Monday, September 27, 2010

Santa Fe, NM

We made an overnight stop in Santa Fe and stayed at Black Canyon, a forest service campground on Hyde Park Rd, on the way to the ski areas. It is only 7 miles from The Plaza, the heart of old town Santa Fe, so it was a great location, and only $10, but no hookups. It is also at 8500 ft elevation, so it got into the 30’s last night, a bit too cold for our liking, and there is no cell service at all.
The campground had recently been renovated, was all paved, and the outhouses were some of the nicest we’ve seen. Hey, it doesn’t take much to impress us these days!
We spent a few hours walking around the Plaza area, looked in some shops, visited St. Francis Cathedral, and people watched.
It was entertaining listening to this homeless person resisting arrest. We never did figure out what he did wrong, but he kept threatening to go to the newspaper the next day to tell his story.
We liked the door on this building, and peeked in the windows. It was full of really old doors of all kinds.
We ate dinner at a great pizza place, Il Vicino, and were joined by Bernie and Martha Marks, fellow Lazy Daze owners who try to meet up with other Lazy Daze owners who pass through town. He is a talented artist, and she is a wildlife photographer and writer. We had a delightful time talking with them, and Martha even gave us a copy of her book, Rubies of the Viper. I started reading it last night and although I’m only a few chapters into it, I am already caught up in the story.
Today we made our way to Coronado Campground in Bernalillo, just north of Albuquerque, where we’ve stayed before. We have some doctors appointments and shopping to take care of over the next couple days, then we’ll head to the Balloon Fiesta on Friday. We could have gone early to the Fiesta, but for $15 a night and no hookups, we opted for Coronado, where we have power and water for $20. It is way too hot here, almost 90, which is quite a contrast to the 30’s we had last night. It’s supposed to cool off by the end of the week, though.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Abiquiu Lake, Riana Campground, NM


We’ve spent the past two nights at Riana Campground, a beautiful spot overlooking Lake Abiquiu. I called before we left Heron Lake, and the camp host said all the power sites were full, but she just had a cancellation so she would hold it for us, which was quite nice of her. Several people recommended this campground, and we weren’t disappointed. It is run by the Army Corps of Engineers, but the pricing was the same as New Mexico State Parks, $14 for water and electric, $10 for dry camping. Had we wanted a free night, we could have picked up trash on Saturday morning for Public Lands Day. I felt kind of guilty for saying no, but when the camp host said they had over 200 people coming to help, I got over it.

We took a ride around the area yesterday to get a closer look at some of the red rock formations we saw on the drive from Heron Lake. Felt like we were back in southern Utah.





Just a few miles up the road from here is Ghost Ranch, where famous American artist Georgia O’Keefe spent many summers painting, then bought a house in Abiquiu where she spent the last couple decades of her life. You can understand why an artist would be drawn to this area. One of her favorite landscapes to paint was Cerro Pedernal, meaning flint hill in Spanish, which we have a great view of from our site.


We didn’t have time to visit Ghost Ranch this weekend, but when we come back here again we definitely want to hike some of the many trails there.

We did walk along the Lake Vista Trail which runs behind and above the campground and goes to the Abiquiu Dam Visitor Center, which was closed yesterday morning. Guess they only open it in the summer season.

It was quite a scenic trail, and the weather was perfect, 70’s and calm. We were surprised there weren’t more boats in the water.






Today we’re off to Santa Fe.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Let There Be Sun


We are still here at Heron Lake, and after a trip to Chama for a few supplies, Andy and Jim got our new cracked solar panel mounted. Between screwing the mounts into the roof, high bond tape, and lots of sealant, it shouldn’t be going anywhere. After numerous phone calls and discussions, Jim thinks he will be able to wire it into one of the other panels by himself, with a little guidance from a few Lazy Daze friends who will be at the Balloon Fiesta. So he ordered the wiring and a couple other parts from AM Solar, which should arrive in Albuquerque before we do. We’re anxious to see if it will work, and since we are dry camping at the Balloon Fiesta, will get a chance to see how much difference it makes. We really appreciate Andy’s help, and enjoyed visiting with him this week.

We got an e-mail this week from Frank and Chris, who also full-time in a Lazy Daze.They are staying just down the road at El Vado Lake State Park, which we wanted to see anyway, so we took a drive there to visit them. We met them last year in Oregon after we left Bonneville Dam and it was fun to catch up on what we’ve been dong this past year. And we had quite a long discussion about politics, which we usually avoid, but it was nice finding out they have similar views as ours, (which is unusual).

They had a site with a great view of the lake, and it rained the day we went so it was interesting watching the clouds.


We’ve also managed to take a couple hikes here at Heron Lake. The East Mesa trail gives you good views of the mountains and part of the lake, but doesn’t provide much shade. It was the flattest trail we’ve hiked in some time, though, which was a nice change.


This is a “quiet lake”, so there are only sailboats.


The Rio Chama trail is wooded and runs along a ridge above the river. It is actually 5.5 miles long and goes to El Vado Lake, but we only walked a couple miles and turned around. Parts of it were fairly strenuous.




This is a pretty part of New Mexico, and we would definitely like to come back and spend more time. I forgot to mention that the Lowe’s Chama Valley Grocery/Hardware store has an amazing selection for such a small town, and the prices were reasonable. It’s always a nice surprise to find a good place to shop when you’re in the middle of nowhere.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Heron Lake State Park, NM


We arrived here Friday after another pretty drive, this time crossing two mountain passes over 10,000 ft along Hwy 17 between Antonito, CO and Chama, NM. I’ve driven the car more than we’ve towed it since we got into Colorado in July, with the high elevations and steep, twisty mountain roads.

