so they all cost $14 per night instead of the regular $10 per night of the developed, non-electric sites covered by our camping passes. If we wanted to stay in the campground, we’d have to pay an extra $4 per night for our site.

New Mexico & Arizona State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide
#2 The park offers primitive camping. I remembered the camp host taling about the primitive camping when we’d been there in the spring, and I confirmed primitive camping with my guidebook, New Mexico and Arizona State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Don and Barbara Laine. Primitive camping only costs $8 per night and is covered by our passes.

It was dark when we pulled into Brantley Lake State Park, but we followed the signs to Rocky Bay, the primitive camping area. We parked our vans in a spot just off the road and a short walk from the lake. That’s where we settled in for the night.

In the morning, we got a better lay of the land. The primitive camping area has no designated camping spots, but

I parked that close to the water.

there were several flat areas next to the water where people had obviously camped before. During the days before and after Thanksgiving, there weren’t many primitive campers, so there was plenty of room for everyone to spread out. (We could see our nearest neighbors on both sides, but all we heard of them was the enthusiastic drumming of the people to our right. The sound was quite faint, merely background noise, which was good because the drumming went on well after dark and started again between 4:30 and 5 in the morning.)

Like most primitive camping I’ve encountered, this area had not amenities. It was a leave no trace kind of place where campers must pack out what they’ve packed in. However, the trash doesn’t have to be packed out very far. There are several dumpsters in Limestone Campground, and no one complained about us throwing several bags of trash into one. I suppose they’d rather have the trash from the primitive camping area deposited into the dumpsters rather than having it left behind to be blown into the water.

Day use area at sunset

While there are no restrooms in the primitive camping area (not even portable toilets, the camp host had said to me in the spring), we made ourselves at home in the restrooms in the day use area and the campground. Again, no one seemed to mind. The day use area was closer to where we camped, so we used the restrooms there more frequently than we used the ones in the campground.  The restrooms in the day use area seemed to be unlocked 24 hours a day and had flush toilets and sinks with running water, but no showers.

The showers are in Limestone Campground, and The Man and I utilized them twice during our stay of a little over a week. Nobody challenged our use of them. I think anyone in the park (probably even folks doing day use) could have a shower with no questions asked.

The Man says he had two great showers with plenty of hot water in the men’s shower house. Of course, having to press the button repeatedly so the water would flow was a little annoying, but that’s the way it works in New Mexico state parks. Overall, he enjoyed his shower experience.

Me? Not so much.

I like a hot shower, but the water in the stall I picked the first time was barely warm. I chose a different stall for my second shower, but the water was no warmer. I thought maybe the problem the first time was that because the shower head was so high and I’m so short, maybe the water cooled by the time it hit me. I brought a cup with me the second time, and even when I put the cup right up to the shower head, the water that filled it was barely warm.

Why did I have a cup in the shower with me? Because the shower head was mounted so high and because the water came out of it in a diffused spray, it had been impossible for me to rinse the soap from my privates during my first cleansing episode. The second time I brought a cup so I could rinse.

By the time I finished my first shower, I was literally sobbing. I was so cold, and I couldn’t rinse, and my whole life seemed like a rotten mess. I was a little more stoic the second time because I knew I wasn’t going to get a piping hot shower, and I had my cup, so I could rinse. I was in and out in a flash. Wash and rinse my hair–wash and rinse my pits–wash and rinse my privates–done!

Everything else about the primitive camping experience was fine, except for the number of flies that invaded my

The vegetation of the area

van each day. It’s nature though–there’s going to be bugs! The Man thought the area was ugly, and he said he could smell the stench of refinery and lake pollution, and I believe the word shithole was spoken. I thought the area was pretty enough, in its own way. Shade trees would have been nice, but the fall temperatures were cool enough not to desperately need shade. (I wouldn’t want to camp out there in the summer with no shade.) Also, it being New Mexico, the wind was quite strong on some days. Anyone planning to set up any sort of tent out there should weigh it down well.

