Elephant Butte Days – December 2019

Friday December 13 to Monday December 16: Clifford and I are camped at South Monticello Campground located at the north end of Elephant Butte New Mexico State Park.

Elephant Butte Lake from South Monticello Campground

Our days are busy with activities that interest us. Clifford mostly works on his ham radio and music for dulcimer. I saunter about taking photos, often at sunrise or sunset.

Sunrise at Elephant Butte State Park
Sunrise reflections on mountains to the north
Sunrise at Elephant Butte State Park
Light on the mesas near sunset

I also edit for a couple of authors, edit photos for the travel blogs that I post nearly daily, and play viola.

Viola in the desert

Most fun during this time is a visit from our Santa Fe friend, Diana. While she is here, we three talk of her participation in preserving Clifford’s research, and we go on an exploratory drive to the dispersed camping area to the north of our campground.

Exploring to the north at midday

Diana and I also go for walks to the lake and discuss other topics, including the importance of being in a positive vibration in our thoughts.

Diana finds a way to the shore of Elephant Butte Lake near sunset
Elephant Butte Lake at sunset
Elephant Butte Lake at sunset
Elephant Butte at sunset

One evening we watch the three videos that Clifford has made: A Grand Ceremony, a video of the backpacking trip that he and I did to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in 2012. The videos River Woman and Voice of the Cello are an artistic mix of my daughter’s Ang’s writing, my still photos, and Clifford’s videography. We are up late every night with so much to talk about.

Diana and Carol

It has been great having a good friend share time with us these several days and it is with reluctance that we part as she heads back to Santa Fe, but with the hope and intention of more time together in the future.

Elephant Butte, New Mexico – December 2019

Wednesday December 11: After picking up a few more supplies at the Socorro (New Mexico) Walmart where we spent the night, Clifford and I head on south on I-25, destination Elephant Butte New Mexico State Park. It is a chilly 27 degrees, but relatively calm. We are glad that it is not so windy, as there are sections of this route that are prone to high wind gusts, which can be quite dangerous for RV’s.

We are going to the South Monticello Campground at the north end of the park, our first time camping at this state park. The sites along the lake are by reservation only, but we find a nice site a ways back from the lake where we can still see the lake and have lots of privacy, surrounded by acres of creosote.

Campsite at Elephant Butte
Acres of creosote and a view of the lake

After we get set up, I walk to the lake and see a route down off the bluff, which I will take another time. Cell service is decent here, so I am able to post a blog and download more photos. Clifford is setting up his radios and working with his music software.

We are treated to a colorful sunset to end the day.

Sunset at Elephant Butte State Park

Thursday December 12: Seeing mist over the lake when I get up, I walk out right away, enjoying the quiet ambiance of the morning.

Mist over Elephant Butte Lake
Misty ambiance

Today, in addition to our regular projects, we hang a string a Christmas lights, since we have electric power here.

Calls from my daughter Becka, who is back in Hawaii, and from our Santa Fe friend Diana saying she will come visit, are great additions to the day. In the late afternoon, I saunter to the lake again, noticing the change of color as the sun nears the horizon.

Saunter to the Elephant Butte Lake
The color changes as the sun nears the horizon

Today was a delightful beginning for our stay at Elephant Butte State Park.

On the Road and Heading South – December 2019

We have been watching the weather, waiting for a break from snow and wind so we can begin the winter journey. Finally we see an opening, but due to a winter storm descending over Colorado and possibly into northern New Mexico, we will not be going to Santa Fe to camp as planned. We will, instead, head for Coronado Campground at Bernalillo (north of Albuquerque), which is far enough south to avoid the winter weather, as well as much easier on Suburban not to tow Cougar to the higher elevation of Santa Fe. This change of plans makes sense, but is still a disappointment not to have a week in Santa Fe. As a compromise, we will make a day trip to Santa Fe from Coronado see a few friends and run only the most essential errands.

Saturday December 7: We finish packing and everything is checked off the final to-do list. It is not a fun job to get Cougar hooked up in this cold weather, but by early afternoon, we are on our way.

We see snow cover on the San Juan Mountains as we near Cortez, Colorado. Taking photos through the window doesn’t quite do it justice, but it is a record of the early stages of the journey. We pick up supplies and spend the night at Walmart in Farmington, New Mexico.

