Leaving Cuba NM

Told by the camp hosts, a sweet couple from Georgia, that we can stay as long as we like, reluctantly we have to say goodbye. The solar is acting up again and I need to keep the laptop charged.

After spending a night lower down the mountain in a boondocking site about a couple miles from Rio De Las Vacas we head on down the mountain and hit the library before heading back onto Hwy 550 and head toward Albuquerque.

At Rio Rancho I spy Whataburger.  My favorite burger of all time.  I cannot resist and we stop. DSC_0113Whataburger.Bernalillo NM

Driving through Albuquerque on I-40 is a bit unsettling; I haven’t driven on freeway going through a big city for quite a while and I white-knuckle it all the way through.

Our goal is El Malpais National Monument.  Driving through Grants I spot a laundromat and pull in.  Hefting the laundry bag up a little higher on my hip I trudge into the building grateful it is cooler inside and get the washing machines going.  While my clothes do the hokey pokey I go back out in the very warm sunshine and walk The Chiweenie Brothers until I think it’s time to to remove the clothes from the machine.

Turns out to be good timing. I remove the clean clothes and put them in the dryer.  Not going to air dry this time around as I plan on staying at the Joe Skeen Campground tonight.  It’s a free campground I am told, but if it’s privately owned wouldn’t feel comfortable hanging the wash outside.

As I close the door on the dryer I attempt to put my coins in. It won’t take them and I glance at the LED and it looks funny.  Staring at it a few seconds I realize it says free.  Really?  Can’t be.  But it is.  Free today! How nice! The load begins to tumble, and it’s back out to get The Chiweenie Brothers out of the van as we wait for the load to finish.

Once the clothes are dried we catch Hwy 53 toward El Malpais looking for the campground.  I don’t find it so we continue on.  Finding the road into Malpais I discover we must walk to see any of the caves.  It’s too hot for that, so back out on the highway we go and begin looking for a place to stay.  BLM land abounds here behind fences.  Gates allow entry with signs asking to keep them closed.

Driving down the volcanic rock road in search of a spot to park for the night the road begins to look a bit sketchy.  I turn around and find a spot behind a big  juniper tree.  This will do, we aren’t even going to set up camp it’s just a place to park for some shut eye. There’s a few cow pats around.  That explains keeping the gates closed!

Moring comes early. It’s get dressed, walk The Chiweenie Brothers a bit, then jump in the driver’s seat.  We head back to El Malpais National Monument and take a nice long walk.

Thanks for stopping by!  Hugs, Shawnai

Rio De Las Vacas F. S. Camp Ground

The steady climb up Hwy 126 takes us up to over 7000 feet so it’s nice and cool compared to the valley below.  The Chiweenie Brothers, heads out the window, give our new temporary home the once over.

I back in, then begin getting The Boys’ cabled run set up.  I like them to have as much freedom as possible and the 25ft coated cable allows them some wandering room while still being in compliance with the ‘dogs must be leashed rule’.  Once the cable is looped around two trees and secured I get the two wiggle worms on their leashes and the leashes attached to the cable.  I begin setting up camp.

DSC_0081Campsite Lucky 13 in Rio de las Vacas FS CG

This camp ground consists of a small loop that contains 15 or so campsites.  There is a vault toilet and water.  Each site has a picnic table, fire ring, and paved parking. We get lucky 13, a nice shaded site in the afternoon.

DSC_0091On Site Workout Machine. Rio de Las Vacas CG - Copy

The water pump also serves as a good upper body workout device!

The campground loop itself serves well as a good cardio walk as it is not level, but there is also a trail that goes back into the forest.  Wildflowers are abloom, too.

The view out our backdoors DSC_0056Looking Out Our Back Door Rio de las Vacas CG - Copy

The Boys spend time digging for squirrels and chasing lizards,

and these cute little golden mantle squirrels abound!

We thoroughly enjoy our almost two weeks here in the mountains near Cuba NM.

 

We Made it to Cuba

Last night’s temps in Farmington NM made it all the way down to 70.  A hot and sticky night.  We’re outta here!

Still heading east we get very close to the beautiful little town of Aztec again. If I had known at this point that my photos of  the Aztec Ruins were gone forever I would have gone back and taken the tour again. But I didn’t know, and we continue on oblivious to what we are letting go.

