Friday, October 14, 2016

Santa Rosa to Elephant Butte

From Cochiti we made our way over to Santa Rosa State Park near, of course, Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

Santa Rosa was once a thriving community that sat along Route 66, the infamous historical byway.  Sadly, it is now a mixture of small businesses and empty decaying buildings.  That said, it is not without it’s attractions. The typical tourist attraction is the Blue Hole which draws swimmers and divers in from all over the country.  As we don’t really swim and certainly don’t scuba dive, we decided to forgo the $5 admission charge and just glance at it from the parking lot.  Oddly enough, this attraction is part of the Santa Rosa Parks.  Now, if you’re anything like me (Bud)… and heaven help those around you if you are… your mind immediately conjured up a picture of Rosa Parks in a Santa suit.  I know… it’s a bit out there but dang….. “Santa Rosa Parks” just cracks me up!

"Santa" Rosa Parks

Santa Rosa is a mecca for anyone who enjoys old signs, and as a once-upon-a-time sign maker I was in photo heaven.  I did a quick photo shoot one evening and actually got there a bit later than I would have liked.  The sun was fading fast in the western sky and I had to hurry along the main drag to capture what images I could find. The morning sun would have been much better as far as the number of signs I could have photographed and with better contrast, but the evening light gave a warm color to my photos.  I’m pretty much happy with them.

After I hurriedly walked westward and then eastward along the main drag, I ventured off to a couple side streets, snapping photos as I went.  I eventually met a gentleman by the name of M.E. Sprengelmeyer sitting outside of the local newspaper office, coffee cup in hand.  He was curious about me and what I was doing and as we chatted I learned that M.E. was the publisher, editor, photographer and writer of the “The Communicator”.  Of course, there are a few others on his payroll that help in the gathering of news stories, photos, cartoons, etc.  He invited me in and I shared with him my history of newspaper work (illustrator, graphic artist, writer and ad sales).  We discussed the failing industry and both wondered how people who lived in a small community could ever keep up with the local sports, school achievements, chamber news, etc. without a local newspaper.  

M. E. Sprengelmeyer

I am sure, if Barbara and I had given it the time needed, that there were probably plenty of interesting places to explore and discover in the Santa Rosa area and perhaps come next year, we’ll go back for a little longer stay.  But we had Elephant Butte State Park on our minds and after three nights at Santa Rosa State Park we steered La Casita southward.

When we were up at Eagle Nest back in August and September, we had met a couple who actually live in the village of Elephant Butte.  Roger and Dianna use to RV extensively and eventually settled down into a stick built home but still own a camping trailer for small jaunts around the state.  After getting to know each other, Roger handed over his phone number and asked us to give him a call once we made our way to Elephant Butte and they would show us around some.

Elephant Butte State Park has quite a few places where one can camp and we chose South Monticello campground.  Wow, was it ever nice!  Once again, all of the amenities, paved roads and nice level graveled sites with plenty… as in P-L-E-N-T-Y… of space between RV sites.  Practically everyone near the east end had excellent views of the lake.  Well, what lake there was.  Elephant Butte Lake gets pretty full in the spring, being fed by the Rio Grande, but as the summer drags on more and more water is released for irrigation purposes to help the farmers in New Mexico and also those down in Texas. Seeing as we arrived in October, most of the lake at our end of the park was dry.  Still, the view was beautiful and the sunsets awesome.

Once we got settled in, we gave Roger and Dianna a call and they graciously took us out to dinner at… where else… but the Ivory Tusk Restaurant.  Afterwards, they invited us up to their home to visit.  Up… way up.  They have a really nice home that sits on the edge of a very high mesa, overlooking the lake.  It was a gorgeous view as we sat outside on the back deck chatting and getting to know one another.  I was having a great time, until I wasn’t paying attention and walked right through the closed screened patio door, tearing it off the railing and bending the frame.  What a klutz.  Sorry Roger!  I’m blaming the fantastic views that I was looking at!

Dianna & Roger

Our stay at Elephant Butte seemed to be a socializing mecca for Barbara and I.  Through the RVillage website, we had made contact some months back with a couple who’s paths we finally got to cross.  Mark and Judith are fellow Ohioians and after we met in Truth or Consequences over a sweet bite, we seemed to have hit it off pretty good.  They were volunteering up at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, which is about an hour north of where we were staying.  They have been full-timers for a year now.  Our initial meeting must have went well for them also, for we eventually got invited to meet them in San Antonio, NM for burgers and then into their home ( a beautiful 5th wheel ) for a visit.  It was an evening full of grins and giggles and a bonding that I am sure will last for a long time to come.  That said, every full-time RVer knows that the relationships one builds while out on the road are relationships that are eventually separated by hundreds of miles apart.  BUT… as we all have the wander lust in our veins we know that eventually our paths will once more cross and we’ll pick up where we left off.  

