At the Close of the Year – December 2019

Thursday December 26 – It is a really lovely morning here at Elephant Butte New Mexico State Park where Clifford and I are camped.

Our last morning at South Monticello Campground
Sunlight at dawn at South Monticello

Today we are moving to a different campground, but when we get there, we find that the electric sites are far too crowded with no views of the lake or the mesas. We go exploring, having never camped in this area before, and find a road along the bluff that has sites, non-electric, but with a picnic table and a great view of Elephant Butte Lake.

Camping on the bluff at Ridge Road
View of Elephant Butte Lake and the mesas beyond

Solar panels come out for this set-up and we find that our Mr. Buddy heater is not working, first time we are using either on this trip. The nights and mornings are still quite chilly and we run the furnace to take the chill off.

Horse Island

The next few days are focused on meeting with our webmaster in Truth or Consequences, as the Carnicom Institute website is undergoing a major change. It is a lot of work for the two of them, but the change is mostly in place by time our webmaster has to leave. During these days, I participated minimally in the website work and wrote blogs. Only a few photos are taken.

Views from the campsite

Tuesday December 31: A pretty sunrise greets us this chilly morning.

Last sunrise of 2019

It is nice to not have to run to T or C right away, but we do make a trip to town to find a bookstore. The Black Cat Bookstore is a charming place and it was fun to see our RV neighbor at the counter. She and I visit while Clifford looks for the book he needs, but doesn’t find. I also talk to a man who is making stone and wire jewelry, beautiful pendants, to sell. Coffee is fresh and from a good free-trade source, so I enjoy a cup before Clifford and I head back to camp.

Last sunlight of 2019 on Rattlesnake Island

The usual activities occupy the rest of our day. I am glad to have time to enjoy being camped where we are, on a bluff with a view. It is a peaceful quiet end to 2019.

Christmas at Elephant Butte – December 2019

Friday December 20 to Wednesday December 25: These are special days at Elephant Butte State Park in central New Mexico where Clifford and I are camped — beginning with the Solstice, celebrated by spending time outdoors and adding to the rock collage at the base of a creosote bush on the edge of our campsite;

Solstice sunrise

our anniversary celebrated with a photo of the two of us and watching a movie (which we can do here because we have an electric site and good cell service);

Clifford and Carol 20th Anniversary

Christmas Eve and Christmas which I celebrate by being at the lake before sunrise and then making a photo greeting of one of the sunrise photos, which I send to family and friends.

Christmas morning sunrise

Chilly nights and mornings remind us daily that although there is no snow here, winter is real in New Mexico, even in this more southerly portion. But compared to many parts of the country and the world, we have it pretty easy. The bush fires in Australia have grown alarmingly while regions of this country are experiencing extreme high winds and heavy snowfall.

Elephant Butte State Park

Every day I spend time sauntering about taking photos, writing and posting photos blogs, editing for a couple of authors, and playing viola.

Another sunrise at Elephant Butte State Park
Elephant Butte State Park

Clifford works with ham radio, learning to pass “traffic” via radio, and playing his dulcimer, which also includes using software to create his own accompaniments.

Clifford playing dulcimer

Each day also has variety, including calls from my kids, learning of national and global events, reorganization projects, and so on.

Elephant Butte State Park

This has been a good and peaceful place for us these past two weeks. Tomorrow will be moving day, but we will remember this spot with fondness.

More of Elephant Butte – December 2019

Tuesday December 17 to Thursday December 19: Nights are chilly, in the low 20’s, and midday temperatures in the 40’s here at Elephant Butte New Mexico State Park where Clifford and I are camped.

Sunrise at Elephant Butte State Park
A different sunrise at Elephant Butte State Park

I dress warmly when I walk to the lake in the mornings, but by early afternoon we are able to be outside, sheltered from the wind on the sunny side of Cougar. I enjoy writing in the journal while Clifford plays the dulcimer for the brief time that it is warm enough to sit out.

