Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

Goodbye New Mexico

Friday, October 14th, 2016
After the storm

After the storm

It has been almost two weeks since I’ve posted so I guess I should catch myself up to date.

My travels continued south through New Mexico to Bluewater Lake State Park. I noticed on my map that west of the park was the Cibola National Forest, and when I saw a sign announcing forest access, I turned to check it out. About a mile up the road I met a forest ranger and asked her about dispersed camping. She told me of a meadow a few miles further where a lot of people camp. The road was good, void of potholes and washboard unlike most of the forest roads I have been on lately, so I continued on up the road.

The road climbed higher up the mountain until I was above 8000 feet. I could already tell there was a chill in the air, and when I checked for cell signal, the dissapointing circle with a line through it stared back at me. It didn’t take me long to find a place to turn around and head back down the hill.

On my way up I had seen a few places that looked like good camping spots. One particular side road disappeared over a rise and I parked to walk back and check it out. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a cute little clearing, open to the southern sky, out of sight from the main road, and offering good cell signal. It would become my home for the next week.

I made a few trips exploring the forest roads while I was there and even rode several times into the town of Thoreau, NM to shop at the Family Dollar. Daryl even had a tire for my motorcycle shipped to the post office by Amazon. The weather was good the whole time I was there. It got a little chilly overnight but warmed up nicely during the day.

After much communication with the family about Mom’s medical problems, the realization that the weather would be too cold to stay in the mountains much longer, and the fact that I had no desire to see any more of New Mexico, I decided to head into Arizona and make my way to Phoenix. I did take a quick detour and spent an afternoon at El Morro National Monument, an interesting place of petroglyphs and history of early explorers.

By the time I made it to Payson the weather was once again perfect and I spent the night a few miles from town in a secluded spot not many know about. I contacted Donna to ask if I could park in her driveway for a few days and the next day made my way into Mesa.

It was nice to see family again and especially good to visit Mom as she fights the affects of a painful ordeal with shingles.

Mom has been in and out of the hospital and nursing home for the last couple weeks with awful pain in her shoulder. Just today she has finally transitioned back to her apartment and it seems that the pain is under control. Let’s hope she gets back to normal soon.

On the day I had planned to leave town I found a note on the door from the city of Mesa. It was a form letter of rules and regulations for how to live in town. One regulation about RVs parked in the driveway was highlighted in yellow. I knew it was probably frowned upon but thought that being there for only a few days would not attract any attention. What I didn’t know is that some neighbors were already complaining about another RV parked down the street, and I was caught in the crosshairs.

Have to follow rules here too.

Have to follow rules here too.

Right now I’m in Cottonwood. It is still a little too warm here but in another couple Weeks the temps should be just right. I am only a couple hours from Mom in case I am needed in town.

Mom sure gets a lot of loving care even without me there. Daryl, Donna, Richard and Dianna, and Heather all live in town and are constantly at her side making sure she gets the best care and support for all her needs. My brothers and I have never been a kissing and hugging bunch of guys, but not many families can match the love and empathy we feel for one another.

Navajo Lake

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

I had planned on staying at my camp in Colorado until Wednesday, but the remnants of a hurricane moving through the southwest was forecast to bring heavy rain to the area starting Tuesday night. Not wanting to deal with packing everything wet and taking a chance on soft, muddy roads going to the highway, I decided to move a day early. I really enjoyed my ten day stay in the San Juan National Forest below Pagosa Springs but it was time to move south and search for a warmer climate.

I drove 84 south into New Mexico and turned west on 64. A lot of northwest New Mexico is Indian Reservation and offers the traveling nomad little in the way of free dispersed camping. On the Internet I found a free campsite below Navajo Lake State Park and stayed one night. It was really nothing more than a parking lot for fishermen and hikers, but it was quiet and free which was the main thing.

The next morning I drove to Pine Campground in the state park. I have been kicking around the idea of buying a New Mexico State season pass and staying in state parks for the next month as I tour the state. It would pay for itself in three weeks and I wouldn’t have to worry about finding camping, dump, and water every few days. The campground at Navajo Lake was like a ghost town. The entry station in front was abandoned to self pay pipes, the visitors center was closed, the camp host was nowhere to be found, and only a handful of fishermen were camped in the park. There was nobody to even ask about a season pass.

I decided to stay one night to take advantage of the dump station, water fill, and hot showers in the bath house. For $10 it was a good deal. Once I was parked and set up, I walked down to the marina to take a look around.

