Six Months in a Nutshell: November 12, 2015 to May 7, 2015

November 12, 2015 to May 7, 2016: One week short of six months, over 4000 miles, and hundreds of photos later, we have returned to Wallace, Idaho. It was a memorable six months, not only because we traveled so far, but for all the places we saw, the places we camped, people we met – family, old friends, new friends, and angels in disguise.

Terry at Sunrise in the Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona – our furthest campsite from Wallace, Idaho

I took photos every day, sometimes only a couple, but most days lots of photos; almost every day I posted a journey post on FB with photos, sharing the journey with all who cared to join us in this way. I hardly ever missed a day in spite of power and internet restrictions that accompanied us most of the time. I suppose it would have a more relaxed trip had I not set this as a goal for myself, but seeing the world – what is most beautiful or most meaningful – is what I do. Seeing a beautiful sunset or morning light on a mountainside or hoarfrost on pines is not just a neat experience for me alone; it is an experience that demands to be shared.

Sunset at City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico – an Experience that demands to be shared

Clifford studied, researched, or worked on research papers every day that we were not actually traveling. He acquired sophisticated portable scientific instruments to compliment the portable lab. His dedication to his work did not waver, even given the limited space he had to work in.

Once we returned home, I saw that for many people the last six months were same-o-same-o, little ups and downs, nothing really different, nothing outstanding. For me, the last six months were filled with ups and downs, also, but they were Big ups and downs, events and experiences that gave depth and quality to my life. I am enriched by having done this journey, not knowing from one short time period to the next what we might encounter: beautiful weather – or snow and cold; great photo opps camping and hiking – or only a few shots through the tinted window of a moving vehicle; being well – or not being well and having to deal with it; spending days and days with no one but Clifford – or meeting people: some just passing through and some whose lives will intermingle with mine onward; beautiful camping spots where I’d love to stay forever – or a Walmart parking lot where I have to pick up trash just to be okay with being there. It wasn’t always an easy journey for me, but it was a good one. Living in an 8 x 16 foot space with someone day-in and day-out means some compromises, but it also makes me much more appreciative of what’s comfortable and convenient, and more accepting of what’s not. Things are less about good or bad, like or don’t like, and much more about It Is What It Is, and being grateful to be a part of the process. Of course, for a very long time I’ve had the intellectual understanding of the importance of being appreciative and accepting, but now it is a deeper part of my being; it is not so much something that I have to work at as something that I am: Happy for No Reason – not all the time every day, but on a more on-going basis than I’ve experienced before.

Things that stand out:

  • Snowy as we leave Idaho with Blazer and Pony (our small pop-up), our departure from Belgrade, Montana is delayed by several hours due to snow, more snow changes our itinerary by time we reach Wyoming.

    Postcard pretty, snow in Belgrade delays our departure after visiting son Tye and his lovely family.


    Crossing eastern Montana, snow forces us to change our itinerary.

    Mid-Wyoming snow storm and cold temps at Glendo State Park provide photo opportunities that are exciting for me, but also contribute to both of us becoming sick. Clifford recovers in a few days; it is weeks before I fully recover. Daughter Becka and a friend from Santa Fe provide warm dry lodging when I needed it the most. Thanks!!

    Snow storm in Wyoming with Pony (our pop-up tent trailer)


    Hoarfrost on PInes
  • Heading south: several inches of snow at Three Rivers campground north of Tularosa, New Mexico, but it is great being here until Goliath (the news-worthy blizzard on December 26th) comes raging through, nearly wiping us out.

    Sunset on the Sacramento Mountains


    Sunset on the Sacramento Mountains


    Goliath Approaches


    A day later, Goliath begins to abate and we are still in one piece, more-or-less.


    Goliath has gone, leaving both destruction and beauty in its wake.
  • The search begins for a hard-shell RV, not an easy task given our restrictions. We go all the way to Phoenix, Arizona, to get Terry, an older, but sturdy RV that falls within our budget, weight limit, and floor plan. We narrowly escape a near-disasterous incident before we even get out of Phoenix, but back at Colossal Cave outside of Tucson where we are camped, we set up home in Terry and sell our much-loved Pony.

    Terry: a 19-foot older RV is a great find.
  • Desert camping: Colossal Cave, Arizona – having been here before, we knew we liked it.

    2016-01-08_CCave- 071
    Arroyo at Colossal Cave running with rain water


    Special treat while at Colossal Cave: visit from Katie and her kids


    Campsite at Colossal Cave surrounded by saguaros

    The Sonoran Desert National Monument southwest of Phoenix looks bare and desolate as we approach, but I fall in love with it: two weeks of solitude with long walks and campfires to warm the chill morning air.

