April 20-21, 2017 California to Malheur NWR, Oregon

Mount Shasta
Mount Shasta

A Loooooong Detour to get out of California

I broke camp at Westport Union Beach and headed south down Route 1 to Branscom Road and up and over the coastal mountains to Route 101 North. My plan was to head up along the Oregon coast on 101 and pick one of the oceanfront State Parks to camp in for a few days before heading farther north. Just a relatively short drive today. Unfortunately, that is not how the trip unfolded.

The far northern section of Highway 1 has been closed for quite some time due to the heavy rains there this winter … that is why I headed back inland to Route 101 before heading north. However, after getting on 101 and going north to where Highways 1 and 101 meet, I was greeted by a flagman standing in the middle of 101 and turning traffic around, due to a rock slide that was covering the highway to a depth of 15 feet and more ( he said ).  To head north, I had to backtrack south down 101, pick up Route 20 east to I-5 north through Redding and past Mount Shasta, then hit the state of Oregon many miles east of the coast. In total this amounted to a 7 hour 240 mile unplanned detour over some lousy roads ( aren’t all the roads in California lousy? ).

As a result of this totally unplanned change in direction and delay, I changed my mind about my next destination and left I-5 at Weed to pick up Route 97 north to Oregon and headed for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the Narrows RV Park.

Mount Shasta Through the Windshield
Mount Shasta Through the Windshield

The one nice thing about this detour was that the new route took me past Mount Shasta for the first time and the mountain at sunset was a pretty spectacular sight on this rare and beautiful blue sky day. I ended up spending the night at an Oregon Welcome Center Rest Stop instead of an Oregon State Park on the coast and made it to The Narrows the next day around noon.

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !


 

June 7, 2016 Heron Lake State Park, New Mexico

Cumbres & Toltec RR
Cumbres & Toltec RR

Travel From Questa to the Chama Area

Broke camp at the Columbine Canyon Campground outside of Questa, NM around 10 AM, and headed south on Route 522 to Route 64 west.

View from Elevation 10,000' on Route 64
View from Elevation 10,000′ on Route 64

I was a bit apprehensive about route 64 west over the Tusas Mountains where the road summits at an elevation of 10,505′, but my worries were for naught as both the climb and the descent proved to be no problem for my rig ( Whew! ). From Route 64, I turned south on Route 95 to Heron Lake State Park.

Confusing Sign
Well, Do I or Don’t I

Heron Lake State Park, Blanco Campground

So I arrived at the Blanco Campground at Heron Lake State Park where I had made a ten day reservation for Site #37 where I will have shore power for the first time in over three weeks. The sign above had me a little confused, so when I obeyed the top sign, I ended up approaching my campsite from the wrong direction and had to drive around to find a spot where I could make a u-turn.

Heron Lake State Park Blanco CG Site #37
Heron Lake State Park Blanco CG Site #37

Site #37 is a long, pretty level pull through with twenty foot tall junipers providing some privacy and yet not preventing me from getting my DirecTv satellite signal.

Heron Lake State Park Blanco CG Site #37
Heron Lake State Park Blanco CG Site #37

When I turned on my Verizon Jetpack, I was pleasantly surprised to find 3 bars of 4G out here, the strongest signal I have seen in months! Water pressure was fine, but the shore power consistently showed at under 110 volts, so I hope I don’t do any damage to my frig or AC while here,

Heron Lake Marina and Boatramp
Heron Lake Marina and Boatramp

Heron Lake is supposed to have some great fishing, but the water level is certainly a little below where it should be as you can see from the image above. There are no views of the lake from the campground.

Cumbres & Toltec RR
Cumbres & Toltec RR

Cumbres & Toltec RR

Cumbres & Toltec RR
Cumbres & Toltec RR

One of the reasons I have stopped here, aside from my pursuit of higher elevations and cooler summer temperatures, was to check out the Cumbres & Toltec RR and I am debating whether to give it a try or not.

Cumbres & Toltec RR
Cumbres & Toltec RR
Cumbres & Toltec RR
Cumbres & Toltec RR
Cumbres & Toltec RR Open Gondola Car
Cumbres & Toltec RR Open Gondola Car

The open gondola car looks like an interesting way to go, but the crowded conditions ( and this is a mid-week trip pictured here ), make me a little leery of hoping aboard.

Cumbres & Toltec RR at 10,000 feet
Cumbres & Toltec RR at 10,000 feet
Cumbres & Toltec RR Engine 484
Cumbres & Toltec RR Engine 484

These last two images were taken at the Cumbres Pass, elevation 10,015 feet. This is roughly the halfway point on the trains journey, a 64 mile trip that does seem to offer spectacular views. Still can’t make up my mind about whether I can handle the crowds or not, but I have a week or so to decide.