On days that are not too windy, I also walk to the lake at sunset, as the late afternoon sunlight brings out the color of the mesas and the lake most beautifully.

Clifford goes with me to the lake near sunset one afternoon
Light of setting sun on shrubs at the lake
Light of setting sun on shrubs at the lake
Light of setting sun on shrubs at the lake

The usual activities of radio and dulcimer continue for Clifford; photography, blogs, editing, and playing viola or cello for me. Plus all the other things I don’t have time for that are sitting on a “back-burner.” Honestly, I do not understand how people can complain of being bored – there are so many fun and interesting things to learn and do.

Cello ready to play

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

San Rafael Swells, Utah – October 2019

Monday October 7 – Clifford and I have enjoyed our time at Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada, but it is time for us to continue the journey to home-base in eastern Utah.

I only have time for a couple photos before we get packed up and begin today’s travels, leaving the park at 9:30 a.m.

Last morning at Great Basin National Park
Grey Cliffs

Today our destination is the San Rafael Swells west of Green River, Utah. We travel highway 50 to Delta, Utah, and then zig-zag through prairie and canyon country of western Utah to I-70. We continue east, traversing the ups and downs and curves of the mountains and canyons of central Utah.

Western Utah from Highway 50
Western Utah from Highway 50
Zig-sagging through western Utah
Western Utah from Highway 50
Western Utah from Highway 50
Sevier Lake in western Utah, the remnant of a prehistoric lake
Western Utah from Highway 50
Western Utah from Highway 50
Autumn colors in central Utah
I-70 – Central Utah Canyon Country
Central Utah Canyon Country
Central Utah Canyon Country
Central Utah Canyon Country

I take a lot of photos, but hard to get good shots from the moving vehicle. I’ll have a lot to sort through.

It is a long day of travel for us, about 250 miles, and we are ever so glad to reach the BLM land at the San Rafael Swells, I-70 exit 131. We explored this area several years ago, so know that we can find a place to spend the night. We pull off the San Rafael Road at the first level turnout and do a minimal set up, as we will leaving in the morning.

San Rafael Swells BLM

We have soup and toasted cheese sandwiches for an easy dinner, and are treated to a beautiful sunset before the day ends.

Sunset color begins
New Mexico sunset from San Rafael Swells

Return to Base-camp – May 2019

Tuesday May 7: Clifford and I have enjoyed our time in New Mexico the past couple of weeks, but it is time to head back to “base-camp” and the lab in Utah. After making tea for the thermoses, we say good-bye to our friends here in Santa Fe where we have been parked the last couple of days, and we are on our way by 10:30 a.m.

The wind is not a problem today, which makes for easier and safe travel. I take lots of photos of the New Mexico landscape along the way, and we arrive in Farmington in the northwest corner of the state by mid-afternoon.

On the road from Santa Fe to Farmington, New Mexico
Northwest New Mexico landscape

After parking in a far corner of the Walmart parking lot, we go in to buy what we need for a good lunch.

Far corner of the parking lot

Then naps, although I finish reading Erica Elliott’s book, Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert first. Later we go back into the store to stock up on groceries and sundries that we will need in the upcoming weeks.

This is a good read

We have leftover Dions pizza for an easy and tasty dinner. I do some photo editing, but am too tired for much of anything else. Clifford is up late with his project – writing tablature for his dulcimer music.

Clifford works on tablature for dulcimer

We are keeping an eye on the weather forecast, as strong headwinds may make travel tomorrow very difficult. We will check again in the morning.

Wednesday May 8: It is windy and raining here in Farmington this morning as I start packing up after a little breakfast. After checking the weather forecast, we decide to stay put. We are somewhat reluctant because of the Walmart policy on overnight parking, but it is not a good idea to drive in the strong wind and rain, either. We do a bit more shopping, take naps, and while it is not a very productive day from my side, we are both relieved to not be traveling today.