At Bloomfield we catch Hwy 550 heading south.  It’s a long, hot drive. I don’t  run the air conditioner in the van.  Sounds stupid, I know, but it seems to make the oppressive heat even worse when we stop so I keep it off.

There isn’t much out along this piece of New Mexico, but there are gas stations and a few tiny towns.  The Chaco Canyon and more ruins are along this stretch of highway, BUT, as much as I would like to take that in I am not wanting to bump along 20 miles of washboard dirt road to get there in this heat. Another time—in the dead of winter—would be good time to see it.

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550 goes from blah flat desert with nothing but greasewood to these interesting sandstone bluffs and rock formations.  What starts out as a boring, hot drive, turns into an interesting hot drive.  It actually goes back and forth between the two landscapes.

We eventually make it to Cuba.  Not THAT Cuba. Cuba, New Mexico, a tiny little town with all the basics: Family Dollar, gas stations, a grocer, laundromat, AND a small library. I get the chores done.

A search on freecampsites.net yields a review of Hwy 126 to Fenton Lake State Park, the place we are looking for.  It’s a shortcut that takes 70 miles off the trip to the park. The reviewer says the last six miles are rugged.  Slow and steady would make six miles okay, but I also ask the tattooed, earring wearing clerk at Family Dollar about this Hwy 126.  Is it good road? “Sure is, as far I know.  Good road all the way, but it climbs and is a twisty turny mountain road,” he says. We can deal with that!!

Supplied up, things on ice, and plenty of gas in  MissAdventure  we head back to the beginning of Hwy 126.  That clerk wasn’t kidding.  The road begins to climb almost immediately and we are soon twisting and turning our way into heavy timber.  The air is getting cooler. Oh my, I love this!!

About 18 miles in, and this is just a guess, we come to the dirt part of the road. There is a sign that says ’26 miles of dirt road, not maintained’.  WHAT??? That reviewer on freecampsites must have made a typo, or was being a smart alec.  Six miles is one thing, 26 is another. Ain’t happening.

I get the van turned around just in time to get out of the way of a small white car barreling down the dirt road enveloped in a cloud of dust.  Some days I am just so happy with the decisions I make, and I pat myself on the back to just saying NO to this road.

We explore a few of the roads leading back into the National Forest where we could easily boondock, but nothing appeals to me.  I am tired from the drive in the heat along Hwy 550. I remember a Forest Service campground back a ways, and I decide to check into that.

DSC_0054Searching for a Camp Site in the Sante Fe National Forest Hwy 126 out of Cuba NM

The Rio De las Vacas campground in the Santa Fe National Forest is $5 per night with senior pass.  We pull into a spot that will give us afternoon shade and set up camp.  It’s a wonderful 78 degrees here, and here we will stay at least through the weekend.

Thanks for stopping by!  Hugs, Shawna

 

A Big Rock and a Town

August 15, 2019

Shiprock. The rock that inspired a town.

Cruising along the all-but-deserted two-lane Highway 160 after our stop at Four Corners we catch Hwy 64 heading back east. The windows are down and we enjoy the fresh air. We are back in New Mexico. Shiprock juts up on the horizon.

I begin photographing waaaay before we even get close, but it’s just so fascinating. Me, who finds faces and animals in rocks everywhere, just can’t “see” the ship in this rock pushing up out of the ground around it.  Someone did, though, and I continue to stop and snap photos.

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As we get closer the haze lessens. I kind of get the sense of the sails on a ship.  Read about this interesting rock, it’s formation history and Indian legends HERE

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Thunderheads form quickly in the Southwest.

Finally getting enough of this huge outcropping of rock, we head into the town of Shiprock.  Located along the San Juan River there is some farming going on here, and once out of town and heading on to Farmington, I again stop to photograph rock. I love the way the verdant green of the cottonwood trees contrasts with the buffy brown of these sandstone cliffs.

It’s warming right up and we spend some time along the highway in the shade of the cottonwoods. I take The Boys for a walk in the abundant shade even though it’s along the highway.  There’s a wide band of dirt and plenty of room to park.

Our next destination is over 100 miles away, and I do not want to begin that journey so late in the day, so we continue on to Farmington about a 40 mile drive.

