Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunday and Monday, March 30 & 31---Geocaching and Santa Fe

Sunday, March 31, 2008

We drove east toward Tijeras, New Mexico and entered Cibola National Forest to do some geocaching. Bob chose 11 caches for us to pick from in the area. First, we did three park and grabs. Then we parked at the trailhead for Otero Canyon. It would take us about 2 hours to hike for three caches. The first cache was not on the trail, but along an old section of the road. If you look carefully, you can see the faded double yellow line in the middle of the road.

The next cache was about .4 of a mile along Otero Trail. It was an easy find. We continued on for another half mile to look for the last cache. This one was more difficult. We searched the area for 20 minutes, starting at the coordinates and then moving out to find the cache. The cache was 52 feet from the coordinates. When we logged the cache, we gave the coordinates where we found the cache. Hopefully the person who placed the cache will correct the coordinates or move it to the original coordinates.

We didn't know if the trail was a loop, so after walking about 1.5 miles, we retraced our steps to the trailhead. We stopped to rest along the way.

We passed many other hikers and mountain bikers during our hike.We collected one more cache that was a short hike from the road, then returned to a picnic area we had seen earlier to eat our lunch. It was about 3 in the afternoon, so we decided to head back to the rv.

We have a special guard at our campsite--a bunny. There are many bunnies in the campground, but this one seems to stay at our site.

Spring is here! The crepe myrtle at our campsite is blooming! If only the spring winds would die down! We watch the wind speeds daily. We don't want to drive the rv if the winds are going to be too strong.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Turquoise Trail was recommended by several people. It is a scenic byway to Santa Fe. We drove north along NM14 toward Santa Fe. We passed the east side of Sandia Peak (tallest peak in Albuquerque). The ski area closed March 16, but there is still snow on the mountain.

Our next stop was Madrid (MAD-rid). It is a village of 'artists' which started as a mining town in the 1800's. It almost faded away until hippies of the early 1970s began to make it their home. Now, I don't know what you think of when you hear hippies, but Bob and I think of people that want to live with nature and stick it to the man or corporate America. That may have been the case in the early 70's, but now it is every man for himself!
Madrid is an artists' enclave. The village is small. When you enter from the south you pass the village dump area! It is next to the highway near an arroyo (dry stream bed). We think they are waiting for the spring flood to carry all their old furniture and trash away!

The village itself is on the road and goes for about 1/4 mile. There are shops along both sides of the road. They sell herbs, teas, clothing, pottery, jewelry, furniture, handmade rugs and other artsy items.
The textile shop has native American rugs, Mexican rugs, and Tibetan rugs. Throw pillows are also available. The least expensive item in the shop was a throw pillow for $65. The rugs were over $2000.Next to the textile shop was an interesting work of art.

We saw another similar piece of art in another store--balls of macrame cord with stainless steel scissors stuck in a few of the balls.

There were a few stores with wind bells and fountains. I liked the fountains, but they started at $2750 with an additional $1000 for installation. Bob and I figured we could buy the tools to make cut the granite stone and still have $2000 in our pockets. We would install it ourselves, thus saving another $1000!
The most interesting item about Madrid has to do with a recent movie that was filmed in the area. If you saw the movie "Wild Hogs" you may recognize Maggie's Diner!The diner was built specifically for the movie. It is a movie set, and only a movie set!

From Madrid, we drove to the village of Cerillos. It reminded us of Pino Alto northeast of Silver City, New Mexico. Cerillos was very small. It had several antique shops (closed until later in the season), a general store, and a petting zoo. Cerillos claim to fame also has to do with the movies and television. Disney made six episodes of 'Nine Lives of Elfego Baca' which were combined into a feature film in Europe. The movie 'Young Guns' was used Cerillos for a portion of its filming. The village has over a thousand years of history.

From Cerillos we drove into Santa Fe. It also has a lot of history. We walked around the downtown area, looking at the local merchandise. The city was built around an historic plaza.

Even though it is a city, all the buildings are pueblo style. There are no high-rises!

After looking around the city center, we drove to the O'Keefe Museum. ( ) Georgia O'Keefe spent much of her later life in New Mexico. There is even a scenic drive, O'Keefe Scenic Byway, which goes northwest out of Santa Fe to Ghost Ranch and Pedernal.

