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;
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);
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.
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.
Every day I spend time sauntering about taking photos, writing and posting photos blogs, editing for a couple of authors, and playing viola.
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.
Each day also has variety, including calls from my kids, learning of national and global events, reorganization projects, and so on.
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.
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.
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.
I also edit for a couple of authors, edit photos for the travel blogs that I post nearly daily, and play viola.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Thursday December 12: Seeing mist over the lake when I get up, I walk out right away, enjoying the quiet ambiance of the morning.
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.
Today was a delightful beginning for our stay at Elephant Butte State Park.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We have soup and toasted cheese sandwiches for an easy dinner, and are treated to a beautiful sunset before the day ends.
Sunday October 6: It is another chilly morning here at Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada where Clifford and I have been camped for several days. I make coffee as I wait for the sun to rise and warm things up a bit. Then I start walking the trail to Grey Cliffs Campground, pleasant in the sunshine, but once I reach the shade from the bluff, it is too chilly and I head back to our campsite.
breakfast and cleanup, Clifford takes a break from playing dulcimer
so we can walk the Grey Cliff Trail all the way to the other
campground. It is a beautiful autumn day and the hike is a great way
to end our stay at Great Basin National Park, as tomorrow we will be
heading east to Utah.
When we return to camp, Clifford goes back to playing dulcimer and I sit out in the last sunlight to write in the journal. When the sun goes down, the temperature drops quickly and we go inside. I make potato salad, an easy snack when traveling, and do some editing of photos taken these days here at Great Basin. This has been a great place, our first time here, but hopefully not our last.
Saturday October 5: It is very chilly out this morning (27 degrees) here at Great Basin National Park, Nevada, when I walk to the restroom. I continue on up the road where I can get a photo of the creek without sun glare, a very pretty spot with boulders and little cascades.
is a great blue sky today, a perfect day for a drive to Wheeler Peak.
However, Clifford is reluctant because of the climb being a bit much
for old Suburban, which has just passed the 200,000 mile mark and is
showing its age. So, instead, we decide to drive to the end of Baker
Creek Road, only about a mile from the Baker Creek Campground where
we are camped. As we are driving and I’m looking at the map, we
realize that the climb to Wheeler Peak is not as great as he thought,
and we could go partway to one of the scenic pull-outs.
After turning around at the end of Baker Creek Road, we drive back toward the Visitors Center and take the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive.
Mather Overview is especially scenic with a view of the mountain peaks and a great valley below with autumn trees in full color.
Instead of turning around here, we go on up the road to the Wheeler Peak Overview, and then on to the Wheeler Peak parking area at the end of the road.
After finding a place to park, I get out to take photos. Clifford spies a kiosk describing the hiking trails and a decision is made to hike while we are here. This was not part of the original plan, so we don’t have snacks, but we do have warm clothes, hiking sticks, and water in the Suburban. We decide on the lake loop trail that passes by two mountain lakes. Since Clifford will want to hike faster and not stop for photos, we take the loop in opposite directions so we can meet somewhere enroute.
The elevation here is over 10,000 feet, so I take my time, rest when I need to, and sip at my water. I reach Teresa Lake and am enjoying taking photos here when Clifford joins me, having hiked twice the distance on his section of the loop. We hike back to the parking lot together.
On our way back to camp, we swing into the Grey Cliffs group site. Although the sun isn’t quite right, I get a couple of photos before we head back to our campground.
We have a very late lunch and then I walkabout for photos of the autumn foliage near the campsite.
Later I do some editing and Clifford plays his dulcimer outside. Dinner is also late, as is going to bed, but it sure was a fun day!
Friday October 4: It is super windy all night with the slide-out awning making a racket and Cougar rocking a bit. I have concerns for the awning and the solar panel, so don’t sleep well.
I get up this morning, it is still windy, but the only damage is our
chairs being blown over. In go for a walk in spite of the wind and
get a few photos of the creek and the wild turkeys, the largest I’ve
With the wind, it seems a good day for the Lehman Cave Tours. We call to find out if there are spots left on the afternoon tours. There are a few, but without having reservations, we’d have to go to the Visitors Center now to get a spot. We try to reserve online, but the cell signal is not strong enough to support a good internet connection, and it ends up being a huge hassle and a waste of time. In the end, we go to the Visitors Center, and due to many other people also wanting to do a tour, another one is added to the schedule. We still have to wait an hour and a half, so we watch the movie about Great Basin National Park and hike the Nature Trail. Then, while Clifford naps, I read Aarp magazines.
Finally it is time for the tour. Our ranger guide is pretty young woman who could be a stand-up comedian. She is quite delightful. The caves are amazing and our ranger was entertaining as well as informative.
We talk to her afterwards, as she is moving to Lolo, Montana, in the Bitterroot Valley where she will be working at Travelers Rest State Park. Since I have family in the area and we have spent a lot of time camping in the Bitterroot Valley, she is interested in learning a bit about the valley from us. It was nice to have the extra time with her.
at camp, we nap, then work on projects before dinner and early to bed
for me. Luckily the wind died down during the day and I expect the
coming night will be more peaceful.
Thursday October 3: It is 26 degrees this morning at the wayside pull-out north of Wells, Nevada, off US highway 93, where we spent the night. Clifford is still sleeping, which gives me time to take a few photos and write in my journal. We are off to a bit of a late start this morning, but only planning on going to another wayside stop near Ely, Nevada.
Heading south, still on 93, a small rest area is also the site of the Schellbourne Pony Express stop, back in the day. Several kiosks and displays recount the short but lively history of the Pony Express, most notably how very dangerous it was.
we continue, we note the impressive mountain ranges: the Ruby
Mountains, the Schell Creek Range, and the Snake Range, which
includes Great Basin National Park with Mount Wheeler being over
After getting gas in Ely, instead of stopping at the wayside pull-out, Clifford decides to push on to the park in spite of the windy conditions and the lateness of our start this morning. So, on we go, arriving in late afternoon. We stop at the Visitor Center in nearby Baker to pick up a brochure and get information on the campgrounds.
We try Lower Lehman Campground first, but every site is taken. The road is steep, very hard on our old Suburban, both up and down. Then we drive out to Baker Creek Campground on the Baker Creek Road. This late in the afternoon there are not many sites left and these are not very level, but we find a spot that will work nicely. After we get set up and leveled, I walkabout to explore while Clifford naps after a long day of driving. Dinner is late, but we are happy to be here!
Wednesday October 2: Clifford and I are leaving Craters of the Moon National Monument in southern Idaho this morning. We have been camped here for the last several days as we waited out the storm that descended on the northwest, but today looks like a good day to travel.
It is 26 degrees as I hike up the trail to the lava knoll and take a few photos at sunrise.
Then we pack up and are on the road by 11:30, traveling US highway 93 through miles and miles of lava fields, which give way to farmland. After stopping for supplies and gas in Twin Falls, Idaho, we continue south into the more rugged Nevada landscape.
Our destination is Great Basin National Park, but today we are planning on stopping in Nevada at a wayside stop that we see on the map near Jackpot, Nevada. However, when we get there, we don’t see it, so we continue on, not knowing where we are going to spend the night. Eventually snow-clad mountains make an appearance in the distance.
We watch for other wayside pull-outs and find a good one just before Wells, Nevada. We park and level Cougar, with a small stand of junipers making a buffer between us and the highway. We are pleased to find this relatively quiet and scenic place to spend the night. We even have cell service!