Saturday, August 27, 2016

Coyote Creek Canyon State Park

Coyote Creek Canyon State Park sits about forty minutes or so south of Eagle Nest State Park.  It is located exactly as the name says; down in a low, scenic canyon.  The drive in was pretty exciting and once it actually made my pucker strings tighten, if ya know what I mean. (Barbara’s dad knows exactly what I’m talking about!  LOL) Driving down a steep grade into the canyon on a twisting two lane road that suddenly turns into a twisting one lane road can be a bit unnerving, but I handled it like a champ and we arrived safe and intact.

As usual, most of the electric sites sit side by side and as I mentioned before, that’s just not our style.  We like some space between us and the neighbors.  So, after searching the campground some we found an excellent non-electric site that suited us just fine.  It was at the back of the main campground.  Way back. All the way back.  Nice.

Looking up at our camp site.

Looking out of our lounge window toward the rest of the park.

When we were back at Eagle Nest and told some friends where we were going, one of them said “Nice place. You’re gonna catch some good trout there!”.  So, I was pretty excited about giving it a try.  So excited was I, that I went off and left my camera and my phone back in the RV!  No photos as proof, so you’re just going to have to believe this fish story.  Coyote Creek is an actual creek, and not the small rivers that I had been fishing.  It has several beaver ponds along it’s course.  I quickly found a nice hole and dropped a fly into it, working it upstream.  I had a nice hit and set the hook, but I set it just a little too hard.  I jerked so hard, anticipating a nice brown or rainbow, that the fly ended up in some branches of a nearby shrub.  I muttered something about missing the fish and commenced to pull the limb closer to me so that I could retrieve my fly.  THAT’S when I reached for my phone camera and realized I had forgotten it, because there in the top of the bush was my very first Coyote Creek fish… all 2 1/2 inches of it.  Yep… that’s not a typo.  The little sucker barely spanned three of my fingers when laid in my hand.  It was so small, I couldn’t tell what species it was!  I ended up catching two more fish while staying there, none over 4 or 5 inches long.  That’s my fish story, and I sticking to it.  Pathetic, huh?

One of the cutest rabbits I've ever seen.  It visited our campsite each morning!

Several days were pretty rainy at our camp site.  It is considered Monsoon Season here in New Mexico and the days usually start out half-way decent but the afternoons bring dark clouds, wind, thunder, lightening and rain.  That’s when I sat down and got a bit creative, writing a poem for Coyote Creek on a day that we were stuck inside while it poured outdoors.  I’ve been asked to share it here, so here it is;

Coyote Creek, NM 8-16-16
by Bud Burke

It's a lazy day in our Lazy Daze
here at Coyote Creek
For storm clouds came, bringing the rain
along with a chill that's bleak
And the rain plays a tune, here at noon
that makes a man's eyes droop for sleep
It's not even mid-day and there ain't no way
that I'm crashing to bed in a heap!
So I stare out the glass at wet, green grass
and at the birds sheltered under our car
At a few lightening bolts, with thunderous jolts
both near to our door and afar
And I watch others camp, in this cold and this damp
and wonder a bit of their ways
If they're as safe inside, as my wife and I
are here in our own Lazy Daze! 

Not sure why I didn’t take any photos of the rainy day.  Would have illustrated the poem perfectly!

On a sunny and pleasant Saturday I got up and decided to do a little photo safari, while giving both Barbara and I some much needed “alone” time.  So I grabbed my photo gear and headed out of Coyote Creek, working my way south towards a very small town named Mora.  Wow, there is so much to stop to see and photograph in just the 20 minute drive there!  I love photographing abandoned buildings, especially if they are in a state of decay, old doors and splashes of color where you’d least expect to find it.  I finally made it to Mora and wish now that I would have parked the car and walked the main street because I know I missed lots of photo ops.  I eventually made it to a place called “Ocate”, which I learned later was pronounced as “OAK-a-tay”.  There was a sign off the main road pointing back north for Ocate so I thought I’d do the drive and check it out.  Know what was there?  Nothing.  Just a road sign and a couple of delapidated buildings that were in such bad shape they weren’t even interesting.  Guess at one time it may have been a rancher’s supply center or something.  Anyway, I was gone for about 4 or 5 hours and below are just a few of the shots that I took.

The main event of our stay at Coyote Creek Canyon was hooking up with the couple that owned our Lazy Daze before us, the original owners!  We met them at Hatcha’s Cafe in Mora for a really nice luncheon.  From there, they invited us to drive up to their place where we spent several hours talking about our Lazy Daze RV and the art of full-timing.  They are a very nice and interesting couple who I am sure we’ll meet again next year, when we are back in this area.