Snow in the San Juan Mountains

Sunday December 8: It is 23 degrees this morning after rain earlier. We travel from Farmington to Bernalillo, via highway 550, a long 165 miles. The highway is wet at the higher elevations, and we are happy that there is no snow or ice. It is a relief to arrive at Coronado Campground at Bernalillo. We pick a spot, not the prettiest, but the most level for easy setup.

Traveling highway 550 from Farmington to Bernalillo, New Mexico
Highway 550 wet, but no snow or ice
Mesas along highway 550, New Mexico
Coronado Campground

The interesting story about this place is that 22 years ago, it was a state park, and Clifford and I found it by good luck on a cold snowy Christmas Eve, on our first trip to New Mexico, after we discovered that there were no motels with vacancies along the freeways, which were being closed due to heavy snowfall. We weren’t going to make it to Santa Fe that night, and camping appeared to be out of the question. However, north of Albuquerque, Clifford spotted the sign for Coronado State Park and we took the exit. We set up our tent in one of the shelters alongside the picnic table, somewhat out of the wind, very happy to have found a safe place to camp. The next couple of days we made day trips to Santa Fe and Los Alamos, since it was too snowy to camp near Santa Fe. It was quite the adventure!

Monday December 9th is our day in Santa Fe where we meet with dear long-time friends for breakfast, after dropping off one of my cellos at the Violin Shop, then a stop at Trader Joe’s, followed by pizza at Dions with two other long-time special friends. Such a great time with all these people who have enriched our lives over the years. There were others we wanted to see, but just not enough time on this trip.

We lighten the load by taking pink-case cello to the Violin Shop

Tuesday December 10: I am up before sunrise and even though it is a chilly 23 degrees, I walk to the tent camping area, as I can get a better view of the Rio Grande River from there. It takes awhile for the sun to clear the Sandia Mountains, but I’m glad to be there for the welcome sight and feel of sunlight.

Landscape soft in the dawn light
The sun rises over the Sandia Mountains
Frost on chamisa

Back at camp, we pack up and leave at a leisurely time, as we are only going as far as Socorro Walmart today, less than 100 miles.

New Mexico landscape near Socorro

One More Outing – November 2019

Wednesday November 20th, the day after our return from the Colorado trip, it rains all day, and by Thursday, the rain has turned to snow, but not a lot of snow, just icy.

Rain all day and the birds come for seed

By Saturday, with a sunny sky and warmer temperatures (43 degrees), we decide to explore boondocking spots past the Wind Whistle Campground where we stayed on our way back to Monticello in October. It is too chilly to sit out for a picnic, so we have our picnic in the car, but we happy to be out and finding new places to camp.

Exploring in the Canyon Rim Recreation Area
Snowy LaSal peaks seem to float above the valley

On Monday, we make a trip to Blanding, where I ace my Utah driver’s test. Stopping briefly at Recapture Reservoir on the way home, I take photos of the reservoir with the snowy Abajo Mountains in the background

Recapture Reservoir with snowy Abajo Mountains in the background

Walking to the post office on Tuesday is darn chilly, with a high of 28 degrees and a stiff wind. I’m eager to mail the San Juan calendar to family, as two of my photos were chosen as insets to the main pages.

A cold day for walking

Thursday, Thanksgiving, I send photo greeting to family and friends via text and messenger. Dinner is a little fancier than usual, but not the huge production that it was when I had a family at home. Light snow falls all day.

The photo used for Thanksgiving greetings

Snow continues on Friday. We drive to the market for a few groceries and the Merc for more birdseed. I enjoy watching the birds through the sliding glass doors and the birds are glad to have the seed. In addition to the usual juncos, sparrows, and finches, there is a flock of red-wing blackbirds. Even the ravens come to the yard and when they drop down, everyone else leaves.

At first light, the birds start coming, mostly the redwind blackbirds here
Ravens are King

This past week has been focused on pre-travel preparations, cleaning and reorganizing inside Cougar, paperwork, and preparing house and yard to be left for the winter. In addition to travel preparation, I’m also focused on writing blogs and editing for three authors, trying to get as much done as I can while internet and power are readily available. Although Clifford’s ear has bothered him a lot, he continues with his projects and his packing for the winter journey.