DSC_0038leaving Shiprock NM

It’s sweltering here, and road work on the main drag is in full swing.  I am ready to call it a day. We find Walmart and a spot with some decent shade and wait for evening. Hopefully when the sun gets lower in the sky it will give a bit more relief from the heat.

I am not anticipating a cool night and good sleep, but am grateful for the shade we do have.  With the doors open and the fan going it’s tolerable.  It’s time like these, in a public place, that my lace curtains on the side doors do what I meant for them to do —- keep us out of the public eye, but I can see out and some air can get in.

Hugs, Shawna

 

It’s Decided. Next up . . .

Four Corners! I always wanted to be in four states at one time, and I can’t imagine anything that would top the Cliff Dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park,  so we bypass Canyons of the Ancients and Hovenweep, heading to Four Corners.

We head west on Hwy 160 and drop back into high desert where the scenery reminds me of Monument Valley in Arizona.

Four Corners Monument is privately owned by the Navajo Indians. They charge a $5 entrance fee, which is reasonable, and all along the outer perimeter of where the four states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet are vendors hawking everything from food to T-shirts.  These items aren’t so reasonable.

I wait my turn behind a group taking selfies and group shots of themselves planted on the Four Corners intersection, then grab my own photo of being in four states at once.

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Mentally crossing Four Corners off my bucket list, I go get The Boys out of the van, and we wander around the area outside of Vendor Square.  I spot a sign in the distance, and we walk over to see what that is all about. DSC_0022

It’s a trail that takes one down into the canyon below. Beautiful, but it looks like quite a hike back up out of there so, no Boys, we’re not going down there. It’s warming right up, and a sign warning about snakes keeps us at the top lest we change our minds.  I walk the guys around the dirt parking lot for a bit before heading out.

Back out on the highway we loop back around and begin heading back east toward Shiprock, spotting some interesting sights to stop and photograph.

DSC_0024 It’s good to have photos to show you again.  Lesson learned on that!

Thanks coming to Four Corners with us! Hugs, Shawna

 

 

Durango, Colorado and Mesa Verde National Park

After the marvelous tour of the Aztec Ruins we get back on Hwy 550 and head north to Durango, Colorado where we find Walmart and get our supplies and ice before catching Hwy 160 toward Cortez, Colorado.

Looking for a place to stop for the night we come up short and end up staying in a rest area just a mile beyond the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park. Any port in a storm, right?

We are up early and 2DogsTravel can’t wait to go through another ancient ruins area.  My senior pass gets us into the park for free, but guided tours here require a purchased ticket available at the visitor center that is located below the entrance to the park itself.

The ancient people who settled here were cliff dwellers and the tours involve a lot of climbing,  some steep stairways, and ladders so I forego the tours, choosing instead to get the best photographs I can from afar, which of course, I haven’t found for this marvelous stop either. *SIGH*.

The park is huge, and we spend almost the entire day here. Lots of driving, and climbing in and out of the van getting photographs of this land the Pueblo people made their home over 700 years ago.

One can see the dwellings just fine, but you miss out on a lot of information by not taking the tours.  I do purchase several informational brochures so I don’t think we miss any of the facts by not taking a guided tour, but I know I miss a lot of the personal observations a guide would have given.

  • The park protects over 4500 known archeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings.
  •  The cliff dwelling known as Cliff Palace includes 150 rooms, 75 constructed open areas, 21 kivas, and two “kiva-like” structures.
  • Balcony House has 38 rooms and two kivas.  The site is divided into three plazas or courtyards with associated rooms:  Lower Plaza, North Plaza, and the Kiva Plaza.
  • The six-mile long Mesa Top Loop Drive shows the full range of architecture in this national park from the earilest pit houses to the cliff dwellings. 
  • The Puebloans lived here for six centuries, from around A.D. 600 until about 1300.

Read about the magnificent Mesa Verde National Park HERE , and if you are in this area it is MUST SEE.  They have a campground in this park, places to eat, and much more.

The Boys and I end up back at the rest area where I observe a guy go to the back of the rest area where he goes through what looks like a locked gate. He’s gone for a while, but once he comes back out we go to inspect the area where we find the gate isn’t actually locked, but a sign cautions to keep the gate closed.

The method for keeping the gate closed involves a heavy chain that is looped around a post and one of the links is to be inserted into a channel cut in the iron.  This keeps the gate closed and from afar it appears to be a locked gate.

