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. 

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