Happy to have a warm home on these chilly days

And thus ends November 2019.

Colorado Interview – November 2019

Saturday November 16: After saying good-bye to our friends in Loveland, Colorado, Clifford and I drive to the Embassy Suites Hotel in Boulder. The accommodations arranged for us are quite luxurious. Our 4th floor room is as far away from the elevator as possible, a ways to lug our stuff, but the room is nice. From our vantage point, we can see a Trader Joe’s just a little over a block away. While Clifford naps, I walk there to get fixings for meals in our room.

Sunday November 17: We are both up by 5:30 a.m., which is way way early for our routine. We get ready and arrive in plenty of time for the interview, which is in a small neighboring town. The televised interview is an hour and the focus is on Clifford’s research. This is a venue that is different than our usual ways of dispersing information, and hopefully an opportunity for more people to become aware of the work.

Clifford on TV

After the interview, we return to Boulder and the rest of the day is spent at our hotel. Clifford naps and I write in the journal, post a blog, and other such stuff.

Monday November 18: We forgot we were entitled to a complimentary breakfast and have fruit & yogurt in our room before we pack up and begin the journey back to Monticello.

Leaving the Embassy Suites

It is a bit tricky getting back on I-70, as GPS is confused, but eventually we are heading west on a road that takes us through Golden Canyon before joining I-70 west of Denver.

Golden Canyon
Back on I-70 West

Going through the Glenwood Canyon, we pull off at Bair Rest Area and Clifford naps while I saunter about taking photos of the river.

Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon
Glenwood Canyon
Glenwood Canyon

Rested, we continue on to the Econolodge in Grand Junction, finding the hostess to be friendly, fresh-baked cookies at the check-in counter, and a comfortable room. I fix soup and sandwiches for our dinner and then, since we have had a jam-packed few days, we head to bed earlier than usual.

Late afternoon sunlight turns formation at Grand Junction a golden color

Tuesday November 19: Temperatures are still mild today, but it is very windy and spraying mars the sky. At least we are ahead of the winter storm that has been forecast.

Back in Utah

Soon after entering Utah, we leave I-70 at the junction to 191 south. Road construction is still going on between Moab and Monticello, but luckily our wait time is fairly brief.

Road Construction on 191

Once we reach home-base, we unload Suburban and then relax for the evening. Rain starts here in the evening, but in Colorado, where we just were, the snowfall is heavy, and some roads in Boulder, part of I-70, and the Golden Canyon are closed. Whew – that was a close call.

Glenwood Springs to Rocky Mountain National Park – November 2019

Thursday November 14. After a good complementary breakfast at our Rodeway Inn in Glenwood Springs, Clifford and I continue east on I-70, a very scenic drive. Glenwood Canyon is regarded as an outstanding engineering achievement due to running an interstate through this narrow canyon.

Glendwood Canyon
Glenwood Canyon – the westbound lane is raised

Vail Pass at over 10,000 feet and then Empire Pass over 11,000 feet are quite impressive and we are glad to see that snow reaching down the mountainsides has retreated from the highway itself.

Frisco, Colorado
Nearing the Eisenhower Tunnel – snow all the way to the edge of the highway

Tunnels through sections of the mountains, including the long Eisenhower Tunnel, over a mile and a half in length, are another engineering and construction accomplishment along this stretch of highway.

Eisenhower Tunnel

We are constantly aware, with the steep grades and the curves, that this is not a highway that we would ever want to tow our RV, and we see very few RV’s as we travel.

The Eisenhower Tunnel is is followed by 44 miles of downhill curves all the way to Denver, where we leave I-70 and enter I-25 north.

Arriving at Loveland, we make out way to our friends’ place, walk about seeing the neighborhood, have good pizza for dinner, and chat until late. I was also able to make contact with a “Celebrate What’s Right With the World” friend. Since it is a chilly dark evening, we decide on a phone conversation rather than a get-together, and have a good talk about how each has come to have photography as a priority.

Walkabout at our friends’ place

Friday November 15: Our friends make a good yummy breakfast and then, after Clifford does some work on the interview coming up, we all head up to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. After lunch at a coffee & sandwich joint next to some outdoor instruments, we go to the Stanley Hotel, famous as the location of the creepy Steven King movie, The Shining.

