Friday, August 23, 2013

New Mexico

We use a web source to locate pubic campgrounds that is more extensive than any other one, but it has a glitch. The co-ords for each CG are in the center of the CG, never the entrance.  The shortest way to the center of a campground may or may not involve using a road. That was the case today. We were advised to Navigate Off Road, which in this case meant driving down a steep hillside about 50 feet until we got to the maintenance yard for the CG. We declined the instruction and kept on driving and found the paved entrance a mile or so down the highway.

There is something about the sun in northern New Mexico that is different from anywhere else that we know of. Fifty miles over the Colorado border and the sunlight is somehow softer. We especially noticed it at sunset yesterday. 

We have left the San Juan's and the scenery is just not as exciting.  We have camped in New Mexico State Parks. They are nice and not expensive. The very sad thing is that the drought has the water levels about 75 -100' below normal.  That's a whole lot.  You can look and see where the water used to be and think how pretty the park was back when there was water.  If only some of Alabama's water come could out here - then everyone could be happy.

Sunday, August 18 - Off the mountains, down to Durango to fill the larder. Shopped at both City Market and Wal*Mart. Dorothy made our food last for three weeks, buying only bread, milk and eggs in Silverton. City Market is our fav grocery in the country. Beats Publix handily. Drove down a rural NM road to Navajo Dam State Park.

Monday, August 19 - Our second night at Navajo Dam State Park. We needed another day to veg out. Hot days but cool nights.

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Navajo Lake State Park with bonus rainbow

Tuesday, August 20 - Stayed at Heron Lake State Park. It was cool and we had no need of hookups. Dorothy made a yummy Tex-Mex dinner.

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Can you see the soft light we do in New Mexico?

Wednesday, August 21 - US64, aka Paseo del Pueblo Norte, from Tierra Amarilla east to Taos affords some scenic views on a rural and very lonely road. It tops out at 10,500 and it's a long grind to the top. We were not passed nor did we pass anyone. We saw may a dozen on-coming cars on the one hour leg to Taos.

Taos has not changed much from the first time we saw it in 1994. Still a sad place. I think fewer "artists" now and more wanna-be hippies. It now has Earth Biotecture colony. These are rammed earth structures that look like something out of Mad Max. They are built by plaited hair guys driving rusted out Mercedes that run on bio-diesel.

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Bottles in mortar and earth

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 The Earth Biotecture colony just west of lovely Taos

US64 east of Taos is a narrow winding road with plenty of tourist traffic following the Enchanted Trail Circle. We made it to Eagle's Nest which is a golf and ski getaway town in a wide valley. The CG was fairly new and the parking pads were level. You have a view of what's left of the lake, which is low like all lakes in the area.

Thursday, August 22 - The plan today was to get from Eagle's Nest in northern NM to Conchos Dam, NM in the east central part of the state. From 8,200 feet to 4,200. From mountain valley to desert scrub. From 72 degrees to 104 degrees. Had to be done. It's the way to Dallas. It's the way to Alabama. Glenda routed us on NM 434, which starts off as a narrow winding road through pasture. Then it gets more narrow. Then it's unstriped, 1.5 lanes narrow and winds down Coyote Creek. Then I gave an on-coming truck too much room and crushed the sidewall of a tire on a sharp rock. Blowout. Found a pull-off a 100 yards down the road where I could change the tire. No cell phone coverage and many miles to nearest town. I have not changed a tire in over 10 years. Did not know if I could break the air hammer tight lugs or not. Fortunately we had a flat gravel surface for the jack and in only an hour, we had it changed. Quite a few cars were on 434 with us, most with out-of-state plates following their GPS.

Don drove until we got to Storrie Lake SP at Las Vegas, NM where we had lunch.  You don't want to go there!  I started driving and it was a wide road with wide shoulders and straight.  UNTIL we started going downhill - lost about 1,000' elevation in just 5 miles.  And the road for the last 35 miles was a paved washboard.  Driving 50 mph was rough.  We were exhausted when we arrived at Conchos. The lake was not low. The COE is keeping their water. Not a drop was being released. Our outside thermometer indicted 105. Inside it was 74.    

