Tag Archives: New Mexico

June 19, 2016 Navajo Lake State Park, New Mexico

Site #24 Cottonwood Campground

Site #24 Cottonwood Campground

Had an uneventful short drive from Heron Lake State Park to Navajo Lake State Park on Thursday. Arrived at my site in the Cottonwood Campground around noon and got set up quickly as the temperature climbed. Fortunately, this rather nice campground has 50 amp electrical hookups ( in addition to water ), that I will be putting to good use this week as record temps climb toward 100 degrees. As a result, not much to show in the post as I am hunkered down for the duration of my one week stay, cooped up inside with the AC blasting, and hoping it can keep up.

Navajo Lake

Navajo Lake

This is the view as one approaches from the east on Route 239 as you drive across the top of a very tall earthen dam that holds back Navajo Lake. Those are all houseboats at moorings in the shot above. Always have thought that a few weeks on on one of those in places like this or Lake Mead would be a pretty nice way to go.

Driving Across Navajo Lake Dam

Driving Across Navajo Lake Dam

Unless you have a fear of heights, the view to the left as you cross the dam is quite impressive. That is a long ways down to the bottom of the spillway, the powerhouse, and that drill rig. This is as tall an earthen dam as I have ever seen, or crossed.

Cottonwood Campground at Navajo Lake State Park

Site #24 Cottonwood Campground

Site #24 Cottonwood Campground

I was pleasantly surprised when I pulled up to my reserved site #24 here, a long, flat, pull through with water and 50 amp electric. Although partially shaded by large cottonwoods, I was still able to get my satellite signal and was surprised to find a useable Verizon signal as well. There is reasonable separation of sites here and a very easy to use dump station. Though you don’t have a view of it from the campsite, you are just a very short walk from the banks of the river.

Navajo Lake State Park Cottonwood Campground

Navajo Lake State Park Cottonwood Campground

No Shortage of Hummingbirds Here

No Shortage of Hummingbirds Here

I put out the feeders and within minutes there were hummingbirds, nuthatches, house finches, Bullocks Orioles, white winged doves, bluebirds, and flycatchers coming in to take advantage. With only one nectar feeder out, I am going through 4 cups of sugar water a day … there are that many hummingbirds here. They empty that feeder in the shot above three times a day.

However, the heat is getting more and more oppressive as the week goes by, with the humidity  climbing with the heat each day. Last night, I was actually forced to run the AC all night, no relief at night, like you would normally get in the desert.

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June 13, 2016 Heron Lake State Park, New Mexico

Georgia O'Keefe Country

Georgia O’Keefe Country

Down Route 84 to Georgia O’Keefe Country

Mom Mulie and Yearling Twins

Mom Mulie and Yearling Twins

Ran into these guys along the road out of the campground on my way back out to Route 84 and a quick trip 30 miles south to the land of Georgia O’Keefe.

Georgia O'Keefe Country

Georgia O’Keefe Country

Unfortunately, I chose a poor afternoon to make this trip, as the blue skies clouded up almost as soon as I reached my destination, and then I battled white skies and rain showers, but without the dramatic dark clouds of the usual afternoon thunderstorms.

Georgia O'Keefe Country

Georgia O’Keefe Country

Still, these rock formations are beautiful under any conditions.

Georgia O'Keefe Country

Georgia O’Keefe Country

I have been in this area a couple of times in the past, but only passing through or on a day trip up from Santa Fe. I drove down here today to check out a couple of local campground options for a longer stay here to really explore the area someday in the near future.

Georgia O'Keefe Country

Georgia O’Keefe Country

Georgia O'Keefe Country

Georgia O’Keefe Country

Just south of the Echo Amphitheater park, I noticed there was a 13 mile long gravel road ( Route 151 ) running parallel to the Rio Chama, that takes you out to the Christ of the Desert Monastery. Several of the images were shot along that narrow, washboarded, and very dusty road. The monastery closes to visitors just a little before I reached the end of the road, giving me a good excuse to do this drive again someday.

Georgia O'Keefe Country

Georgia O’Keefe Country

Georgia O'Keefe Country

Georgia O’Keefe Country

With the very poor light conditions, I didn’t take a lot of shots, but from what I did shoot, one can just imagine what this place looks like on a nice day.

