Thursday, September 27, 2018

Sugarite Canyon State Park--What a Pleasant Surprise!

From Clayton Lake State Park we followed US87 west to Raton, New Mexico. From there we headed north on I-25 one exit to NM 72. Once we were off the interstate, it was 5 miles to Sugarite Canyon State Park. We stopped at Lake Alice Campground, but it was rather small and tight for Sol. We unhooked the car and drove three miles to Soda Pocket Campground. Of course, the last 2 miles were on hard packed gravel going UP the mountain. To our great surprise, the campground was perfect! The sites were large AND they were great for solar! So, it was back down the mountain to get Sol and make the trip up. I drove the car up and picked a campsite, Bob followed in Sol. I picked site 12 overlooking the canyon. This is the first campsite we have had that had its own bear keep food safe from bears.
We had great views in all directions.....east....
...and south.
Sugarite Canyon is known for its great hikes and fishing. The area was also home to coal mining from the early 1900s until 1966 when the state purchased the land. Some of the hikes take you to 2 of the 3 old mines in the area. Remains of the small town (1200 population at its peak) can also be seen on the hikes.

After getting settled, Bob and I went down to the visitor center to get information on hiking. The center was small, but packed with historical information about the area and the  people who worked the coal mines.

Bob is standing next to a casting of a T-Rex track that was found near Sugarite Canyon.
 After looking at all the possibilities, we chose the coal mine trail as the first trail we would hike the following day.

Back at the campsite, we found that the deer like to graze in the campground at night. Campers don't seem to bother them.
Bright and early the next morning we drove down to the visitor center to park at Coal Camp Trailhead. The trail started behind the visitor center and climbed the mountain to Mine 2 and Mine 3. This is a view of the valley looking toward the road to Raton.
 Near the top of the trail we found the old reels for the cable which took the loaded coal cars down the mountain as the empties came up.
 Behind me is the remains of the dynamite house.
 The entrance to Mine 2 caved in after it was no longer in use.
 The entrance to Mine 3 also cave in, but researchers have not been able to find its location.

After our hike we went into Raton to pick up a few groceries and to stop at Colfax Ale Center to try their brews. We enjoyed looking around the pub as there were drawings from the movie set of 'Lonesome Dove' which was filmed in the area.

The following day we hiked River Trail and the trail from the visitor center to Lake Alice. We crossed 2 bridges on this trail.
The trail followed the base of the mountain, then the shore of the lake. As you can see from the sky, it was a gorgeous day for hiking!
 Back at our campsite, we made plans to backtrack to Capulin Volcano National Monument for our next adventure. The monument is located just off US 87 about 25 miles east of Raton. Instead of driving US 87, we found a back road with a few geocaches that would give us a scenic route.

The road to the parking area near the rim of the volcano was a bit scary, but not the worst road we have traveled.
 The views from the top were spectacular.
 The rim trail was steep, as we expected.
 We took our time walking the trail as there was quite a bit of elevation change along the rim.
 I found this fellow sunning himself. The are below him is where the cattle drive 'Lonesome Dove' was based on actually wintered.
As we neared the end of the rim trail, it became much steeper!
After our rim hike, we went down to the crater and then back to the car. Near the visitor center we caught the Lava Field trail. Rocky Mountain Youth Corps was working on the trail. We talked to several of the workers and found that one was from Mayport, Florida.

We weren't ready to head back to the park so we drove to Raton looking for a place to eat lunch---nothing but fast food restaurants. We wanted to eat local, so we drove to Trinidad, Colorado, and ate in a good Mexican restaurant!

The following day we drove to along US 64 W to see how the road was through the mountains.Other than a few places with road construction, the road wasn't too bad. Sol could easily handle it. As we drove, we passed Whittingdon Center which is an NRA area with camping, lodging, museum, and ranges.

We stopped to see the Palisades Sill.
The river did a magnificent job of carving the rock.
On our return trip, we stopped in Cimmaron at blu Dragonfly BBQ and Brewing. They had good food and good brew!
Then it was time to get back to Sol and ready for our trip to Eagle Nest Lake State Park in none other than Eagle Nest, New Mexico.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Amarillo, Texas--Home of the Big Texan and on to New Mexico

Our next stop was Amarillo, Texas. It is home to The Big Texan Steak Ranch. No, Bob did not nor has he ever attempted to eat the 72 ounce steak! We did, however, sit at the bar and have one of the beers brewed by The Big Texan Brewery.
This trip we stayed at AOK Campground just east of Amarillo. It is a Passport America campground so it was 1/2 price for us. We had full hook-ups with 50 amp electric and free wifi. It was a Netflix night for us!

We only stayed one night and we forgot to get a picture of our site. It was a typical private campground with closely spaced gravel sites. It was a good place to stop for the night traveling through Amarillo and if we travel this route again, we would not hesitate to stay at AOK.

The next day we got an early start and headed northwest toward Clayton, New Mexico state park campground for the next year for free if we are boondocking or if we want electric hook-ups, the cost would be $4 a night. The regular prices are $10 and $14, respectively.

