28 April 2008

Heading home from 2008 Spring Break

We took the slow route from Tajique to Sante Fe - the Turquoise Trail. Beautiful country! We had to walk around old town Sante Fe. Julia bought a bracelet from an Indian woman. Lunch at the La Fonda hotel. Sante Fe is always a joy.

We headed North along the Rio Grande and camped at the Wild Rivers Scenic Area. This is a BLM area. Our camp was spectacularly perched along the cliffs lining the Rio Grande. Another day here would have been nice but .. another time.

Our last day we headed towards Fort Garland and hopefully, cheaper oil. I couldn't bear to spend more than $4 a gallon for oil that we've been seeing in New Mexico. We rolled into the Fort at 624 miles to the tank and $3.99/gallon. The San Luis Valley is always a beautiful drive.

Pictures from the trip are HERE!

24 April 2008

Military Checkpoint in New Mexico, Amerika!

I couldn't believe it! Between Las Cruces and Alamogordo, we approached what appeared to be a border crossing. Not in America! I was pissed! We were at least 60 miles from the Mexican border - not that it should matter. We waited for the car in front of clear and then it was our turn. The soldier asked if we were U.S. citizens. I said my wife was German and he waived us through. I was too stunned to complain.

What has Bush and our administration wrought? I'm damn glad that citizens have the right to bear arms because I'm worried where our government is going.

That night, we had a nice camp at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, south of Alamogordo. There's a very nice visitor center and a trail which wanders through the lush vegetation by the creek. What I really want to do is a car shuttle and walk the trail down Dog Canyon National Recreational Trail. Julia wouldn't have much fun hiking up a steep 6 miles but the downhill .. that'd be fun.

We headed north through some beautiful country, Cloudcroft, Rudioso, Carrizozo, Mountainair and then weaved through the Spanish Land Grants near and north of Manzano. We finally found a camp in a closed Cibola National Forest campground west of Tajique. On the way we explored Gran Quivira, one of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monuments. This was a real treat from the historical end. It was also fun to run around the ruins after a day in the truck. Here is Julia in a massive unfinished church.

We were relieved, at the end of the day, to find the campground. The sun was down and it was getting cold. Everything is closed at this time of year. The gate was open on this one. We stayed at a nice site without snow and roasted marshmellows.

14 April 2008

Last Chance Canyon and on to Texas

The camp and trailhead to Last Chance canyon was high for these parts - near 7000 ft. There were icicles hanging off the Junipers and Pinyons as we set up camp. It cleared in the night when the wind came. The wind was constant after that but it did warm up nicely. Especially down in the canyon. Tendonitis forced me into belay duty. Climbing was good though. We'll be back.

After a couple days at Last Chance canyon, we moved on to the North Entrance of Guadalupe Mountain National Park. There were three other campers. The next morning, the others left leaving us. Imagine being alone in a National Park! Well there was one ranger .. Beautiful place. I'd like to do some backpacking here in the future.

After a hike, we drove through El Paso Gap to Dell City. As can be seen from this picture of the local school, it is a remote & dry region. We ended up at Hueco Tanks State Park (official site, climbing site), a mecca for bouldering. Even w/ my arm, I had to get on the rock a bit. FUN! This place is like a candy store. Here's a shot of Mia. Julia liked the bouldering too. We stayed at the park campground for a beautifully warm night w/ nice views across the valley. We drove by the private climber's camp on our way out. If you're really into the spray & beta scene it might be worth staying there but it's basically a dirt pile.

After bouldering, we headed into El Paso for the cultural experience. Quite a difference to look across the Rio Grande into Mexico. We had reached the apex of our journey South. From here, it was North for us.

11 April 2008

Easter, miserable weather and the CAVE

We camped East of Carlsbad Caverns NP in a somewhat desolate but warm desert basin. The weather didn't look promising but that was ok. It was Easter Eve! Julia & I explored while Mia cooked dinner.

I told Julia there were caves under our feet - as indeed there was. I had been here 10 years ago and w/ directions from a ranger camped next to a cave. After 10 years, I couldn't find the cave but we knew it was there.

I could see the weather move in overnight. Wind and cold with a light drizzle. It was going to be heck for the easter bunny to hide the eggs. Mia prodded the easter bunny out of bed in the morning. Twenty minutes later, a frozen bunny stumbled back in bed. Mission accomplished! Soon after, the easter egg hunt began. Here's a shot of Julia showing off her take (out of the wind, of course.)

We couldn't think of a better day for being in a cave. Carlsbad Cavern it would be. The drive up was spectacular at this time of year. Flowers were everywhere. It seemed like a lot of people thought a rainy Easter was a good day to be in a cave. Looking at the people milling about was interesting. Many men had a white forehead capping a tan, weather worn face. Cowboying is still a staple down here. These guys were lean from work, too. Also interesting were other lean men paired with women in pioneer dresses. The woman had there hair in buns and wore simple hat. Even more interesting were that these caucasians spoke Spanish!

We walked down the natural entrance into the cave. This is so wild as the trail drops and drops as it finally enters the blackness. Cliff swallows flittered about until the cave became dark. The cave was magnificent, of course.

08 April 2008

Starting our Quest for Sun

Now that Julia is in kindergarden, our schedules are dictated by the school system. It has been, and still is, a long winter. Spring break, hopefully, means a sunny week long vacation.

Friday night saw us camping in Mills Canyon Campground, a bit West of Mills, New Mexico. Mills apparently has a population of 3 residences. The drive to and from the campground winds around a nice looking windmill. The road to the Canadian River Canyon was under construction so we'll have to check that out another trip. The canyon's history makes it sound like it's worth a visit .. especially when we have time to poke around. Maybe when we're retired. In any case, it was a water freezing cold night. Our quest for sun was successful. Now we needed warmth!

A bit cold for milk and cereal, we headed to Roy hoping it was big enough for a breakfast joint. As is the case with many rural western town, it's in dire need of love before it drys up and blows away. There was a restaurant of sorts. It seemed like the locals were helping the owner/ cook/ waitress to keep it running since occasionally someone would get up from their table to run the coffee pot around or take an order and drop it back in the kitchen. Keeping a restaurant alive is was a high priority for Roy (map, writeup). Interestingly, one of Roy's exports is CO2. That's right. Carbon Dioxide is mined for use in enhancing oil recovery.

We drove South through some amazingly remote country with a few large ranches too far off the road to see. Want to escape from civilization? This is where you want to come.

More to come.