I enjoyed my time in the Brantley Lake State Park primitive camping area. We had plenty of privacy and weren’t bothered by any other campers. It was cool (literally and figuratively) to park near the water, and I saw a roadrunner and a great blue heron quite close to our campsite. Also, you can’t beat a New Mexico sunset, especially over the water.

New Mexico sunset over the water

I took the photos in this post. The book cover is an Amazon link. If you click on it, I get a small advertising fee on any item you put in your cart and purchase during that shopping session.

 

 

Little Free Library (Family Practice Associates of Taos)

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Like the Little Free Libray at the Youth & Family Center and the one on the Mesa, the third Little Free Library I discovered inTaos County was a complete surprise.

I needed to use an ATM, and there was only one in Taos that partnered with my credit union. I could use that particular ATM and not pay a fee, so that’s the one I headed to. Unfortunatly, there was a problem with my withdrawal, so I had to pull into a parking space to call my credit union. While I was dialing the number, I noticed what appeared to be a Little Free Library across the way, in front of the building housing Family Practice Associates of Taos. When I finished my call, I walked over to investigate. Yep, it was a Little Free Library.

Unlike the other two Little Free Libraries I found in Taos, this one was not made from a a re-purposed newspaper vending machine. This Little Free Library was built from wood and had a door that opened and a glass window in the door. While I really appreciate the fact that the other Little Free Libraries are making use of something that was probably otherwise headed to the landfill, I also appreciate the beauty of the library near Family Practice Associates of Taos. I think the color scheme of the library is lovely, as are the two decorative birds above the door. If there were a contest going on, this library would win my vote for prettiest in Taos.

Of course, it doesn’t really matter what a Little Free Library looks like. What matters is that people can get free reading material out of a Little Free Library. What matters is that a Little Free Library is a gift economy. What mattters is Little Free Libraries build communities. Of course, being pretty doesn’t hurt.

I didn’t leave any books in this Little Free Library, and I didn’t take any either. I had plenty of books to read and my van was full to bursting with all my stuff and The Man’s too. I simply took a few photos and left the Little Free Library as I found it.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

Telemarketers

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Late in 2016 I started getting calls for Mr. Sanchez. Black Rotary Phone

My phone says the calls come from California, and the person calling often greets me in Spanish.  The telemarketers usually speak about home improvements and local contractors or ask if I am the homeowner.

Although my phone number has a California area code, and I have worked in the state, I’ve never had a permanent address there. I’ve never been a homeowner in California either, and my ability to speak Spanish is infantile at best. The telemarketing calls are obviously not intended for me.

I’ve had the same phone number since the summer of 2012. I doubt Mr. Sanchez had the number before me and telemarketers are finally getting around to calling him 5+ years later. I think Mr. Sanchez gave my number to some business somewhere and it ended up being sold to other companies. My phone number is now on a list, but I’ll never know if Mr. Sanchez gave the wrong number—which turned out to be mine—accidentally or on purpose.

When I answer the phone and I’m greeted in Spanish, I say, I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish.

When I’m asked for Mr. Sanchez, I say, I’m sorry, there’s no one here by that name. You must have the wrong number.

Sometimes when the caller realizes from my hello that I’m a woman, I’m assumed to be Mrs. Sanchez. When that happens, I give them my wrong number response.

None of these responses seem to deter the telemarketers. They jump right in telling me about local contractors or asking if I’m the homeowner. They don’t care about Mr. or Mrs. Sanchez; they only care about meeting their quotas.

One day the telemarketer who’d called asked me if I was the homeowner.

No, I said. I don’t own a home. I live in a van.

The telemarketer was not expecting this answer and became embarrassed and flustered. Oh, I’m sorry, he muttered before ending the call.

Bingo!  I thought. Now I know how to get rid of them.

The next time I got a telemarketing call, I was ready.

No Mr. Sanchez here. Wrong number. Nope, not the homeowner. I live in a van.

The response I got was not what I expected. My confession about my living arrangement was not met with pity. The man on the other end of the line did not become flustered and end the call. Instead, he proclaimed, You are so luck-eeeeeee!

I agreed that I am lucky and the telemarketer asked, Where are you right now?

I told him I was in New Mexico, and he said geography was kind of his thing, Do you mind telling me where in New Mexico you are? he asked.

