Category Archives: Camping

River Crossings, Boulders, And Lava

10/15 -10/16

After leaving Santa Fe, we drove down past the town of Grants to Blue Lake State Park. We got in early, found a nice site overlooking the lake, and hiked around a bit. It was a nice campground and a good place to unwind from our sojourn in the cities.

In the morning we all took a wonderful hike down to a creek in the bottom of another canyon…like a miniature Rio Grand Canyon. It was beautiful with cool rock walls, some beaver activity, and greenery along the creek. We even had to make a creek crossing, which Pia wasn’t crazy about…the water doesn’t bother her, but she’s not real keen on the boulders. Pia is a retired guide dog, and most of her life has been maneuvering around towns and cities, not bouldering up and down cliffs. But she is game to try most anything, such an amazing dog she is.

 

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So glad we didn’t just settle for the lake views, because this little hidden trail was the real gem of the campground for us.

We were able to take quick showers before leaving the park, refreshed and ready to hit the road. We then spent some time driving around and checking out the countryside, before landing in a dispersed camping area off of hwy 53. There we found more awesome rocks to climb around on, and the most beautiful Spotted Towee sitting in a pine tree. (No camera with me)

 

Checking out El Malpaias National Monument and Wilderness Conservation area was fantastic. We hiked around on these incredible sandstone formations overlooking acres and acres of lava beds at the Sandstone Bluff overlook area.

 

 

Pia and Fred were tuckered out after all that boulder hiking, so Fred stayed behind with her at Lava Falls, where I hiked solo across a moonscape of lava beds, leaping over crevices,  tiptoeing across lava bridges, and following the lava rock piles, which were the only trail markers on the trail. It was pretty rugged hiking, but an incredible landscape that I’m glad I was able to experience.

 

 

The lava fields are about 3000 years old, fairly young geologically speaking. What was amazing were the trees, bushes and cacti that were forcing their way up through all the hard lava. True pioneer species in a brand new world.

South onward to spend the night at Apache Creek Campground.

The River Flows South

 

One last peaceful day along the Rio Grande River before we head south for good this time.

The soft glow of the light in the evening…

 

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Our feathered friends waking us in the mornings.

 

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And those sunsets over the Taos Mountains in the Carson National Forest.

 

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We’ll dearly miss this, but its off to different lands. There’s much more to explore.

 

 

Crisscrossing New Mexico

9/24/14 – 9/28/14

Back into Taos, we tried re-charging the A/C. It did’t do the trick, so we had someone look at it, who spent quite a few hours on it and traced it back to the relay under the dash. The part we needed had to be ordered by a Volkswagon dealer and had to come from Dallas, Texas. It  had to be paid for in person, before anyone would order it. We had to go to Albuerque or Santa Fe. No brainer. We headed to Santa Fe.

Not a bad town to wait for a part. We enjoyed the plaza and native artists selling their wares. We bought a few gifts, did some sightseeing, and delighted in some New Mexico fall colors.

 

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When the part arrived, we picked it up, quickly installed it, and ta-da…had cold air blasting into the cab.

To try out our refreshing luxury, we moseyed over to  Bandelier National Park. Mostly we needed a place to camp for the night, and the park was handy.

 

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A peaceful setting to enjoy the evening and early morning.

 

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Some interesting campers were also visiting. In fact a lot of these Western Bluebirds were camping along side of us.

 

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This Northern Flicker and White-breasted Nuthatch didn’t mind sharing a site.

 

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Pretty sure this was a Merlin watching over the entire loop.

 

We moved on after these visitors left and lots of the two legged type moved in. (It was a weekend.)

 

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Found this place a little quieter and more to our liking up a forest service road. Room for Pia to run and play, and plenty of New Mexico sunshine for the solar panel.

 

Some of these Bluebirds thought so too, as they followed us to our new camping spot.

 

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We drove by and visited Valles Caldera National  Preserve.

 

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It was a beautiful valley, but there was no place to spend the night. We inched our way around the Jemez mountains.

