Saturday, September 17, 2016

Two Weeks in Las Vegas!

Ahhhh….. Las Vegas! …..  New Mexico that is.  

Las Vegas sits at the eastern base of the Santa Fe Mountains and offers wonderful views of both the mountains to the west and also of the vast plains to the east.  It was first settled by the Spaniards along the western side of the Gallinas River.  Pretty soon the railroad came into the area and another town popped up along the eastern side of the river, which was settled by the Anglos.  The two towns were called Old Las Vegas and New Las Vegas.  Eventually the towns merged into what is now Las Vegas.  It’s a nice little city with a pleasant mix of old and new, with plenty of things to see and do.  Huge roadside billboards proclaim their town motto: So Damn Authentic We Can Prove It!

(Stock Photo)

Our ultimate destination was Storrie Lake State Park which is just a few miles north of the city.  We were fortunate to find a site that sat back from the other three camping areas.  The campsite to the north is the boat ramp area and can be very busy with fishermen and recreational boaters coming and going.  Another site that lies to the south is basically the main campground.  It offers several full hook up sites as well as a few non-electric sites and a playground for the kids.  Across from it is a huge field that butts up against the Storrie Lake shore and it can be used for primitive dry-camping. A little further down the road and to the west sits a small, 4-site campground that I think was called Gallego Campsite.  Thats where we parked our rig and we even had electricity.  Thats a treat for us!

Although our shelter was rough stone and log, most were made in the Adobe Style.

Panoramic view of Storrie Lake

Views of our campsite. NICE!

Storrie Lake State Park was a great place to stay put for 2 weeks, especially over the Labor Day weekend.  While the lake did get somewhat busy during that time, the noise was pretty low key and there were very few incidences of unruliness.  We hooked up with Jerry and Shar, Camp Hosts for the main site, and once again gained valuable information from yet another long-time full-time RVing couple.  They’ve been all over the west and up and down the Pacific Coast as well.  During the Labor Day weekend, they invited us, as well as all of the Park Personnel, over for free eats and drinks (non-alcoholic)!  It was nice to sit under the shelter and learn about what others are doing with their lives as well as sharing our experiences.  Before we left to head elsewhere, we got contact info from Jerry & Shar and have made tentative plans to hook up with them again sometime over the winter months.

The evening clouds and sunsets, as well as the nighttime skies, were wonderful views from our campsite.  Photos just do not do  the scenery justice, especially the fiery sunsets.  Gorgeous!

The Big Dipper over a Picnic Shelter.

We visited Las Vegas quite often, usually picking up needed items from Wal-Mart but also visiting several antique stores, a few thrift shops, a local museum and of course a couple restaurants.  One of them was Kocina de Raphael.  It was good food but the highlight was the Sopapillas!  I don’t think I’ve ever had such huge fluffy ones before. Muy Bien!  I also managed to visit Cornerstone Church on both Sundays that we were there.  I felt very much at home and enjoyed a worship service that had a mix of Spanish and English songs.  Even though I understood very few of the Sp
anish songs, the feeling of worship was still there and I felt very blessed.

We drove up into the mountains several times, exploring the area, always on the search for new and different places to camp.  We found a National Forest Campground that was very remote and while it was nice we have realized that we enjoy places that have an expansive view of the area.  Thick forests give us a feeling of being boxed in.

Almost everything that we wanted to do had to be done early in the day for come afternoon the monsoon showers would arrive.  Sometimes it rained just in the mountains but often it hit us down by the lake as well.  Our neighbor, a woman who has been traveling alone and living in an old 1989 Chevy van, hardly ever made it back to her campsite before the rains came.  She’d have to either re-set her rig and electric hook-up in the rain or just sit it out until the storm passed.  It got to be a running joke with us, wondering and watching to see if she made it back in time!

As mentioned in the previous post, we also did a day trip over to Pecos National Historic Park.  It’s nice to be in an area that has a lot of things to do that are mainly day trips.  We always try to get Ranger-Led tours and have never been disappointed in one yet.  They really do an excellent job of giving the history of the park where they are stationed.