Mark & Judith

Barbara and I did make a trip up to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge for a guided tour, led by another couple.  It was nice, but the geese and other migratory birds hadn’t started coming in full strength yet so we saw very few birds.  But hey, it was a free tour and a nice day to be out.

"Hank Heron"

We also reached out to another couple through RVillage; Bill and Sandi who hail from Indiana.  They are another pair that we found fun to sit and chat with and of course, had lots of laughs.  They have only been RVing full-time for a month or so, but seem to be settling right into it.  As plans now stand, they will be hanging around the southern New Mexico area, as we will be, for most of the rest of this year.  We hope to continue to visit with them and get to know them even better, and Bill and I are even talking about next spring…. trout fishing up around the Eagle Nest area.  It’s never to early to plan a fishing trip!

Truth or Consequences, NM is another one of those sad but nice little towns.  I talked to a former New Yorker who owns a very nice, eclectic shop filled with old and new stuff along with some handcrafted items.  She told me that T or C (as it is often called) is officially the poorest town in New Mexico.  It does have some interesting shops, often very colorful, and the local Walmart has bank after bank of solar panels that not only provide the electricity to operate the store, but also provides nice shade from the sun for their customers.  Pretty cool!

With all of that socializing, we didn’t get out and about much to explore the area.  We had Roadrunners, Jack Rabbits, Cottontail Rabbits and Gambel Quail in and around.. and ON…. our campsite.  No snakes.  One big spider that I “think” was a tarantula but wasn’t 100% sure so I left it alone.  :-)  

We heard coyote in the distance and enjoyed the ever changing mountains as the sun rose and sat.  We stayed a full 2 weeks there and then headed back up to Cochiti Lake.  I am not sure how long we’ll be at Cochiti.  We’re mainly going up there to use it as a home base while we drive back up into Eagle Nest to view the fall foliage and, hopefully, a snowcapped mountain or two.  After that, we plan on returning to Elephant Butte, hooking up with Mark and Judith, Roger and Dianna and Bill and Sandi again, and try real hard to find some time to explore that area more thoroughly. 

Thus far, this adventure of ours has been worth the effort and the risk that we took to make it happen.  

Gives us your thoughts about all of this and also let us know what’s going on with you and your life. We truly do want to hear from you.

Bud & Barbara

At Santa Rosa State Park

In Santa Rosa

View from Camper at Elephant Butte State Park

Jack Rabbit!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Cochiti Lake Recreational Area

Okay.  Finally, I think we found the perfect campsite for us.  Maybe.  But before we get there, lets stop at Hyde Memorial Park on the outskirts of Santa Fe for a night.  Are you with me?  Then let’s go!

It was suppose to be for at the very least a full week at Hyde, but one night was certainly enough.  The park sits up a narrow canyon on the way to the local ski resort.  There are two campgrounds; one on the left side with full hookups and one on the right side with no hookups.  We dumped our tanks, chose the campsites on the right side, found a place we could back into, parked and leveled the rig.  It was okay I guess, but we had two major issues with this park.  The big one was that all the sites that we could fit into were along the main road which meant lots of traffic noise.  Everything from Jeeps to school busses rolled up and down that mountain road.  The second issue is more of a personal taste.  After camping at Eagle Nest and Storrie Lake, we felt “boxed in” at Hyde where the only view out of our window was the hillside, tree trunks and the road.  That was enough for us to hit the highway the day after we arrived.  Now, this is a good tip for those of you who are thinking of RVing around, even if it’s for a short vacation.  DO NOT PAY for more than a few nights until you’re sure that that’s where ya want to stay plopped for a while.  It’s not happened to us that I can recall, but it would feel pretty discouraging to have to stay in a place just because you didn’t want to lose your camping fees.

Anyway, we packed up the very next day and headed out to find the perfect campground.  Just south of Santa Fe, about 10-15 miles, is Cochiti (COE - shih - tee) Lake Recreational Area.  It sits on the Cochiti Pueblo Indian Reservation and was built and is operated by The Corps of Engineers.  Very very nice place.  Huge vistas with glowing sunsets, paved roads and paved, level campsites with nice covered picnic shelters.  There isn’t much around there as far as shopping is concerned, just a local mini-mart/laundry/gas station and a golf course that has a restaurant.  But like I said, Santa Fe is just 25 minutes up the road, is easily accessible and has everything one could desire.  Even two awesome thrift stores!  :-)  Also, Albuquerque is just 40 minutes or so south. 