I told him I was in Truth or Consequences, which was almost true, as it was the closest town to the BLM land where my van and I were sitting at the moment.

That’s near El Paso, right? the telemarketer asked me.

While I was glad he appreciated my van-dwelling ways, I needed to drive and didn’t want to speak to this stranger any longer.

That’s right, I said. It’s not far from El Paso.

I hear it’s dangerous in El Paso, he said.

Well, I’m not going there, I told him.

Before I could say good-bye, he wanted to know, What’s the weather like down there?

The conversation was getting ridiculous. I thought saying I lived in my van would end the call, but instead it opened up a can of 50 Questions.

I gave him a quick weather report, rapidly followed by I gotta go!

Once I hung up, I told The Man (who’d been sitting next to me the whole time and heard my side of the exchange), I thought I’d never get off the phone with that guy.

At least the geography guy was nice. I got another telemarketing call a few weeks later and it was all kinds of wrong.

My phone started ringing and showed an 888 area code, so I knew it was a telemarketing call. I answered so I could ask the caller to remove me from the company’s list. I could hear a lot of noise in the background, maybe a television, maybe kids playing, maybe both. As usual, the telemarketer didn’t even want to talk to me; he wanted to talk to Mrs. Sanchez. I told him there was no one by that name at my number and asked the guy to please take my number off his list. He answered, You’re full of shit! I’m not taking you off nothing!

I said, Excuse me? but he had already hung up. For his sake, I hope the call was not being recorded for quality assurance.

I googled the number and it seems to be some kind of scam telemarketing operation. Someone wrote of the operation, They are using Magic Jack on VoIP which allows them to spoof and robodial. I don’t know what that means, but I blocked the number as soon as the call was over.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-rotary-phone-207456/.

Oh Christmas Tree (New Mexico Style)

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I was is Truth or Consequences, NM the week before the town’s monthly Art Hop. Coyote Sue told me Grapes Gallery (407 Main Street) was sponsoring a second annual Christmas tree decorating contest, so I went to work. I decided that since I was in the Land of Enchantment, I’d create a New Mexico-themed tree. Of course, since I’m a collage artist, I wanted to decorate with a collection of small objects and colorful clippings.

My first stop was the CHF thrift store (421 N Broadway) where I found a green plastic serving tray shaped like a Christmas tree and priced at 50 cents. I decided the tray would be the tree I decorated. I had an old New Mexico road map which I cut down to fit in the plastic tray. Once it was cut to the proper size and shape, I glued it to the tray.

I knew early on what I wanted for the top of my tree. I had a pair of cowboy boots made of metal, a trinket that came in a $10 bag of costume jewelry I’d picked up in Bisbee, AZ in the spring. I found an image of a star I’d cut out and glued the star to cardstock to give it some heft. After cutting the cardstock just slightly bigger than the star, I glued the boots over the star to make a tree topper suitable for a New Mexico Christmas.

Ball chain from broken necklaces became my tinsel. I used copper rose paint on some of the chain, but didn’t wait for it to dry before I glued it to the tree. Oops! I made a bit of a mess, but overcame the setback by gluing other small chains over the smeared paint. I love successfully disguising a mistake!

I decorated the tree with images cut from old catalogs and magazines. I’d been saving images related to New Mexico for quite a while, but I found several useful sources of images for free while in T or C. Decorating the tree was the part of this project I enjoyed the most.

Once the decorating was done, I had to mount the tree on a base. I’d also bought a baket at the CHF thrift store for 50 cents for just that purpose. I flipped the baket over, cut a hole in it, then covered what was now the top with red felt I’d been carrying around for three years! (Sometimes being a packrat comes in handy.) Once I shoved the trunk of the tree into the hole in the base, it was challenging to get everything to stay in place, but I managed to make it work using more felt and rubber bands. (The package of rubber bands was the only thing I bought new for the project. I still have lots of rubber bands for future projects.)

When the tree was securely standing in the base, I took a long look at the project and realized what was missing: presents! A Christmas tree without presents is no fun at all!