Our time spent at Storrie Lake State Park near Las Vegas, New Mexico was just what we needed, especially during the holiday weekend.  We had a nice campsite with water, electricity, showers and some beautiful views, met several nice people, had an interesting area to explore, was close to some much needed shopping and had great access to the internet.  In short; it may have very well been “the perfect campsite”.  Well, for now anyway.  Maybe, perhaps, there is an even more perfect campsite that awaits us on down the road.  Who knows?  The adventure continues!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Pecos National Historical Park

Looking for something to do, and do it inexpensively, Barbara and I jumped into the car and made a drive over to the Pecos National Historical Park.  The park sits between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Glorietta Pass in what is called the Pecos Valley.   For over 10,000 years Pueblo and Plains Indians, Spanish conquerors and missionaries, Mexican and Anglo armies, and settlers traveling the Santa Fe Trail have all inhabited the area. 

 The first to settle were the pre-pueblo people who lived in pit houses around the year 800.  Around 1100, the first Puebloans appeared and began building their rock and mud villages in the valley.  Over a span of about two centuries about two dozen villages rose up, including at the site that we visited.  Within one generation, all of the smaller villages were abandoned and everyone congregated in one large city, estimated to have held  2,000 inhabitants by the year 1450.  That’s pretty amazing stuff!

Eventually the Spaniards came up from Mexico to search for the famous cities of gold.  Of course, those turned out to be false rumors, likely told by the natives in order to keep these strange men with facial hair, metal chests and riding strange 4-legged animals moving on down the road.  Pretty smart, huh?  Anyway, not only did the Spaniards bring their more “civilized” way of life, but they also brought their own religion, that being God the Father and Christ the Son.  Along with the new religion, they also built missions and that is what is now available to see.

Barbara and I really enjoy the Ranger led tours of places like this so we signed up for one once we arrived at the Visitor’s Center.  It was great!  As we walked along the trail leading up to the mission, the Ranger began explaining the lay of the land, the reasons why the natives chose to build here, and of their rich heritage.  As noted earlier, the Pueblo lies at Glorietta Pass and along what eventually became known as the Santa Fe Trail.  This is an area that everyone pretty much had to travel to get across the mountains, thus making it a rich trade center.  The Puebloans knew how to trade and outside of their fortified city, many Native Americans from neighboring pueblos, the Plains Indians, and the Spaniards all arrived to trade for various items from flints and metals to slaves.

Our tour guide showed us the many pottery sherds that were lying everywhere one looked.  The black pottery was the earliest and the white pottery with designs on it were the later pieces but were still before the Europeans arrived.  It was all I could do to not palm a pot sherd but that’s not allowed and would have resulted in a stiff fine if caught.  I also noticed lots of bone fragments on the ground as well and our guide said that what we were walking through was an archeologists gold mine…. a trash pit.  She said that the bones could be either animal or human as those, along with other items, were tossed over the wall and into the field.  It had been happening like that for thousands of years!

We eventually came to a Kiva, which is a special place to the Puebloan peoples; a ceremonial and social place located between the underworld, where the people had their origin, and the world above where they live now.  The guide said that these Kivas are still used today by the Puebloan descendants for special religious ceremonies.  Of course, the park closes down for these occasions.

Our guide, who is not from the area, was very knowledgable on the Pueblo and it’s history.  She was also very animated, which helped to hold our attention.

After climbing back up from the Kiva, we continued on the trail which eventually led us to the mission.  This was actually the second mission built there for in 1680 the Pueblo peoples revolted and kicked the Spaniards out and destroyed the original mission.  Of course, within a few years the Spanish Army was back and in more numbers, overthrew the natives and reestablished the mission.  All around the mission you can find remnants of walls that show the various rooms and what the archeologists believe that they were used for.

All in all we had a great time on this Park Ranger Led tour of well over 2 hours.  It was a beautiful day, the group was small in size and our guide was awesome.  I left Pecos National Park with added admiration and respect for the early natives, and with a new shirt as well.  :-)  Barbara and I highly recommend that if you’re in this area (near Pecos, about 30 minutes southeast of Santa Fe, NM) that you make it a point to visit this beautiful place.

Barbara caught this photo; a jet flying overhead of the ruins. The Old & the New.