Monday, July 6, 2015

Back home

We arrived "home" on Friday afternoon after a longish drive from Raton, NM.  We'll be here in Golden until we take off to explore more of Colorado in mid-August.  

We all had a quiet 4th of July, the way we like it.   Sasha has always had real problems with thunder/fireworks (the reason she was released from Guiding Eyes for the Blind all those years ago), so we didn't want to leave her alone while we went to watch the 4th of July displays.    Not much of a sacrifice really.    Dave grilled some delicious shrimp and then we settled down for the evening.

It was hot and very windy last night so we had the windows closed,  air conditioning running, and the tv on.    It must have been enough insulation from the banging outside because she slept soundly in front of "her" fan all evening.  What an exciting couple we are!

Today, while our searching for somewhere to buy rhubarb (someone's traditional birthday pie) we came upon an unusual and fragrant local attraction.   A rose garden.

 A rose garden planted and cared for by inmates in the Jefferson County Jail.

no...this is not an inmate

 A rose garden on the site of a former landfill.

A rose garden with over 400 varieties

Hmmmmm, I seem to have only taken pictures of pink varieties, I wonder what that means.....   Perhaps it was the black sky and rumbling thunder that caused me to only really linger in one area, the pink section, before hi tailing it back to the jeep.     There were whites, and pale yellows.  Deep crimson, neon yellow, pale lilac and salmon.   Red stripes, yellow stripes, most any color a rose comes in was represented.  

Sadly, it seems there must be a waning interest in maintaining this garden.  Maybe there are no more inmates in the jail?    Budget constraints perhaps?

Weeds are taking over the rose beds and prickers are invading the stone walkways.   The grass needs mowing badly, and the edging is....well not edging anymore.    Too bad because these roses are growing valiantly despite their recent neglect.    Maybe the rose inmates have been reassigned, released, escaped?

This afternoon we enjoyed the traditional 4th of July meal of hot dogs and macaroni salad with Jesse and Erin at their house in Denver and right now, Dave is happily watching the rain delayed NASCAR race on network tv.   Since we don't have cable or satellite tv he hasn't been able to see a race in quite awhile, so its a good end to a good day.

Tomorrow Beluga gets her chipped windshield repaired, oh goody!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Sugarite Canyon

The drive from Santa Fe to Golden, Colorado would have been too many miles for us to drive in one day, so I looked for an overnight stop somewhere near the New Mexico/Colorado border.    We've never spent any time in the north east corner of New Mexico, so I thought Sugarite Canyon State Park would be a good place to spend a couple quiet days.     We found an empty spot in the Lake Alice (yes, Mike, another Lake Alice) campground and shoehorned big Beluga into it facing the wrong way.    This is a tiny little campground and if we had backed into the designated back in site, our door would have opened right into the campground road.

I was a bit skeptical about our surroundings, the woods were deep and untamed and our particular site looked quite unkempt.    The steep canyon sides that rose up around us showed the devastation of a recent (2011) forest fire.

 No cell, internet or tv signals reached us at the bottom of this canyon.   Hmmm, I wondered if staying here was one of my best ideas.      We were tired, so decided to just deal with things for the night and reevaluate in the morning.  

Turns out this little, rough campground was just the ticket for us.    We were met by "Ole Ben" (yep, thats what he called himself) a delightfully scruffy camp host who made sure we were settled and happy.    He offered help if we wanted it, but also told us that he was sure Dave and I knew each other better than he did and could probably get ourselves into site 5 just fine on our own....he was right.

He didn't tell us, however, about the militant little hummingbirds that owned our site.     As we started to get set up they flew in and got right in our faces.  I mean, RIGHT in our faces.   They zoomed in and hovered at eye level just inches away from our eyes.   It was clear they expected to be fed and pronto.    I followed their instructions, found and filled our hummingbird feeder and hung it the closest tree.   They started feeding immediately and left us to our tasks.  

I tried to get a decent picture to show you, but they weren't having any of it.   They zoomed in for a drink, then zoomed up to a bare branch and chattered at us.  In and out, in and out all day long.   Too funny!

We ended up really enjoying this quiet disconnected campground.   We sat outside watching the little tyrants, read, ate, and went to bed when we were sleepy.   Deer moved silently through the deep underbrush next to our sitting area, paying no attention to us whatsoever.  

The next morning, after second cup, we drove further into the canyon to see what we could see.    The fire in 2011 was devastating to this area, but it allowed some lush greenery to grow up and it was filled with wildflowers.

Lake Alice is just a mere wide spot in the creek, but further into the canyon we came upon a much larger lake, Lake Maloya.   We drove over a high earthen dam with a cement spillway letting water out into the canyon.

looking down the spillway from the top of the dam

  Bluebirds, Orioles, Grosbeaks, hummingbirds, and various flycatchers were in abundance around the water.    We often stopped abruptly to whip out the binoculars and follow a flash of color into the low locust shrubs.

We drove around the lake for a bit, then turned up the hill to check out the other, first come first served campground loop.      It was high on the top of the canyon with fabulous views all around and impressive cap rock cliffs soaring above.  Ole Ben suggested a short but straight up and strenuous trail to the top of Little Horse Mesa for stunning views, but we declined.    It sounded like it was right up Pam and John's alley though!

  Soda Pocket Campground is suitable for smaller campers as the long road up is rough and twisty.     The road beyond the campsites kept climbing and became a muddy single track so we turned around and set off in search of the nearby (so I thought) Capulin Volcano National Monument.