Clifford playing the outdoor chimes
Stanley Hotel

Then we head on up to the park to a waterfalls created years ago by a dam breaking and flooding all the way to Estes Park. After that is a scenic drive with amazing views of the great mountains that are the reason for a national park here. Due to the short days this time of the year, we don’t go further, as it is necessary to return down the winding mountain road before dark.

Back at their place, after dinner, we watch a very interesting documentary on country music, a good way to end the day.

Monticello, Utah to Loveland, Colorado – November 2019

The early days of November are relatively calm and sunny days warm enough for us to spend time time in the back yard. Writing in the journal while Clifford plays dulcimer is especially pleasant. Most of our day is spent on projects: I am catching up with travel photo blogs and editing for a couple of authors, while Clifford focuses on music for the dulcimer, ham radio, and preparing for the televised interview to be held mid-November near Boulder, Colorado.

Sunrise at home-base in Monticello
Recapture Reservoir seen on trip to Blanding
Clifford playing dulcimer in the back yard

Clifford’s ear bothers him most days, but we continue with an itinerary for the trip to Colorado, planning on seeing friends in Loveland for a couple days before going to Boulder for the interview. I have some reservations about traveling to northern Colorado this time of the year, but the forecast is favorable for safe travel.

We leave on the 13th and our destination today is Rodeway Inn in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Travel is smooth and easy compared to towing Cougar, which we are not doing this time. There is a stop for construction on highway 191 between Monticello and Moab, but luckily we didn’t have to wait too long, just long enough for me to jump out and get a couple of photos, but not nearly as long a wait as the line of traffic headed the other direction.

La Sal Mountains in the distance
Wilson Arch north of Monticello, Utah
Taking photos while stopped for contstruction
The oncoming line of traffic extends as far as one can see … waiting

It is canyon country for much of the 250+ miles today, most of it on I-70 east.

Utah Canyon Country
Formation at Grand Junction, Colorado
Colorado Canyon Country
Approaching Glenwood Springs – traveling on I-70

The Rodeway Inn is comfortable with room for both of us to set up laptops, free wifi, fridge, and coffee maker. Since we don’t feel like going out for dinner, we are a bit limited, but make do with what we have with us. Since there doesn’t seem to be anyone else in the motel, I even get out the viola and run through some of my fiddle tunes while Clifford works on his projects.

Monticello Days – October 2019

The latter half of October includes emphasis on our projects, especially those that require steady power and internet. For me that is blog writing, editing photos, and editing for a couple of authors. I especially enjoy my quiet mornings in front of the sliding glass doors that look to the east.

Looking to the east at sunrise

I’ve been cleaning Cougar, getting ready for the winter trip. Clifford works with his ham radio, CI research papers, and writing music programs, as well as taking care of business that can’t be easily done on the road. He has also been preparing for the televised interview that he will be doing in Boulder, Colorado, in November.

The weather is changing and by the 20th of October, we see a covering of snow.

Skiff of snow

Also on the 20th, the Carnicom Institute Newsletter, which we have been working on for several weeks, has undergone its last revisions and I am glad to hit PUBLISH and send it on its way to our mailing list. My granddaughter Jasmine has her baby today, a big healthy boy. Congratulations to her and her husband Bart! And Clifford decorates for Halloween.

Cllifford clowning around with his skeleton buddy

By the 26th, the weather has warmed up. With a clear sky and a forecast of 60 degrees for today, we leave our projects, make a picnic, and head up Abajo Mountains to enjoy a day in the outdoors. We first go to Monticello Lake, which is low, so not as pretty as before. Quite a few other people are there, it is windy, and we don’t have a level spot to park for our picnic… so we leave and go to Pine Flats, taking the other road in to explore, finding a nice spot where we’ve never been, level and out of the wind. We set up our table and chairs and have our picnic. Then, while I saunter about taking photos, Clifford plays dulcimer.

Piicnic at Pine Flats

When the sun goes behind the mountain and the shade creeps over us, we pack up and head back down the mountain. What a great way to spend the day. Two days later, the temperature is down to 18 degrees and more snow. What a switch.

Back to more cold and snow

October in Monticello has gone by quickly, the days filled with meaningful activities. We hear of hardships around the country and the world, like the fires in California, and are so very grateful for the safe and comfortable place we have here when we are not traveling.