We left Coyote Creek and went back to Eagle Nest for a three day stay, renewing our friendships with the fine people at West Lake, going back out on the pontoon boat (the high winds chased off the waters real quick-like) and Chuck and Nettie once more. We also met another couple who actually live down at Elephant Butte Lake, which is just a bit north of Truth or Consequences, NM.  It’s on our route as we head south and they wanted to exchange phone numbers so that once we arrived, they could show us around the lake and where the good places are to eat.  How’s that for fate??!  We also used our short stay there to get some teaching on preventative maintenance and found out that overall, the rig is in great shape.  I just need to do a little sealing up on the roof before anything disastrous happens and that’ll be it for awhile.

Early morning fog on Eagle Nest Lake.

That about sums up our latest little adventure and brings me pretty much up to date on the blog.  Hope you enjoyed reading it and please feel free to leave comments below. We really do enjoy hearing from you!!  Also, I’ll be doing another post real soon about a National Park that Barbara and I visited just the other day. So interesting!!  Thanks again, and hope to hear back from all of you!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Social Interactions

On Monday, after our two weeks in Columbine Campground with no hook-ups or any other amenities, Barbara and I were going to drive over and plop ourselves down once again at Eagle Nest State Park Campgrounds.  While discussing this, we realized that we had just spent 2 full weeks without dumping our grey and black tanks and that if we grabbed a spot at the Eagle Nest Campground, we’d have to pay an RV park to let us get rid of our waste as Eagle Nest, other than water, has no other amenities.

Now, RV parks are not inexpensive, especially around this area.  Probably an average of $45 a night with some being in the high-thirties and others close to sixty.  All of that was outside of our budget, but we had heard some good reports about a little RV park that sat just down the road from the State Park so we opted to at least go and scope it out some.

West Lake RV Park is operated by Glenda.  It’s a small park that caters primarily to about a dozen or so seasonal retired couples who arrive to get away from the Texas summers.  There’s a few Okies and Kansas people as well, but by and large, most are Texans.  They stay there anywhere from 1 - 2 months straight.  Most having been camping there for years on end, establishing long lasting friendships with each other. And of course, West Lake also rents out spaces to the occasional traveler looking for a place to camp, people  like us.  The park has everything to offer except showers; Electrical hookups, sewer hookups, water, Wi-Fi and a laundromat, all for the low, low price of $27 a night.  TWENTY-SEVEN DOLLARS a NIGHT!  Unbelievable…. but it’s the truth.  We bought a couple of nights, found our spot and parked.  Nice.

West Lake RV Park, Eagle Nest, NM

In the center of this RV Park is a huge shelter that has tables, chairs and even 2 porch swings.  It seems this is the spot that everyone wanders over to, to shoot the breeze.  After we had set up our Lazy Daze, we looked over and noticed a handful of people swinging and sitting at the shelter house so Barbara and I decided to walk over and check it out.  Wow.  You’d have thought that we were long lost relatives or something!  Everyone greeted us with smiles and hand shakes and commenced to ask us about our travels, where we were from, etc.  Of course, the subject of fishing came up and one of the guys, Stan, asked me if I’d like to go out on the lake in the morning in his pontoon boat.  Would I??  Heck yeah!  So Tuesday morning I met him, his wife Karen and their friend Dick, launched the pontoon and commenced to slay the Yellow Perch like crazy.  That Tuesday morning we KEPT 86 fish, all over the length of 8 inches. Stan said it had been a long time since they had caught that many on one morning.  I can’t even imagine how many smaller ones that we caught and released.  Of course, all of those fish had to be filleted, de-ribbed and a final trimming.  It went pretty fast with the three of us guys working together.

Stan launching his Pontoon Boat

Karen, Dick & Stan

We went out again on Wednesday morning and decided to throw everything back under 9 inches in length.  We actually caught MORE fish that day but because of our size restrictions our keepers amounted to about 60 additional fish.  Hum.  More fish to fillet.  Nice. 

Stan talked to Glenda and got the okay to have a fish fry on Thursday afternoon, which just happened to have been mine and Barbara’s 10 year anniversary.  Stan and the rest of the gang at West Lake RV usually have 2 or 3 fish fries during the course of their stay there, but because I had helped catch and clean all of those perch he felt is just right to go ahead and have one while we were still staying in the RV park.  As you can see from the photos, the turn out was great, the fish was tasty and the potluck was one of the best I have ever had.  Not ONE dish was duplicated!  It was so much fun, that Barbara and I decided to extend our time into a full week’s stay.  During that time, we had plenty of socializing under the shelter, went out for chicken fried steak (a weekly event for the regulars) and Barbara would hook up with all the ladies and play cards down at the laundromat.

Before the Potluck...

...after the Potluck.