The Marina was filled with rows of houseboats and rental watercraft of any size you could want. You could rent paddle boats, kayaks, rowboats, motorboats, houseboats, and even jet ski boats. This late in the year there wasn’t much going on. Only a few boats were out on the lake and the docks were empty

Years ago Mom and Dad spent many summers at this lake. Dad loved to fish and I could imagine him out on the lake in his little fishing boat, enjoying the relaxing hobby of casting a line into the water, waiting for that big fish to take the bait, and gathering tales to share with friends back at camp. It was nostalgic and sad all at the same time.

I noticed the little store on the main walkway to the rows of tied-off houseboats was open so I went in.

I told the girls in the store about Mom and Dad spending summers here at the lake and mentioned a picture taken of Dad holding a prized, trophy fish he had caught. I didn’t really expect there would be an old shoebox with discarded photographs but I asked about it anyway. Neither girl had any knowledge of such a thing. The only pictures posted on the walls were of proud fishermen holding their catch up for the camera in an advertisement for some fishing guide.

The next day I drove to Farmington and spent the night at Walmart. One thing I noticed about the drab and barren landscape along highway 64 is how rich the ground must be in gas and oil. There were dozens and dozens of well along the road. It seemed that every other vehicle I met was a white pickup, sporting a flag atop a long whip antenna, turning down side roads on their way to check on the wells. I also met quite a few tanker trucks running the highway to deliver the oil to the refineries. A lot of the main and side roads were pretty rough and I don’t doubt that all the heavy truck traffic has something to do with it.

The next morning, Friday, I traveled south out of Farmington on Rt. 371. I looked at some BLM boondocking a mile out of town but it was uninviting. The road in was steep and sandy, and with all the rain, reeked of a bad experience. It doesn’t take much wet sand to bury the tires of a motorhome.

Years of erosion

Years of erosion

I continued south for another 30 miles to a place called Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness that has a parking lot where people can camp overnight. The road in was washboard and filled with puddles. When I arrived at the parking lot I was surprised to see it was almost full of cars. It had been raining and cold for the last two days and I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to hike out to the formations in all this mud and rain. I found one corner of the parking lot open and parked Minnie somewhat level.

later that morning I talked with some of the people here and found out they are a photography group meetings here to learn and share in their hobby. I guess some of the hoodoos and formations are very colorful if you catch them in the right light. They all walked out to the eroded cliffs in the evening and then again before dawn to photograph the sunrise display of color. They sure take their hobby seriously because it was below freezing overnight and some of them were camped in tents. I waited until about noon and the temperature was more human before I walked out into the wilderness area.

Pagosa Springs

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

It has been a day of rain, hail, and lighting. Thankfully, the hail has been small and the lightning far away. The sky will darken and let loose with a torrential downpour for a few minutes, and then almost immediately, the sun will shine brightly, tempting me to venture out for a ride. I was almost fooled into riding down to a road I want to explore, but luckily I stayed close to home. It has been a good day to hunker down and catch up on the blog.

I’m camped in the San Juan National Forest, just south of Pagosa Springs, Colorado. As the crow flies it is only 15 miles north of the border or New Mexico. I checked out a place called Kinney Flats where RVSue boondocked a while ago, but I couldn’t find a good campsite and I had no cell signal. I unloaded Honda and explored up a road called Valle Seco where I found a good camp with marginal cell signal. I will probably stay here for about a week.

Abandoned comfort station in the woods.

Abandoned comfort station in the woods.

There are several camps of hunters on this road. They are quite friendly and stop to talk as they drive by in their pickups and ATV’s. They always want to know if I’ve heard any “bugling “. I get the sense they like to drive the roads looking for game more than walking in the woods. I know they really like to talk about hunting.

I have been having trouble with my solar the last few weeks. It just didn’t seem to be charging like it should. Yesterday, I grabbed hold of the connector where I plug my portable panels into the pigtail on my rig and found it extremely hot! When I wiggled the wires they fell apart. The connection was all corroded and I was loosing all the juice from the panels. I spliced them back together with a temporary fix and now they are working great again.

Next stop will be New Mexico. I have been looking for a New Mexico Delorme Gazetteer in the last few towns I’ve been through but have not found one yet. The detailed topographic maps help me find dispersed camping in most of my travels and I rely more on them than any other source. I cringe at the investment I’ve made in these maps – I have 9 state atlases at $20 each.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Saturday, September 10th, 2016
Dunes

Dunes

As I slowly transition my travels from the lofty mountains of Colorado to the warmer climate in New Mexico, I noticed Great Sand Dunes National Park was on the way. It didn’t look like there was any National Forest nearby where I could camp so I decided to stay in the park for a couple days. I also needed to dump and fill with water, and knew I could do both there.