I knew I’d seen some decorations made to look like shiny girt wrapped presents at one of the thrift stores in town, so I went out on a search. There was nothing I could use at the thrift store at the Senior Center, so I found myself at the CHF shop again. The shiny gift decorations were gone, but I dug around in boxes and bins and found some little boxes and a grab bag with some odd decorative items.

I took my tree and my glue and my new thrift store finds to Coyote Sue’s place, Sun Gallery (407-1/2 N Broadway) where we sat at the work table and chatted while I arranged and attached the finishing touches to the tree. Coyote Sue went behind the counter and found some small toys she offered up to my project. I took the plastic wagon and the ceramic teddy bear.

The bear was wearing a cardiagan and holding an apple. This bear needs a sombrero, I mused aloud. Coyote Sue disappeared behind the counter again and came back holding a tiny straw hat. I placed the hat on the bear’s head. It looked better, but not quite right. It could use a serape too, I observed. This time Coyote Sue went all the way back into the stockroom. When she returned, she presented me with a fabric remnant I was able to cut into a passable serape. I was pleased with the New Mexian bear dressed to pay homage to its roots.

When all the presents were piled under the tree, I walked it over to Grapes Gallery.

The next night was Art Hop, and voting for the tree contest was open from 6pm until 8:30. When I arrived at Grapes Gallery, I found there were only four entries in the contest. I knew a small turnout would increase my chances of winning.

Coyote Sue and Coyote Steve were with me when the winners were announced. I won 3rd place. Yippie! My prize was a $25 gift certificate from Vic’s Broadwaynewmexico (409 N Broadway Street). Before I left town the next day, I got to go on a shopping spree, which was a lot of fun.

Also fun was putting together a Christmas tree honoring the state that I love.

My New Mexico Christmas Tree is for sale. Contact me if you’d like to buy it so you can aslo celebrate New Mexico every year during the winter holiday season.

I took the photos in this post.

 

Little Free Library on the Mesa

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After I saw the first Little Free Library in Taos County, two more popped up.

The second Little Free Library I visited in Taos County was on the Mesa. This Little Free Library is also housed in a re-purposed newspaper dispenser and is located at the West Rim Mutual Domestic Water Users Association fill station at the intersection Highway 64 and the West Rim Road.

The Man was driving as we left the Mesa. When I saw the Little Free Library, I pointed and said, I want to go over there. Pull in there. The Man kindly complied.

I had a few books to drop off. (I can’t remember their titles.) We were in a hurry, so once I added my donation to the shelves, I didn’t spend a lot of time looking at the books available. (I was impressed with the number of books that had been shoved into the library!) I gave them a quick glance, decided I didn’t need any of them, and climbed back in the van.

I love that Little Free Libraries make books available for the people. I especially love this one because it’s out there for people who are geographically isolated. If folks can’t or don’t want to drive the ten miles into town to get a book, they can look for reading material in this Little Free Library.

I took the photos in this post.

Little Free Library (Taos Youth & Family Center)

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My first Little Free Library was in Los Gatos, CA. Later, I discovered one at a dog park in Santa Fe. I wondered why there wasn’t a little Little Free Library in Taos, but it turns out I simply wasn’t looking in the right place.

The first Little Free Library I found in Taos was at the Youth & Family Center. The Man and I went there to shower. Tea had told me all about it. The center had a swimming pool and in the locker rooms, there were showers. For only $2, anyone could shower at the center.

I was really excited to take a shower the first time we went to the Youth & Family Center. It had probably been a week since we cleaned up, and I was looking forward to hot water and soap.

I got an added bonus surprise as I walked up to the front entrance of the center: a Little Free Library! This Little Free Library was a re-purposed newspaper vending machine. So clever! The machine had been painted white and labeled “Little Free Library” so no one could doubt its purpose.

I looked at the books on the shelf of the Little Free Library, as I always do. I can’t remember if I found anything I wanted to read that morning or if I dropped off any books I had finished. I did file away the library’s location in my memory so I could drop off books in the future.

It wasn’t long before I had a pile of books to donate to this library.

