and drink plenty of it

Traveling Them Thar Hills

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Valley of Fires BLM Campground/Carrizozo, NM

One would think, with the name being Valley of Fires, that just maybe it would be a tad bit on the warm side – well maybe thousands of years ago, when the lava was flowing red hot it was! Anyway, Valley of Fires is a very quiet and serene place to just kick back and relax a few days, and since leaving Elephant Butte last week, that is exactly what we have been doing. If you want to know what a person hard of hearing hears, come to this place – not a sound anywhere, and the views for miles out onto the lava flows are wonderful, as are the well maintained trails throughout the park.  

We have thoroughly enjoyed our week here hiking the trails, geocaching, and just some down time to chill out – literally with temperatures at night sometimes down to 17 degrees – we haven’t done a good job of following our 68 degrees, but we have pretty much figured out how to live it and enjoy what we have.  

The BLM campground is a good one ($18.00 a night with senior pass $9.00) with very nice new-looking and very clean bathrooms with large shower stalls. There are 14 good sized electrical sites here, most of them aren’t level so you need blocking to drive up on the low side. 

There is a paved path through a portion of the lava fields, with information placed periodically to let you know the how and why of this ancient lava flow – very informative. We walk the 2/3 mile trail, at least once daily with Calle – she loves it. It is permissible to go off the path and explore more if you like, but we try to keep off the lava flow because parts can be as sharp as glass for her pads. This lava flow happened some 5000 years ago; Little Black Peak erupted and flowed 44 miles into the Tularosa Basin four to six miles wide and 160 feet thick. It’s considered one of the youngest flows in the US. 

It seems everywhere we go, we have questions about what we observe, and we are really appreciating the information made available. As you will see in some of the pictures below, we found a fence post and barbed wire out in the middle of some of the lava flow, or at least it looks like the fence and wire was there first, but that is highly unlikely since the lava flow is any where between 3000 and 5000 years old – interesting anyway. What I wonder about is the lava appears to wrap around the fence post and barbed wire going through the lava. Now how do you figure that. I don’t know but sure made me wonder!



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Inside the City of Rocks/Weather Guessers

When you talk to hosts and rangers at the state parks you can sometimes find out interesting things that most people passing through don’t get to find out. Such was the case when we were staying at Rockhound State Park; we were informed of a “secret” about a few ancient petroglyphs at the City of Rocks. We didn’t know anything about them on our last visit, so it was fun to explore and go find them this visit. There are seven of them scattered throughout the towering rock formations, and not everybody can see them just walking through- it helps to have some inside knowledge ( if you ask the right people, they will give you a sheet with some hints as to where to find them). Michelle was lucky enough to obtain the magic sheet and on one of our exploring days we set off to find all of them. I’m not sure how old they are, but you can tell they are the real thing once you get to them. Keep in mind these rocks were pushed up from volcanic activity a very long time ago, apparently the rocks were always there, they were just covered with soft earth that was eventually removed by time and the natural elements of wind and rain. So the petroglyphs up high on the large rocks were probably made at a time when the earth was covering most of the formation of rock. It would be interesting to see what this place will look like in 500 years, if there are still people around who will care. Finding the petroglyphs was a fun adventure, a little bit like a treasure hunt, you follow the clues given and they are fairly easy to spot and walking through the rocks that are found in many shapes and sizes, as well as teetering on top of larger rocks is very interesting. Plus you get to see amazing birds of prey (owls and hawks to name two that we saw) perched on these rocks waiting for small critters to pounce on. So with the hints in hand we set out.. We found them all and they are very interesting!


The weather guessers had us moving 2 days before a storm was suppose to hit; we decided if we moved out of the City of Rocks early we could beat the predicted storm to Elephant Butte State Park (South Monticello) that I just adore because of the solitude of the place. Most people don’t want to be this far from civilization; that’s exactly why I love it so much! The clear, bright night skies with awe-inspiring stars, the stellar peace and quiet and the uncrowded park with wide open spaces is everything I want! This park also provides a closer distance to get Michelle to the Albuquerque airport to fly out to Salt Lake City to see our granddaughter. So with good weather the day we decided to travel, we drove the distance to the airport, about a two hour drive – all freeway. It happened to be Christmas Day and we had the road almost all to ourselves. I was back to Huey about the same time she landed in SLC! 

The next day the weather guessers finally got one correct; I experienced 19 degree weather with 37 mph winds with a major snowstorm blizzard like conditions, really not what we expect on the desert in New Mexico! The snow during the night was completely horizontal and actually fun to watch because it never got a chance to land and stick. But Huey shook and groaned all night and the next day from the wind. The drop off behind Huey was pretty deep with snow, I really thought about throwing Calle off the edge and into the drift just to see what she would do. But I decided not to cause I thought I might have to rescue her. This whole storm was as intense as the guessers said it would be. I’m just glad we were at the edge of it and not getting the full brunt of the storm that eastern New Mexico and Roswell got. They had 10 foot drifts of snow and they are still trying to dig out of it. So there you have it – just another new adventure in the days of moving along the highway. 