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !


 

June 3, 2016 Questa, New Mexico

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Columbine Canyon Campground, Carson National Forest

After reluctantly packing up and leaving the Soda Pocket Campground at Sugarite Canyon State Park, I headed south on Route 25 and picked up Route 64 west to Eagle Nest, then Route 38 west, struggling up and over Bobcat Pass, at an elevation of 9820′, and down to Red River, then on towards Questa stopping at the Columbine Canyon National Forest Campground, just a few miles short of Questa.

Chevron's Closed Molybdenum Mine, Questa, NM
Chevron’s Closed Molybdenum Mine, Questa, NM

Arrived at the campground, that is located just past Chevron’s now closed molybdenum mine, between thunderstorms and hesitantly got myself set up in Site #10, that I had reserved online when planning the summer’s stops a couple months ago. I say hesitantly, because the site is severely sloped and has another site all but attached to it, as in, the fire pit for that site would be within 10 feet of my bedroom window, way too close for comfort when the site is occupied, and the reservation ticket on that site’s post says that it is reserved for a couple nights during my stay here.

After unhooking the tow dolly and backing it in by hand, then backing the motorhome in to the site, I blocked the wheels and put down the hydraulic jacks until the rear wheels were just about lifted off the ground, something I feel very uncomfortable doing. But when I checked with a level, I still wasn’t even close to being level. About that time, I noticed the campground host come driving in, so I went down and asked if it would be possible to move from my reserved site. The campground being all but empty, he told me to feel free to move down to Site #5, just down the hill from where I was now set up. So, even with rain falling and thunder in the distance, I decide to make the move and not risk losing my frig or being burned down by my neighbor on Site #11.

Columbine Canyon NF Campground
Columbine Canyon NF Campground

There are 9 sites laid out like the spokes of a wheel on a flat area by the highway right at the beginning of the campground loop road. This is where the campiest is stationed as well as two handicapped sites. All the sites here are level, paved bacon sites , but do not have any hookups. These sites are apparently newer additions to the campground and most will hold an RV of my length with a little room for a toad as well. The sites are fairly open and have decent spacing, though certainly not private. These are also the only spaces in this campground, or in the three other National Forest Campgrounds close by, that would accomodate a larger rig. Though in a woodland setting, surrounded by heavily forested mountainsides, there was enough sun here to allow my solar system to function fairly well, as well as no problem getting my DirecTv satellite dish aligned. Surprisingly, There is enough of a Verizon signal here that I could even do this blog post.

Río Grande Del Norte National Monument

Drove over to the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument and the Wild Rivers Recreation Area just north and west of Questa to see what was there. A very isolated and quiet spot with several hiking trails that descend to the river valley below the park. To me, not the most interesting place I have seen, but a quiet out of the way spot to get away from it all. Most of the campgrounds were all but empty the day I drove through, and I think I only saw two other vehicles on the roads here while i made my way around the monument. The Montoso and Little Arsenic Campgrounds are the only two that may have a couple sites large enough to handle an Rv like mine, though even they would be a little tight. Each site has a shelter with picnic table and fire ring. The sites were definitely designed for tents and small RV’s.

Drive Around “The Enchanted Circle”

Abandoned Settler's Cabin
Abandoned Settler’s Cabin

Wanting to visit Taos for grocery shopping if nothing else, I backtracked on Route 38 east, again going over Bobcat Pass, a little easier in the Prius than the motorhome, and descend to the village of Eagle Nest where I stopped to check out Eagle Nest State Park. Certainly nothing fancy about the campground there, but it is one that will easily take any size RV on flat gravel sites, half backin and half pull through, with sheltered picnic tables but no hookups. All wide open with no trees and all have a view of the lake.

Prairie Dog Sentinel
Prairie Dog Sentinel

More prairie dogs here at Eagle Nest State Park than I have seen anywhere else on this trip through New Mexico.

Dog
Prairie Dog
Abandoned Settler's Cabin
Abandoned Settler’s Cabin

A neat roadside abandoned building not too much longer for this world, judging from the serious leaning of the log walls.

Abandoned Settler's Cabin

Then on to Taos and probably the worst Walmart I have ever encountered, walked out without buying anything and headed down the road to a nice Smith’s Grocery Store. There also is a large Albertson’s nearby. Taos seemed a little more run down and ragged than the last time I was here and the local newspaper was lamenting it’s fiscal problems and the loss of tourists’ dollars.

A Search for Wild Horses

New Mexico Wild Horses
New Mexico Wild Horses

Headed north out of Questa on Route 522 towards Fort Garland, Colorado, hoping to encounter some of Northern New Mexico’s wild mustang population.

New Mexico Wild Horse
New Mexico Wild Horse

Despite covering many miles in both northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, I was only able to locate one small band of four horses.