Writing about the end of of October is not complete without mentioning my dear mom. Although it has already been three years since she passed on, it seems like she is just a phone call away.

Just a phone call away… or so it almost feels….

Trip to Abajo Mountain – October 2019

Monday October 14: A few days after our return to home-base in southeast Utah, with a sunny sky and the promise of a day in the 60’s, Clifford and I make a trip up Abajo Mountain for a photo outing.

We first go to Monticello Lake, which is especially blue with the blue sky above. I walk around to the dam so as to get a better angle of sunlight behind the scrub oak that grows on the hillside around the lake.

Monticello Lake
Walking around to the dam
Grasses growing on the dam
Sunlight through the scrub oak leaves

A strong breeze comes up, and we decide to go on to Pine Flats which may be more protected. Someone is camped in our spot, so we stop in the aspen grove and I take a few photos there.

Our last stop is the Buckboard Campground because the aspens there are quite photogenic, especially along with the scrub oak, all in their autumn colors.

Aspen at Buckboard Campground

Then back down the mountain and the afternoon is spent with our various projects.

Down the mountain

The mountain outing was lovely and back at home-base, I am appreciative of the sturdy house protecting us from the wind, as well as the electricity that allows our numerous projects to continue.

Wind Whistle, Utah – October 2019

Tuesday October 8 – I take photos at sunrise from our overnight camping spot in the San Rafael Swells BLM land at exit 131 off I-70 in central Utah. This was a good place to spend the night and it doesn’t take long to be ready to leave on the last leg of the journey back to home-base.

Sunrise at San Rafael Swells
Sunrise at San Rafael Swells

The landscape from San Rafael Swells eastward is sometimes very scenic, sometimes very barren. I-70 winds its way through the badlands and canyon lands, with frequent steep grades. At exit 187, we turn south onto highway 191.

Utah landscape along I-70
Utah landscape along I-70

As we approach Moab, the deep red of the canyons, which makes this area famous, makes its appearance. We bypass the exits to Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park as we head into Moab for lunch at the brewery and groceries at the market.

La Sal Mountains

As we continue south on 191, there is a stop for construction. The wait can be up to two hours or more according to the sign and the length of the line, but we are fortunate that we only wait 15 or 20 minutes before moving on. Although home-base in Monticello is within an hour’s drive after the construction, we decide to extend our trip by one more stop, taking a side road to Wind Whistle Campground in the Canyon Rims BLM Recreation Area.

Canyon Rim BLM Recreation Area

Wind Whistle is a small campground, more suited to tents than to RV’s, but well cared for by the host. We find a pull-through spot, a tight fit, but we make it. After getting Cougar set up, I go for a walk on the nature trail while Clifford gets his ham radio antennas set up.

Our campsite at Wind Whistle Campground

After dinner, Clifford sits outside to play dulcimer while I write in the journal. At sunset I take photos of the west-facing mesas. What a pleasant last camping spot before home.

Sunset reflects off west-facing mesas
Soft golden light at sunset

Wednesday October 9: I am up in time to take photos at sunrise. It is mostly sunny today, but so windy that neither Clifford nor I spent much time outside. We hear of wind, snow, and cold in California with power shut off to 70,000 people. We feel very fortunate to be here and able to live comfortably with our solar power and hot spot for internet. I work on blogs and editing today while Clifford works on his ham radio propagation detection program.

Sunset again reflects off west-facing mesa

Thursday October 10: Photos at sunrise again this morning, but the air, the light, the clouds are always changing – it is all like new to me.

Photos at sunrise

After breakfast, we hike the nature trail together, warm in the sunny places and chilly in the shady sections.

Back at camp, we pack up and are on our way a little after noon. We are happy to have found this little treasure of a place, but it is time to return to home-base. We arrive in the early afternoon, having been gone for only three months this time. It seems like it was longer due to the many places we camped and alll the people that we saw on this northern journey.

Due to the increase in elevation between Wind Whistle and here, the wind is bitter cold as we park and level Cougar, but the house is warm and smells good, and it feels harmonious inside, out of the wind. Now that we are here, we will be switching gears and focusing on other things, mostly in connection with Carnicom Institute, but we are already planning our next departure date.