Thursday May 9: It is calm this morning and after making thermoses of tea and snacks for the road, we head west from Farmington to Shiprock, north to Cortez, Colorado, and west to Monticello, Utah, traveling through three of the four states that make up the Four Corners. Jet trails crisscross the sky on much of this journey, turning it a drab grey, so I don’t take many photos.

New Mexico formation near Colorado border

Before we reach Dove Creek, it starts to rain and sleet. I had planned to buy us lunch at Wild Coffee in Dove Creek, but we are disappointed when we get there to find that it has been closed and replaced with a liquor store.

Rain continues to Monticello

So, on to Monticello, arriving in early afternoon to a rainy and chilly 38 degrees. Everything looks to be in good shape here. We only unload the herbs, our instruments, and enough food to make lunch. It is a good day for a long nap. Tomorrow will be soon enough to shift gears and settle into the home-base and lab routine.

More Days in Santa Fe – May 2019

Sunday May 5: Clifford and I visit with our friends as we pack up, and then we say our goodbyes before we head back to Santa Fe. The wind has come up, but luckily it is not a long drive. 

Roe Mesa (or is it Glorietta Mesa???)
Driving to Santa Fe

We find our way to our friend Diana’s house and park on the street.  It is not a wide street, so we can only have the slide-out out just enough to barely squeeze through from the front room to the bedroom. 

Cougar “boondocking” in Santa Fe

Diana fixes us a tasty tortilla lunch, and then Clifford and I go with Diana and her housemate Martha to a lecture being given by a doctor of alternative medicine. It turns out that it is Erica Elliott talking about her beginning years teaching in a Navajo boarding school in Chinle, Arizona.  Erica was one of Clifford computer clients when we lived in Santa Fe.  We didn’t know that she had had an earlier career as a teacher.  She has an amazing life story and it was so fun to listen to her talk of that of time in her life.  

After the talk, we bought her book, Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert, and she gave Clifford a big hug. Our friend John is also there, and we all head back over to Martha and Diana’s house after the talk for a delicious chicken dinner and great conversation. Later I start reading Erica’s book and stay up way too late.  It is so interesting, it is hard to put it down.

Monday May 6: This morning Diana and Clifford work on a CI project, indexing his notebooks, as Diana is going to participate in this somewhat tedious job. While they are working, I walk along the nearby arroyo. 

Path along the arroyo

In the afternoon Clifford and I run our errands to the bank, Trader Joe, and a couple other stops, including the Violin Shop, as I hope to get a different chin rest for my viola. It turns out they don’t have the chin rest that I need, but I buy a better bow, so it was not a wasted trip. We also go to the Santa Fe Baking Company, which has been renamed and improved under new ownership, but what is the same is the apple tree by the outdoor patio seating area, and it is at the peak of its bloom.

Same apple tree
Creative presentations

For dinner, Diana, Martha, and I go to Dion’s Pizza. Clifford is napping, so he misses out.  Later in the evening, Clifford plays his dulcimer and I stay up reading until midnight. Being in Santa Fe and doing stuff with friends sure has been fun, but tomorrow we start the final leg of our journey back to Utah.

A Hidden Valley – May 2019

Saturday May 4: Clifford and I are staying another day to visit with our dear friends near Las Vegas, New Mexico, as it is not often that we get to see them. After sharing a potluck lunch, they take us on an outing to a place they call Hidden Valley. It is a fun drive into the deserts of New Mexico.

New Mexico landscape
Lourdes, New Mexico
The church at Lourdes, New Mexico
Visiting the church with our friends
Wildflowers at the church
Water flows in the hidden valley
New Mexico Mesa

Later afternoon, back at their place, we watch a documentary on some of the relatively unknown, but very interesting, aspects of secret societies and other such stuff. We visit while sharing dinner, then Clifford and I return to Cougar. Clifford works on his music project and I edit photos before packing for an early start tomorrow, hoping to beat the wind as we head back to Santa Fe. It has been great visiting here with these special people, but it is time for us to continue the journey back to the CI lab in Utah.

and the lovely iris has bloomed…..