When we arrived at Clayton Lake SP,  it started to rain. We unhooked the car and went in search of a site. We chose one of the two remaining electric sites (the campground only has 7 electric sites). We were lucky enough to get set up before the rain got too bad. Not long after we got set up, another camper came in and took the last site. There were a lot of boondocking sites, but the weather was still a bit warm to be without the AC. The other reason we took the electric site was the road to the boondocking sites was pretty bumpy and not well maintained although the sites were nice.

Since we were set up and it was still daylight AND the rain had stopped, we hiked the nature trail that goes partially around the lake. It was nice to be hiking among the rock formations.
The next morning, we followed the sign that said "Dinosaur Tracks." The trail took us across the dam to a boardwalk overlooking dinosaur tracks. When the dam was under construction, workers found the tracks embedded in the rock. This is one of the best tracks in the area. It is the imprint of a plant eating dinosaur.
 Here is a view of the boardwalk around the area where the tracks were found. All the indentations are dinosaur tracks. They represent all sizes of dinosaurs, meat eaters and plant eaters.
I have to say, we were bundled up to walk to the dinosaur tracks. The rain the night before brought a cold front through and it was windy and chilly!

After our short hike, we packed up and headed to our next park, Sugarite Canyon State Park near Raton, New Mexico. It wasn't far, but we wanted to arrive early to make sure we could find a site.

Red Rock Canyon State Park, Oklahoma

Bob and I made west of Oklahoma City to a park that surprised us with its geology. Red Rock Canyon State Park is about 5 miles south of Hinton, Oklahoma. Most of the area is grasslands with a few rolling hills. Red Rock Canyon State Park is in a canyon with red sandstone walls on either side. The drive down into the canyon was not for the faint of heart as the road was steep, winding, and narrow. We found a pull through electric and water site just perfect for Sol.
The park had several trails. We hiked California Road Trail first. The trail climbed to the ridge above the campground.

Along the trail we saw many butterflies congregating on the plants.
 Then we walked to the beginning of the park and hiked the Rough Horsetail Nature Trail. It was interesting to see the rough horsetail along the trail. At first we thought it was a form of bamboo, but it is soft and hollow. It is found in the wet areas near the creek.
The next morning we drove to Clinton, Oklahoma to visit the Route 66 Museum. When we first retired, we visited the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma. We tried to visit the Clinton museum, but it was closed the day we were there. This time we were able to take the tour.
There is a lot of history of Route 66 in the museum. There are sections for the 1920s through the 1960s when the route was officially closed. Books in each era gave the price of eggs, bread, milk and gas. They also list the popular songs and musicians for each era.

You have to love the VW bus painted in all its 1960s glory.
And of course the ever popular family station wagon for trips cross country.
We enjoyed our stay at Red Rock Canyon, but it was time to head west. The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is calling to us.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Time in Arkansas

As most of you know, we had to return to Arkansas to help Bob's parents with some chores. The first being getting Andrea's new travel trailer ready for the road. Once she arrived in Arkansas, Bob taught her how to drive the van towing the trailer.
The casino parking lot came in handy for teaching her to back the rig into a tight space. After two days of practice, she was ready for the trip to Knoxville, Tennessee. Bob's dad decided he wanted to go along, so he rode with Andrea and Bob followed in our car. I stayed with Bob's mom in Arkansas. The trip went smoothly. The only hitch was on the return trip, a rock hit the windshield of our car on the driver's side and cracked the windshield. As soon as Bob and his dad got to Arkansas, he scheduled an appointment for a replacement. It is hard to believe with all our travels that this was the first time our windshield cracked!

Our visit to Siloam lasted four weeks. We accomplished a lot in that time---yard work, cleaning the garage and attic,  couple of trips to the dump, etc., etc., etc.

Bob and I took time out of our busy schedule to check out Natural Falls State Park in Oklahoma. There are some nice short trails there and we needed the exercise. We also checked to see if we could bring Sol to their dump station. After almost 3 weeks in Bob and Dot's driveway, it was time to flush the tanks!
The following day, we packed Sol, and headed for the park. Bob's dad wanted to ride along, so the three of us went to Natural Springs to visit the dump station. Once we dumped our tanks, we went to our favorite propane provider to fill our propane tank. Unfortunately, their tank was not full so we were only able to put 12 gallons in Sol's tank. We don't use much propane, and only have to fill the tank once a year! Since it is not full, we might have to fill it again if it is a cold winter since we plan to do a lot of boondocking out west.

Our stay in Siloam Spring lasted until the day after Dot's birthday. She turned 88 on September 16th. We took her to lunch, shopping and the grand finale was a trip to Tontitown Winery. Bob and Dot have lived in Siloam for 40 years and had never been to Tontitown to visit the winery. They have been to other Arkansas wineries, just not the one closest to their house! Dot and I each enjoyed a glass of wine---white for her, red for me--while Bob drank a beer and his dad had water.

The four weeks we spent in Siloam Springs flew by and it is time for us to make our way west. Bob and I have reservations for Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta the first 2 weeks of October. We plan to take our time getting to Albuquerque, exploring some state parks, national grasslands, and forests along the way. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Arkansas, Here We Come!

