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

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