Georgia O'Keefe Country

Georgia O’Keefe Country

Georgia O'Keefe Country

Georgia O’Keefe Country

The image above has actually inspired me to get out my watercolors and start a painting for the first time in over five years!

Georgia O'Keefe Country

Georgia O’Keefe Country

Area Campgrounds

There is a campground, National Forest, I believe, about 10 miles out this road to the monastery. There actually were a couple sites that I could probably squeeze into and the campground is very secluded and has a nice feel to it, but I am just not sure about subjecting the motorhome to 10 miles of bouncing along this very narrow road, and I have no idea what would happen if I ran into another vehicle coming in the opposite direction, there are not a lot of places wide enough for anything to get by a wide rig.

There is a COE campground about 10 miles farther south on Abiquiu Reservoir and there are several sites there that work for large rigs, but after taking a run through the campground and finding it just about completely full on a Monday, one would have to make reservations to get in there this time of year.

The Echo Amphitheater Park, located right on Route 84, has a small campground loop with three sites that would handle a midsize rig like mine and it was empty when I drove through, so that may be a possibility.

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June 12, 2016 Heron Lake State Park, New Mexico

Aspen Grove

Aspen Grove

Exploring Southern Colorado

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

At these high elevations, this Skunk Cabbage seems to grow prolifically just about everywhere.

The West End of Colorado FR 103

The West End of Colorado FR 103

I had checked out FR 103 on my New Mexico and Colorado Atlases and wanted to see if I could drive it in the Prius to try and find the catering building of the Cumbres & Toltec RR out in the middle of nowhere in Colorado. The atlases showed  a few miles of drivable gravel road before it appeared to turn into 4-wheel drive road, when you entered FR 103 from the west, so I figured I would see just how bad it got.

As you can see from the image above, the road starts out in pretty good shape as you head down into a beautiful valley, but after about four miles, as it heads back up into the woods, it deteriorated quite rapidly, forcing me to turn around at about the five mile mark.

View From Colorado Route 17

View From Colorado Route 17

So, back out to Route 17, and north across the state line into Colorado to try FR 103 from the east side. The image above is from the side of the road as you descend into Colorado. If you look closely, the gravel road on the right that heads uo into the mountains is one I will take a little later in this post.

At the summit of Cumbres Pass there is a gravel road to the west that takes you about two miles up to the Trujillo Meadows NF Campground, so I had to check that out. There is a very nice campground up there at over 10,000 feet of elevation with several sites that would easily handle my rig, but, unfortunately, the campground looks like a bomb hit it. It used to be a well wooded campground but the bark beetles have killed a very large portion of all the surrounding woods up here and the forest service obviously felt the need to take down all the dead trees in the campground, leaving it completely bare, nothing but stumps. Still a nice place to truly get away from it all.

Aspen Grove

Aspen Grove

I continued east on Route 17 to Road D-5, just past Fox Creek, and that connected me to FR 103’s east access. FR 103 is a fairly decently maintained gravel road with a fair share of washboarded stretches for about 14 miles in, where it becomes a little narrower, slicker, and less well maintained.

Aspen Grove

Aspen Grove

I passed several aspen groves along the first several miles and finally had to stop and get some shots.

Approaching Storm

Approaching Storm

At about 6 or 7 miles in, the sky began to darken and I could see lightning flashing to the north.

Afternoon Storm

Afternoon Storm

In this area, there were a couple of meadows where one could possibly pull off the road and find a decent boon docking site, something I may well do in the future. I think I would dare take the motorhome out to at least this point, though I don’t think I would dare go beyond these meadows as the road does get narrower and there are no obvious places where a large rig could get turned around.

Afternoon Storm

Afternoon Storm

The rain was soon upon me as I made the final push to get to the catering building, about 15 miles in from the east end of FR 103.

Switching Track

Switching Track

kLunchStop

All these shots were taken in the rain so they are a little dull and spotty, but I found it kind of interesting to see all these people and all this activity out here in the middle of nowhere.

lLunchStop2

The Cumbres & Toltec RR serves a complete dinner, included in the price of your ticket, out here in this building. The road at this point became so bad that I could not get down to the building to check it out, plus the rain was really starting to come down heavy and I had a narrow, winding uphill to do in what was now a very muddy road, so it was time to turn around and head out.

