Stoneage Tents and Treeless Tenancy

I am one of the last to leave the small Jemez Springs forest service campground upon news of the entire Santa Fe Forest closure.  As I pull out and give a last wave to the camp host, (who is allowed to stay through the closure,) he says “With all these people leaving the forest, you’d better get to where yer gettin’, girl!”    It’s a Friday morning, and the forest fires are not the only thing heating up.  The temps are now starting to creep on up into the lower 90’s, making camping without hookups uncomfortable.  So I am facing the triple threat of a weekend, rising temperatures, and a forest of displaced campers now looking for a place to light.
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But I can’t go too far. I’ve got a flight out of Santa Fe at 6:30 AM (yes, AM!) on Tuesday, leaving the Winnie behind in storage in Santa Fe. So I need to stay relatively close to town. I scour all my resources both online and off, and zero in on Cochiti Recreation Area just 40 miles outside of Santa Fe.  It’s an Army COE campground overlooking Cochiti Lake, and they offer electric hookups for half price with my Geezer Pass!

Cochiti Lake is beautiful enough with it’s cool blue water complemented by steel gray hillsides.  It’s a color palate that would receive any realtor’s stamp of approval for potential to appeal to the mainstream.  But not a tree in sight.  After lounging beneath cottonwoods and hiking through ponderosa pines for the past nine days, it feels downright barren and exposed.  So much so that I didn’t take a single photo of the lake or the campground.IMG_5079 IMG_5090 IMG_5082

BUT!  It’s got a few things going for it besides cheap electricity.  A brand new laundromat just outside the entrance.  A fairly decent swim beach.  And just 5 miles down the road is the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.  Crazy, tent-shaped (more like tipi-shaped) cones right out in the middle of nowhere!

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, a BLM-managed site, was designated as a National Monument by Former President Bill Clinton back in 2001.  Ah, yes. Acts of preservation. By our President. I vaguely remember those.

The formations were formed as a result of a volcanic blast 6 to 7 billion years ago which left pumice, ash, and tuff over 1,000 ft thick.  Eons of erosion caused the unique tent shapes to form.IMG_5091 IMG_5098

I had seen photos of these rocks on others blogs, and always wanted to explore it, so the timing was right.  I knew to expect the tent=shaped rocks.  What I didn’t expect was the lovely slot canyon. The nice ranger-man at the guard station told me to go there first to beat the crowds.

I knew from my research that this area fills up early, and visitors can be held at the gate when the parking area fills upenjoying.  So in a rare move, I am up with the sun, waiting in line at the gate before it opens at 8:00am.  There are only a half a dozen cars in front of me.  With my hiking boots already on, I know I can smoke ‘em!   I want to be one of the first in that slot canyon!IMG_5094 IMG_5100 IMG_5107

It’s already warming up by 8:00am, and I can feel the heat reflecting off the sandstone.  But the slot is cool and quiet.  As I meander through, the morning birds are still singing overhead.  It feels like a magical place that I have all to myself.  The echoing quiet, the contrast of heat and cool, the pale shades of sandstone take me back to places explored in the Wadi Rum desert of Jordan. I am lost in thought, enjoying the moment. But have to speed up. I can sense them coming…

I continue on up to the overlook.  By now, I am starting to be overtaken by people intent on racing to the top, then all bunching up together out on the furthest point of the overlook, as if they were tagging a horizontal summit. I observe that the view is actually much better at an intermediate point along the way, so I stop to take in the view.IMG_5123 IMG_5125 IMG_5132

By the time I start the decent from the overlook, back through the slot canyon, it’s a mob scene.  Flip-flop wearing civilians in the baking sun carrying miniature-sized disposable water bottles with an inch of water left.  The slot is stuffed with everything from a Sari-wearing grandmother to a three-wheeled baby stroller.   What a dramatic change from my hike up the canyon!  

As I leave the park through the exit gate, there is a line…waiting. Meanwhile, I’m on my way back to the cool confines of the Winnie. This is one time where every squawk of my early morning alarm clock was worth it!

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The Hot Water of Jemez Springs

During my nine days spent in and around the little hamlet of Jemez Springs, I sampled five hot springs venues, each with its own unique atmosphere. I loved them all for very different reasons. Some required more effort than others, but to a hot springs aficionado, each had its own unique payoff. Here they are, in no particular order. Continue reading

Jemez Springs — Soakers and Seekers

NOTE: I have been off the road for a month attending family visits, followed by over a week with no cell signal. Here is a post I wrote over Memorial day, before I stored the Winnie in Santa Fe to fly out. Old news now, but written, therefore published …

In addition to my mantra for 2018’s travels, “slow down, stay longer,” I also vow to visit more hot springs along the way. Soaking in natural spring water warmed in the bowels of Mother Earth is something I have always found to be soothing as well as restorative. Continue reading

Inside the Overland Expo

So what is “overlanding,” anyway? One thing I learned from spending three days immersed among seasoned circumnavigators to adventure wannabes is that it means many different things to as many different people. It might mean circumnavigating the globe in one’s own vehicle, or merely driving the dirt Mojave Road across California’s Mojave National Preserve. To me, overlanding means crossing multiple Continue reading

Finding Fun in Flagstaff

After traveling over 10,000 miles last summer as I made my way from Texas to the far reaches of Newfoundland and Labrador and back in just over four months, I vowed to slow way down this year, driving less and staying put longer.  The best area to do that seasonally in the US is the “four corners” area, seeking higher elevations while trying to stay just ahead of the rising summer temps.   Having never spent much time in Flagstaff, its spring weather forecast at over 7,000 ft and abundance of dispersed camping in the Coconino Forest make it an appealing stop to escape the desert heat Continue reading

Is Prescott the Perfect Place?

Ask any full timer who might be thinking of becoming a “some timer” what places are on their short list for settling down and establishing a home base?   Prescott, Arizona is likely to be in their Top Five.   The high elevation combined with the arid climate
makes for mild winters, survivable summers, and near-perfect weather in longer-than-
average spring and fall.   Such a change of seasons can be a rarity in the southern US. With the crazy weather patterns in the west this year, I experienced three out of four seasons in just one week! Continue reading

The Last Train to Clarksdale

For as long as I can recall, I have always been passionate about train travel, from early childhood riding the miniature train through the Fort Worth Forest Park Zoo, to my longest ride yet, the TranSiberian Railway from Moscow to Beijing.   Still, I can’t get enough.  There is just something about the rhythmic cadence of the tracks, riding through scenery unspoiled by billboards and 18 wheelers.  Not to mention the romantic Continue reading

It’s the Little Things in Tucson

This is a rather unconventional blog post for an RVer, but it’s one of my favorite memories from my multiple in and out visits as I bounced back and forth across Tucson this winter.

I first heard mention of the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures from photos on Pam Wright’s Facebook page. After viewing her photos, I knew I had to add this museum to my list of places to visit while in Tucson. In addition to over 500 houses Continue reading

The Only Blogger Who Hasn’t Been to Bisbee?

Another one of those “out west” places that feels like its approaching blogger cliché status is Bisbee, Arizona.   After following RV blogs for about six years now, making my list of places to visit from others who have been before me, Bisbee sounds like a place I would love. It’s warranted a post from just about every blogger making the rounds through southern Arizona, using words like “funky,” “hippie vibe,” and “quirky charm.” Continue reading