Patagonia Lake State Park

January 22nd, 2009

Wednesday the 21st we decided to take advantage of our location since the weather was supposed to go sour. We tried the kayaks out on the lake and enjoyed trying to capture the water foul and wildlife in pictures.  The sky was incredible (the calm before the storm), which added to the whole experience.  We took off on the motorcycles later in the day and happened upon a great dirt road loop through the Coronado National Forest.  We looped from the town of Patagonia to Nogales.  Shortly into the national forest, both Kim and Chris heard terrible noises and immediately had horrible thoughts. Chris thought his bike was about to explode, Kim was worried about getting run over by a speeding truck behind her. It turned out to be two low flying military jets that flew directly overhead. There were also lots of Border Patrol Agents in the park since we are very close to the Mexican border.  The main dirt road was manageable for Kim but Chris was drooling over the less maintained side roads and the possibilities…  Unfortunately the weather caught up to us near the end of our ride and we rode part of the way back to camp in the rain.  At least it was warm and we were off the dirt!  This was the first inclement weather we have seen since we left Lake Livingston Texas in the beginning of December. 

Mexico, NOT!

Mexico, NOT!

On Thursday we decided we would head into Mexico for a few hours since it was rainy and gray.  Not the best choice… We were seriously interrogated by the US border patrol on our way in, the traffic was crazy, and the truck was too big for the crowded streets of Nogales.  We decided to leave right away.  Crossing back into the US was eventful.  First, another truck hit our side view mirror, then there was the begging, and finally the hour long wait to squeeze through the border checkpoint with only inches to spare.  Time to head home and play Wii. 

Moving on to Gilbert Ray state Park tomorrow.

Welcome to Arizona

January 19th, 2009
Timer shot from our morning hike on the Guindani Trail

Timer shot from our morning hike on the Guindani Trail.

We headed for Arizona on Sunday the 18th. Our original plan was to go straight to Patagonia Lake State Park. On the way Kim called to check for site availability. Poor planning on our part, Martin Luther King day was Monday and with the long weekend the park was full. No problem, plan B, we stopped at Kartchner Caverns State Park, which was on the way. We made the most of our day there. Chris took care of a few items on the honey do list and Kim did some reading up for future planning. We met Anne and Bill Zeller, the camp hosts who were more than friendly. They suggested we take the Guindani Trail before we leave if we had the time. We decided to leave the next day, as we were looking forward to the Lake and using the kayaks. We did however do the hike before we left and it was a perfect start to the day. Good exercise and nice views.

Campsite at Patagonia Lake State Park

Campsite at Patagonia Lake State Park

We got the last hookup campsite at lake Patagonia which required some careful mauvering by Chris, as it was on quite a hill. We were psyched at the prospect of having a campfire at last! 

 

Jim and Ted
Jim and Ted

Our first night at Patagonia State Park proved to be very interesting.  We met Jim and his dog Ted (a black lab).  Jim hailed from Ontario Canada and was traveling and hunting quail, a new hobby for him.  We chatted for a while and decided to have dinner together.  He was more than happy to share the three quail he had caught that day.  We had a good meal, good conversation, and too much fun around the campfire.

Last Day in New Mexico, Riding and Rocks

January 17th, 2009
Chris enjoys the view during his ride.

Chris enjoys the view during his ride.

Our last day in New Mexico… Chris was excited to get out on the trails with his motorcycle after seeing what was out there.  Kim graciously bid him farewell while she did some shopping and laundry.  Chris returned from his ride with a big smile. Although Silver City was not originally a destination he was excited about, he has now declared this area the first place he would consider a retirement location..

City of Rocks Vista

City of Rocks Vista

The last place Kim wanted to check out in this area was City of Rocks State Park.   Chris captured this picture on a hill looking down on the park.  As the story goes, City of Rocks SP was the result of volcano action near Albuquerque.  The exotic collection of volcanic “art,” set in the middle of a grama grass plain, was formed by a huge explosion called the Kneeling Nun eruption about thirty four million nine hundred thousand years ago. The “city” is a fantasyland of wind- and water-sculpted pastel rock columns. Only six other places in the world have similar formations.

