Thursday, July 21, 2016

Finding the Perfect Site & Other Rants

In the last two weeks since our last post we have hop-scotched back and forth between several places, looking for that all illusive perfect camping spot.  It seems that with every new campsite, there are pluses and minuses that have to be dealt with.  It can be rough enough living in a 10’ x 30’ metal can on wheels as it is.  For instance, kitchen counter space is very minimum so often times any full course meals have to be prepared in sequences; fixing one item and putting those ingredients away before pulling out the ingredients and pots/pans to make the next part of the meal, etc.  And clean up, well, that needs to be taken care of shortly after eating.  No more letting dishes pile up or siting in the dish washer.  If you did happen to not clean up after your meal, you’ll more than likely have to before you eat again.

                                                                                        Minimum Amount of Counter Space

Privacy is another item that one must adjust and adapt to.  If you’re the least bit squeamish about your mate’s bodily noises (and smells) as they answer the call of nature in the 3’ x 3’ “restroom” then you’re gonna be in for a rough time, especially if said mate has to answer that call in the middle of the night and your bed is right next door.  You’ll get fumigated either by natural odors or the strong perfume smells of air-fresheners.  Both can make you roll over and groan as you try to nod back off to sleep.

Speaking of bodily functions, RVs aren’t built on solid foundations so there isn’t a sewer system that readily accepts every flush and sends that flushing on down to the local wastewater plant.  Your wastewater plant is directly underneath your stool in the form of a big ol’ 40 gallon tank.  Actually there are two tanks, one for your natural wastes (black tank) and one for your sink water (grey tank).  So you have to learn to conserve water, whichever tank it may be going to.  I use to turn the faucet on full blast to wash my hands before the RV and now I can trickle-wet my hands, lather up and trickle-rinse them before towel drying.  I’ve learned that a little water goes a long way and if I can conserve as much water usage as I can, that means longer time-spans of having to go outside, hook up a sewage hose and manually empty (dump) those two tanks.  And trust me on this; just because it’s yours, doesn’t mean it doesn’t stink.

It’s little things like that that can wear one down sometimes.  And it’s not just those few items.  In a regular stick-built house you may have office space where you can leave your computer and printer hooked up and sitting out.  Not here.  Pull out the computer from it’s reserved cubby hole, plug it in, hook up the printer if need be, use said items then disconnect and store them away until the next time you want to use them.  Seems petty, but sometimes ya just want to leave stuff sitting out.  And even in the general living space it seems like there is always something, whether it’s a pair of shoes or a portable table or some maps, etc, in your way when all you want to do is walk four feet to get something from overhead storage.  You have to do three different things to get to the one thing that you were wanting to do.  Yes, frustrating.

But listen to me, going on and on about the annoyances and frustrations of living in such a confined area.  Lets get back to the hop-scotching back and forth over the last two weeks.

                                                                                                Brazos Cliffs near Chama, NM

After leaving Eagle Nest, we headed westwardly and ended up near Chama, NM at Heron Lake State Park.  Hum.  The water was low due to a drought and what water there was, was frog-slime green in color.  Our campsite wasn’t “bad”.  It was a bit concealed from the other campsites and had some shade in the form of a wall of piƱon trees, but there wasn’t a view.  Barbara and I enjoy sitting out under the awning or looking out one of our many huge windows to see a nice view.  We did have water and electric.  Thank God for the electric. It was H-O-T and come late afternoon or early evening we had to close everything up and turn on the air conditioning.  Also, Heron Lake was out there.  Really out there.  It was miles from Chama.  No trails to hike.  No fishing to be had.  Just lots of pinions and scrub-brush to look at.  Nope, not the perfect camping site for us.  After four nights of that, we packed up, disconnected and headed out for higher elevations and cooler temps in the form of Hopewell Lake.

Hopewell Lake is part of Carson National Forest and with my Old Geezer Discount we get to stay for half price. Pretty good deal.  We arrived and found a really nice site at the end of the loop that gave us a panoramic view of a huge mountain valley.  It was beautiful! 

                                                                                                     Hopewell Lake Campsite

The lake itself was a pretty little mountain lake stocked full of trout.  I managed to catch an 18 inch and a 19 inch rainbow and over the next few days hooked even larger ones that got off before I could pull them in.  I did catch another one about 15 inches long which I gave to another fisherman who wasn’t having any luck.  Because I didn’t have a net with me, I broke my fishing rod in half when I heaved that 19 incher out of the water and onto the bank. Glad I brought a spare along!

                                                                                                 My 2 "Trophies"

Enough of the fishing stories, lets go back to the campsite.  Like I said, it was a pretty good site with a nice view. It gave us plenty of sunshine for our solar panels and also provided just the right amount of shade.  We liked it a lot.  It sits at 9,500 feet above sea level so it’s a lot cooler there which is nice, but it can be a bit scary to wake up in the middle of night gasping for air.  Not just once or twice either.  Needless to say, we didn’t sleep all that well.  We didn’t mind that there wasn’t any electricity, or no cell service and no place to dump those nasty grey and black tanks I was talking about earlier.  Well, not to much anyway.  Nope, not the perfect camping site for us.  Close, though.  After three nights of rough sleeping and high winds (oh yeah, forgot to mention the almost non-stop winds in that pretty valley) we packed up and headed to a promising state campground called Navajo Lake.