We returned to Albuquerque along NM 41. There was one village along the highway, Galisteo. We didn't stop as it was late in the afternoon and nothing was open (it was also an artists' enclave).

We will be in Albuquerque until Thursday. We haven't decided where we will go after Albuquerque--we found out the fam-camp in Flagstaff is closed for renovations. We may head north to Navajo Lake State Park. We'll let you know what we decide.

Thank you to Jennifer, Andy, Amy and Cecil who have posted comments on our blog. We answer these comments on the blog, so if you post a comment, please check back for our reply! (Just check anonymous if you don't want to enter any personal information!)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday, March 29--Rio Rancho and Albuquerque

Saturday we drove to Rio Rancho, NM, to take in the Fifth Annual Pork and Brew Barbecue State Championship. First we had to find the civic center at Rio Rancho. This was more difficult than it seemed. Rio Rancho is northwest of Albuquerque. One brochure said the civic center was in the center of town. HA! It is as far from the center of town as you could get. We once again looked for signs to indicate where the civic center might be, but we didn't see any signs on the main road. Finally we stopped at Borders to ask for directions. The first 2 clerks had no idea where the civic center was located. Finally a customer told us how to get there. The civic center is northwest of Rio Rancho, almost out to the Santa Ana casino. When we were within 1/2 mile of the center, we saw the first sign indicating its location. The Albuquerque area does not put signs where you would expect them, in fact, there usually aren't signs where you need them.
We finally arrived at the Pork and Brew. The parking lot was jam packed, but it didn't look like too many people were at the Pork and Brew. We walked around and saw some interesting sights.
There were 3 pig races during the day.

There was a section just for the kids--blowup playgrounds of all shapes and sizes.

We bought 10 Barbecue Bucks and tried samples at 6 different booths. Then we split a barbecue sandwich that was pretty good.

This booth had an Irish theme. There is a roasted pig complete with green hat and a green coin eye on the table in front of Joyce.

As we were leaving we found out why the parking lot was so packed. The Disney Nemo Ice Show was playing in the civic center. The show was over as we were leaving the Pork and Brew.

From the Pork and Brew we found our way back to the Albuquerque Balloon Museum which is located at the Balloon Park north of Albuquerque.
It was interesting to see how flight got started. They had china from the Hindenburg. Also on display were plates from the 1780s commemorating several balloon flights in Paris.

We were able to get in the replica of Double Eagle II which was the first balloon to make a transatlantic flight.

The gondola's on the first balloons were not very large. Bob and I fit in this one with a little room to spare.This is a replica of the Double Eagle V which successfully crossed the Pacific Ocean.
Except for difficulty with street signs, we had a great day!

Albuquerque, New Mexico--Wednesday, March 26--Friday, March 28, 2008

Wednesday we left Elephant Butte Lake State Park and headed north to Kirtland AFB, Albuquerque, New Mexico. As we left the park, we purchased gas in the town of Elephant Butte. OUCH!!! It was the first time on this trip we paid more than $3 a gallon for gas for the rv! The price was $3.27 a gallon. We had done an internet search to find the cheapest gas in the area and that was it!

The drive to Kirtland was about 150 miles along Interstate 25. The base is located next to Albuquerque's airport. When we arrived at the Fam-Camp we found it was full so we took an overflow site that had an electric hookup.

We were in overflow for one night then we moved into a full hookup site. After setting up we went to check the commissary, BX and ITT (for discount tickets). The commissary and BX were small considering the size of the base. ITT only had discount tickets for the tramway going up Sandia Peak. We were disappointed considering the great passport ticket book we got at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson.

As we drove around the base we found that Sandia Labs is also located here as well as other civilian research facilities. Across from the campground there is a solar panel research area. New Mexico Air National Guard has a fighter wing located here. As with all bases, there are old planes on display. Here is a C-47 we saw near the rescue school.

Thursday we went looking for the Albuquerque tourist information center. We saw signs leading to the downtown area, then the signs disappeared. We continued straight after the last sign for 3 or 4 miles and came to Albuquerque's Old Town. It was an interesting area, but definitely for tourists. As we were heading back to the car, we happened across the information center! We found that Albuquerque doesn't mark things very well. You will see a sign for something, then never see another sign to let you know which way to go or how far.The shop Joyce found most interesting was the kaleidoscope store. There were fascinating kaleidoscopes of all sizes and shapes made by a local artist.