 

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A quiet walk  in the Santa Fe National Forest.

 

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Nature’s sculpture…

 

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And yet another lovely peaceful camping spot, thanks to the forest service folks for maintaining their roads.

The countryside changes abruptly.

 

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Emerging out of the forest and into Jemez Pueblo.

 

It was about here when our air conditioner quit working again…

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Respite Along The Rio Grande

9/21/14

 

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Somewhere between Farmington and Taos on a quite warm day, our air conditioner quit working…

We rolled down the windows, endured the warm breeze, quit talking to each other, due to the loud road noise, and became a bit crabby.  By the time we pulled into Taos, it was rush hour,  cars were sitting still in every lane and the lights were all red and lasted forever.  It was Friday, and also unseasonably hot for Taos.

Instead of a gentle stroll along the plaza as planned, we really just wanted to find a place to stop and camp, so we left town shortly after arriving, heading up the mountain to cooler pastures, on which the map showed numerous campgrounds. It didn’t take us long to learn that the forest service had closed all those campgrounds for the season, just two days ago.

We kept driving until it got very dark, when around a corner we went, and met in the middle of a very dark two lane country road, two very big and very all BLACK cows just standing right smack in the middle of that dark road. It was a very very near miss, which could have resulted in a very bad disaster for both us and the cows.

But calamity was averted, thanks to the fact that the road had no one coming in the other direction.  Whew, it really was time to stop. So in the very next, very little, very dark town of Angel Fire…we found of all things a Visitor Center. Well, we certainly were visitors, and we needed some centering. We did what any logical wandering nomad would do, and found a far little corner, hunkered down in the parking lot, and turned in for the night.

All was well the next morning, never a soul did we see before departing to journey further along the very scenic drive in the Carson National Forest. It was foggy. Really foggy. So foggy, we didn’t see the very scenic drive until around noon.

The sun did finally come out, and the sun did shine. It was warm again. But happily, we found ourselves parked along the mighty Rio Grande River, high above the Rio Grande Gorge. I wanted to hike to the bottom. Glad we took the easy trail. It was pretty rugged, I could only imagine what the challenging and difficult trails were like. But it was a lovely hike down and awesome to be on the Rio Grande River.

While lingering at the water’s edge, Fred and I both at the same time spotted a huge mountain sheep across the river high up on the cliff. Then we spotted another and another. There were seven altogether, and we watched them for a long while, while enjoying the rolling river and expansive views. As we started back up the ascent, the sheep started their own descent. It was  amazing to watch them sure-footedly going down the rocky cliff and gravely trail. We humans were so carefully picking our boulders, and placing our feet, while they were almost as graceful as ballerinas on tiptoes.

We stopped near the top for water and power bars, and watched them again for another hour or so.

Of course I took lots of photos and got some really great shots. But somewhere along the way, I either lost the memory card, or accidentally deleted it, because it is now nowhere to be found.

After our exciting day with the sheep, we lucked out and found a wonderful campground in the Wild Rivers Recreation Area. This one was operated by the BLM who managed to keep it open.

 

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Peace at last.

 

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And a comfy, quiet evening under huge cloud filled skies. And no it didn’t rain. Yet.

 

Many Thanks

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First off…Thanks so much to all those who are actually following this blog. I really started it to just kind of keep track of our travels and post a few photos, but you guys do add an element of companionship to our trip, AND it keeps me on my toes to try to capture a few good shots.

Secondly, I really do want to check out and read more about what everyone else is up to, and I hope to soon spend some long winter days and evenings, perusing and catching up on all your beautiful blogs. I’ve tried to at least peek at most of them.

The truth is being always on the go, leaves very little internet time. I’m always way behind on posting, and having both a wi-fi connection AND electricity to keep the computer powered up at the same time is very rare.

It’s a lot of work to travel, sightsee, hike, take pictures, load them onto the computer, keep everything charged up, and still have time to eat and enjoy reading a few good books.