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Git er done!28 New Mexico14 resizeI like Llama's. We have seen more herds this year. This herd was about 80 to 100.

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Friday, August 23 - From Conchos, NM to Littlefield, TX. The first day of the slog home through terrain we have seen too much of. Oh well, it will green up when as we get close to Dallas. Tonight we are parked in a city park that has some connection to Waylon Jennings as this was his home town. The price meets with our approval - free. Texas does not have any public lands but almost every small town has a city park for RV's. 

In two jumps we will be near Dallas where we will tour 'W's library and pick up some money from the printing press there.

We will post again after we tour the three presidential libraries in Texas.



Saturday, August 17, 2013

Our Last Week In Silverton

Tuesday, August 13 - We decided to drive to Lake Emma.  We were told that this was a pretty drive. It was easy but not as scenic as Ophir or Red Mountain.  I think that we are jaded by some of the scenery - we want it all to be that good.  As we drove, I started reading our trail book.  The mine collapsed and Lake Emma drained in 1975!  So much for seeing a mountain lake.  On the plus side, it was a beautiful day and we did not have any rain.

Wednesday, August 14 - We drove to Stoney Pass.  Living up to the name, the road was very stoney.   From the road, you get a glimpse of the boarding house at the top of the mountain.  The tram lines are still visible and there is a suspended ore car on it giving a glimpse of what life might have been like in the late 1800's, early 1900'swith tram lines snaking up every basin.  I can not imagine the hard life that these people endured!  Could people survive these conditions today - I doubt it.  The afternoon was beautiful, with only a few clouds.  For some reason, I have fallen in love with the town of Silverton.  It's very small and I don't want to live here, but there is a certain romance that I feel with the town when I am here.  I will very much miss the view of the mountains when we leave. 

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Thursday, August 15 - We continued driving the mountain roads.  We were anticipating Cinammon Pass, but it did not impress us. Rocky road, full of bikers, etc. all on the way to Lake City. The scenery was not as majestic as on the previously mentioned drives, but still worthwhile. [Some day we will go to Lake City, but not from this side on the mountains. It's a long drive and then you have to come back. Right Mike and Liz?]  After we returned I decided, on a whim, to do Picayune and Placer Gulch trails, which turned to be just more roads up a basin to a saddle and then back down. Another day without rain!

Friday, August 16 - My next wife will drink beer and be able to read a map. We had been saving the northern part of the Red Mountain trail for a day like this one. All my navigator need to do was tell me the mile marker for CR31. She could not do it. She put us at the northern end of the trail and there were numerous spur roads to mines off it and every damn sign had been removed by tourists. Glenda was on no help, she only knew of one road and she did not have a name for it. Short on gas, I returned to 550 and back to town for gas and then to camp for lunch. Meanwhile the afternoon clouds filled in.

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Yankee Girl Mine - One of the few vertical mines in the area.

In the afternoon we went to Montanya's [rum distillery] for "farewell" drinks.  Dorothy says they have the best pina colada's. I enjoyed two Snake Oil Bob's and was snockered. We enjoyed a campfire with neighbors

Saturday, August 17 - The last day in Silverton was one of the best!  We drove to Clear Lake.  We remembered it as a short drive, but it was four miles.  That doesn't seem like much unless you are on a rocky trail and having to use granny low in places.  It took 45 minutes to get to the lake.  The scenery was worth the trip, but we could not stay long because we wanted to be back in town for the noon "Brass Band Festival."  This weekend is their 32nd festival.  Members of the band come for all over the United States and foreign countries.  They do not play together except for one weekend a year.  It's a really big deal.  They start off with the National Anthem.  I love seeing people with their caps off, hands over their hearts singing.  Call me old fashioned, but it always brings tears to my eyes.  The band plays a varied selection from Sousa to Tschaikowsky.  One of the highlights for me was an older gentlemen (even older than me), playing the xylophone.  The selection was "By the Light of the Silvery Moon".  As if that wasn't good enough, he then tapped danced to the turn - utterly amazing.  They ended the program with men and women from each of the armed services holding the service flag while the band play the service song and people in the audience stood up when their "song" was played.  It was inspirational.  The finale was Stars and Strips Forever.  This is a fantastic event and it was one of the main things that I wanted to see when we returned here. It is well worth the trip just to see the band and I will do this again.

