Thursday, June 9, 2016

Two Days at Soda Pocket

We pulled into Sugarite  (Shoo-gah-reet) Canyon State Park, Raton, New Mexico on Tuesday afternoon picking a remote, no amenities site high up on a ridge called Soda Pocket Campground.  Here it is, early Thursday morning and the events that have taken place in such a short period warrants a blog post already.

View From Soda Pocket Campground, Sugarite Canyon State Park

We’ve met several others up here, camping in everything from tents to vans to truck-campers and RVs.  There was even one young woman traveling around, sleeping in the back of her pick-up truck that had just a shell covering.  All of the ones we met were friendly and we swapped stories of where each was from and how long we’ll be staying, etc.  Normal pleasantries.  One of the campers, an older fellow who’s been coming up here for quite awhile told us the rangers have been seeing bear in the area and if we were lucky, we might get to see one as well.  More on that later.  By the way, the signs around here post that we ARE in Bear AND Cougar country.  Cool.

On Wednesday morning, Barbara’s birthday, we woke up to a flat tire on her car.  No biggie really.  She had a spare “tire” (doughnut) so I pulled it out, bounced it on the ground several times to make sure there was still air in it and then began the job.  Old tire off … spare tire on …. lower the jack …. and watch the doughnut flatten out.  Wonderful.  I grabbed my air gauge and checked the pressure and it read 15 pounds.  Fifteen pounds of air in a 60 pound tire wouldn’t get us down the mountain to a tire shop.  Fortunately, a Park Ranger was driving by and they were able to go back to get an air tank for me. Once the tire was inflated to proper air pressure, we made the drive into Raton to purchase Barbara’s birthday present.  I asked her if I should put a bow on the new tire before having it mounted but she somewhat chuckled and said “No.  But thanks for the thought.”.  Happy birthday Babe.

One Bluebird Sitting on a Post

Over the last 2 short days, we have seen a variety of wildlife; Cottontails, Hummingbirds, a Fox, Mule Deer and Black Bear.  The cottontails did their usual thing early in the morning and late afternoon; hopping along the gravel road dodging in and out of the bushes that line it.  The fox was basically a stroll through at our particular campsite.  Barbara noticed it first as it entered one end of the site, trotted past La Casita and exited on the other side.  That’s when I caught a view of it, just as it was leaving.  Barbara said it looked as if it had something in it’s mouth. Probably breakfast.

Hummingbirds. Lots of them.  Very entertaining as they fly straight up into the turquoise sky and nose dive faster than you can say “Superman”, pulling out of the dive at the very last possible moment to skirt along the top of the weeds. Amazing how quick and agile they are.  Of course, they love us.  Free food!  And if we don’t get the feeder set out early enough or we take it in too soon they are quick to let us know about it.  Those things can really chatter as they hover outside the RV window as if to say “Hurry up, before the others get here!”.  They are somewhat territorial in their feeding.  I watched two of them duking it out close to the ground before one flew off and the other reclaimed his stake at the feeder.

The mule deer up on this particular point seem to consist of a family of four; a young buck still in velvet, a doe and two young ones.  They meander down the middle of the road or walk along the edge of it, making their way to a small bottom that lies between the campsites and the base of a ridge.  It’s comical to see mule deer “run”.  Nothing like a Whitetail deer that flat out runs with their body close to the ground.  Nope.  Mule Deer pogo … kind of like a stiff legged hop…. you can almost hear the “Boing…. boing….boing” as they bolt across the field after being spooked by something.  Usually a hiker on one of the many trails up here.

A late arrival to Soda Pocket on Wednesday afternoon was a young man named Brett and his dog Griffin.  Brett is from Kansas and is into day 3 of a one year camping adventure to wherever he wants to wander to.  It’s Brett’s first time in the mountains and as he was setting up his pup tent he noticed a brown spot across the road, to the backside of the bottom land.  A bear.  He told me later “I looked out across the field and seen a clump of something and thought “I hope that’s not a bear.’.  Then I seen it move and thought “Holy crap, it is a bear!’.”  Some other campers were walking past as he was setting up his tripod and we all stood out in the road, watching the black bear (brown coat) makes it’s way along the back edge of the field and into the brush.  My photos are a bit blurry as my lens was maxed out and I was hand-shooting.  The black bears here have various colors; black, brown, cinnamon and blonde.

First Black Bear behind our campsite.

This morning, I couldn’t sleep very well and got up a bit before sunrise.  I sat in the camper looking out the window waiting for the sun to crest the distant ridge. I was able to get some nice colorful shots of the morning sunrise and then later on, as it became lighter out, I noticed Brett stirring around to get his day started.

Sunrise over Sugarite Canyon State Park, NM

I had already seen several deer in the road and the meadow and as I watched them and other wildlife, I looked over at Brett’s campsite and noticed Griffin alert and looking out across the back edge of the same field where we had seen the bear the night before.  Four deer working their way west along the wooded edge.  Brett noticed as well and set up his tripod to capture some shots as they slowly made their way.  Suddenly, the deer reversed direction and were coming back, bouncing across the field at a high rate of speed.  It was too much for Griffin to handle and he bolted across the road and into the field after the deer with Brett running after him. Brett broke rule number one; keep your pet on a secure leash.

My immediate thought was that there’s only a few things that will spook deer like that; a human, a bear or a cougar.   Yeppers, it was a bear.  A big bear.  And just as I ran from the RV to warn Brett of the bear, he caught sight of it just yards away from him and Brett immediately froze still.  He then slowly started backing away from the bear and made it back safely to his site.

Brett & Bear Showdown

The deer had crossed the road, followed by Griffin and then followed by the bear, all going down into a steep wooded ravine.  The only thing Bret could do was wait and hope that Griffin would return soon and be in one piece.  After fifteen minutes or so, Griffin returned tired and bit wet and muddy.  He is now tethered. 

So there you have it.  How much more could have happened in a 2 day span?  How much MORE will happen during the next 3 or 4 days that we’re here at Soda Pocket Campground?  Stay tuned to find out.  

On a side note, this high elevation (7,500+) takes our breath away…literally!

It’s exciting times for us!


  1. Wow, exciting! Gorgeous pictures too.

    1. Thank you Rhonda! And thanks for signing on. We really do appreciate it!!

  2. After almost 8 years full timing I think we have seen bears twice but we keep looking. We were just saying yesterday that we need to get back to New Mexico.


    1. Hello Jim. There seems to be a bear "problem" here in Raton this year, according to the Park Rangers. We met another couple who watched a sow bear fight of a male bear while her cubs were up in a tree. Wish we'd have seen that one!


  3. Great camping report and wonderful photos Bud and Barbara. I love your idea to bring along a hummingbird feeder. We hadn't thought of that.
    Enjoy your trip,
    Jim & Deb Langley
    Santa Cruz, CA... soon to have our new Lazy Daze.. we hope!