The best thrift store in Taos is the one run by the CAV (Community Against Violence). They price the fancy clothes a little high for my budget, but they always have plenty of clothes for just a dollar. Also, I believe in the work the CAV folks are doing, so I feel good about giving them my money.

CAV’s mission is to foster and support a community free from all forms of domestic and sexual violence.

CAV offers a 24-Hour Crisis Hotline (575.758.9888) for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. We provide legal and medical advocacy services, counseling and support groups, children’s programs, community prevention and outreach programs, and are able to provide information and resources for those in need.

CAV also has an on-site emergency shelter for adults and children, and offers short and long-term transitional housing programs.

All Services are FREE & Confidential

However, as much as I like shopping inside the store, I always take a look at the dumpster before I leave the parking lot.

Not long after I discovered the Little Free Library at the Youth & Family Center, I found a half dozen boxes of books by the dumpster behind the CAV thrift store. What? I don’t know if people had wanted to donate the books on a day when the store wasn’t accepting donations so instead hauled everything to the dumpster or if the thrift store volunteers didn’t think the books would sell and dumped them all for trash pickup. In any case, there were a lot of free books out there.

I went through all the boxes and found books I wanted to read, as well as a stack of books for Tea and some to give away through BookMooch. I am ashamed to admit I didn’t think of the Little Free Library when I found the book windfall.

All the free books stayed on my mind. What if it rained? They would get wet and be wasted. If only there were a place they could go where they would stay dry, where people who wanted to read could be sure to find them…Sometime in the night, I had my a-ha! moment. I could transport books to the Little Free Library.

The next day, I went back to the CAV dumpster. Many of the free books were gone, but there were still plenty for me to transport to the Little Free Library. I snagged all of the books for kids and young adults because I thought young people would be the main patrons of that particular Little Free Library. I also grabbed a few books I thought adults might like. I drove the books the mile to the Youth & Family Center and placed each one in the Little Free Library. I felt good knowing I’d done my part to get the books out of the trash and and into the hands of the people.

I took all the photos in this post.

Free Camping Along the Rio Hondo

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The best free camping in the Taos, New Mexico area is tucked between the Rio Hondo and the Ski Valley Road.

Turn east at the stop light locals call “the Old Blinking Light.” Follow Highway 150 to the village of Arroyo Seco. Pass the Taos Cow on the right or stop for coffee, sandwiches, or locally made ice cream. Right past Francesca’s Clothing Boutique, follow the road as it curves to the left. Pass the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, then the road will curve to the right. After the post office, the road straightens out. When the choice becomes left, right, or off the mountain, go right. When you start seeing water flowing on the right, you’ll know you’re close.

There are three official campgrounds along the Rio Hondo: Lower Hondo, Cuchilla de Medio, and Italianos. Lower Hondo and Italianos have pit toilets, but I’m not sure about Cuchilla de Medio. When we stayed at Italianos Campground in June 2017, the inside of the toilet was filthy, and no toilet paper was provided. All of thes campgrounds are free, but offer no amenities other than pit toilets and the occassional picnic table. There are no trashcans and no water other than what’s in the river/stream/creek. The stay limit is 14 days within a 45 day period. The camping spots aren’t designated, so don’t look for numbered poles or timbers separating campsites. Just find a place to snug in a vehicle and/or a tent or a camper and leave the roadway open.

Campers who don’t need the pit toilets don’t need to limit themselves to the signed campgrounds. There are camping spots all along the water. Look for driveways going off into the trees and firerings constructed from stones by previous campers.

It’s amazing to me that I can be up in the desert, surrounded by sage and precious little shade, then drive 15 miles and find myself surrounded by tall pines and cottonwoods. Even on the hottest summer day, the Rio Hondo is icy cold. When I’m hot, I tell myself I”m going to strip down to my underwear and stretch out in the water, but in reality, I’ve only ever managed to go in ankle deep. In less than thirty seconds, my bones ache from the cold water, and the rest of me feels cool and refreshed. If I get hot again while I’m there, my feet go back in.