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27 San Juans118 resizeAfterwards, we drove to the Hillside Cemetery.  The name indicates how the cemetery is laid out - on a hillside.  I don't think there is a flat spot in the whole cemetery.  The markers on the old graves are so ornate.  Very few people lived to an old or middle age that worked in the mines.  Children died at a young age from disease that would easily be taken care of today with a trip to see their doctor. Another thing that is interest about old cemeteries is that the graves are fenced in.  Was it just a fad to keep families together or was their another reason.  If you know, let me know.

It's time to move on, but I really had to leave the town that I have fallen in love with and this lovely area.

Headed south and east.

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Miscellaneous Notes:

Great views of the red mountains here.

We have driven every Jeep trail we care to, so it's time to move along.

Camping here was different this time. We did not see one tricked out Jeep the whole time we were here. A few stock Wranglers and plenty of stock Liberty's. Quite a few came with no vehicle or one incapable to off-roading. Why did they come?

The weather prevented campfires most nights, but on the nice nights most folks came with friends, so they were not much into meeting strangers. 

Silverton is the only town in San Juan County. Not a store or gas station anywhere else. Radio and TV waves do not make it over the mountains. They have a public service radio station that broadcasts with a mighty 100 watts. The play list is diverse. They play a little of everything. While the song might be popular, the artist they pick to cover is no one anyone has ever heard of. 

People who dry camp may have friends who do not. It's always the dry campers who have to move to hookups so their friends are not inconvenienced. We have seen that here a few times. And there was the guy who bragged to me about how well his solar system worked. The next day he was running his main engine. Happened the next day too. Someone told me he had replaced the refer with an all electric one. His four batteries and limited solar could not keep the refer running so into town they went. Along with his SIL and his two generators. Yippee!

Also learned that they now make 5's and TT's that are all electric. That will keep the CG's with hookups filled.

Memo to us on Jeep Trails:

Last Dollar Road - No interest, too far away.
Yankee Boy Basin - Could not get past boulder field at start of trail. Next time.
Governor Basin - Decent, nothing spectacular. Red rated, but was fine.
Imogene Pass - Missed this one again.
Porphyry Gulch - Great amphitheater basin, but Dorothy nixed the narrow shelf road.
Ophir Pass - Easy road, decent views.
Clear Lake - We did it in 2009, and it was better the year.
Mineral Creek - Red rated
Poughkeepsie Gulch - Red rated
Corkscrew Gulch - One of our fav's
Red Mountain - The best
California Gulch - One of our fav's, connects to Corkscrew.
Engineer Pass - Missed it this time.
Cinnamon Pass - Not worth the time, unless you want to hike.
Picayune and Placer - If you have nothing else to do. Road was in terrible shape.
Eureka Gulch - Not worth the time.
Kendall Mountain - We did it in 2009, but passed this year. Great view of Silverton.
Arrasta Gulch - Missed this one.
Stony Pass - Decent, nothing spectacular.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Second Week in the San Juan's

The rains continue. The rain, high altitude and lack of hookups drove our friends off the mountain to more agreeable and familiar territory. We decided to stay and wait out the monsoon. Frankly, right now there is no cool place within a thousand miles that we care to go. The next time we come to Silverton we will come in fire season and take our chances. Anywho, the chance of rain is less than 50% for the next six days and then goes to zero for a few days. And so it goes.