The campground had two loops, one that was first come basis, and another that was reservation only. A few of the sites in the reservation loop could be used if they were not reserved for the night. It was a very confusing system and puzzling to figure out. Two other campers and I looking for a site were not sure if we had to call Reserve.Gov or just pay at the entrance. The camp host finally assured us we could pay here.

I never expected to find the campground so full. It was after Labor Day and I was arriving on a Wednesday. I thought that after the kids went back to school and the weather turned to Fall that the parks would be less crowded. I mentioned this to a park employee and she told me that that is what a lot of people think. The reality is that retired people are out in force thinking the same way I do.

There is not much to see at Great Sand Dunes National Park. Once you walk through the visitor center – two thirds of which is dedicated to a gift shop – and climb up the sand dunes, you’ve pretty much seen it all.

The geology and history of the park were interesting. The sign markers spend a lot of detail telling how the blowing sand from the San Luis Valley got trapped in a basin of the Cristo Mountains and was piled as high as 750 feet.

I climbed part way up the dunes on my second day at the park. One of the attractions for adventurous people who visit the park is sledding the dunes. They use special sleds and snowboards, made slippery with a special wax applied to the bottom surface. I saw quite a few falls but the sand cushions a lot of the impact. I’m sure there are some that take on more hill than skill level and get hurt, too.

I left the park on Friday and traveled west to South Fork, Colorado. South Fork is surrounded by national forest and I explored a few roads looking for a dispersed campsite to ride out the weekend. I looked at a couple pay campgrounds on the Beaver Creek Road but I didn’t think they were as special as the price indicated. I finally met a forest employee and asked him about free camping and he directed me to the Park Creek Road.

Pretty place to camp.

Pretty place to camp.

But cold overnight!

But cold overnight!

I’m not sure what the elevation is here because I have no cell signal. I have a feeling it is probably close to 9000. I’m not very far from the Continental Divide and it was only 25 degrees this morning. It is a pretty campsite, nestled in a valley of lush meadows, surrounded by tall pines and Aspen just starting to change to fall color, and a gentle, clear stream beside my rig. The only thing that gives me pause is the fact it is hunting season, and pickups with quads loaded on trailers have been driving by all morning.

Leadville

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016
Make up your own caption.

Make up your own caption.

With all the cold weather at my 9500 foot camp, I was determined to find a place where I could sit in the sun and bake. In the morning I drove east on Route 50, and as soon as I crested the Continental Divide at Monarch Pass and started down the other side, the sun came out and the air had a more gentler feel. With the sun on my face and optimism that summer would last another week, I turned north at Salida and drove to Leadville.

Leadville is over 10,000 feet high, and in a hot summer, the perfect place to be. I rationalized that it would be good to explore the area for a few days and mark down future camps. As long as it doesn’t get way below freezing, I should be okay.

From other blogs I knew where a good dispersed camping place was. I followed a road called Half Moon up into the San Isabel National Forest, found a perfect spot, and set up camp.

The sun was warm so I jumped on Honda to explore the forest road past my camp. As I drove the road I found three forest campgrounds and two trailheads that hikers use to climb into the 14,000 foot peaks. I stopped at one trailhead and walked a half mile to where it joined the Continental Divide Trail, just to say I was on it again.

On the way back I pulled into one of the forest service campgrounds to check it out. I first stopped to read the board and see what they charge. I was a little surprised to see it was $16. The sites were tight, the road was in bad need of grading, and I couldn’t see any water spigots. As I drove the loop a pickup chased after me and flagged me down. I turned Honda off and said, “Hi.”

“You can’t ride that in here!”, was the first thing out of his mouth.

“Sure I can. This is licensed for highway use.”

“It doesn’t matter! “, he shot back. “This is a private campground.”

“Isn’t this a forest service campground?”

“It is run by a private concessionare. We get a lot of off road people driving through here with their noisy machines. Campers can’t even sit outside and enjoy their dinner.”

I explained to him that I was just looking for possible places to camp while I was there. I told him that I drove slowly through campgrounds and was respectful of people camping. He kind of softened then and agreed that I was being respectful. It probably helped when he realized I was the same age as he and not some smart-allic kid on a dirt bike.

Nice camp

Nice camp

I asked him why with all the beautiful dispersed campsites along the road would anyone spend $16 to camp here?

“Well, you have the outhouses”, was all he could come up with.

I have run into the concessionare campgrounds before. The forest service doesn’t have the time or resources to take care of campgrounds and they must be having trouble getting camp hosts. This guy said he takes care of three campgrounds and I’m sure it is a paid position. I’m afraid the next change that will come with turning forest campgrounds over to private companies is the end of discounts for seniors.