On Saturday afternoon in June, The Man and I were looking for a camping spot along the Rio Hondo. As we drove up toward the Ski Valley, we saw spot after spot taken both in the official campgrounds and in the boondocking areas. I was beginning to lose hope when we saw a poorly maintained dirt driveway leading down to the river. I pulled the van off the road, and we peered through the trees. No one was down there!

I slowly nosed the van down the rutted, potholed driveway. At the bottom of the driveway, we found two stone firerings and a nice, flat area to park the van. We had our own lovely, secluded waterfront campsite.

I took all these photos in this post.

 

 

Dispatch from the Woods

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The Man and I weren’t doing so well in Northern New Mexico. The invisible biting bugs were horrible, really tearing us up. The intense heat, unusual in the mountains, was making our days, but particularly our nights, difficult to bear. Living in the van together day after day was making us edgy and irritable. Something had to give.

Our lives changed with a call from my boss from the last two summers. The store that was supposed to open last season was finally(!) about to open, and he needed two more people to staff it. He wanted to hire me and The Man. We’d have a free place to set up camp for the summer, and he’d work us each 40 hours a week. Could we be there in six days? We said Yes! and hit the road to California.

I wanted to write a dispatch from the road, but we stayed in the Worst Motel 6 Ever in Barstow, CA, and the internet was down. I was too tired to find either another hotel or a coffee shop with free WiFi.

Crossing the Mojave Desert in a vehicle with no air conditioner was no joke. Part of our problem was not leaving Flagstaff until 1pm. I’d wanted to leave earlier, but it was afternoon by the time we packed up camp; drove to town; bought water, ice, and a few groceries; bought a solar shower, privacy tent, and tarp at  Wal-Mart; went through a bunch of rigmarole to find out Wal-Mart was out of Blue Rhino propane tanks and couldn’t exchange our empty one for a full one; went to a herb shop downtown so The Man could buy loose tea, and (finally!) filled up the gas tank.

It was hot when we stopped in Kingman, AZ to do the propane tank exchange. The Man and Jerico stood in the shade under one of the few parking lot trees while I went inside to pay for the new tank. The Wal-Mart employee who came out to make the switch expressed concern for Jerico’s paws on the hot asphalt.

Back on the road, we soon passed into California. At the agriculture checkpoint, there was a big digital sign like banks have announcing the time and temperature. 119 degrees! It had been a long time since I’d been in triple digit temperatures.

The Man grabbed our squirt bottle full of water (hippie air conditioning, he calls it) and sprayed me down while I drove. He also discovered that opening the windows let in air hotter than the air in the van. Over the next few hours, we did a lot of opening and closing windows trying to catch a breeze or let hot air out, trying to get comfortable. Surprise! There was no way to get comfortable in a van without air conditioning in the Mojave Desert that June day.

I stopped at the first Dairy Queen I saw and got us both Reese’s peanut butter cup Blizzards. I couldn’t drive and eat, so The Man took the wheel. The ice cream didn’t last nearly long enough, and we were back to using the squirt bottle.

Late in the afternoon, the sun moved down the horizon, and the temperature dropped to hot but bearable. Still, as much as I hated to do it, we got a motel room in Barstow. Maybe I could have gotten a little sleep in the sunbaked van had I been alone, but there was no way two adults and a dog could have been comfortable sleeping in there. Even if the van had cooled after baking in the sun all day (which it hadn’t), the body heat of three mammals in the enclosed space would have been unbearable. Even with the windows open, there wouldn’t have been enough air flow to keep us cool.

The air conditioner at the Motel 6 was not up to the challenge of the summer night. Although the air conditioner was on when we opened the door, we were not met with the chilly wonderfulness I’d been hoping for. The room was stuffy, and I had a difficult time deciding if it was cooler inside or out.

The a/c wasn’t a wall unit like in almost every other motel I’ve been in. All we had was a vent above the bathroom door and an ersatz thermostat on the wall. All we could really control were the settings “heat,” “cool,” and “fan.” If I stood in just the right spot a few feet from the bathroom door and stretched my arms over my head, I could feel a bit of cool air blowing out, but it was no match for the desert heat.

I slept poorly all night, although the warm room probably wasn’t as uncomfortable as the hot van would have been.

