Camping in the Snowies

Camping in the Snowies

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fool Hollow Stae Park and Over the Rim

For those of you who know what state parks in Wyoming are like, fool Hollow is not at all similar but not necessarily better. All the roads and sites are paved and the pads are level. There is electricity and water if you desire it and even sewer if you want to pay the price ($30 per night for electricity and water).  There are lots of juniper trees, some Ponderosa pines, rabbit brush, yucca and other short vegetation. Bath houses with private bathrooms are on all loops with handicapped facilities and lighted pathways. There are camp hosts on all camp loops who have flower and vegetable gardens! There even is a free library, give and take as needed. However, even though the camping sites have a good distance between them, a lot of the sites are doubled so that two RV's are stacked in one site. We had a double site but no second camper came while we stayed.

Talking to Sandy, drinking a beer and birdwatching. A good day. 

Dave and I took a nice hike called the Rim Trail just south of the town of Show Low. It was only a mile but had interpretive signs explaining the area, geology and vegetation. The General Crook trail follows the Rim. He was in charge of subduing the Apache Indians so making a road that troops and supplies could travel was a priority. Must have worked, the White River Apaches now have a nice casino in Payson AZ. 
Along the trail, we saw our first Acorn Woodpecker and noticed our first alligator bark juniper. 
    Enjoying beautiful scenery along the Rim trail in Show Low, AZ. 
While in Show Low we took advantage of a laundromat, got groceries at Safeway and used the internet at the local library. 

          Rain at Fool Hollow campground. 
On Friday we broke camp and headed over the Mogollon Rim.
   A view over the Mogollon Rim from an overlook.
South and west to Payson, AZ we had lunch at a great Thai restaurant in the Big Lots! Strip mall. Our destination was the rodeo  grounds south of Payson, elegantly named the Event Center but everyone calls it the rodeo grounds. 
There were three other RV's in the parking lot under shaggy barked juniper trees. We headed their way and found a fiddler.  Leonard Cook is a fiddler and fiddle maker and native Arizonan.  His grandfather and father homesteaded at Sedona when the area was opened up by the state in the 1920's. Leonard has made 66 fiddles in the past 15 years since he retired from mason work. He was planning to enter the fiddle contest so he practiced his tunes and Dave accompanied on guitar.
         Dave is examining fiddle number 66. 
We attended a great Special Consensus concert at the high school auditorium Friday evening. Greg Cahill plays a solid banjo with great vocals by his mandolin and guitar players. The bass player was using an electric stick bass which was not so enjoyable but he added good bass vocals. Their four part harmony on a gospel tune was outstanding. 
Heavy rain in the night had Dave outside closing our back window and getting soaked. The rain moved the fiddle contest on Saturday morning to the high school. Dave got to know some AZ fiddlers and played back up guitar. Not being an AZ resident, he couldn't enter the contest. 
I found the library, looked at my email and did this blog.  We may head on to Surprise tomorrow after the contest ends or stay another night if there is a chance of a fiddle jam. 
I hope you have enjoyed our travel blog. Our next trip will take us to a fiddle or bluegrass event around this state.  We are looking forward to seeing Arizona. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Points South: New Mexico to Arizona

After leaving Ojo Caliente, we headed west to Los Alamos and Jemez Springs through wooded mountains. A stop for a few groceries in Los Alamos and then west again. We have to be escorted through the sensitive areas of Los Alamos and were warned not to stop or take pictures! Up and up on narrow winding roads until we reach the caldera.

Another sharp curve and down we go to the Jemez Springs area, stopping at the Jemez Indian Reservation information center. Across the highway were food stalls offering Indian Bread and other foods and crafts. We would stop and sample but had our hearts set on stopping at thr original Range Cafe in Bernallilo. If you have a chance stop at one of the three Range Cafés in Albuquerque. 
Our destination is the Joe Skeen BLM campground (free) at the El Malpais National Monument.
The campsite we chose was on a bluff overlooking the lava fields of El Malpais. It came with a view and  wonderful sunsets but no hookups. Well, it is free after all. 

The rules. The campground host offered these to Dave as he was getting ready to pull Luci up the hill to our site.
Also seen at Joe Skeen were lots of black wooly caterpillars, pretty flowers, and birds.

And a shrub with what looks like fruit but the berries were empty except for some white pith. I didn't try a taste.

The next day we made a trip over to the Acoma Pueblo east of El Malpais, stopping at an overlook to take a picture of the Acoma Mesa. 

High and dry, the People made this their home. They raised crops of corn and beans and squash on the desert floor. Everything needed was brought up stone stairways. Their pueblos were constructed of sandstone of two or three stories. The bottom story had no door or window and was entered from above. This was used for storage. The top story was the living quarters. It got the most light in winter and caught the breezes in summer. Piñon pine was used for cooking and cedar for heating. Dome like ovens baked bread and meats retaining even heat after a fire was lit inside and let burn down, the coals raked out, whatever was to be cooked was inserted, the opening sealed and then left to roast all day like a slow cooker we use today. 
This was an interesting guided tour by a knowledgeable Acoma woman (Big Sun, Little Eagle clan). 
After the tour Dave and I had great posole soup and green chili stew in the Acoma Cafe. This reservation museum is worth a look, showing the history of these people and their pottery craft. The pueblo tour is also a must. 