Want to see some really great pictures of this area? Then you should spend some time on Box Canyon Blog. We got to meet the author, Mark, and his wife, Bobbie, last week at their home in Ouray. I wanted to find out if he talks the way he writes. [Only Bill Buckley and Victor Hanson come to mind] Mark and Bobbie are obsessive hikers and have the extremely poor taste to be both retired and physically fit. Here is his pictures looking down on Chimney Rock. Our view of the same was from below with clouds surrounding the upper part of the masts in the sky.

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At the home of Box Canyon Mark in lovely Ouray. Nice View Huh?

Chicken Picante

Fried eggs blacks beans tomatillo sauce with avacados

Good eating in Dorothy's Kitchen Place. Cursor over picture to see what it is.

Wednesday, August 7 - The rain is here and I am not a happy camper at this time.  We had new neighbors come in yesterday afternoon.  One couple is very nice.  One turned on his generator and we were told they did not turn it off until midnight.  It was back on at 7:00 and when I talked to him, he said he plans to run it off and on all day.  How rude - if you have to run a generator all of the time, at least have the decency to move to a place where you don't disturb others.  We all moved away from them.

John and Mary Jane have to be back home in Nevada by the end of the month, so they plan to leave tomorrow looking for sightseeing in the sun - don't blame them.  They took us out to dinner tonight to the Brown Bear Cafe and it was very good.  They are good camping buddies and we are sorry that we are not able to spend more time with them.

Thursday, August 8 - We said goodbye to John and Mary Jane.  It really was good to see them again. We didn't do anything because it was overcast all day, but we only had light sprinkles.  More campers came in today but the weather is not conducive to sitting outside and chatting around the campfire.

Friday, August 9 - Woke up to blue skies!  We went jeeping on Black Bear Pass.  We can only go to the summit because the road becomes impossible after that in a Jeep like Pelli.  But we had great views.  There is another dirt road that I have been wanting to take.  It doesn't have a name, but we decided to go on the excursion.  It was interesting with a couple of water falls.  Also there are old mining relics, of course.

Pass Black BearBlack Bear looking eastLooking east from Black Bear. You may have seen the Jeep commercial that was made here last year.


For the last two decades, I have spent 83% of my waking hours enjoying the freedom of not owning a cellphone, 5% feeling smug about it, 2% in situations in which a phone would have been awfully convenient and 10% fielding incredulous questions.

This spring I scumbed to my wife's need for me to have a cell phone so she could call me during those 20 hours a month we are not together. I thought it might be useful on our trips, but Sprint does not have much of a nationwide network. I suppose for $9 a month one should not expect much. The phone has not been turned on for two months.

For those addicted, I will quote Thoreau that things "are more easily acquired than got rid of".

Saturday, August 10 - Clear blue skies at 7am. We hustled off to Animas Forks. Dorothy likes to wander through old buildings and there are several there. Someone, Forest Service?, is restoring the homes. New roofs and siding. I scanned the ridges for goats while she got her ghost town fix. Then we repeated a drive we took the last time we were here. Up California Pass and down Corkscrew Gulch. It's not a technical drive, but route has great views, especially of the red mountains.

Along the way we saw three large flocks of sheep. Probably around 800 in each flock. They spend the summer grazing in the high hills. We only saw one sheep dog and no herders.

The sky was threatening as we came down. We had lunch in Ouray and drove back to Silverton. It was rainy until about 6, then it cleared up on our level, but sleeted above 10,000 feet leaving the peaks with a white coat.


Pass California

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Sheep Dog 2013

This is a working dog?

Red MountainsRed Mountain #2

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Corkscrew Gulch

Sunday, August 11 - Blue skies until 4pm. We tried the Porphyry Gulch trail. When Dorothy saw the narrow shelf road, she said no way. And I was not going to tumble down the slope without her, so we walked up, huffing and puffing, to this viewpoint.