Our very first night there we were getting ready to go out for an evening stroll when the Park Ranger stopped his truck just past our RV.  He told us to stay back because there was a rattlesnake in the road.  He and his assistant caught the snake, put it in a container and would eventually release it elsewhere.  He said that made number 4 for the night so be sure to carry a flashlight while walking after dusk.  Good advice.  We never did see another one though!

The Sunsets were Fiery Awesome!

There is also another campground that is on the other side of the lake which is called Tetilla. Its an older campground with gravel roads and sites but that’s where the main boat ramp is so gets a lot of use.

In-between the park entrance and the RAM Mini-Mart lies the Town of Cochiti Lake.  This is a small community of mostly retirees from all walks of life; physicists, authors, artists, etc.  It’s a very eclectic and interesting place.  Not much there other than the library and volunteer fire department but the homes are all very nice, mostly modest, adobes.  We visited with a local who lived there and she gave us the run-down on it. It seems that it, too, sits on the Cochiti Pueblo Reservation, but the land was leased to the city for the purpose of building.  She said it is a 150 year lease at which time in all likely hood the lease would be renewed.  They seem to have a very good relation with the Pueblo people.  I also got to speak with the mayor of the city (he was volunteering at the library desk) who ran down a list of the famous, the smart and the creative people who either live there or had lived there but also assured me that anyone of any status and background would be welcome and he encouraged me to consider Cochiti as a possible place to eventually settle.  Not real sure what that says about me.  Hum.  Barbara and I took in a craft show that was held in the fire station’s bays one Saturday and we both were impressed by the variety of art as well as the quality.  Everything from paintings to stain glass, photography and jewelry.  Nice!

Just south of the lake is the Kasha-Katuwe (White Cliff) Tent Rocks.  

First day we hit the Slot Canyon Trail, taking us through the canyon and way up on top of the mesa.
A week later we went back to take in the other two sections of the area; the Veteran’s Memorial and the Cave Loop Trail.  I really enjoyed the Veteran’s Memorial area.  It was further into the canyon and then up on top of a mesa.  It had awesome panoramic views, an easy handicap accessible trail loop and plenty of interesting plants to look at.  We noticed three varieties of cacti along our walk.

The Cave Loop started back at the Slot Canyon area and was a bit of a disappointment for us.  One we arrived at the cave, it wasn’t accessible for tourists so all we got to do was take a photo of some hole in the wall.  You could notice smoke stains on the ceiling of the cave and that was kind of cool, imagining Native Americans camping up in there.

There’s a huge mountain road loop that is basically a full day excursion.  We ventured out on it, found the two tunnels that had been blasted through the mountain for logging purposes, several scenic overlooks, the Valles Caldera National Preserve, Los Alamos (where we had our IDs checked before we could enter), Abiquiu Lake,  and finally Espanolla where we stopped to eat.  Oh, we also stopped at Fenton Lake for a snack and I fished for about 5 minutes, missing one trout but catching another one.  Gave it to the guy next to me.  :-)

During our stay at Cochiti, Barbara flew out of Albuquerque to go visit her family in Washington for week so I was left to fend for myself.  Wasn’t hard to do!  Made several trips back to Santa Fe to hit the thrift stores, did a couple of road trips to check out the area and did a lot of power-walking though all of the loops in the campground.  That’s where I met my first tarantula!  Pretty cool spiders.

While she was gone, I tried fishing with no luck at all and tried using the metal detector on the swim “beach”.  I say “beach” because only the first half inch was sand. Everything else was ROCK.  Needless to say, no luck there either.

Even with those two things being somewhat of a negative, we rank Cochiti Lake Recreational Area at the top of our list.  It’s a very clean park, the roads and campsites are paved, it had decent shower facilities, water, a dump station, great cell service and even electric if we wanted it.  Those things, plus being fairly close to grocery stores, restaurants, etc. make it a Five-Star campground for us.  We’ll definitely be going back there come next year!

Well, that ends this installment of our adventures on the road. We’re already a week into our next move, so be checking back for that report.  Thanks for reading and following us. We’d love to hear from you about our travels and about what you’re doing as well, so please comment!

Bud & Barbara