Saturday, April 27, 2013

Wildlife Watching at Rockhound



There are many reasons to stay at Rockhound State Park, including it’s proximity to Deming, New Mexico, with a nice laundromat, Wal Mart, Pepper’s Grocery, Tractor Supply Co., a very interesting museum, a brewery and a couple of wineries. Then there is it’s proximity to the small Mexican border town of Palomas, with several dentists, pharmacies, and optical shops for low cost medical care.

For nature lovers, all of the large campsites have lovely mountain views, and there are hiking trails right outside your door. And with our NM State Parks pass, which we purchased last year for $225, sites are only $4 with water and electric, $0 for dry camping.  Or only $14 and $10 without the pass. It’s still the best state park deal going.


There is also plenty of wildlife, including desert cottontails, jackrabbits, snakes, ibex (but don’t expect to see them), and an abundance of birds. We love watching birds, although we don’t always know what they are. Like this, a type of sparrow, maybe?


It is very dry around here, so a dish full of water attracts many critters.


Sometimes in pairs, like these scaled quail.


A white crowned sparrow, I believe.



And this colorful Wilson’s warbler.


I took a little hike by myself yesterday morning, and was trying to photograph a couple of turkey vultures flying overhead. I never could get them both in a shot, and they eventually flew off.


I looked over to my right, and spotted them on top of some rocks, soaking up the sun.


I didn’t realize until I looked at this on the computer that there was a third one, mostly hidden from view.


Not the most handsome creature.


A few days ago while walking in the campground, our neighbors were attempting to move this snake off the road to keep it from getting run over. It didn’t want to move, so Jim went back and got a hiking pole.


It’s a non-poisonous Big Bend Patch-nosed snake, and he moved it to the patio of a nearby empty campsite.


A few hours later we went back to see if it was still there, and sadly found it stiff and dead. So much for Jim’s attempt at wildlife rescue. If you look back at the first picture, you can see that part of it’s body was not coiling, so it must have been injured and dying then.

We’ve also seen quite a few of New Mexico’s state insect, the tarantula hawk wasp. They are huge, a couple inches long, and their sting is reported to be one of the most painful of any insect bites. Therefore, when one landed  near my feet, I tried taking a quick shot and promptly got out of it’s way. Darn, out of focus.


That’s it for wildlife photos. Jim was playing with the camera and took this black and white shot of the full moon this week. The skies are so clear here.


And I had some requests for a picture of Jim in his hat. Check out that good looking cowboy.


Tomorrow we’re making an overnight stop at City of Rocks State Park on our way to Silver City. As always, we’re enjoying our stay in New Mexico.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

South of the Border Again



After learning from Jimbo that he could get progressive lenses in his sunglasses in Palomas, Mexico in a couple hours time, Jim decided we needed to make a trip down there. Hey, it’s been a whole month since we last went to Progresso, Mexico, and we are only 30 miles from the border, so why not. They have changed the border crossing since we last visited Palomas, and being such a small town it is nothing like going to Progresso. This is the first border town we ever visited, and we were remembering how nervous we were the first time. After at least a dozen border crossings over the past 4 years, it feels as safe as walking into Wal Mart.


The optical shop near the Pink Store where Jim got his sunglasses a couple years ago was very crowded and difficult to get waited on. So we walked down the street and found two other shops. There was nobody in the second one, and they said the lenses would be ready in a couple hours. We wandered the streets, ate lunch in the Pink Store restaurant, Jim had a margarita, then proceeded to buy another cowboy hat! He likes the first one so much he wanted a different style. Still hasn’t bought the boots to go with them, though.

This is the one thing in Mexico that still takes some getting used to. I must confess, but even though this sign was right in front of my face, I forgot. Old habits die hard, as they say.


Jim got the call from the Mayo Clinic the other day, and they set him up to see a hematologist on June 4. So we are planning to spend a few weeks in Silver City, NM, then work our way to Scottsdale, AZ. June isn’t exactly the optimal time to be going there, but if he needs to go back for follow up, we will just spend some time in the higher elevations to the north.

Now I’m happy I was unable to get those reservations in Yosemite for May, as we would have had to cancel them anyway. There’s always next year.



Monday, April 22, 2013

Hiking in the Florida Mountains, Deming, NM



Rockhound State Park is nestled between the Florida (pronounced Flo-ree-da) Mountains, a rugged 12 mile range, and the Little Floridas, just 3 miles long. Now that we have the Subaru we decided to check out some hiking outside of the park on the surrounding BLM land, accompanied by Debbie and Jimbo. The dirt road to get to the mountains isn’t horrible, but we wouldn’t have wanted to drive it in our old car.


