I reached the breaking point with the Central Texas summer heat. Literally. Every breaker was breaking. My rooftop AC went out, and the portable AC my cousin loaned me was too much for my power supply, having to make the long 30amp journey from its hijacked junction in the equipment shed. I couldn’t sleep at night in spite of the mosquito net I hung like a shroud around my bed. My internal breaker was tripping.
I did as much as I could to get Mom caught up. She is now on her own, with the help of Amazon, grocery curb-side, and my adorable niece and kind cousin who visit her regularly. I looked at the map to figure out the shortest distance to the highest elevation where I could get some relief from the heat, but still get back to the farm within a day in case of emergency.
I remembered a post Tim and Amanda of Watson’s Wander wrote long ago about an idyllic spot in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. I wrote to ask if they would be willing to share the coordinates, and Amanda was kind enough to respond right away. I promised to keep her coordinates a secret. Sadly, it’s too late for that…
I’ve boondocked in just about every state west of the Mississippi, and I’ve never in my life seen anything like what manifests each Friday evening in the Lincoln National Forest. It’s bad. Really bad. Is this due to COVIDity? Or is this the norm? It’s like a train wreck, hard to look away. And they all have Texas plates when NM has a quarantine mandate for out-of-state visitors.
I stopped by the Ranger Station to get a map and hiking info. The head ranger was there, so I asked him what was up? He said he had been stationed at this post for 25 years, and had never in his life seen anything like it. Certain areas (hike to the waterfall) had been closed off because they were being completely overrun by campers, and they don’t have the resources during COVID-19 to deal with it.
El Paso is only 108 miles away, he tells me, and they come to escape the heat. Would the last person leaving El Paso please turn out the lights? Oh, wait. No need to turn out the lights, because they brought the lights with them! Check out the construction sized light pole! Nearly every group has a generator. Why do you need a generator when camping in a tent? And there’s always a car among the group equipped with trunk speakers….I guess to drown out the generator noise. Nothing says “a weekend away in a quiet forest” like a giant sub-woofer.
And of course there are ATVs, UTVs, Polaris RZRs and dirt bikes, all buzzing up and down the forest road until long after dark. But never fear, they are equipped with roll-bar mounted spotlights, neon LED whip antennas and giant flags waiving out the back.
While I am enraged by the mess left behind, I can’t begrudge them for coming. They are all escaping the same triple digit misery I left behind. But what about social distancing? It’s a big forest, yet they congregate in tight-knit groups. I guess their idea of a “quarantine pod” is a little bigger than mine. So what about New Mexico’s quarantine mandate? There is a State Law requiring anyone with out-of-state plates to quarantine upon crossing the state line for 14 days or the length of their visit, whichever is shorter. As long as they stay in the forest and don’t go in to town, I suppose they consider it a legitimate quarantine?
So why on earth would I stay, one might wonder? Well, this “cloud” in Cloudcroft has a silver lining. Come Sunday afternoon, the place folds up and empties out. I have the place pretty much all to myself, save for two other “regulars.” During the week, there is an average of three rigs tops along the entire FS road. I have kind neighbors who have my back, look after the rig while I am hiking, and always ask if I need anything from town. We three moved up the mountain away from the madness.
At 9,000 ft, the temps are just about perfect. Highs in the low 70’s to high 60’s, just right for hiking, while the lows are great for sleeping. There are hiking trails literally steps from my door. Winter cross country ski trails, officially marked hiking trails, or just deer and elk trails that meander down through the valleys and up over the mountain ridges. I can wander till my heart’s content, smelling the butterscotch of the Ponderosa pines and the Christmas tree scents of the Douglas and white firs, while watching the aspens quake nervously at the prospect of impending autumn.
Come nightfall, the elk “bugle” from the ridge right above my rig. I love hearing “the call of the wild!” Sunday through Friday at noon, it’s blue skies, blissful silence, and big white puffy clouds floating overhead, showing off their silver lining!
“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” ~ Aristotle