The people and food were awesome!

When our one week stay at West Lake was over, we moved “La Casita” once again to Eagle Nest Lake State Park.  We spent that time relaxing, fishing (of course), going to the local thrift store, and to the weekend farmer’s market where we hooked up with a couple that we met from the RVillage website that I had mentioned in the last update.  Paul and Karen are Camp Hosts at Golden Eagle RV Park.  It keeps them pretty busy but they managed to find time for us.  We met them first at the farmer’s market, which is hosted by Golden Eagle RV Park, and then made a time to meet again the following week.  Paul plays guitar and him and a few others get together for a weekly jam session so we agreed to meet an hour earlier on that day to get to know each other.  The other musicians never showed up so we and a few others were entertained for an hour or so of Paul playing and singing.  It was a good time and once again an answer to our desire to have a bit more interaction with other campers.  Barbara went back to West Lake a couple of times to play cards with the ladies and once, while we were in the Angel’s Attic Thrift Store, she struck up a conversation with a couple who was camped just a few sites down from us.

Chuck and Netti have been full-timers for eighteen years!  They welcomed us into their RV for an enjoyable evening of getting to know each other and with us getting as much practical info and advice on full-timing that we could get.  Before parting, we made plans to connect in a couple of weeks.

A neighboring Chipmunk

That pretty much sums up the last 2 weeks.  Our desire for some socializing with others certainly was fulfilled and along with that, we managed to have some good eats and of course, great scenery here in northern New Mexico.  This state certainly is impressive!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Columbine Campground

It’s a funny thing I guess.  Well, maybe not funny.  More like ironic.  Yeah, that’s it…. it’s an ironic thing.

The whole purpose of living full-time in an RV is because one is tired of being stuck on the same piece of real estate with no freedom to move and roam at will.  That was one of my reasons at least.  But as you have read in my previous post, we spent two full weeks moving around; Heron Lake State Park, Hopewell Lake, Navajo Lake State Park and finally Hopewell Lake (again).  That’s a lot of moving and traveling for us!  So when we left Hopewell Lake the second time, we traveled easterly through Taos then north through Questa and east again to settle in at Carson National Forest’s “Columbine Campground”.  For just how long was yet to be seen.

On our way from Hopewell Lake to Columbine Campground we stopped at the Rio Grande Gorge, just to the west of the city of Taos.  It was a pretty fascinating place and the views were awesome.  If you’re ever in the area, I’d recommend that you take an hour or so to stop and take it all in.

                                                                  Rio Grande Gorge, Taos, New Mexico

Columbine Campground is somewhat in-between Questa and Red River, NM.  It derives it’s name from the Columbine River which starts way up in the mountains and works it’s way down canyons and gullies to empty into the Red River which runs across the road.  The Columbine River actually flows through the campground and there are camp sites on both sides of the rushing, babbling waters.  It makes for a very nice place to camp.  And so we did.  It was such a nice place to camp, we stayed the full two weeks that is allowed and we enjoyed every day of it.  It was nice to be parked on the same piece of real estate for an extended period.  Yep, that’s ironic right there.

                                                                            View from Columbine Campsite

                                                                              Columbine River

There’s a Trail Head at the back of the campground that leads the hiker or horseman or Alpaca person way back into the mountains.  Way back. Some of those trails take you up and over and back down to the Taos Ski Valley.  That’s a long way.  Barbara and I have been getting out and doing some hiking, but we’re still not ready for that kind of hike!  Actually, hikes like that are designed for overnight backpackers.  Yeah, we’re not even close to being there, and don't really want to be.  We stopped in at the local National Forest Service Office to pick up some maps and get an idea of the area.  That’s always a smart thing to do.  I got to talking to the woman behind the desk and asked her about fishing the Columbine.  She brightened right up and said that it was her favorite river to fish.  Her and her husband often hike up the trail and fish it back down.  I inquired about how to do that and she told me to just hike up about a mile and then on the way back down just find openings to the river, and drop your bait or fly into it.  Easy.  I was excited…. but something told me that before I carry a nine foot fly rod up a canyon trail I should perhaps check it out beforehand.

                                                                    Trail up the Columbine River

So on Thursday Barbara and I loaded up with liquids and hit the trail.  We made it up about a mile and a half, maybe two miles before running out of steam.  In that 2 mile stretch I found one place, possibly, that I might be able to dangle a fly.  That was a bit disappointing, but not nearly as disappointing for us to have only made a 2 mile climb.  We underestimated two things; the assent UP the trail and the amount of liquids that we needed to get there and back.  Next time, Trail…. next time.