We hiked into Windmill Canyon on an old rough, rocky road that turns into a trail that will eventually get you to the summit of Florida Peak, at 7448’. We had no intentions of climbing to the peak, but hiked until we were tired, which was when the gradual climb took a steep upward turn.

There were lots of interesting rock formations and remnants of a former ranch.


Looked like a bird to us.




It’s a lovely area.



But it was windy, as usual. One minute it was on my head, the next it was in this tree.


After our hike Jim wanted to drive up the road to the top of the Little Floridas, overlooking the campground. We were told we could probably make it in the Subaru, but as the single lane rocky road climbed, I got more and more nervous. We stopped to get out and assess the road, and saw several ATVs and a jeep coming down the hill toward us. Jim asked the first guy what the road was like, and he said he thought we could make it. When the next ATV passed a woman yelled out “Good luck!” That was enough to make us turn around, not an easy task on the narrow road.

Later that afternoon Jimbo decided to take his Suzuki Samarai up the same road, and he took Jim along for the ride. They made it to the top where all the cell towers are, and you can read about their experience on Jimbo’s Journeys. Here are a few photos from their ride.






Yesterday we did another hike in the same area, but drove a few miles farther down the road. We came to more signs for a Wilderness Study Area, and decided to walk from there.


There appeared to be a very old road, but it had obviously been a long time since it was used based on the size of this cactus in the middle of the it.


Not too far along we lost the trail, so we just walked where we could through a canyon. With these landmarks it was hard to get lost.


We named this Elephant Rock.


Being so dry there isn’t much in bloom around here, so it was nice to see a few spots of color.



Dust devils, a frequent sighting around here.


It was a fun week, although we did have to postpone our brewpub outing a day due to the wind. We also had happy hour with Jimbo, Barbara, and Debbie, along with their pups.


I almost kidnapped Chica before Jim left today. She is just the sweetest dog ever!


We tried to get him to trade Chica for a couple of cats, but he wouldn’t go for it. And they’re even learning to walk on leashes!


Well, sort of….


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Rockhound Revisited



We left Las Cruces Sunday for a windy 70 mile drive to Rockhound State Park near Deming, NM. This is probably our 5th time here, and we like it as much or more every time we come. I don’t think we’ve ever been here when we haven’t run into other Lazy Daze friends or other bloggers.

This time it’s Barbara from Me and My Dog, whom we met last summer in Colorado. And Jim from Jimbo’s Journeys, whom we’ve known for several years and have met up with in various places. We were anxious to meet Jim’s new traveling companion, Chica, and what a sweetie she is! I didn’t get a good picture, since she was a constant blur of motion, but you have to love a little chihuahua that doesn’t shake and shiver or yip all the time.


As always, we’ve done some hiking here, on the trails in Rockhound and Spring Canyon, the beautiful but rugged day use area a couple miles away. We even saw at least a dozen Persian ibex in Spring Canyon yesterday, but they were on the move and we couldn’t get a photo. I got a really good view of a male with huge horns, that looked just like this one.


They are a wild goat brought over from Iran in 1970. It’s an interesting story and you can read more about them here if you’re interested.

From the trail overlooking the campground at Rockhound State Park.



Spring Canyon. On other visits we’ve hiked to the saddle, in fact we dragged Jimbo along to the top a couple years ago. Yesterday we did a little easier hike.





We found out they were filming a movie, Enemy Way, with Forest Whitaker, Harvey Keitel, and Ellen Burstyn in Spring Canyon on Monday. Don’t know if any of the actors were actually there or it was just scenery they were filming, but we saw a picture of Forest Whitaker coming out of a Deming restaurant last week.

On the trail the other day we met a nice couple from Deming who gave us some ideas for other hikes in the area. With the Subaru we can actually get to the trailheads now, so we will check them out over the next few days.

As I write this we are in the midst of 40mph winds, gusting to 50, with visibility near zero due to blowing dust. And a hummingbird just landed on the feeder.


Looking back at old photos I was reminded of the different weather we’ve encountered on our visits to Rockhound, ranging from hot to cold, with even a snowstorm thrown in. And we forgot how green it can be here in non-drought years. One thing is certain, though, the wind always blows in southern New Mexico. It’s just a matter of degree. Funny thing, though, we have kind of grown to like it.

February 2009. We foolishly thought it would be warm in southern New Mexico in the winter.



April 2012. Much greener from a similar view in Spring Canyon.


The century plant we saw blooming here last April has since died.


Glad we got to see it like this.


If the wind eases up a bit, Jim and I, Debbie, Barbara and Jimbo plan to check out the Mimbres Valley Brewing Co. in Deming for happy hour and a bite to eat a little later. They emailed wondering if we should postpone until tomorrow, but Jim assured them he drives better in 50mph winds after a few beers!