 

We’ve been on the road now for almost seven months. We are still  pretty amazed about that.

 

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We’ve stopped over for three days at a sweet forest service campground called Target Tree in southern Colorado. It’s nice to have a home base for awhile, however short that while is. We are about to check out Mesa Verde National Park, AND get some new tires put on the little white van, so we rest up by taking a hike straight up the mountain today.

Just a few simple shots of nature along the way.

 

 

It really is about the Journey. ❧

Black Canyons

9/5/14-9/8/14

A pause along the Gunnison River, then off to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

But first we stop off in Leadville for a break. Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the United States sitting at an elevation of 10,152 feet. One of those endearing old Victorian mining towns of which there are many in Colorado. It seems like such a contradiction – Victorian architecture and dirty grimy mining. But those precious metals from the earth enabled 19th century towns to embellish their buildings to no end.  And now thankfully they have survived as a bit of American history.

 

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A few more stops over the pass and along the river. A few more snow capped mountains and cold water lakes.

 

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A quick chat along the way with this cute little ground squirrel.

 

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Then finally to the Canyon.

Nature continually amazes us. The unfathomable act of water creating this gorge millions of years in the making, is just mind boggling.

After being over two miles up towards the sky, we now find ourselves peering over half a mile down into seemingly bottomless gorges.

Below us here, the Gunnison River drops an average of 96 feet per mile traveling through this canyon. According to the park, in one two-mile stretch, it drops 480 feet.  Scientific minds could probably do some type of math with those numbers times those long years to come to cliff / bottom conclusions, but me, I just accept that Mother Nature is pretty darn cool.

The Earth.

 

Oh, and we shared our South Rim campsite this time with this young deer, who was obviously quite thirsty, and was able to figure out the calculations of how to get water from this human contraption.

 

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Peace

Colorado Feathers And Fur

9/2/14-9/4/14

We spent the day in Estes Park, walking around, enjoying the weather,  gawking at store windows, visiting a book store, and generally relaxing away the day before we decided to find a place to sleep for the night.

We wound up heading south on highway 7 and came to  Olive Ridge Campground. Since the calendar flipped to September, and the kiddos are back in school now, we seem to have our pick of the choicest sites. We do the drive through, make sure no generators are in sight or earshot, size up the spot for levelness and find some Sun for the solar panel, and settle right in.

We find friends with feathers close by.

 

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Many of these little White-breasted nuthatches were also camped here, as was the Mountain chickadee in the top photo up in the header.

Cold weather has definitely settled in, and like the birds, we find ourselves continually heading south.  We moved camp again the next day to carry on with our slow progress to warmer weather, this time stopping at Cold Springs Campground, where we had another camping loop all to ourselves.

The entire time we were in Montana and Wyoming, with all the wildlife we saw, we never did spot a moose. Seems nobody was seeing any moose.

We asked the park ranger about this, and his theory and others in the know about these things, mostly seem to agree that after Montana and Wyoming suffered some intense drought years, (even though this year, everything is lush and green with water everywhere) much of the local moose population decided to hit the road and migrate to “greener pastures.” People in Oregon have seen a huge increase in the animals, as have folks here in Colorado.

While camping in Cold Springs Campground and talking to our camp hosts, we mentioned this to them and wouldn’t you know that those super nice folks told us where we could go to see the Colorado Moose immigrants.

Sure enough, a side trip to Brainard Lake up around 11,000 feet in elevation, brought us to not one, but three of these big fellows.

 

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Another day of our life on the road. Another piece of the wildlife inter-connections that has touched our hearts, and warmed our souls.

Wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything…

Oh, and have I mentioned…that we meet the nicest and most generous people while on the road?

 

Quiet Colorado Morning

9/1/2014

It’s a sunny cool morning…we’re camped here at about 9,000 ft. elevation again.

