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.
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.