Friday morning we did laundry while we waited for the mobile rv repairman. We had a hot water heater problem. It was an easy fix--replacing the emergency brass outlet plug.

Once the laundry was done and the hot water heater fixed, we went to eat lunch at a local restaurant recommended by the lady who runs the campground. Las Cuates was a great Mexican restaurant.

From Las Cuates we went to Palms--an outlet for local Native American goods. The prices were okay, but they didn't have anything we wanted.

Our next stop was Petroglyph National Monument west of Albuquerque.

The monument has several areas for hiking and viewing petroglyphs. There are fewer petroglyphs at this monument than at Three Rivers Petroglyph Site north of Alamogordo. The petroglyphs were done about the same time period. We didn't see as many circles at this monument.

The next two pictures were taken from the same spot just looking in different directions. We are standing halfway to the top of the trail.

This is the view we had from that spot. Albuquerque has moved as close to the monument as it can!

This view is from the top of the trail--elevation over 5280 feet. Our car is the one in the middle.

Another trail was Macaw Trail--named for pictures of macaws. Evidently long ago macaws inhabited the area as skeletons have been found at the excavation sites.

We saw more graffiti at this park than at Three Rivers. It may be due to the proximity of a city with a large population. The site was not protected until the 60s. Many people carved initials and their own pictures near the petroglyphs. The graffiti is easy to discern from the real petroglyphs--shading is the clue.

There is a lot to see in the Albuquerque area so we will be here a few more days.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008--Geocaching at Elephant Butte

Tuesday morning Bob downloaded 12 caches for us to find. Seven were south of the campground, the others north. We decided to head south for our first caches.

The first one we found was near one of the marinas on the lake.
We decided this was also a good photo opportunity for us.
Our next two caches were also easy park and grabs. Our fourth cache was a multi-cache so it took a little longer. We also approached it from the high side which made it more difficult than it should have been. The clue was "don't be stumped, look again." Well there were several stumps and we finally found the right one. Bob looked at this tree root first, until we spotted the other stumps!
We took the walkway back to the car after getting the coordinates we needed to complete the cache.
The final cache was in a wall built by the CCC in the original recreation area for Elephant Butte Lake. If we hadn't been geocaching, we never would have found this area of the park.
The last cache south of the campground was more difficult. We parked at a pullout by the road on the opposite side of the lake and like for .6 mile to find the cache. It was located in a large mailbox in a group of rocks. The hike took us up and down small canyon walls and through a dry river bed.
By the time we found the last cache and hiked back to the car, it was the middle of the afternoon. We went back to the rv for lunch and discovered we were almost out of bottled water. After lunch we drove into Truth or Consequences in search of a grocery store. We found an IGA and they just happened to have water on sale! We bought a case and headed back to camp after driving through the part of T or C that we hadn't seen.
We decided to leave the caches north of the campground.
Wednesday we are heading to Albuquerque. We hope to stay at Kirtland, AFB.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008--Traveling to Elephant Butte

Monday morning we took our time packing the rv as we were going to have a leisurely drive to Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico.

Our drive took us south along US 70 to Las Cruces, then north on I-25 to Truth or Consequences. Elephant Butte Lake State Park is east of T or C. The lake was formed when the Rio Grande River was dammed in the early 1900s. It is called Elephant Butte because of a rock formation in the lake, not due to the bones of early relatives of elephants who used to roam the area.

The gate attendant told us he wasn't sure if there were any sites, so as we drove through the campground we took the first available one. We have a distant view of the lake through our front window.

We hiked the 1.6 mile trail before dinner. It was different from most of our recent hikes because it was loose sand, not hard packed with rocks.
The area looks like a beach town complete with vacation houses (adobe with flat roofs), sandy beaches, and rv/boat storage areas. It is definitely not something you would expect to find in a desert area.

We were expecting more large trees like cottonwoods, but the only trees are mesquite and juniper. The pictures in the visitor center show larger trees when the dam was being built. No one has been able to tell us what happened to them. (We found out that they need spring flooding to survive and the area hasn't had any. There were some planted by rangers in another area & they didn't look healthy.)