Now thats a campground location!

Now thats a campground location!

 

Kim was very bummed when she saw the campground at City of Rocks.  We both wished we would have know it was there sooner.  Not only was there an RV section but there were also sites interspersed in the Rock City (very cool).    

Chillin at City of Rocks State Park

Chillin at City of Rocks State Park

We had fun climbing around on the rocks. 

Chris rises above it all.

Chris rises above it all.

 

  

Kim carries the weight of the world on her shoulders.

Kim carries the weight of the world on her shoulders.

 

Silver City, New Mexico

January 16th, 2009
Campsite at Rose Valley RV Ranch in Silver City

Campsite at Rose Valley RV Ranch in Silver City

We arrived at Silver City, located in southern New Mexico and smack dab in the Gila National Forest, on January 14th.   Chris was apprehensive about this stop, as he thought the places of interest sounded touristy.  The next few days would change his mind about this destination.  The campsite was surprisingly secluded, as you can see in the picture, since we are about one block outside of the city. 

Yes, that is snow you see...

Yes, that is snow you see...

Our first stop was the Gila Cliff Dwellings located deep in the Gila National Forest. Rumor and research described the road in as very twisty and turny. Although it is only about 45 miles from where we are staying, they recommend about 2-2 1/2 hours to get there. We decided that would make a great day trip on the motorcycles.  We had to dress warm, as we woke up to about 23 degrees. Good thing we brought our snowmobile gear. The ride was well worth bravng the cold. The road was a hoot and the views were breathtaking along route 15, also known as “The Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway”. 

Looking at the Gila Cliff Dwellings from below.

Looking at the Gila Cliff Dwellings from below.

The Gila cliff dwellings were built in the 1280s by the Pueblo’s.  The seven natural caves are high in the cliff and contain the ruins of the dwellings (about 42 rooms).  The vegetation and artifacts that are found around the cliff dwellings are a great representation of the Mogollon (muggy-own) way of life at that time.

View looking out toward the canyon from the Gila Cliff Dwellings

View looking out toward the canyon from the Gila Cliff Dwellings

 

Another view of the cliff dwellings

Another view of the cliff dwellings

Ansel Adams we are not but we liked the shot.

Ansel Adams we are not but we liked the shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tha Catwalk at Whitewater Canyon

Tha Catwalk at Whitewater Canyon

The next day we headed out to “The Catwalk” at Whitewater Canyon (another section of the Gila National Forest).  This impressive canyon is home to a walkway that was once a water line.  This pipeline was established to provide water to a mining town at the bottom of the canyon.  Those who worked the original pipeline coined the term “Catwalk”. 

Timer shot of the day by a falls at Whitewater Canyon

Timer shot of the day by a falls at Whitewater Canyon

There were lots of great little waterfalls along the way.  We enjoyed trying to capture them as we walked the canyon. 

Another waterfall at Whitewater Canyon.

Another waterfall at Whitewater Canyon.

The Catwalk hike ended after 1.1 miles. Trail 207 continued on into the Gila Wilderness and we decided to extend our hike to see more of the canyon.  We hiked on, sometimes over snow and ice, for another mile before we returned for a round trip total of just over 4 miles.

Gila National Forest

Gila National Forest

It was such a pretty day we decided to take a “scenic road” for part of the way back.  We enjoyed many views of the Gila NF along this route. Chris enjoyed using the 4 wheel drive in the truck (if it is a dually, does that make it 6 wheel drive?).

Guadalupe National Forest and the “Top of Texas”

January 13th, 2009
Kim and Chris near the beginning of the Guadalupe Mtn hike.

Kim and Chris near the beginning of the Guadalupe Mtn hike.