During our first winter on the road in 2008/2009, we spent several months in Mew Mexico state parks because of the reasonable rates and pretty scenery, but we stayed in the southern part of the state and didn’t make it north of Albuquerque. We’ve been looking forward to spending time in northern New Mexico, but we stayed in Colorado longer than planned because we liked it so much. Now we have only 10 days before we have to be in Albuquerque for a couple appointments on the 29th before the Balloon Fiesta on the 1st of October.

We stopped here at Heron Lake State Park since our friend and fellow Lazy Daze owner, Andy Baird, just arrived on Thursday after getting his rig fixed in Alamosa, CO following a lightning strike last month. It is an interesting story, which he has detailed on his website if anyone is curious about what can happen to an RV when lightning hits it. He was actually pretty fortunate.

He is carrying a cracked solar panel in his car that he offered to Jim. It is still functioning at 80-90% capacity, and he was told it would probably continue to work. So now Jim is trying to figure out a way to mount it and get someone else to connect it to our other two panels at a later date. Seems like anytime Jim gets around Andy we end up doing some kind of upgrade.

Andy’s back up camera was fried so he just put in a new one, which Jim was looking at with the possibility of getting the same one and installing it on our rig. We do fine with two people and radios when backing up, but if something happens to one of us it will be a real trick to get backed into a site without being able to see behind you. That’s the one thing we wish the previous owners had done.

Last evening we drove around Heron Lake and hiked down to the Chama River. This is a beautiful park, and much bigger than many of the other NM state parks. There are at least 7 or 8 campgrounds but the ones right on the lake don’t have hookups, so we are in the woods with electricity, which we’ve used to run the AC during the day and the heat at night. What a nice luxury for $14 a night, or $4 if you buy a New Mexico State Parks annual pass. Compared to all the other states we’ve traveled in, New Mexico is definitely a bargain.




Saturday, September 18, 2010

Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO


It was a lovely drive from Buena Vista to Great Sand Dunes National Park. This is where we hooked the car back up after crossing 9,000 ft. Poncha Pass.


The campground in the park is very nice, and we managed to get a good site with a view of the dunes. Sites are $14 a night with no hookups but it was a very scenic campground. Many of the sites are more suitable for tents and small campers but there were some big enough for Class A’s and 5th wheels. And we were pleasantly surprised that we had a good Verizon signal and internet.


Since we only planned to stay one night, we had to pack in lots of activities, so first we hiked the one mile Dunes Overlook trail from the campground.



Then we stopped at the Visitor Center, which was a very impressive building but the displays were a bit disappointing. Maybe we should have watched the film, but it was late afternoon and we wanted to walk out on the dunes.The sign said High Dune, the second highest dune in the park, was a one and a half mile walk. We didn’t really plan to climb all the way up to it, but Jim was on a mission, so we kept going. You can see the people on the top of the dune. It looked like a long way and it was!


We had to stop and rest every couple minutes due to the elevation and the effort it takes to walk uphill in soft sand, but it was worth it. The sun was going down and the shadows in the dunes kept changing. It’s hard to imagine how big these dunes really are until you get out on them.





This is me approaching the top of High Dune. This last climb up the ridge was probably the easiest part of the walk. You can see the speck of the lone woman at the highest point.


It was beautiful up there, and we were so glad we made it. We sat on the ridge for a long time just taking in the views, knowing how much fun the walk back down would be. At the top we were 650 feet higher than at the base of the dunes.




And it was a fast and fun trip back down, except for the massive amounts of sand filling our shoes.


The flat sandy area along the vegetation line is filled with water in the spring and early summer, making up Medano Creek. We would like to come back and see it when the water is flowing.


That evening, we got to watch a beautiful sunset from our campsite. It was a great way to end the day.




Wednesday, September 15, 2010

St. Elmo and Salida, CO


Sunday we took a drive to St. Elmo, “the most well preserved ghost town in Colorado”. It is another abandoned mining town, but unlike the others we’ve seen, it never burned down, so most of the old wooden buildings are still standing.The current population is said to be 8 people, much less than the number of chipmunks running around town. The general store even sells bags of sunflower seeds for 50 cents to feed them.


All the buildings are privately owned, so you can’t actually go into them, other than the general store, which mainly sells touristy things.


It was fun to walk around and look at the old buildings, and it is in a beautiful setting, especially now that the aspens are beginning to change colors. The overcast skies didn’t make for good pictures that day.




On the road to St. Elmo, we stopped and hiked a half mile trail to Agnes Vaille Falls. Since it’s the dry season, there wasn’t a lot of water in the falls, but it was a nice short hike.


The road follows Chalk Creek, with good views and several nice looking forest service campgrounds along the way.


The Chalk Cliffs.


Monday we went to Salida, on the Arkansas River about 24 miles south of Buena Vista. They also have a riverfront park, so we walked along the trail there. It’s a little more developed right by the river, so not quite as pretty as Buena Vista.



Behind the town is a hill called Spiral Mountain, with a spiral dirt road leading up to the top. We drove about halfway up, then parked and walked to the lookout at the top. Nice views of the river and Salida.



Last night we met Fitz for dinner at Eddyline Restaurant and Brewery in Buena Vista, our second meal there. We had good pizza last week and great portabella mushroom fajitas last night. Their beer is pretty good, too. And we had a good time visiting with someone from “back home.”

Leaving tomorrow for Great Sand Dunes National Park, if we can get Oreo off the picnic table.