Approaching the Water Tank

Approaching the Water Tank

Cumbres & Toltec Railroad Engineers

Cumbres & Toltec Railroad Engineers

As I slid and sloshed back up the road, the heavy rain turned to marble sized hail and within seconds the road was now white with hail. This was my first experience with the summer season’s afternoon storms, and it was a little terrifying for a few minutes. At 10,000 feet of elevation, I guess you must be right inside the storm as I could quite literally “feel’ the thunder as it seemed to explode around me and the hail was so heavy, I could not see the narrow road in front of me. But it was all over in a few minutes and I was able to make the return back out to Route 17, no worse for wear.

Cumbres & Toltec Open Gondola car

Nice Ride !

A shot of the open gondola car as the train passed in a little nicer weather.

My Second Cattle Drive

My Second Cattle Drive

Exploring Colorado Route 250 to Platoro

Only a few miles up Route 250, a wide, well maintained gravel road ( though quite dusty and washboarded in sections ), I encountered my second cattle drive of the season. This lone cowboy and his dog were single handedly driving about a hundred cattle up the road to greener summer pastures.

Mom Looking Out for Junior

Mom Looking Out for Junior

Just as with the first cattle drive I encountered back outside Raton a couple weeks ago, the cowboy came up to me and told me to just slowly head into them,” they’ll move “. And they did, but it took about five minutes of looking at the messy butts of a lot of cows and calves to nudge through the herd and get back on my way. I could easily have reached out my window and touched many of these cows as I made my way through.

rBlocked

These next few shots are actually are from my return back down Rte 250 later in the afternoon, this and the next few taken through my windshield, when I met up with the same cowboy and cattle drive about 3 hours later. Turns out to be a slightly different feel when you run head first into them and they have to make their way around you, than when you work your way through them from the rear.

Hereford Bull

This Guy Has Me Worried

This lone bull, about the size of my Prius, had me more than a little worried when he seemed to look down at me from in front of the car, as though he was trying to decide if he should push through me, or go around. Thankfully, some cows to the left moved around me, giving him room to move that way also.

Hereford Bull

That’s a Lot of Animal

Colorado Cowboy

Colorado Cowboy

Quite a job to tackle by himself, I would think. When the herd was moving through this area of cabins with no woods or fences along the roadway, the cattle were scattering all over the place and he was bouncing from one side of the road to the other trying to gather them all in and keep them heading in one direction. I wish i could have gotten some shots of his dog, looked like a sheltie/sheepdog type, as he raced all over chasing strays back to the road, seemingly without any commands that I could see or hear, from his master.

Elevation 9,000 Feet and Still Climbing

Elevation 9,000 Feet and Still Climbing

Views From 10,000 Feet

Colorado at 10,000 Feet

Colorado at 10,000 Feet

I ended up going about 18 miles into the mountains on Route 250, mainly to check out the two National Forest Campgrounds, Spectacle Lake CG at about 6 miles in and South Fork CG about 18 miles in. Both campgrounds were secluded and fairly nice with interior roads and several campsites that were able to handle larger rigs. I might well try one or both someday in the future, this is just breathtakingly beautiful country.

Colorado at 10,000 Feet

Colorado at 10,000 Feet

Colorado at 10,000 Feet

Colorado at 10,000 Feet

Colorado at 10,000 Feet

Colorado at 10,000 Feet

I got a little spooked as I was taking the shots above, when rocks began crashing down into the road behind me from the steep slope on the other side of the road.

Mule Deer

Rock Throwers

I looked up and there was the reason, two mule deer does scrambling up the steep talus slope, probably to get away from me.

Colorado at 10,000 Feet, Impossibly Green

Colorado at 10,000 Feet, Impossibly Green

The hillsides are an unbelievably brilliant green and the sky an incredible blue. The air so clean and dry … WOW !!!   Spring in the Rockies!

Colorado at 10,000 Feet

Colorado at 10,000 Feet

Colorado at 10,000 Feet

Colorado at 10,000 Feet

Years ago, I made a trip out here and had a little trouble with the altitude. This time, I suppose because of my slow, months long pace of gradually climbing up in elevation as I made my way north and up, through New Mexico, thankfully, I am not experiencing any of the same symptoms. Just another perk, I suppose, of the leisurely pace of a fulltimer.

Sunbathing Horses

Sunbathers

Had to take a shot of these two, seemingly really enjoying the warmth of the noonday sun at 10,00 feet.

Abandoned House

Abandoned House

And I can never pass by a deserted building.

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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.

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