Back at El Malpais, we drove to an area called Lava Falls for a hike of one mile on a loop through the lava fields following rock cairns as guides to denote the path. 
We were glad for sturdy shoes and legs on this rugged and uneven hike. There was plenty of warning befor the hike of the conditions we would encounter. 
Back at camp, we watched hummingbirds, towhees, sparrows, and jays. The campground was quiet. We didn't see any of the elk that were reported to be nearby but it was hunting season so not surprised. 
Our visit to the east side of this unusual area culminated in a trip to the west side and to El Morro National National Monument which has a register cliff sort of like the one near Gurnsey WY but with much older signatures from Spanish conquerors and early white settlers plus petroglyphs from earlier visitors. They visited this bluff because it had water from a spring at the base of the bluff. Even a camel train was brought in as a trial to see if they would be better pack animals for building roads. This did not work and the camels were loosed in the desert and not seen again.
West again we go and about lunch time, we stop at the Arizona border for lunch and a snap of rhe welcome sign. 
Now in Arizona, we are not on Daylight Saving time. The sun comes up pretty early in our nice campsite at Fools Hollow State Park in Show Low. Yes, Main Street is called Deuce of Clubs. 
Laundry and grocery shopping and good showers are in the plan. Lots of skinks and birds to watch. I see my first tufted titmouse! 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cumbres and Toltec Historic Railroad

We arrive at Antonito Colorado for an all day trip on this historic narrow gauge railroad. It will take us up into the Sangre de Cristo mountains, over Cumbres Pass and on down a four percent grade into Chama, NM. 

This is the car we rode in. It had nice tables and comfortable chairs, complimentary beverages and a donut snack as we got going.

A lot of time was spent riding in this car and listening to the docent.

We stopped for a delicious lunch in Osier Colorado. We chose the soup and salad bar with three soups, salads of all kinds and dessert. I chose the buttermilk pie. My, my. So good. 
This steam event is called a Blowout, cleaning out the boiler. We all got a shower. 

One of the several water towers we passed, only stopping at one to refill. The load of coal in the tender was hand scooped into the firebox. The engineer was on the coach ride back to Antonito and said five tons of coal were used. He was pretty grimy with coal dust even though he wasn't actually scooping coal, just nearby. He had to love the job as hard work as it must have been. 
After a long day, we were windburned and sunburned but happy campers as the Tacoma pulled Luci south through the Rio Grande Valley to Ojo Caliente and camp. 

Ojo Caliente NM

Ojo Caliente is a small town that has thermal springs which are sacred to the indigenous people who populated this area before the Spanish came. Now the Ojo Caliente Spa is a big business.

We are camped at the RV park at the right side of this map. Our campsite has good shade provided by large cottonwood trees. The pad is level hard packed dirt and we have electricity and water. This morning we took a hike up above the springs and river. There is supposed to be ruins of some kind along this trail but all we found were lots of potsherds. 

Dave on the trail. 

A look over the valley. 

Potsherds. Most were this color but I saw one that was a red color. I saw a little shiny green snake with a black head and a red underside. It was as big around as a pencil and maybe a foot long. I tried for a picture but didn't get a good one before he disappeared in the rocks. 

This is a picture of the main pool which was at 89 degrees. The soda pool was a little warmer. The iron pool was at 103 and the arsenic pool at 104. There were 8 public pools including a mud pool where you could coat your body with mud and bake in the sun. After baking you turned on a spigot which dumped warm water into a bucket with holes in the bottom so you could wash off the mud.
We spent a few hours here soaking and sitting in the sun/shade. Very relaxing. Then back to the campground for some wine and meatballs and spaghetti. Tomorrow, on south and west through the Los Alamos area, Jemez area, Bernallilo and south to the El Malpais. 

Leaving Laramie and Sand Dunes National Park

We left Laramie on Tuesday, September 16 just as the sun lit the trees on 24th Street.

Our route was decided so as to get us south into Colorado as fast as possible. Interstate travel isn't fun but we made good time until stop and go travel outside of Longmont because of a crash that we never saw. The rest of the way was smooth sailing down through Denver to Colorado Springs where we ate a great lunch at the Caspian Cafe, Exit 146. 
West at Walsenberg over a scenic highway following the Cuchara River part of the way and then up and over LaVeta Pass. North several miles and we arrive at Sand Dunes. Our Senior Pass got us in free and allowed a reduced camping fee for our two night stay.

This was the view from our campsite overlooking the amazing dunescape.
The campground is called Piñon Flats. There were plentiful sites to choose from and we think number 86 was the best. Many piñon pines populated the campground and all had pine cones dripping with sap.

These pine ones were no match for the Clark's Nutcrackers whose long, sharp beaks stabbed between the sections and pried them apart, releasing the seed. The Nutcrackers have a pouch below their tongue that can hold as many as 99 seeds which then get deposited in a cache the bird has drilled into a pine tree higher on the mountain slope. This cache of seeds allows them to overwinter and nest earlier than most birds. Unlike most birds the eggs are brooded by both parents, so the literature says. The Nutcrackers are very vocal, fun to watch as they hunt and peck and gather and fly off laden with a full craw then swooping back for more. 
We also saw many ravens, some gray jays, Stellar jays, chickadees, sparrows, bluebirds and more. 
We climbed the dunes but not to the top which may have taken us all day due to the softness of the sand. Dave did climb up one larger dune and complained the next day of muscle soreness.
My Airstream decor situated on the propane tank cover. A solar chicken graced our "patio" and lit it nicely. 
Up early Thursday morning we needed to drive an hour to get to Antonito to the Cumbres and Toltec narrow gauge train excursion.
A last look at the dunes as we stop at the RV dump station. Onward and southward we go.