    2016-01-14_Desert- 052
    Falling in love with the Sonoran Desert National Monument


    Campfire in the Desert


    Rock mosaic made from Sonoran Desert rocks gathered on daily walks


    Sunset in the Sonoran Desert National Monument
  • The Carnicom Brothers Reunion in Tucson, Arizona.

  • Cochise Stronghold, another place I fall in love with, as well as feeling a special connection to this rock mountain. I become friends with the camp host and others with whom we stay in touch.

    Morning Light at Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains of Arizona


    Sotol in the Dragoon Mountains


    Hiking in the Dragoon Mountains
  • City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico – what a really cool place to camp for two week.  While there,  I meet a woman who has become a special friend – I expect we will meet again on the road.

    Cook’s Peak from City of Rocks at Sunrise


    Sunrise at City of Rock, New Mexico


    The Moon Setting at Sunrise in City of Rocks


    Blazer and Terry – Camping at City of Rocks


    Great Horned Owls at City of Rocks at Sunset

     Leaving Arizona, Percha Dam State Park, New Mexico, is the first campground where we have plugged into electricity.  We catch up on projects that need power and internet.

    The once powerful Rio Grande is but a shadow of its former self – Percha Dam State Park


    The mesa on the far side of the Rio Grande, seen from Percha Dam State Park at sunset.

    The journey northward begins: Camping at Cochiti Lake, New Mexico, waiting for better weather around Santa Fe, and hiking in nearby Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.

    Giant Fairyland – my favorite rock formation at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
  •  Villanueva State Park east of Santa Fe, New Mexico, bypassing cold weather at Santa Fe, (or so we thought),…..

    Pecos River at Villanueva State Park, New Mexico

    followed by camping in the mountains north of Santa Fe at Hyde State Park, …..and more snow.


    Hyde State Park north of Santa Fe – Snow Photo Opportunities in April


    Snow on Aspens at Hyde State Park


    I was delighted with the snow; everyone else in the campground seemed to think I was nuts, being all excited about taking photos of snow.
  • Two weeks at Santa Fe visiting friends and working with our webmaster, Kaylee, to construct a new website for me.

  • Leaving Santa Fe, we stay at Villanueva again to wait out another snow storm – 20 inches of new snow right where we are headed in Colorado.

    Pecos River at Villanueva State Park: New leaves on trees adds color to the scene.
  • After visiting friends in Colorado, the journey is comprised of one-night stands in Walmart parking lots and rest areas, and brief visits with more friends and family once we reach Montana.

  • And finally, back to Wallace, Idaho. It is good to be back AND we are already planning our next outing. More adventures await!

Villanueva State Park

Villanueva Pony Outing – February 2013

With a four-day weekend ahead of us, I get up early enough to have a quiet cup of tea before I start packing for our Pony (pop-up tent trailer) trip to Villanueva State Park, about an hour’s drive to the east of us.  Looks like the snow that was forecast has gone somewhere else for the weekend, leaving us with just a chilly breeze, but hey, it is mid-February, and we are going camping.

I have most everything ready by the time Clifford gets up and then it is just a matter of breakfast, dishes, and the other last-minute things before we head out.   We make a little detour to the Eldorado market for bread, wine, cheese, and a hot roasted chicken for lunch.  After a easy trip down the freeway to Ribera, we follow a state highway that winds its way through the countryside and through several little villages, all of which appear to be suffering from lack of resources.  About 12 miles in, we arrive at the Villanueva State Park, a well-kept campground along the Pecos River with trees all around and mesas flanking both sides of the river valley.

Pecos River Reflections
Pecos River Reflections

We find a nice site where we can park in the sun, sit in the shade, and see the Pecos River from our front door.   We get set up and enjoy our now not-so-hot chicken.

Pony by the Pecos
Pony by the Pecos

This weekend we get to try out our little solar panel for the first time.  We are hoping to keep laptops charged and have lights to read and write by in the evenings.

Solar Panel Reflections
Solar Panel Reflections

We have hot tea, admire the view, especially the mesa, golden in the light of the setting sun.

Golden in the Last Light
Golden in the Last Light

In the evening I write in my journal and Clifford studies.  After darkness covers the campground, we have dinner and soon it is time to head to bed.

Saturday morning I wake with the light and get out of our warm bed, surprised at how chilly it is.  Taking a look at the min/max thermometer, I see that it is 16 degrees outside and 24 degrees inside.  Brrrr……  I turn on both burners of the stove and dress warmly before heading down to the outhouse.  Once back at the Pony, I debate with myself about having a campfire; I mean, 16 degrees is a bit chilly, but I want to be outside.  I make a hot cup of tea and decide ‘yes’ to the campfire.  I have been carrying a bag of little twigs and several pieces of firewood in the back of my car all winter just waiting for a chance to have a campfire while on an outing.   Soon the campfire warms the air.