The Man and I were both awake by five the next morning. We each has another shower and got our things together. The morning air was cool, but we were hot again before we finally made it up the mountain.

When we finally made it to our destination, the tall green trees and the cool mountain air were a wonderful contrast to the drab heat of the desert. My memory hadn’t exaggerated how lovely my home of the last two summers is. I’m glad this place will be my home for the rest of this summer and hopefully into the fall.

If you’re reading this, it’s because the mercantile (the Forest Service doesn’t like the word “store”) has WiFi, and the employees are allowed to utilize it. That’s a definite step up from years past.

This photo I took shows the mercantile/visitor center where The Man and I work.

Special thanks to The Man for getting my computer to connect to the WiFi at the mercantile.

 

 

The Last Rest Area in New Mexico

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The Man and I were in Las Vegas, NM, and we decided to go to Trinidad, CO. We got on I-25 and headed north.

It was late afternoon by the time we got started, and I was tired of driving well outside of Raton. I knew we had the Raton Pass ahead of us, and I didn’t want to make that mountain crossing in the dark. I’d looked at the map before we left Las Vegas and seen the last rest area in New Mexico on I-25 was less than twenty miles south of Raton. I needed to pee anyway, so I decided to stop at the rest area and check it out.

I knew there was a Wal-Mart in Raton, and we could probably park there overnight. However, I wanted to cook dinner, and I always feel weird cooking in the parking lots of stores. Even if we decided not to spend the night at the rest area, we could certainly cook dinner there. No one tends to blink an eye at people having a picnic at a rest stop.

I pulled into the reast area on the east side of the highway and found a spot to park. I walked briskly to the toilets while The Man took the dog out. The restroom was really clean, with flush toilets and sinks complete with running water for hand washing.

When I went back outside and had a better look around, I realized everything in the rest area was really clean. There was no litter on the ground and no graffitti.

In addition to the building housing the restrooms, there are several covered picnic table there.  The picnic pavillions have low stone walls to block the wind and there are many trees throughout the rest stop, making the area pretty and providing shade.

As I looked around, I saw The Man and the dog in a flat, treeless area at the back of the rest area, so I walked out to meet them. Beyond the flat area were train tracks. As we stood there, we heard a train a comin’. It got closer, and I saw it was an Amtrack.

It’s a people train! I exclaimed. I stood tall and waved vigorously as the train passed. I couldn’t tell if anyone waved back–or if indeed there were passengers on the train–but I had a great time waving and imagining  passengers wondering who I was and why I was there.

We walked back to prepare our dinner of eggs and cheese and onions and zucchini on tortillas. We decided to cook next to the van instead of hauling all our supplies and equipmemt down to one of the picnic pavillions. In minutes, we had a table and our stove set up, and onions were sizzling in our cast iron skillet.

After eating and doing my share of the cleanup, I didn’t want to drive anymore. Let’s stay here tonight, I suggested, and The Man agreed.

While the rest area is developed and well-lit, it seemed better than a Wal-Mart parking lot. Maybe the trees helped. Maybe it wasn’t quite so hot because there wasn’t so much asphalt. Maybe I was just dog tired. In any case, I slept well, despite the idling big rigs parked rigth behind us and the comings and goings of drivers who needed to stretch their legs or take a bathroom break in the middle of the night.

In the morning, I snapped a few photos. I’ve noticed there’s often at least one historic marker at New Mexico rest areas. This stop has a marker with information abouth the nearby Clifton House site. According to Wikipedia,

The Clifton House was an important overnight stage stop on the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail. It was located in Colfax County, New Mexico about six miles south of Raton, New Mexico, on the Canadian River. The site is located at mile marker 344 of U.S. Route 64, just off of exit 446 on Interstate 25.

 

The other side of the marker shows a “Points of Interest” map of the area, and I saw we were quite close to the mountain branch of the Santa Fe  Trail. Neat!

When I finished taking photos, I found The Man and the dog were ready to go. I climbed into the driver’s seat, and we headed to Raton in search of coffee.

We crossed the Raton Pass and stopped at the scenic overlook on our way to Trinidad.

I took all the photos in this post.