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As you can see there is plenty of room. I don't know why Dorothy objected or why this woman got out of the Jeep with her daughter. OK, OK, there would have been less room for us, as I would have had to put the wheels on the very edge to be able to get over some rocks in the middle of the road. The lifted Jeep in the photo did not have to worry about wheel placement.

We did laundry in the afternoon.

Monday, August 12 - A lot of clouds in the morning,  but I wanted to try to get some shots of the jagged peaks that can be seen on the east side of the Ophir Road. I figured that it would rain before long, but it would pass. I was half right. As we got to Ophir Pass we were in a hail storm. We almost felt a little sorry for the motorcycle riders who were massed with us at the summit. I was right in that it passed over in less than 20 minutes and we had an hour of wonderful sunlight before the next set of clouds arrived. We got back to base camp just as the next rain came.

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Along The Ophir Road

We plan to leave here Sunday and meet our RV Tech near Antonito for annual maintenance and to figure out why the refer is mis-behaving. Then where? No clue.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The San Juan Mountains

We made it. It has been four years since we have been here. We have our fav states, Oregon and Utah, a fav road, US395, but the San Juan's are a special place to us. Nothing like them in the US. Barely 30 miles long north to south and a coupla dozen miles wide. Lots of 14's [peaks over 14,000 feet], deep narrow canyons, vista's and Jeep trails galore. Not much of a reason to come here unless you like to go up on trails to 12 or even 13,000 feet. Mining brought people here. You can see the remains of the old mines everywhere. From nothing  more than a dog hole, to mine shafts that go through mountains. Some mines are being reopened. Ever see a concrete truck on a one lane road? Well, we saw them and we gave them right-of-way. Holy Moly.

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Tuesday, July 30 - We drove to Silverton, CO this morning. We heard that the Forest Service is strictly enforcing the 14 day limit.  Things change in four years.  The dispersed camping areas now have names, it's still dirt and rock, but it is fantastic.  We got a spot where we were before right on South Mineral Creek.  We drove to a couple of areas looking for places to stay before our friends arrive Sunday.  We don't want to get kicked out before they do.  We looked around town and it looks busy but everyone tell us that it is no busier than previous years.  Back at CG, we sat outside with our hors d'oeuvres and listened to the babbling creek and looked at the mountains in several directions.  It just doesn't get much better than this.

Wednesday, July 31 - Since the Forest Service is enforcing their 14 day limit, we headed out.  They had someone come in yesterday and take pictures of all rigs in CG, but they only do it occasionally.  So we have a witness to say that we left.  Also we have taken a picture of Koko in a different location with date and time to prove we were gone.  

It was a fun day.  We drove to Ouray to meet Mark and Bobbie Johnson, who live there.  Mark is the author of one of the blogs that we follow, "Box Canyon".  It was a pleasure to visit with them and they gave us helpful information about where we could hike and where we could take our Jeep.

When we arrived at Ironton, there were two fifth wheels.  When we returned from Ouray, a tenter had arrived.  Nice man and he told us that 30 Land Cruisers were arriving for the weekend for a mountain road rally and they would be in this area and the next large grassy area.  We said that would be fun.  I think that the "warning" was really a hint for us to move some place else, so they could have the premium spot that we were taking.

Thursday, August 1 - More and more people are arriving.  There are quite a few tents, but there are also tents that are off the ground, on trailers that carried the camping gear and on top of the Land Cruisers.  Two came in, one with a popup and one with a truck camper, to my way of thinking they are the sensible campers, after all, it's raining off and on all day.  We are having fun watching the different tent erections and the little children playing with all the dogs. 

Friday, August 2 - Arrivals were coming in as late was midnight Don told me - I was asleep, but the rain last night woke me up.  Thank goodness my "home" is nice, dry and warm.  When we awoke, the sky was clearing and a beautiful blue.  A little later a rain shower came.  We feel so sorry for these people that have driven from many different states to attend this rally.  Heck, we've driven from a long ways to get here and we feel sorry for us!

