Weekend at Three Rivers

January 25 -27, 2013

Three Rivers, New Mexico

It was exactly one month ago that we passed this way, camping overnight at the Three Rivers National Petroglyph Site, on our way to Carlsbad Caverns.

At the Petroglyph Site
At the Petroglyph Site

It was my intention to do an inventory of the greeting cards that I sell at the Three Rivers Trading Post and Gallery, but the gift shop was closed both coming and going from the campsite.  Cold wind followed us all the way south.

So, now a month later, with the temperatures moderating from what they were, we make another trip to Three Rivers, only this time we decided to go all the way into the Three Rivers Campground which is located at the foot of the Sacramento Mountains on the border of the White Mountain Wilderness.  This is one of most favorite places to camp, and this time of the year, there is almost no one else here.

We arrive late afternoon on Friday and are greeted at the sign-in kiosk by John, the camp host, who has been here for 20 years.  We met him on our first trip to this campground at least 12 years ago and as always, find him to be friendly and welcoming.  We are sad to hear that he will be leaving Three Rivers in May.  Very unfriendly federal regulations are changing the way things have been done, so John and his family will be moving on after all these years of service.

We get the Pony (our small pop-up made by the Palomino Company) set up before dark

Pony is Set Up
Pony is Set Up

and soon the interior is arranged with sleeping quarters at one end, food, dishes, clothing, books, and laptops on the other end.  In the middle are our table and benches, stove, and sink.  We are set for a comfortable weekend.

The evening passes quickly with journal writing (me), studying (Clifford), and dinner.  Before we head to bed, we spend a little time poring over the Adventure Atlas, seeing the many tiny green tents that indicate places we might want to visit someday.

Saturday morning, as the first light of the day wakens me, I get up, pull sweats on and a long coat, grab my camera, and head out the door.  I first go down to the creek and am delighted to find water flowing.

The Creek Still Flows
The Creek Still Flows

A year ago Thanksgiving when we were here, the creek had all but dried up, thanks (but no thanks) to the drought in New Mexico.  I tromp along the rock-strewn creek, crisscrossing by stepping from boulder to boulder, taking photos of reflections on the pools.

Reflections on the Creek
Reflections on the Creek

During spring run-off, the creek has more water and is actively tumbling over its rock bed, but now, it is a series of little pools connected by a gently meandering stream of water.

Then I follow a little-used gated road up to the top of a nearby hill.  From here I have a great view all around:  the White Mountain Wilderness to the east immediately behind the campground,

White Mountain Wilderness
White Mountain Wilderness

the yucca-covered hill to the north; across the Tularosa Basin to the west are the San Andres Mountains –  the barely-discernible pale strip at their base is White Sands Monument and Missile Range, while south looks at the foothills of the Sacramento Mountains across the plains toward Tularosa and Alamogordo.  I am hoping to get some light on the mountains as the sun clears the ridge, but the sun is hidden behind a dense overcast when it rises from behind the mountain top.  After a while I head back down, picking up a few dry twigs in case I decide to have a campfire later in the day.

Back at camp, Clifford is up and we chat with John about things we see going on in this country that could cause civil unrest, unless complacency wins out.  After breakfast, we work on our projects before heading out for a hike.  We hike into the wilderness, going in maybe a mile or so, enjoying the mild temperatures, the sprinkle of rain, the wildness of the landscape.

Hiking in the Wilderness
Hiking in the Wilderness

Sometime in past years, the gentle little creek has been a raging river tearing down the mountainside, displacing rocks and boulders and reshaping the land.  At some point in time, a horrific wind has ripped through here snapping off dozens or huge pine trees.  Today, there is only a gentle breeze and the creek is charming flow of water.

Gently Flowing Creek
Gently Flowing Creek

We see lots of fresh elk tracks and come upon a recently dead elk, antlers still intact, though his flesh has been the meal for many a creature of the forest.  Rather than being offended by the remaining smell, I try to see the cycles of nature in the remains.  Other odd smells make us wonder if sasquatch live here.  Hmmmmm…………….

We finish out the day with tending to meals and our projects, the evening project for Clifford being drawing and for me, writing and editing.  Sprinkles of rain and the wind picking up make us very glad for the comfort of the Pony.

Sunday morning light draws me outside and again I hike up the gated road for the views and some photos of the morning light hitting a nearby hill and the San Andres Mountains to the west.

Sunlight on the Hill
Sunlight on the Hill

Back at camp, I am reluctant to confine myself to the Pony, so I decide to make a campfire in the fire ring.  A cheery campfire provides a warm spot to write in my journals while I wait the coming of warmth of sunshine.  Beautiful cumulus clouds float against a blue sky, sunshine coming and going.  After Clifford makes breakfast, it is all-too-soon time to begin packing up.

On our way back out to the highway, we stop at the Santo Nino Atocha Chapel, a remote Catholic chapel nestled in at the base of the Godfrey Hills, dedicated to the Holy Child of Antioch.

Santo Nino Atocha Chapel
Santo Nino Atocha Chapel

I take photos of the chapel before heading on to the Three Rivers Trading Post, where I do the greeting card  inventory.  Then we head on down the road, arriving home after dark, already looking forward to our next road trip in the Pony.

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