New Mexico Wild Horse
New Mexico Wild Horse

Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge

Ruddy Duck Drake
Ruddy Duck Drake

I hadn’t planned a visit here, and it really isn’t the best time of year for this sort of place, but since my search for wild horses brought me right by here, I drove into the refuge and took the short drive around the refuge road.

Cinnamon Teal Pair
Cinnamon Teal Pair

There were several duck species present, though not in any kind of numbers. Seen were some Cinnamon Teal, some Blue-wing Teal, Mallards, Redheads, and some Ruddy Ducks with the male’s impossibly blue bill.

Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird

Numerous unidentified LBJ’s flew by and a single Yellow-headed Blackbird was caught singing for a mate while hanging onto it’s favorite perch, a cattail.

There were many of the Yellow-headed’s cousins, the Red-winged Blackbird, present, but after my winter of fighting these repulsive birds, I certainly was not about to take any shots of them.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Again, since I was in the area, I decide to also drive the 16 miles into Great Sand Dunes National Park, a place I have visited before, though never during the summer season. There was a long double line of cars backed up at the entrance, but it didn’t take long to get through. I absolutely avoid the popular National Parks during the summer since I just can’t stand the crowds, but I thought this might still be considered a little early for peak numbers.

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Guess I was wrong, since when I drove down to the main Dunes access parking lot, it was completely full. with folks driving round in the loop desperately hoping to find someone leaving so they could secure a parking space … and this was at 9 AM!

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Despite the crowds, this is a unique spot and I get a kick out of the folks on the dunes looking like swarms of ants when viewed from the park road.

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Great Sand Dunes National Park

Also drove through the two loops of the completely booked campground, what a mob scene! I could never imagine camping in a place this cramped and crowded, but won’t have to worry about it anyhow since there are no spaces that could handle a rig of my size, let alone a seriously large RV, yet another National Park campground designed exclusively for tenters and very small RV’s. There is a private campground that can accomodate any size rig just a few miles outside the park.

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !


 

March 31, 2016 Brantley Lake State Park, New Mexico

Moonrise at Sunrise
Moonrise at Sunrise

Return to the Desert

So very nice to have cool nights and warm, dry, sunny days here in the desert. Quite a change of pace from the heat and humidity in Salineno this winter. This is the first sunrise I have seen since last November!

Departing Texas

Tuesday morning I Ieft Lady Bird Johnson Muni CG in Fredericksburg, Texas around 10 AM and drove north on Route 16 to Route 152 west in Llano, fully intending to stay at one of the two campgrounds I had checked out there earlier. But neither worked out, so, on the spur of the moment, and a little frustrated with my lack of success shooting spring wildflowers here, I decided to head west and shoot for New Mexico’s Brantley Lake State.Park, hoping to miss the high winds forecast for Wednesday afternoon.

Took Route 190 west instead of I-10 and enjoyed the decision, almost no traffic and a good, wide road all the way west to the junction with I-10.

I ended up making it to a picnic area about 12 miles short of Fort Stockton on I-10 and pulled in  there for the night. Didn’t get much sleep however, with strong winds rocking the motorhome all night.

Awoke early and had to wait for daylight next morning before heading out around 8 AM. Since I had a really strong internet signal at the roadside picnic area, I worked on the computer while waiting for the sun to come up. Filled up with gas at the Love’s in Fort Stockton ( easy in and out ) and headed north on Route 285 to Carlsbad, NM.

Route 285 was fairly good through most of Texas, gradually getting poorer and poorer in condition as it proceeded through oil country, and was in terrible shape, beaten to a pulp by the oil trucks, from the New Mexico border until you reached Carlsbad.

Brantley Lake State Park

Brantley Lake State Park, NM
Brantley Lake State Park, NM

What a pleasant surprise this place was ! I checked into Brantley Lake S.P. around noon and purchased a New Mexico annual camping pass for $225 and signed up for a week ( an additional  $4/night is charged for a site with electric and water ) on Site #148, one of 3 pullthroughs and the only one empty in the first come, first served area. All reserved sites were full and both sections were full not long after I pulled in.

Brantley Lake State Park, NM
Brantley Lake State Park, NM

Very nice site with water and 50 amp electric, covered concrete pavilion with picnic table and a raised grill. Paved pad and fairly level though some of the back in sites looked unlevel. Very strong Verizon signal on the jetpack. Pretty decent separation between sites. Overall, pleasant enough that I probably will stay my maximum of 14 nights to relax and get some odd jobs done on and in the motorhome.

Thank you for shopping Amazon from my site!

When you click through to shop Amazon from here, I get a tiny commission, one that does not in any way impact what you pay, and all those tiny commissions eventually add up and that helps me keep this blog going !