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.

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.

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

Hike to Grey Cliffs – October 2019

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.

Grey Cliff Trail in the morning
Grey Cliff Trail in the morning
Grey Cliff Trail in the morning

After 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.

Grey Cliff Trail in the afternoon
Grey Cliffs

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.

Wheeler Peak, Great Basin National Park – October 2019

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.

Baker Creek

There 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.

Autumn Colors at Great Basin National Park

After turning around at the end of Baker Creek Road, we drive back toward the Visitors Center and take the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive.

Views from Baker Creek Road
View from Baker Creek Road

Mather Overview is especially scenic with a view of the mountain peaks and a great valley below with autumn trees in full color.

Wheeler Peak from Mather Overlook

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.

View from Wheeler Peak Overlook

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.

Lake loop trail

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.

Lake Teresa
Lake Teresa
Lake Teresa with Wheeler Peak in the background

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.

Grey Cliffs

We have a very late lunch and then I walkabout for photos of the autumn foliage near the campsite.

Autumn at Baker Creek Campground
Autumn at Baker Creek Campground

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!

Clifford with the dulcimer

Lehman Caves – October 2019

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.

When 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 seen.

Baker Creek
Big wild turkeys

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.

Our exceptional Ranger Tour Guide and Clifford

Back 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.

Arrival at Great Basin National Park – October 2019

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.

Wayside pull-out – Highway 93

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.

Pony Express – Schellbourne, Nevada

As 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 13,000 feet.

Impressive mountain ranges in Nevada

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.

Mount Wheeler in the distance

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!

We found a site that will work nicely (notice slope both behind and in front of Cougar)
Baker Creek
Autumn foliage at Baker Creek Campground

Chilly Day at Craters of the Moon – September 2019

Monday September 30: It is a chilly day at Craters of the Moon National Monument in southern Idaho where Clifford and I are camped. The storm we were staying ahead of caught up to us here yesterday with a skiff of snow and today the chilly temperatures remain: 26 degrees this morning, even though it is still September.

Views from the trail to the lava knoll

I go up to the lava knoll, but it must be too cold for my cell to work and no texts are sent. But I do take photos of the snow on the surrounding hills.

Snowy hills

We had planned to drive up to Stanley to explore the countryside, but after cleaning up mouse droppings (ugh!) and scouring pans and counters, we don’t have enough time for a drive. Instead, we walk over to the Visitors Center to watch a movie on Craters of the Moon. We see that this area does get a lot of snow in the winter.

Walk to the Visitors Center

We work on inside projects, and since Clifford was able to get his hotspot to work, we even get on the net for awhile to check email. I make another trip to the lava knoll just before sunset. Chilly, but the light is pretty.

Late afternoon hike to lava knoll
View from lava knoll

After dinner, I pack up the kitchen as much as possible, as we plan to leave in the morning. It has been fun here, but we want to get to Great Basin National Park before the weekend crowd arrives.

Family and Friends at Bass Creek – September 2019

Friday September 13: My siblings and I and our significant others are getting together here at the Charles Water Campground in the Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana. Clifford and I arrived yesterday afternoon, and my brother Rollie arrived soon after. Even though Clifford and I had to run into Missoula for errands today, we are back in time to join in the potluck at Rollie’s campsite, where we all gather around a big campfire for conversation and good food. It is such a joy to spend time together with these people!

Because it is already near dark when we gather, no photos are taken except for attempts at catching the beauty of the rising full moon.

An attempt to catch the rising moon

Saturday September 14: The high point of today is getting together with Rollie and friends of his to play bluegrass music and share dinner around another campfire. The low point is finding that mice have gotten into Cougar, which means scouring stove, pans, counters, and so on, and setting traps in the evening.

Sunday September 15: My siblings, by good luck and some finagling manage to get together again for photos, since we didn’t get group photos on Friday. We take photos of each other as couples and the sibling group, but enlist the help of a neighbor camper to take photos of the whole group of us. Quite the deal with the sun casting bright lights and shadows, as well as the humans being their sometimes goofy selves! We have a good time and lots of photos to sort through.

Clifford and Carol
The bunch of us

Shortly after that, dear friends of mine come out to visit. We hike up the Bass Creek Trail and chat about all our projects and the meaning of our lives. It is great to see them and I manage a few photos of the creek as we walk and talk.

Bass Creek
Bass Creek
Getting my photo taken at Bass Creek

Wednesday is a day of more bluegrass music with Rollie and his bluegrass friends, as well as the usual activities around camping.

Thursday morning is rainy and I enjoy the opportunity of taking photos of the creek before my sister Lillian arrives.

She and I are going to drive over the mountain to visit my daughter Ang. As always, Ang has huge projects going on, and she is waiting for our arrival with a fire in the firepit, steaks and wine ready, as well as fresh veggies from her greenhouse.

I have learned that there is an app called Snapseed that a cell phone users like for editing photos. Since I have largely switched to using my cell phone as my main camera, Ang downloads Snapseed for me, and then we have fun trying out some of the tools that it offers.

Daughter Merri arrives and we have a great meal and a good time talking. Since I have to drive, wine is exchanged for tea, and the lively conversation carries on. Lillian takes photos of my girls and me before we reluctantly pull ourselves away from the campfire and head on back to Bass Creek.

Me with two of my girls

What a great fun day!