We drove into Raton and planned on heading east on route 64, but there were several police cars ahead, turning traffic around so we needed to make a last minute adjustment.   It looked like we could take a parallel road (route 72) and arrive at the Volcano, so thats what we did.   The road was parallel to route 64, but it was narrow and filled with holes and heaves.   It climbed steadily up to the top of a mesa where it continued through hundreds of acres of high, lush cattle range land.    We saw not one house for miles and miles.   Dave is so good;  he just kept on driving, assuming I knew where we were going.    I thought I did, but was beginning to wonder!   Long story short, we arrived at the Capulin Volcano National Monument (via the long route)  at 4:15 - and found out it closes at 5.  

Capulin Volcano

We just had time to drive up the steep spiraling park road  until we reached the top of the cone, 1300 feet above the plains below.   No guard rails, no shoulder, just two lanes and a terrific drop off.      I didn't lift my eyes from the jeep's floor til we reached the rim and then oh what a view I had.   The ranger said we could see 100 miles in every direction.

view of  Sierra Grande from the crest of Capulin Volcano.
Sierra Grande is another extinct volcano
rising 2200 feet above the surrounding plains

There are a number of trails at the Volcano including a rim trail and a crater vent trail where you can actually walk down into the plugged vent of the volcano!   Unfortunately, poor planning on my part made it impossible for us to take either of these cool trails.

Back down the twisty road we went, this time on the inside lane - much better for me!

We both thoroughly enjoyed our stop in the Raton area and would most certainly stop again on our way through this part of the state.    We came with absolutely no plans or agenda and, once again, found many unexpected pleasures.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Last day in Santa Fe, for now

Tuesday was our last day in Santa Fe so we went back down into the Plaza area for one more dose of color and taste.

these paper flowers would look gaudy anywhere else

I couldn't resist going in, could you?

mmmm, bourbon chocolate truffle possums -

colorful entrance to the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

Wednesday we pulled away from Santa Fe and drove north to Raton, on the New Mexico/Colorado border.  Our destination was a new one to us, Sugarite Canyon State Park.   More on that stay tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

autohiking north on Monday

I packed lunch and we headed north on US 84 towards Abiquiu around 10 a.m. yesterday.    This is Georgia O'Keeffe country and we looked forward to seeing her inspiration.   A reservation is required to tour her home, and we didn't have one, so we were content to just drive around and experience the landscape.

We came upon Abuquiu Reservoir, a Corps of Engineers developed water recreation area and decided it was the perfect spot for lunch.

Dave checks out our potential lunch spot

It was warm and so very quiet.   There were a few people enjoying the water  and picnicking on its shores, but otherwise it was just us and the birds.   We enjoyed watching a pair of Western Grebes diving and fishing for their lunch.

The shore was lined with smooth pink rocks punctuated with tiny yellow flowers.  A perfect spot to just sit and enjoy the world.

All good things must come to an end.    Luckily we were finished eating and were just soaking up the sun and the sights when a group of about 10 motorcycles pulled in.     They dismounted and swarmed over one end of the shoreline, erecting a sun shade, and talking loudly about their drive up.    Loudly.    Pretty soon their "chase" truck arrived complete with an onboard gas grill and lots of large coolers.    Tables were set up, grilling and drinking commenced - time for us to go!

We continued down the road to find the Corps. of Engineer's Campground.   It is quite nice, we'd love to stay there the next time we're in the area.   Further along we came to the earthen dam and visitor's center, with more beautiful views of the water.

We left the Reservoir area with a promise to return the next time we're in northern New Mexico.      Instead of driving back the way we came (something Dave almost never opts to do) we continued north on US 84 intending to turn west on US 64, then south on US 284 and back into Santa Fe.    More spectacular scenery.

We saw a National Forest Service sign for Echo Amphitheater so we made a quick left, put our National Park Service card on the dash and set off on a wide, flat path toward the sounds of squealing children.

If you know us, you know that walking toward the sound of squealing, shrieking children is not something we normally do

The path led us up through a cool stand of stunted trees and underbrush, past small flowering cactus and fantastic rock formations.   Little girls high pitched voices urged us on.

It was absolutely wonderful hearing the little voices echoing off the natural echo chamber before us.    The kids were mesmerized by their voices bouncing around, they were crazy about how far their voices would carry and so were we.   They were doing what we would have done years ago, before our adult filters made us aware of politeness, of not bothering other people, of not looking or sounding foolish.   They did what we secretly wanted to do.

looking directly over my head in the amphitheater

The kids were herded away and we were finally there alone.   A different experience all together, equally wonderful to be there in silence with only birdsong echoing off the walls.     We stayed awhile until the sound of thunder began to ricochet around us.     Uh Oh.....time to hot foot it back to the car.  

By the time we got buckled up and ready to drive the sky was dark.    We decided to just continue on our route and see what the weather would be.   Its only rain after all.

The ride along US 64 took us high along a ridge in the Carson National Forest.    It was lined with tall pines, ferns and wild flowers.

   We stopped at tiny Hopewell Lake (9500 feet above sea level) and watched people fish for awhile.    It was a beautiful ride, it was a long ride, but altogether a beautiful one.   When we got back to Beluga at 5:30 we realized that we'd driven over 230 miles!    No wonder we were tired!

We leave Santa Fe tomorrow.   We'll  spent a couple days at Sugarite Canyon just at the border of New Mexico and Colorado before heading back up to Golden, Colorado.