                                                                       It's pretty had to fish this stuff

We spent the next week recuperating..errrr…. exploring the other areas around us.  We made several visits to Taos to do some shopping, seeking out thrift stores and hitting the weekend Farmer’s Market.  Taos is a very cool and eclectic place and I could easily settle somewhere near there if it weren’t for the congestion.  Taos has very narrow streets with shops, restaurants and galleries lining both sides.  Add to that the number of pedestrians who are out and about and you can easily see why the auto traffic moves along at a snail’s pace.  Yeah, I didn’t sign up to live in a place like that.

                                                                         Taos Farmer's Market

We also spent a lot of time in Red River, which is just a bit further east of our campground.  We mostly traveled there to use the Wi-Fi so we could keep in touch with everyone via email.  I usually poked around some on Facebook or we'd take a walk around the town, etc.  We’ve also been trying to figure out ways that Barbara and I can socialize with other RVers.  Her and I get along great but sometimes you want to interact with others, so we jumped onto a website called RVillage which is basically a Facebook type website for people who love to camp.  We’ve made a few internet contacts through there but have yet to meet anyone in person.  I think that’s the lonely side of full-time RVing, not having the frequent interactions with others.  It's gonna take some work but I think we’ll find the right balance between “our time” and time with others.

Speaking of fishing... (and you thought that I wasn’t gonna?) we dropped into Fawn Lake which is just down the road from our campground.  When we arrived there, there was another car full of people getting out to go fish and they followed us down the trail to the lake.  I found an empty spot and commenced to fish while they spread out across the other side of the lake (really a pond, in Ohio terms).  Not to many were having very good luck.  I know ‘cause I asked those on either side of me.  So, I threw my favorite lure in and started catching fish, releasing some on purpose and some by accident and even gave one or two away to my neighbors.  The guy on my right side eventually left and Barbara said that as he was doing so, the guy across the lake that had followed us in began working his way around to take his spot.  She said he had been watching me from the moment I caught the first fish.  When he arrived at the recently vacated spot, the first thing he said to me was “I came over here, hoping your luck will rub off on me. Man, you’ve been catching the fish!”.  LOL  We had a good time bantering back and forth and he did end up catching a couple of fish before I packed up and left.  It was a good day to fish.

A full week after we did our hike up the Columbine River Trail we packed up our liquids once more to try it again.  This time we took more juice to keep us hydrated.  We felt more refreshed and hit the trail with confidence.  It was a good hike and this time we made it up to about 3 to 3.5 miles until we hit a section that stopped us in our tracks.  The trail shot up at a steep incline and once more we were forced to admit that we didn’t have the stamina to attack it.  A bit dejected we turned around and started back down the trail, keeping a positive attitude that we just did a 7 mile round trip hike. Not too bad, really.  On our way back down we stopped to refresh at a spot where a side trail shot up and over a pile of rocks that looked to have been a rock slide.  We noticed it on our way up but just figured it was a short turnout to a backpacker’s campsite.  While resting, I couldn’t resist going up the trail to check it out.  I am so glad I did! 

I at first thought it was a cave and when I called down to Barbara that it was there, she immediately made the climb up to explore it with me.  We eventually realized that it wasn’t a cave, but that it was actually a man made mine.  Of course I thought “GOLD!”, mainly because there is a trail that leads up to “Gold Hill”, but we still weren’t sure.  Once we figured out that it was a mine, all exploring went out the window.  No need to go into a cold dark mine shaft and risk a cave-in, so we took our photos and made note of the location so that we could ask the people back at the Forest Service Office about.  The next day, they confirmed that it was probably a working gold mine.  They told us that the Forest Service leases out mineral rights to individuals and companies and this is probably what we had found.  As I asked questions, I found out that we can legally pan for gold in any of the National Forest streams and rivers, as long as we don’t dig into the bank.  Now that’s pretty cool and who knows, perhaps I’ll invest in a gold pan and give it a shot some day.  That could be a fun time for sure!

             Forest Service Office said these mines have been known to be used by bears!

We continued to enjoy our time at Columbine Campground and the surrounding area, going back into Taos and making a trip up to the Taos Ski Valley, stopping at a small eclectic village called "Arroyo Seco".  It’s a very artsy place with a variety of interesting shops, businesses and galleries.

                                                                       This is the inside door of the restroom of a local shop!

                                                        Arroyo Seco, New Mexico

Our two week maximum time limit quickly came to an end and on Tuesday we buttoned down the hatches and made the drive out of Columbine, through Red River and over the pass to Eagle Nest, once again on the quest for a good campsite and hopefully some friendly people to socialize with.

On a side note, we’ll be spending our 10 year anniversary somewhere over in Eagle Nest and Angel Fire.  No cards, no flowers, no fine dining.  Just the beautiful valley to make this anniversary a very special one for us both.  Life is good and we are happy.