We decided to hit the Guadalupe Mountain National Park today.  The Guadalupe mountain range is one of the finest examples of a fossilized reef on Earth. Our goal, though lofty, was to conquer the highest peak in Texas (Yes, we went back in but avoided the law!).  Guadalupe Peak, at 8,749 feet and roundtrip of 8.4 miles (with an elevation change of more than 3,000 ft), was the prize.  This was definitely a challenge in itself but the temperature and wind didn’t help.  At the start of the hike it was about 45 degrees in the parking lot, which we thought would work well with such a climb.  Unfortunately, when we got far enough into the hike that we couldn’t give up, the winds got crazy.  By the time we hit the summit we guess it was about 20 degrees with the windchill.  It was so windy we couldn’t do a timer shot as the camera wouldn’t balance (And our fingers weren’t working so well either).  Kim’s pic of Chris won the summit spot but WE WERE BOTH THERE!!!.  There were some great views.  One of the coolest is the view of El Capitan from the Guadalupe summit.  On the way down we were proud of our accomplishment but also felt our age a bit.  It was worth it. 3 hours up, 30 seconds on the peak (the winds were ridiculous), and 2 hours down.

Carlsbad Caverns again…Lower cave this time

January 12th, 2009
Hall of Giants in the Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns

Hall of Giants in the Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns

We started our day with the plan of purchasing tickets for the lower cave tour at Carlsbad for tomorrow.  As it turns out, tomorrow was sold out but there was room on today’s tour.  Looks like we’ll have to hit Guadalupe Mountains National Park tomorrow.  As we were not prepared for caving, we ran back to the camper (35 minute drive) to get gloves and batteries.  We made it back in plenty of time to go back down the Natural Entance and do another loop in the Big Room.  Well worth the walk once again.  In the Big Room, we captured this image of the Hall of Giants, which we didn’t do justice to on Saturday. 

The lower cave tour was worth the $20 per person.  It was very cool to be in places that few people are able to see.  Kim did very well with her claustraphobia except for one small room where we all turned our lights out.  After a few mumbled comments by Kim (implying her discomfort) the guide got the message and all lights went back on.    The tour started and ended with a short rope and ladder section.  There were a few tight spots along the way.  There was one area that was an optional crawl… Kim passed and Chris enjoyed this section quite a bit.  Although the lower cave was interesting and different, the self guided tours offerered the most majestic and impressive scenes in the caverns.

 

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

January 10th, 2009
A view from inside Carlsbad Caverns.

A view from inside Carlsbad Caverns.

Today we were going to stay home relax and get some things done. After Chris checked the football playoff schedule more closely, it made more sense to stay home tomorrow due to the games.  We headed out a little late, about 11, to do the self guided tours at Carlsbad Caverns.  Well… this place definitely takes the cake.  Of all of the caves and caverns we have seen so far there is no comparison.  The self guided tours alone brought you to the most incredible formations, flows, drapes, stalagmites, stalagtites, speleotherms, etc…  The places of interest within the cave are too many to mention.  We had a grand time taking pictures with our mouths agape.  Although some of the pictures did not capture what we were looking for… some did.  We question what else we could possible see on a guided tour but since we have traveled so far to get here, we may just have to check one or two of them out. 

On the way home, Chris went out of the way a little to a place that had an abundance of Sotol.  Chris found a cave to explore while Kim set out to “harvest more Sotol”.  Kim better get cracking on those walking sticks.

Lincoln National Forest and Living Desert State Park

January 9th, 2009
Bottom view of Sitting Bull Falls.

View from the bottom of Sitting Bull Falls.

We started our day with high hopes of a motorcycle ride to Lincoln National Forest.  As we drank our coffee and the camper started rocking, we realized another windy day would ground the bikes.  No worries, the truck got us there safe and sound.  In researching the area, we noticed Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area in Lincoln National Forest.  Our destination was well worth the drive as we found an oasis in the desert.  The falls are about 150 feet tall with deep pools for swimming at the bottom. Unlike other falls we have hiked to during this trip, this one actually had some water flow.

Timer shot of the day, by the pools at the top of Sitting Bull Falls.

Timer shot of the day, by the pools at the top of Sitting Bull Falls.

A short hike to the top of the falls and we were again surprised with the features of this oasis. There was a creek that filled 4 large water pools.  We had fun here trying to get the perfect timer shot of the day.  Due to the wind… hair direction was a challenge.

 

Mountain Lion eyes us for lunch.

Mountain Lion eyes us for lunch.