It is BLM land!  BLM land means public access is allowed, and we trot back to MissAdventure , fire her up, drive through the gate closing it behind us, and find a spot to camp for the rest of the week. It’s good to be shut down for a few days and just kick back in the cooler temps of the mountains.  Warm days, not hot days, and wonderfully cool nights make for some good rest.

On August 12th, rested up and rarin’ to go we head to Cortez, a short 10 mile drive, where we find the dog park.  The Chiweenie Brothers get their freedom to roam for a couple of hours.

Once The Boys are worn out and ready for a nap, I then mark the required Walmart stop off our list, and begin planning our next stop.  Do we take in Canyon of the Ancients? Four Corners? Hoven Weep?  All three?  Decisions are to be made, but we’ll worry about that tomorrow.  Walmart is our stop for the night, and as I lay my head down on the pillow a decision is made on where we’ll head tomorrow.

Thanks for coming along with us on our adventures. Hugs, Shawna

CURRENT READ:  What you Did by Claire McGowan

Aztec Ruins, Aztec NM

August 8 – 11, 2019.  Leaving Navajo Lake State Park we take Hwy 527 back out to Hwy 64. Winding our way along the two-lane highway passing opposing traffic consisting of at least 100 white work trucks making their way east hauling various items: Tanks of some kind of liquid, various types of small equipment, spare tires. Because of the small oil wells and a Conoco storage facility we pass I am guessing these vehicles are on their way to do something related to the oil industry.

Enjoying our early morning drive, we soon come to Hwy 550.  It’s our intention to head up to Durango, Colorado for supplies, but first a stop in Aztec NM for a bite to eat, a walk for the boys, and time outside the library where I get some blogging done, a request sent for mail forwarding, and some bills paid while internet is available.

I love the libraries where their internet is available right in the parking lot.  Makes it so much easier to get done what needs to be done and not have to worry about The Boys. The Chiweenie Brothers are spoiled.  

Once all the “To-Do’s” are taken care of we head out only to spot a sign for The Aztec Ruins National Monument.  This is something I want to see. I motor into their parking lot, and fortunately there is a huge shade tree with no one parked under it. With the windows down a bit I know The Chiweenie Brothers will be fine while I take a look see.

First, however, a short walkabout for them; they have been so patient waiting for me to get that to-do list taken care of. It’s a lovely walk through the native plants botanical gardens, The Boys enjoying sniff and hike time.  Okay guys, back in the van, you can’t go into the ruins, so be good and take a nap.

Barking their fool heads off as I dare to leave them behind, I wait just outside the entrance to the visitor’s center until they settle down.  Once I am out of site they are quiet, giving up the attempt to convince me they need to go with me.

A short orientation before the guided tour begins I learn that the Aztec Indians (who are from Mexico) did not build these ruins, it was the ancestral Pubelo people who lived here centuries before the Aztec empire prospered.  Inspired by popular histories about Cortez’s conquest of Mexico, and thinking that the Aztec built these structures, Anglo settlers name the place Aztec, and it was never changed.

Highlights of this very interesting tour:

  • Life span for the people who settled here from the late 1000s to the late 1200s averaged only 30 years of age.
  •  Timbers for building this ancient city were hauled from 80 miles away without the use of draft animals.  Think about that!
  • Rock for building was brought in, by hand, from 30 miles away.
  • Not all of the ruins here have been excavated.  There are many more in this area, but will be left unearthed, because what is excavated needs to be maintained.
  •  The West Ruin is the largest of the houses and had at least 500 rooms that rose to three stories.  It was a public building akin to our modern public buldings like civic centers or places of worship.  Excavation revealed original roofs with centuries old wood and vast desposits of well-preserved artifacts.
  • Archaeologists believe once the Pueblo people got their community built and they had “more time on their hands”, they began the art of decorating their pottery, and beautiful pottery it is. Ancient “interior decorating”.
  •  The Pueblo people made blankets from turkey feathers.

I took many photos here, which I haven’t found, but you can learn more about and see some photos of this wonderful national treasure HERE.

If you are ever in this part of New Mexico, this is a must see!! Admission is FREE and so is the guided tour.  Don’t miss it!

Thanks for stopping by 2DogsTravel, and for being so patient with this mess of losing my photographs.  Hugs, Shawna