Thursday, April 30, 2020

Albuquerque, NM to Colorado City, Colorado

We had an uneventful drive and stay in Albuquerque, NM.   The American RV Park left our paperwork outside for our arrival and they filled every other site to help us all keep our distance - much appreciated.

One of the things I love about traveling around the country is seeing how drastically the landscape changes from one place to another.    On the way to Albuquerque we drove through red sandstone slickrock formations and the next day found us rolling through the high, blond plains of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

We knew we were getting close to our next destination when we began to see trees and get glimpses of  the snow capped Rockies.

We're got to the Pueblo South KOA last night (Colorado City) and were directed to another site with no one on either side.     There are plenty of people living here, but they are in another section.    The trees around our site are beginning to bud and are filled with birds.    They seemed to welcome us to their home.

a fancy Oriole's nest hangs over Beluga

They soared and chattered and gave us quite an air show.    I pitty any poor butterflies in the area, the Western Kingbirds are ruthless!

We decided to stay two nights here, there is no sense in rushing back to chilly and wet New York State at this point.   Taking a break from long distance driving every few days has always been our habit and we don't see any reason to change.

Today we took care of some boring business like vacuuming, cooking a few meals, paying some bills, scraping the bugs off Beluga's nose and customizing the fit and comfort of our face masks.

rearranging elastic bands

After all that was done we decided we'd take an hour or so and check out our surroundings.   Green Horn Mountain looks down on us here and I at least wanted to get up into the pine trees at it's feet.

We followed SR 165 up into the Wet mountains.   At about 8500 feet we came upon pretty Lake Isabel.   It was originally created as a reservoir for a large (since closed) steel mill in Pueblo but is now managed by the Forest Service as a recreation area. We've had a low cloud cover all day so the pictures don't do the lake justice.

nature's camouflage.....see the bird?

see him yet?

a new-to-us Spotted Sandpiper was spotted working the shoreline

A few miles up the road we came upon a really cool building!   We noticed it because there were 3 cars pulled off the road and we wondered what they were doing.   Didn't seem to be any trails into the forest and then we saw it....

It's called Bishop Castle and has been built (is still being built) stone by stone, by one man - Jim Bishop. 

The castle is an incredible building, three stories high, built of stone and iron.   It even has a fire breathing (a burner from a hot air balloon installed in it's "throat") dragon!   This place has to be seen to be believed.   

We didn't go inside, though sorely tempted, because there were already a few people exploring there.   Darn this virus.....

the builder juxtaposed lacy ironwork and rough stone

gatehouse and drawbridge 

interesting stone lifting machine

We spent time outside and vowed that we'll come back to check out the inside next time we're in this area.     Mr. Bishop sounds like an "interesting" and talented character.   Sprinkled around the site were hand lettered (by him) signs helping us to understand his philosophy of life.    Google Bishop Castle, if you're interested!

We were back at Beluga in time for Happy Hour and dinner.   In the morning we'll pack up and continue our trip.    Next stop - Goodland, Kansas!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

On the road again

Our first night's stop was at Homolovi State Park, near Winslow, Arizona (Yes, I can hear you singing.....).    Actually, we stayed two nights so we could have a little time to see some of the Hopi ancestral sites there.

my restful view across the high desert plains

The campground sites are very widely spaced so we knew social distancing would not be a problem.

my kind of social distancing
a noisy neighbor this morning

It was a very hot day and, of course, we didn't get going early in the cool morning, so we satisfied ourselves with a short walk along the orangey, muddy Little Colorado River and down a dirt road to wander among the remnants of Homolovi I, the smaller of the two pueblo mounds that are available to see.

  Many of these dwellings were vandalized and looted, ancient building materials sometimes reused by the Mormon settlers to construct their own dwellings.  Such devistation  resulted in the creation of the State Park.   The effort to preserve these relics consisted of  excavation of the remaining area, cataloging, then lining the underground dwellings with landscape fabric and burying them.   This procedure protects them from weather and further vandalization.     Edges of black material sticking up through the ground show the rooms that have been explored

black material above ground shows the outline of what is below the surface

We wandered along, enjoying the peace and quiet of the high desert landscape.    We saw part of a wall left uncovered for people to see the careful construction below.

The ground under our feet was littered with small pottery sherds and cutting stones.    Reminders of the people who once lived here 600 to 800 years ago.   

Not as visually impressive as the other large Native American structures we've seen, it was a quietly moving experience nonetheless.

A little later we drove out to the larger Homolovi 11 site but there was a car there so we decided to follow a dirt road we'd spied a few miles back.   We're suckers for dirt roads.     It ended rather unceremoniously at a gate with a cattle tank on the other side, but we did manage to find a few very worn petroglyphs on the rocky outcroppings we passed.

This sharp looking Shrike (aka Butcher bird) kept an eye on us until we drove away.

Tonight we're staying in Albuquerque, New Mexico and tomorrow we'll continue our trek home.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Two last drives

Spring Mountains tower over Las Vegas

Thursday we set off to find a different sort of landscape.     Our destination was the Mt. Charleston area in the snow capped Spring Mountains.     It was a long drive, but we enjoyed the changing views and marveled at the wide new road systems growing along that edge of Las Vegas.    Seems someone is expecting new growth.....

This area is a little over 70 miles northwest of Boulder City and the scenery is very different.   The elevation of about 8500 feet resulted in tall pines and snow with no wildflowers.   Mt. Charleston itself is much higher, but we didn't get up that high on our drive.     A real change from the environment we've been in.

The weather has been steadily heating up in the desert below so the roads and trails were full of people parking in the scenic view areas, playing in the snow and hiking - sans masks and any sort of social distancing.   

Since neither of us really enjoy snow, nor the company of that many oblivious people, we contented ourselves with a loop drive to see what the area had to offer.

On the last leg of the loop road, a dirt track called to us so we turned off the paved road and up onto a flat plateau with beautiful views of the snowy peaks and  blessed solitude.

see Dave?

Yesterday Pam and John invited us to accompany them to the quirky town of Chloride, Arizona, about 60 miles to the south.    We never pass up a chance to see something new, especially with friends, so off we all went.

Pam told us about some really interesting rock paintings, murals,  just past the little town - they were our destination.  We drove through the town of about 350 people and out the other side on a dry, rocky road, following "signs" painted on large rocks. 

this way

that way

   We passed the remnants of silver mines that made the town famous by 1870, swelling it's population to 5000 people.    By 1917, however, it was virtually a ghost town and today the hardy souls live quietly and as they please.    There is a small restaurant, a post office, an rv "park", a VFW (or was it an American Legion?) and a combination of run down abodes surounded by junk piles, neat and tidy manufactured homes and quirky places displaying "art installations" made from found objects.   More than one garland made of colorful broken glass bottle necks decorated porches and fences.

a townie getting ready to plow

I'm never comfortable photographing people's homes so I can't really give you a good flavor of Chloride.

tiny, weedy lawn town

So, back to the Murals.    They were painted in 1966 by Roy Purcell.   His canvas was 2000 square feet of granite boulders and cliff faces.

Their colors remain brilliant as a result of Purcell retouching them once in 1975 and again in 2006 to celebrate his 70th birthday.

They are called "The Journey: Images from an Inward Search for Self"  and are to be read from right to left.    No matter what these images mean, they are stunning and so very detailed.

Interestingly, these murals exist amongst native american petroglyphs.

You just never know what you'll find when you set off down a dirt road in the desert!

We head for home in the morning.....stay tuned.