So, we took a few days of down time. Traveling every day gets old. Now it is time for us to head to Arkansas. The plan was to spend two nights on the road after we left Wyoming, and we stuck to the plan!

Our first stop was in Nebraska, near the Kansas border. We stayed at a nice Corps of Engineer Park on a lake. Methodist Cove Park had full hook-ups all the way down to primitive camping. Since we were only staying one night, we chose a primitive site. It just happens that the primitive sites are the only ones with a waterfront view!
We settled in for the night just before the rain started. We were glad we were off the road. The next morning, we took the car and drove around the area so its battery would be charged for a long day of being towed.

Back at the campground we were glad that we didn't have to dump since all the other campers leaving were using the facility. So, it was out of the park and south to Kansas. We drove for most of the day. We finally stopped in Tonkawa, Oklahoma. There was a Valero Truck Stop with plenty of parking for overnighting. The next day we got up bright and early to get on the road.

Next stop......Arkansas.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

F. E. Warren AFB--Visiting Family and Friends

We decided to stay at F. E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyoming for a few days. We had friends in the area we wanted to see and also, family. Our site was a pull through next to the drive.
 Our first day in Cheyenne, we went geocaching along a country road. It was a numbers run so we did a lot of stopping, getting out of the car, finding a cache and moving down the road about 1/10 of a mile to do it all over again.

The second day, we decided it was time to do some hiking in Medicine Bow and Routt National Forest. We chose Turtle Rock Loop Trail. There were interesting formations along the trail which followed the base of the rocks. Bob always carries the GPS when we hike and we found that the elevation was over 8000 feet!
We enjoyed our hike and our drive through the forest. We discovered several dispersed camping areas that looked interesting.
After our hike, it was time to visit a microbrewery in Cheyenne. We chose Accomplice Beer. It had a different set up than most other breweries we have visited. When we entered, the clerk asked for a name and whether we wanted beer, food, or both. Since we had been hiking, we said both. She then told us it was a special day at the brewery as they were changing computer systems. Because of the changes being made, the owner was buying all the food and beer for customers that day! We couldn't believe it!

 Once  we entered the pub area, we saw beer taps where you helped yourself! We were given a special card to place on the screen behind the taps. The card kept track of how much beer you poured. You were able to sample an ounce or two or draw a full pint.  We enjoyed our visit to Accomplice Beer. The food and beer was excellent.
 After we had a bite to eat, we walked around town before returning to the campground.
The next day we met our friends Connie and Larry. They drove down up from Dillon, Colorado to meet us in Fort Collins, Colorado. There was an escape room we wanted to try. We gave it our best shot, but we didn't make it out of the room in the allotted time. We were close, though--we only had one more puzzle to solve before our time ran out.
 After the escape room we were off to New Belgium Brewing. We each had a beer then we headed to Bad Daddy's Burgers. Bob's sister Paula and her husband Bill joined our crew for lunch.
We are all campers so the conversation was about places we have been and places we have yet to explore. After lunch, we parted ways with Bob's sister and her husband. We followed Larry and Connie back to their hotel and continued our camping conversation and plans for more get togethers.
Then Bob and I headed back to Cheyenne. Thanks heavens, the traffic wasn't as bad as it was when we left the restaurant! It only took us half the time to get back to Cheyenne.

The following day we went to Windsor to see Paula and Bill's new house. It was gorgeous. We showed them some of the computer sites we use to find campgrounds. We stayed with them until dinner.  They recommended Carraba's Grill so that is where we all went for happy hour--appetizers were half price! After dinner, we said our goodbyes. Bob and I returned to Cheyenne to get ready for two long travel days. We were going to drive as far as possible for two days to get to Arkansas.

Monday, September 10, 2018

East to Idaho and Wyoming

When we left Sisters, we had a long travel day. We stopped for lunch at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.
After that we drove to Malheur County Fairgrounds near Ontario, Oregon.

When we got ready to leave, we saw a hitchhiker on the rim of our front tire. No, the picture isn't upside down, that how the praying mantis was sitting on the tire.
 Once he was off, we continued on down the highway. 

Our next stop was Mountain Home AFB. We decided to stay there for several days. We did some geocaching and went bowling. The site was nice, the campground had just been renovated with concrete pads and new paved roads.
One of the caches we found was named "yabba dabba do!" I wonder why?
Yes, that is the Flintstones under that rock ledge near the highway.

We also explored the Birds of Prey Conservation Area, but we didn't see any unusual birds. We did find the caches located near this sign. Also in the area was a nice BLM  campground.
Once we left Mountain Home, we wanted to stop near Fossil Butte National Monument, but there were no campgrounds nearby. So after a quick visit, we were on our way again.
We stopped for the  night at Little America in western  Wyoming. They had plenty of parking for RVs, separate from the truckstop. Of course, no stop at Little America is complete unless you get one of their $.75 ice cream cones. Bob and I each got chocolate.

The following day, we drove across Wyoming to Cheyenne--F. E. Warren AFB was our home for the next few days.