We weren’t done yet… We decided to find another hike.  We found ourselves at Living Desert State Park later in the afternoon.  It was incredible… we finally got shots of all the wildlife we had been stalking while in the desert and mountains.  I can’t belive how many animals we saw!

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, by the way, Living Desert State Park is a zoo and garden 🙂

Escape from Texas

January 8th, 2009
Kim scores some Sotol.

Kim scores some Sotol.

Texas has been very good to us and as much as we enjoyed our time there (almost a full month) we are looking forward to crossing into a new state.  We left Fort Davis early and on the way we saw a great deal of Sotol growing wild.  Kim, having picked up the tools necessary for making walking sticks, wanted to “harvest” more.  It was impossible to pull over with our beheomoth so she was resolved to go without.  Fortunately, we drank too much coffee and water and had to pull over in Pecos Texas to use our facilities.  This awesome Sotol plant was in front of the DOT parking lot where we stopped.  Kim asked permission to take the broken and downed stalks and was very happy.

First ride in New Mexico.

First ride in New Mexico.

The ride to Carlsbad was quick and easy. We were set up and out on the motorcycles by 1:30 (mountain time). We headed for Carlsbad Caverns National Park to get check it out and get information to plan the rest of our time.   It looks like there are several guided and unguided tours to check out.  Tomorrow is supposed to be the nicest day (warmest) for a while, so we plan on staying outdoors.

Timer shot of the day in Carlsbad National Park.

Timer shot of the day in Carlsbad National Park.

The views were far from Big Bend, but the park is known for the caverns.  We took the 9.5 mile scenic loop and headed back to camp for some dinner. 

Campsite in Carlsbad New Mexico
Campsite in Carlsbad New Mexico

The sunset was pretty nice, lots of pinks on the horizon.  We enjoyed stealing a peak from the camper.

Moving on, North to Fort Davis

January 7th, 2009
We arrived in Fort Davis in the early afternoon after fighting some crazy winds on the 118 out of Terlingua  (It’s a twister Aunty Em).  We had some lunch at our new campsite then set off to our first destination, Luz de Estrella winery.  When we arrived it was closed, the sign reading “left at 2:30 today, see you tomorrow”.  No problem we decided to head into Alpine, get some supplies, and visit the Edelweiss Brewery for dinner.  Not gonna happen… They too were closed.  We tucked our tail between our legs and headed home.  We found a great little restauraunt in Fort Davis and ordered pizza and salad take out for dinner. 
107 inch telescope at McDonald Observatory.

107 inch telescope at McDonald Observatory.

The next day we decided to check out the McDonald Observatory, one of the leading astronomy research sites in the world.  The tour was very informative and we were able to actually get in to see the 107 inch telescope and the HET.  Our guide, Kevin, did a great job and we enjoyed the solar viewing opportunites.

Who knew mud flaps were so important....

Who knew mud flaps were so important....

All right, take two on the winery. From the observatory we headed to Marfa once again to check out the winery. We were very curious, as the only wines carried in Big Bend National Park were those from this winery. OK… so we are cruising down the road, minding our own business when we see a police car coming in the opposite direction. We notice he is turning around and comment that he must be after someone in front of us. NOT! He pulled us over, which was very perplexing as we hadn’t even been doing the speed limit. He approached the truck from Kim’s side and inquired about us not having mud flaps. When informed it was illegal to have a dual wheel truck without mud flaps, Kim immediately responded with “you’ve got to be kidding me, that can’t be right”. Probably not the best idea to question a law enforcement official, but he did let us go with a warning. To top it all off… the darn winery was closed again. 

Edelweiss Brewpub in Alpine, TX.

Edelweiss Brewpub in Alpine, TX.

After that adventure, we finally made it to the Brewpub for dinner.  The beers were very good, the company was fun, and dinner was enjoyable.  Believe it or not, the owner (husband) of the winery was sitting at the end of the bar.  He mentioned that if we complained enough, his wife would have showed up with a case… Unfortunately I never saw her and do not plan on going for strike 3. 

We head out for Carlsbad Cavern National Park in New Mexico tomorrow. Seems like we have been in Texas forever, but it was time well spent.