Man, I thought Heron Lake was way out there!  Navajo Lake was a world of it’s own with nothing, na-da, zip, zilch around for miles and miles.  One minute we were driving through barren rocky red landscape and then BOOM!, we were crossing the dam of one very beautiful and huge lake.  As far as the eye could see there were house boats, speed boats, skiers and skidoos.  We worked our way up and down and around and finally made it to the main campground.  We found a good spot actually.  Level. Shaded. Quite.  Well, until the weekend partiers came rolling in.  It was like a huge summer block party that went on well into the night.  That “10pm - 7am Quiet Time” was no where to be found.  Seems the Camp Host had decided there was a better gig for him at another park so he vacated the premises.  And again, its at a lower elevation so it was once more to hot to bear.  Just as well. We turned the A/C on at night to drown out the partiers.  

The one nice thing about staying there is that I met my first Native New Mexican, who was camped next to us.  Albert and his wife Nancy were very nice and interesting to talk with.  They are from the Albuqureque area and go to Navajo Lake often to fish the San Juan River which flows out of the lake.  They were kind enough to let me tag along with them and learn from them how to fish there.  Albert did the one thing that every fisher person ought not do; he bragged about how many fish and how big of fish the river held and guaranteed an exciting time on the water.  Uh… no, not on that day.  He caught one small one, I caught three (who was showing whom?) and Nancy got skunked.  Regardless, it was a great day fishing with a pretty cool couple.

                                                                             Friend Albert Fishing in the San Juan River

We left Navajo Lake after just 4 days of heat and noise and decided to head back up to Hopewell Lake for some cooler temps and peace and quiet.  We really try hard to pinch the purse whenever we can so instead of going into Hopewell Lake Campground and pay for a site, we opted to travel on down a rough, dusty road to find a good boon docking site.  A “Boon Dock” site is a place where you can go to that is away from everyone and has no amenities, just a grassy place with a good view of the wilderness to park.  National Forests provide a lot of places just like this and we eventually found one that I could work the 30 foot RV into.  It was perfect… for awhile.  Seems a lot of people in pickups and 4x4s like those backcountry sites as well, and one after another went barreling down that dirt road sending a plume of dust in the air and the wind, in it’s own mischievous way, blew it across the meadow right to us for our enjoyment.  Wonderful.  As the sun started to settle, we stepped outside and were hit with swarms of flies.  What the heck were so many flies doing out in a meadow like this?  Well, it didn’t take long to answer that question!  National Forests are also open grazing for local cattle ranches and we were, as luck would have it, parked right in the middle of the most succulent grass a cow could want.  And boy, did they.  It was Lake Navajo all over again, only this time it was a block party for cows! Mooing, belching and even bumping into the RV while we were trying our best to sleep.  Barbara got up with a flashlight, opened the door, went outside to shine the light on them and she even yelled at them!  They ran off lickety-split.

                                                                                               Cows in the Campground!

We got up the next morning and went outside, watching where we stepped, to inspect the vehicles.  The RV was fine, but Barbara’s car had cow slobber all over the windows and front hood.  It was if they snuck back during the night and said “Hey, take this, mean lady!”.

                                                                                                  Cow Licks and Slobbers

Nope…. not even the perfect camping site for us.  So after that one night, we packed up and left again.  In 2 weeks time we’re currently in our fifth location. That’s a lot of moving around and it’s tiring.  I guess that is a BIG advantage of living in an RV even with all of the challenges and difficulties.  If you don’t like your neighbors, the weather, the noise, the cows… just pack up and move on.  So here we sit in Columbine Campground between Questra and Red River.  Nice. Maybe this will be…. oh heck, who am I kidding?  No such thing as the perfect campsite exists.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Eagle Nest State Campground, New Mexico

After our time at Sugarite Canyon State Park was up, we headed west of Raton, NM down a long stretch of arid scenery that gradually evolved into the town of Cimarron, NM which lies at the foothills of Cimarron State Park.  Other than a gas stop Cimarron didn’t hold much of an interest for us so turning north, we gradually but quickly found ourselves winding along canyon walls, following the Cimarron River.  There are about five campsites scattered along the river but all were either too close to the road for our liking or were small and crowded.  We elected to keep going through the Cimarron Canyon, up, over and through the pass and down the other side to Eagle Nest, NM.

Eagle Nest is a touristy town pretty much dependent on summer vacationers, campers and fishermen.  Just a couple miles beyond the village sits Eagle Nest State Park and that is where we parked ourselves for the next 2 weeks.