We really like the little heater that my Dad used in his garage to do his projects. It’s a very compact size, but keeps Huey very warm during temperatures down to 15 degrees outside. We have the one that my Mom gave to us, that was Dad’s in our bedroom and Michelle found another at a garage sale in Port Orford for 5 bucks that we use in the front of the RV. Between the two of them blasting at night we can keep the indoor temp at 65 degrees, very comfortable. At full blast they’re using 20 amps, saving our propane for other times – may as well use free electricity! 



Meandering from New Mexico State Park to NMSP, weather permitting…

14 days is the maximum you can stay at a New Mexico State Park, before they move you out; guess they don’t want any long-term homesteaders! We have learned most of the ins and outs of the rules; it’s a real bargain and in the spring we bought the yearly camping pass for 225 dollars – the pass is good at any New Mexico State Park for one year from date of purchase and we’re using ours up before we head into Arizona to finish up our winter in the southwest. Sites with electricity and water are only four additional dollars per day, if you want to boondock in a park, there is no extra fee above your pass price. The parks are beautiful, well-maintained and spaces are far apart for lots of privacy and the price is more than right – where else can you get a great view site for that price? Most of the parks have a bit of a challenge for an RV at 40 feet, but so far our luck in finding a wonderful site has been 100% and it has made our journey very nice. Having cell phone service (with A T &T) has been a challenge as well at several of the parks. But most of all New Mexico State parks have beautiful clean modern bathrooms with showers. They do a great job with these parks and it shows. 

After we left Rockhound State Park, we drove to City of Rocks, south of Silver City. The challenge at this park is there are only 4 non reservable spots with electricity; but perfect timing for us again and we lucked out and got the best spot in the place! ( E6 with 50 amp service box). We love the beautiful natural rock formations and it was a very relaxing time doing what we did in February (exploring all the rocks, hiking to the top of Table Rock) plus other things that Michelle had on a want to do list. The biggest one on that list for me was to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, so one day we took the long drive through San Lorenzo, Mimbres, and Lake Roberts on highway 61, and then hwy 35. The drive is very pretty and different from most of New Mexico that we are seeing, which is dry desert without much for trees or other vegetation. We climbed in elevation and it was very pretty up there, even saw a little snow on the ground in places. From Lake Roberts, where there are two campgrounds that only cost 9 bucks for a senior with a senior card, we took hwy15 to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. We will stay at Lake Roberts one of these trips through here, but the temperatures will have to be about 15 degrees warmer at night, it’s a pretty high elevation, but such a pretty view of the lake down below the campground. 

As far as the Gila Cliff Dwellings, we were totally blown away by the whole experience; It is truly amazing and really humbles one seeing these most precious places of our ancestors! We had many questions that are all answered, but one remains for me: Back then, when the Mogollon people built this dwellings 700 to 800 years ago, I wonder how did they find them? It took hours for us to get there in a car, up big hills and mountains with ever changing environments. The ancient people had to walk everywhere they went, a long and arduous task, to say the least – how did they happen on to these natural volcanic Cliff alcoves (five of them in all and one that isn’t accessible.)

There is a creek down below for water and this whole place is hidden very well from a casual passerby. They didn’t have planes to spot this from air or cars to get there fast. So how could they be so lucky to just happen by this great area, for a perfect place to build their stone and mortar dwellings. If you ever get a chance, go see it; it’s worth every penny, and my senior pass got us in free, so that is even better! 

On another day we came back into Silver City to see things we missed back in Feburary, and to eat at a restaurant that has good ratings for food and service. We both enjoyed it very much and it happened to be our wedding anniversary, or close enough anyway. The name of the place is Curious Kumquat; we ate lunch there, but from what we read, the Chefs Choice dinner could be a very interesting experience. 

We are always watching the weather, during the winter, but especially here in New Mexico. Our stay at City of Rocks was cut short by 3 days because of an in coming storm and we were up against our two week stay limitation, so we decided to head back to Elephant Butte State Park, so we could start out fresh and get Michelle closer to the Albuquerque airport, so she could go see our beloved granddaughter Charlotte – her withdrawal symptoms are worse than drug withdrawal! She also gets to see John and Jen, as well as fly into Bend, OR to see our other daughter Chenin and her husband Bryce!

While staying at City of Rocks I got to make a short trip to see my Mom for her 90th Birthday, it was great to see my younger brother Bernard and his lovely wife Alice too! It was a long drive, but a big 90th only comes around once, so gotta go for it! . 

The road back to Silver City