Pia is usually the first up in the mornings, and Fred and I have developed a bit of a routine, where one of us gets up, gets dressed and takes her out, while the other one relaxes a bit, enjoying the warmth and bed for awhile before rising. The late riser then rolls up the bedding and makes the bed into a couch, which quickly doubles our living space into a house. We for the most part, try to informally take turns with these tasks.

When I get up early, (depending on location and environment) I like to take  Pia for a nice early morning walk, so we can both get in some  brisk exercise to start our days.

This morning, surrounded by a beautiful aspen grove, we set off on a game trail, saw a glistening body of water between the shimmering leaves, and followed the trail down to a surprise lakeside, where we found ourselves with the lake completely to ourselves, apart from one small family of ducks way across the far end of the water.

Unidentified birds flittering about, peaceful, calm water, and a golden orange sunrise.

Lovely.  These quiet mornings are every bit as cherished as all the beauty and grandeur of the national parks and monuments we visit.

Walking back up the hill was a bit of a challenge though.  I forget about the altitude. Hiking uphill at 9,000 ft, for even just half a mile, takes a lot of effort.

But worth every step.

 

Heading South

8/30/2014

We landed back in Utah.

In the northeast corner this time after spending three glorious weeks in the Montana and Wyoming national parks. After living in vast open spaces that go on forever. After living with so much wildlife. After living around many awesome like-minded people. After being immersed in beauty, remoteness, nature, happy days, winding rivers, snow capped mountain peeks, and serene valleys.

After all that, the drive through rural America on Wyoming back roads was a bit disenchanting, but once we made it into the Flaming Gorge recreation area, the gorgeous rock country felt relaxing and comforting. This campground we stayed at with enormous orange rock cliffs in the background, dwarfed our van and made us feel small, but we were cozy at home as the creek wound slowly along the base of the cliffs,  thunder roared and the wind blew in the background. Raindrops splattered the van windows. We were happy and at peace.

When we woke in the morning the sun was out, so we took a side trip around Sheep geological loop, which points out which dinosaurs lived in the different geological formations all along the loop. It was fun seeing signs pointing out “Stegosaurus lived here, and Brontosaurus lived there.”

The day was a restful day, with time for reflection on where we’ve been and where we were going, while enjoying green pastures and golden afternoons, as we made our way into Colorado.

 

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Yellowstone – The Grandeur

8/16/14 -8/22/14

We thought we would pass through Yellowstone on our way to the Grand Tetons. Just kind of drive through.

But we kept hanging around.

 

Along The Yellowstone River
Along The Yellowstone River

 

Yellowstone River North of Gardiner
Sharing Space Along The River With Fellow Creatures

 

After camping along the Yellowstone River, north of Gardiner, we entered the park early in the morning to secure a campsite at Mammoth Hot Springs.

 

Roosevelt Arch - North Entrance
Roosevelt Arch – North Entrance

 

Misssion accomplished, we set off to explore.

 

Grand Meadow Near Mammoth Hot Springs
Grand Meadow Near Mammoth Hot Springs

 

Neither of us were prepared for the vast and immense open vistas and miles and miles of raw, natural untamed wilderness we entered into.

 

Yellowstone River In Hayden Valley
Yellowstone River In Hayden Valley

 

The winding rivers and glowing sunsets…water everywhere!

 

Madison River
Madison River

 

Lewis River; South Yellowstone
Lewis River -South Yellowstone

 

Lush green meadows and marshes.

 

Looking Out
Looking Out

 

And the necessary tragedy of forest fires.

 

Forest Fire Scars
Forest Fire Scars

 

Even the burned area from forest fires are mysteriously beautiful.

 

Burn Area Absaroka Mountains
Burn Area Absaroka Mountains

 

Signifying new growth and rebirth.

With the stately presence of dead timber, new soil, new food, new habitats.

 

Quiet Beauty Waiting For Rebirth
Quiet Beauty Waiting For Rebirth

 

The day’s end…

 

Near Fishing Bridge
Near Fishing Bridge

 

Next we check out the geysers…       ❧