The campground has 19 sites and we were fortunate enough to find a “first come, first served” site that sat along the shoreline of Eagle Nest Lake.  All of the sites at this campground are primitive sites, meaning that there is not any electric, no wifi or internet service, no showers, dump, or on-site water.  There is water when you first pull into the park, so we filled our tank before setting up at site number 14.  Before you jump to conclusions; no, we did not go 2 weeks without a shower.  A nearby RV park offers showers to the public for $5 so we took advantage of that.  As for the electric, our Lazy Daze is set up with 2 solar panels that keep our batteries pretty well charged and that enables us to burn a few lights in the evenings before bedtime.

The campground is filled… actually “infiltrated”…. by Prairie Dogs.  They were everywhere!  We’d sit outside in the cool of the afternoon and watch them run about, chittering, chattering and barking at each other.  They never bothered the RV that we’re aware of or any of the other RVs that sat near us, but once an RV pulled out of it’s site the Prairie Dogs would scamper over to investigate, probably seeing if any type of morsels had been left behind. 

Speaking of the wildlife, I never did see an Eagle during our stay but I did see scores of white Pelicans.  Yep, Pelicans.  I’m still scratching my head over that one. Never knew of Pelicans in the mountains.

One thing that was really neat about the campground was the panoramic views that surrounded us. We had a 360 degree view of the valley with mountains all around us.  It was so cool to watch the way the sunlight changed how the mountains looked as it rose and sat each day. 

The day after we arrived, our friends Will, Karen and Maggie showed up to spend a couple of days with us.

They were on their way back home to Arizona after spending a month or so visiting friends and relatives as far east as Ohio and south as Tennessee, traveling in their new Class A  RV.  It’s beautiful and oh so roomy!  The four of us (Maggie stayed home) toured the Vietnam Veteran War Memorial and had a so-so dinner at Zeb’s in Angel Fire.

Angel Fire is south of Eagle Nest, about 10 or 11 miles away.  It to is a touristy town but they are more dependent on the winter vacationers who flock to the village to ski.  We actually preferred Angel Fire over Eagle Nest as it had more to offer; Wi-Fi connections (YEY!), a grocery store, a laundromat, better restaurants and more things to see and do.  I took a 2 hour, $10 Fly Fishing lesson that I enjoyed and actually learned a few things from and Barbara and I rode the Ski Lift up to the top of the mountain and did a little hiking while up there.  Have I mentioned before how thin the air is in Northern New Mexico??  GASP!

That first drop down is a doozie!

Atop of the mountain looking down on Angel Fire

That's Eagle Nest way off in the distance

I managed to catch some trout, adding to my dinner count, during our two week stay.  I caught one on a fly rod while fishing the Cimarron River and then caught four more on spinning tackle at Camp Maverick, which is one of the campsites that we by-passed.

Cimarron River Rainbow

I tried several times to catch fish from Eagle Nest Lake but didn’t have any luck doing so.  Most people who were catching fish were out on boats, trolling the deep waters.  Oh well, maybe in September if we travel back for another stay.

Barbara and I made two hikes up Carson National Forest, each being about a 3 mile round trip.  On our first hike, we came across a hen Grouse that was just kind of strutting around, crossing the path in front of us and stirring around on the right side.  It didn’t take long to see why she didn’t flush; her babies were on the left side of the trail in the underbrush and mom was trying to pull us away from them.  That was pretty cool and of course, I didn’t have my camera.  Carrying a backpack with plenty of liquids for the hike, I elected NOT to carry the camera as well.  See what happens when ya don’t?  When we got about halfway up, it begin getting cold, windy and rainy so we turned around to head back.  Along the way we began hearing the sound of Elk bugling on the mountainside that was facing us.  We slowed our pace and began looking across the ravine to the other side.  Eventually, we caught sight of two Elk working their way along the mountainside.  Pretty cool to see them and hear their bugling!

The second hike was much more strenuous but was well worth the effort as the scenery was awesome.  There’s just something special about those unexpected high mountain valleys; you’re hiking up a rough mountain trail and suddenly break out of the dense forest to come upon a huge field of greenery, flowers, butterflies, blue skies and ponds. Awesome!   About the only “wildlife” that we encountered was on our way out.  Two guys on dirt bikes followed by their wives on an ATV were coming up the same trail we were heading down. Vehicles are NOT ALLOWED on that trail but they didn’t seem to care. Kind of ruined a nice peaceful hike in the wilderness for us.

We spent our 4th of July at home in Eagle Nest Campground. The village was having a huge celebration, but with an expected crowd of over 20,000, we elected to sit outside the camper and watch the fireworks from the comfort of our campsite.  I took lots of photos of the firework display and then we turned in for the evening.

The village of Eagle Nest at night, across the lake

With our fresh water tank running low and our grey and black tanks running to near capacity, we packed up and headed out of Eagle Nest and off to our next stop. One with electricity… and water…. and a dump station… and Wi-Fi… and ahhhhh….. a free shower house!  Life is good.