Tuesday we are going to explore the area, take some pictures, and do some geocaching.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sunday, March 23--Three Rivers Petroglyphs

Sunday we packed a picnic lunch and drove north to Three Rivers Petroglyph Site. Petroglyphs differ from pictographs in that they are carved into the rocks while pictographs are drawn with chalk or an ink substance.

According to the brochure, the petroglyph in the next picture is the most photographed at this site. Of course, we took a picture, too.

Most of the pictures are of animals.

We hiked beyond the .5 mile turn around point so we could view the area from the top of the hill. The elevation was 5217 feet. Our climb was not as steep as yesterdays as we started from 4999 feet.

On our return hike, we saw more well-defined petroglyphs. The petroglyphs are 600-1000 years old. Other subjects for petroglyphs are circles, masks, and faces.

We saw evidence of rabbits and were lucky enough to get a picture of this one on the trail. He hopped away just seconds after the click of the camera.

After eating our lunch, we hiked across the county road to take a look at the village which is partially reconstructed. It was a bustling center for trade around 1300, but by 1400 it was abandoned. The Mogollon (muggy-OWN) who lived there have no identified descendants. It makes you wonder what happened to them since they had been in the area for so long. The Mescalero Apache were the next inhabitants of the area.

As we drove back to Alamogordo, we stopped at the Desert Ranch store to check out their pistachios. Desert Ranch was the first to grow pistachios in this area--1972. There are several ranches that grow pistachios now. We purchased a bag of green chile flavored pistachios.

Tomorrow we will head further north in the rv. We haven't decided on a stopping place yet, so you'll have to check back to see where we stop for the day.

On the Trails Again March 21 & 22

Friday, March 21, 2008

We packed a picnic lunch and headed for White Sands National Monument. We visited White Sands in 1978 when Bobby was about 8 months old. As far as we could tell the only change is the number of visitors per day. It was pretty crowded as Friday was a holiday for many and they were taking advantage of the beautiful weather to visit this monument.
We don't remember the hiking trail from 1978, but we did remember the white, white sand which is actually gypsum. Along the hiking trail we saw a bush that had formed a natural flower pot. The roots go deep into the gypsum so when the wind blows, the bush stays in place. As the dune moves, the plant and gypsum stay until the bottom looks like a giant flower pot.
Amid all the white dunes there are cottonwood trees growing. They are found in an area where the water table is about 25 feet deep.
We found the answers to a couple of questions so we were able to log a geocache at White Sands. We had to have a picture of us with the dunes in the background to complete the cache.
After visiting White Sands, we went to Holloman AFB. The entrance near housing was lined with American, German, and New Mexican flags. Germany has a flight school for its air force at Holloman.

The buildings are relatively new. The one old barrack that we saw was in the process of being knocked down to make way for a new building.

The BX was brand new, but the commissary was old and relatively small. It still had the good bargains that we are accustomed to finding in commissaries.
We returned to Oliver Lee Memorial Park for a restful evening and an outstanding sunset.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Saturday we decided to hike part of Dog Canyon Trail. The trail starts in Oliver Lee Memorial Park and continues into Lincoln National Forest. The trail is over 5 miles long (one way). To hike it to completion and back to Oliver Lee takes over 10 hours. No, we didn't to the whole hike. We went a little over 1.5 miles up the mountain before we turned around and headed back to camp.

This is a view of the campground from the trail just above the visitor center. Our rv is in the center toward the far of the campground.
The trail was steep and rocky. This is a picture of a relatively level portion of the trail.

The elevation rose 600 feet in the first .6 of a mile of the trail.
We saw some spectacular sights along the way. Here is a view of the campground from further along the trail! Our rv is on the right, just before the curve.

Even though Wednesday was the first day of spring, we only saw a few wildflowers growing among the rocks.
There were the usual ocotillo, prickly pear cacti, sotol, and soaptree yucca along the trail.

We rested often on the way up as the climb was steep for the first .6 mile. Then the trail leveled off and we had an easy hike to the 1.5 mile post.

White Sands was visible to the west of Dog Canyon.

We continued a little beyond the 1.5 mile post and the trail began to climb again. We stopped at an elevation of 5142 (on our GPS unit). At that point we were about halfway to the peak.The hike down the mountain went much faster. We passed several people who were trekking up the mountain.

We feel like we are almost back to our regular selves after our bout with the flu.