Hot Fire and Hot Tea
Hot Fire and Hot Tea

The breeze is variable, which means the smoke blows my direction no matter where I sit or stand, making it hard to get set up to write in my journal.  I put journal writing aside and just watch the dancing flames, moving from one spot to another, adding a little more wood to the fire now and then, enjoying its warmth and the hot tea.

Once the sunshine reaches us, things change quickly.  By the time breakfast is ready, it is warm enough that we sit outside to eat.  The sky is a beautiful blue and we are ever so grateful to be here with the river, the mesas, the trees, the breeze, and the blue sky.

Blue Sky
Blue Sky

We have a plan to get some footage of the Pecos River for the next video we are making to feature Ang’s (my daughter) writing on You Tube.   Her short story is entitled “Old River Woman” which is about the Sun River in Montana.   I have photos of the Sun River, but since we are not in Montana, video of the Pecos River, which is smaller but with similarities to the Sun River, can provide the visual as well as the sounds of a flowing river.  I have the idea that I can wade a ways into the river so as to appear to be the Old River Woman as she is walking out into the river.  Well, the Pecos River flows right out of the Sangre de Christo Mountains where there is snow, and remember, it is mid-February even down here in the valley.  I wade out several times, only shin-deep, into the painfully cold water.  But the vision I have of how this will look is not the way that Clifford videos it.  In the end, it is a little adventure, but not a successful video shoot of the Old River Woman.

Ice Cold River
Ice Cold River

Getting back to the Pony, dry warm socks are very welcome.  After lunch, I spend the rest of the afternoon editing “Opened Gates,” the third book of the second trilogy of the Novels of Shannon, written by Ang.   This is a music theory weekend for Clifford; the chemistry and biology books and even the art supplies stayed home.

Clifford Studys Music Theory
Clifford Studies Music Theory

The evening passes quickly and soon we head to bed.

Sunday: I get up about the same time as yesterday and it is not nearly so cold this morning, but windy.  I decide to have a campfire, anyway, and as I sit and stand and walk around to avoid the ever-changing direction of the smoke, taking numerous photos of the flames, the thought occurs to me that taking photos of a campfire is a life lesson.  Although I choose the paper and wood, apply the match, and push the button on the camera, I cannot control the movement of the flames and there is an infinite variety to how the photo will turn out.  Even when the fire is providing ample opportunities for an interesting photo, if I am not focused correctly, the results will not be great.  That is not to say that one must hang onto a certain focus – not at all; change focus, change vantage points, change field of view, experiment, but do it with a mindfulness that brings out the best in any given situation.  And be willing to sit back and enjoy the campfire, knowing that flames are constantly in flux and so is life.

Dancing Flames
Dancing Flames

Today, even though it is warmer, we eat breakfast inside because of the breeze.  I do some editing of Opened Gates before we go for a hike.  Today we hike up to the overlook on the mesa to the east.

Hiking Up Loop Trail
Hiking Up Loop Trail

One interesting spot along the trail is the stone enclosure for the sheep or goats of the people who lived here in times past.

Stone Enclosure
Stone Enclosure

Instead of hiking the loop, the trail along the top of the mesa overlooking the river and campground below, which we have done several times, we go exploring the opposite direction, following a wide path that may have been a road at one time.

Exploring on the Mesa
Exploring on the Mesa

Juniper, yucca, and dull reddish rocks dominate the landscape.  When we return to the shelter, we have cheese and crackers for a snack before heading back down the trail.

View From the Mesa
View From the Mesa
Pecos River Valley
Pecos River Valley in Winter

Since I stop to take photos so often, Clifford gets ahead and then waits for me.

Clifford Waiting
Clifford Waiting

After lunch, I continue editing while Clifford keeps on with music theory.  Before we know it, the daylight fades, dinner is done, and we head to our comfy bed for a good sleep.

Come Monday morning, our time is more limited, so I forego the campfire.  I make tea and write in my journal at the table until Clifford gets up.  After breakfast we work on our projects, editing and music theory, for a bit and then head out for another hike.  This time we are hiking up the El Cerro Trail, which takes us to the top of the mesa to the west.

Clifford on the El Cerro Trail
Clifford on the El Cerro Trail

This is the first time we’ve been on this trail.  Quite a different view and a really cool rocky outcropping where we hang out for awhile.  Clifford plays his harmonica while I take photos,  loving the beautiful blue skies this morning.

Harmonica Man
Harmonica Man
Expansive View
Expansive View
Mesa Grass
Mesa Grass

Back at camp,  we have lunch and all too soon it is time to pack up and head home.

Pecos River Reflections
Ready to Roll

We are grateful for the chance to get away from the routine, grateful for the great weather, grateful to renew and refresh ourselves by spending time outdoors.  Before we arrive home, we are already contemplating where we will go on our next Pony outing.