40% chance of rain today, but it was mostly partly cloudy. We delayed leaving until 10:30 to see how the day was going to develop. We took the Camp Bird road with the intention of driving to Yankee Boy Basin. We drove about 100 yards on the final turn to the Yankee Boy and encountered rocks we could not climb over. Recent rains had pushed some larger than basketball size rocks into the trail. Real Jeeps with 30 inch wheels could handle it, but it was not for the Liberty. We backed out and on a lark I took another road that I could see went UP. I did not consult the trail guide. Had I done that I would have not gone. Ignorance is bliss. Up we went finding ourselves on a narrow rock ledge with three Jeeps coming down. They hugged the inside and we did the outside with 4 to 6 inches to spare. WooHoo! Dorothy had a brief private conversation with the one of the women as we passed. She will not tell me what they exchanged. We continued up and came a fork where three more Jeeps were descending. I waited for them to clear the road. The last one asked if we were going to Sidney Basin. Dorothy asked "Could we"? He said "No, I had to use both lockers to make it. But follow us to Governor's Basin". And so we did. We we got to the end, and paused for lunch I consulted the trail book. Holy Moly, we had just done a Red rated trail, those are only for aggressive and skilled drivers. So much for trail books, we could not do the Blue rated trail to Yankee Boy, but we had no problems on the Red rated trail to Governor's Basin. Oh well, we got to drive a real rootin tootin Jeep trail today.

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Former three story dormitory for miners

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A chance of rain is in the forecast for the next 10 days.

Saturday, August 3 - It was not all that overcast so we again drove out Camp Bird Road to access the trail to Imogene Pass, a Blue rated trail that our guide book assured us that we could handle. We went about a mile before encountering stairs we bottomed out on. I reversed, got out and scouted and decided we could get down, but would not be able to get back up. And so ended out Jeeping adventure for the day. Before we got back to Ouray, the clouds covered the sky and a drizzle started. And that was the way the day remained until 7:30 until we saw the red mountains aglow with sun. Another day, we want to take the trail up the red mountains in the late afternoon.

Sunday, August 4 - We arrived back at Kendall CG along South Mineral Creek.  We love this place because you can sit outside, have Happy Hour, look at the babbling creek and the mountains - WOW! We were very surprised to find so few people here.  Last Tuesday the place was full.  We got our pick of where we wanted to be. Our neighbors greeted us. They were from Alabama (Mtn Brook). It's good to see someone from home and we think that they are the only Alabamians that we have seen on this trip.  Also fellow LDer Ken Fears came to chat with us.  We love meeting new people and renewing friendships.

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Our Place on Mineral Creek

Monday, August 5 - We sat outside and had our morning coffee and were in awe of our scenery.  Our friends, John and Mary Jane from Nevada, joined us today, along with Lucy, their well-mannered dog.  In the afternoon we took a trail to Red Mountain to observe and photograph the mountains.  We could not tarry because it was close to Happy Hour.  Once we arrived back at CG, they made margaritas for us.  I don't think we could ask for more.

Tuesday, August 6 - I have been planning this since we left home - spend my birthday at the rum distrillery!  They make the best pina coladas I have ever had and I have been wanting one for four years.  They were as good as I remembered; so good in fact, I had two, but since I wasn't driving it didn't matter.  I chatted with our daughter, my brother and as a special treat, my very very good friend, Ann, called to wish me a Happy Birthday.  For many years, Ann, Vicki (another very very good friend) and I celebrated our birthday month together - great memories!  Count me blessed that I am still kicking and have a great time.

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We really like the exposed red mountains. If the weather improves next week, we hope to get some better pictures.27 San Juans027 resize

Telluride is just over the snaggled toothed mountains. Short distance by Jeep trail, a LONG drive on macadam.27 San Juans028 resize

Topped out at 12,000, so those are 14's in the background.

MJ, John, Dorothy and Lucy