Kitty soaking up the afternoon sun near Marshall Lake
Well that was interesting. The forest service told me they were closing the forest on Wednesday because of extreme fire danger. Then business I-40 in Holbrook was closed because of a fire. All of the camp grounds I’ve visited in Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona have fire bans in place. I think we need some rain in the west!
Also, I feel compelled by the bruises on my spine to report the pavement on I-40 in Flagstaff is easily the roughest asphalt I have ever driven over – Argh! The only stretch of pavement that comes close to being as bad are the first few miles of Hwy 287 in Oklahoma.
Since Gallup is just an overnight stop on our way to Ridgway, CO we pulled off I-40 at a truck stop near a railroad crossing. We found a place to park in the dirt lot next to the retaining pond. The wind is gusting to 30 miles per hour and politely swirling dust into the RV. This is going to make our next planned stop in Durango seem like a mountain paradise!
Got to get here early if you want a spot by the trains
FYI: Gallup Propane has great prices for tank refills. We had a 30# tank filled for only $15! That’s about 1/2 what it would have cost in Denver. Also the best price for gas and diesel seems to be on the north end of town heading toward Shiprock.
Camping near Marshall Lake at 7100’ the weather was delightful! High temps in the 70’s and a gentle westerly breeze. All the cats had a chance to go for a walk, roll in the dirt, and eat some grass. The Overland Expo was in Flagstaff at the same time we were there. After the Expo closed for the day we saw several adventure camp-mobiles roll past our camp site. I had half-a-notion to attend the Expo, but when I saw that the line to get in stretched from the Fairgrounds all the way to the Walmart (~ 3 miles) I changed my mind.
Instead I grabbed a bike out of the truck and rode up the road around Marshall Lake/ wetlands. The lake is more of a wetland habitat for ducks and such. Not so much a house-boat lake or a water skiing lake. Did the hike-a-bike around the wetlands in the dry season so there was no mud to contend with. Speaking of dry, after siesta a Ranger came by and told us the forest was closing in a few days because of the fire danger. Time to skedaddle!
Lucky in Show Low!
I pulled into the Home Depot parking lot to buy some supplies and I heard air hissing. One of the truck tires had sprung a leak and I just happened to hear it as I walked by. Brilliant!
I checked the tire and it was down to 30 psi from 80 psi. I started the air compressor (yes, I carry an air compressor) and aired it back up to 80 then asked the all knowing google about tire repair. There was a Discount Tire four miles away so I headed over there.
The tire repair took about and hour so I went for a walk and came across a chiropractor’s office. Since I needed an adjustment I went in and they were able to see me! More Luck!
It was fabulously lucky the tire didn’t go flat on the road, that would have ruined it for sure. I had originally planned to just over-night in Show Low, but instead I got to meet some local people and do business with Show Low businesses.
I was also very pleased that the area around Show Low is rolling mountains and a mix of pine, pinion, and juniper trees. It is a very pretty area I will plan to return and stay awhile.
West-bound again and down from the mountains across the Rio Grande where there was not a single drop of agua in the parched and sandy river bed. I was shocked that such a symbolic waterway was high and dry.
West of that once mighty-river turned dusty-trail we climbed back into the mountains eventually reaching 7500 feet and the BLM campground at Datil, NM. With highs in the 70’s and lows near freezing the temperature was delightful. The 22-spot campground is tucked into the trees, has almost 4 miles of hiking trails, and a visitors center with a WiFi hot-spot. We were here the last weekend in April and there were only 4 other campers.
I took a side trip to visit the Very Large Array (VLA) Radio Telescope on the Plains of San Agustin valley. The visitors center is open from 8am to sunset. Since the array is closed on T-day, X-mas and new-years day I suspect the visitors center might be too. There is a nice walking tour of the grounds near the visitors center and descriptions of all the gizmos and do-hickeys. There is a short orientation movie (I skipped it because I wanted to be dis-oriented), an inside exhibit space, and the walking tour all for just $6 admission. I spent about 1.5 hours on the walking tour including walking to the antenna barn instead of driving.
As we left Roswell the irrigated fields of the Pecos River Valley gave way to rolling brown hills and west-bound Hwy 380 eventually began to climb a valley into the mountains.
We made camp at the Fort Stanton Equestrian Trail head which is about the same place as the Rob Jaggers Camping Area. The camp area is near Capitan, NM – birthplace of the bear cub who would become Smokey the Bear – it’s a fine spot and at 6300 feet above sea level it’s fairly cool. There are camp spots with water and electric ($5 each connection) and there are several spots without hook-ups and they are free.
I took the walking tour of Fort Stanton and learned about the history of the place as a military fort and as a hospital. Near-by is a cave system that stretches for over 30 miles (when we were there the caves were closed for research projects). The area also has nearly 100 miles of trails open to horses, hikers, and bicycles.
In Capitan I went to see the Smokey the Bear Historical Park where I was reminded about the story of the Smokey the Bear campaign and the discovery and rescue of the little bear cub who would become the living symbol of Smokey the Bear.
Small-talk at the market in Capitan was about how dry the winter and spring had been. The grass and plants in the meadow near our camp were dry and crunchy – it sounded like walking on soda crackers. Much the same conditions as those in 1950 that lead to the fire which orphaned the little bear cub.
Fair Park is a delightful place with a large pond, walking trails, and picnic tables. Nearby are the outdoor stadium, swimming pool, and softball fields. The pond is home to a variety of birds; ducks, blue herons, and some energetic little back birds who are in the passionate throws of mating season. Two males put on a show for a female, but the only ones really interested in watching the males were the cats.
I’m not sure how to enjoy the picnic table and still follow the admonition on the sign
The park is also home to a 5-space RV park with power and water for only $15 per night. Childress Fair Park was a great place to stop overnight and much more tranquil than a truck stop or big-box parking lot.
The weather provided a tail-wind on our way here from Boise City, OK. When we arrived there was a very crisp north wind and white caps on the water. By the time our afternoon nap was done the wind had settled to a breeze and the sun was warming the cats. The leaves are just beginning to unfurl and show some green in an otherwise red and tan environment.
It looks like the campground is getting some RV sites with water and electric. There are several new concrete pads all of which have orange caution cones blocking me from using them. We ended up dry-camping at a picnic site on top of a hill overlooking the reservoir. The heated restrooms have hot and cold running water and showers which looked to be free.