Saturday, February 28, 2009

brantley lake state park
cold butt, the back way, in-town bicycling,
living desert, not into travel

Crossed the Pecos once more, making it number nine for this trip and still no Bill.

The park is 16 miles NE of Carlsbad. During the two weeks I stayed here last winter, there were only a half dozen RVs or so each night. Not so this winter, however. Quite a few more rigs but most of the electric sites are nicely spread out. The reservation sites are #1 – 29 and mostly empty except for the two hosts and two or three other rigs each night (kind of a waste). The other electric sites (#30 – 51) have been at least half full most nights. People generally only stay for one to three days. The disperse area, down by the water, does not have designated sites. One just sets up wherever. Sometime I’ll set up the camper where I took the shot of my bike.

There are a couple trails for walking, as well as, a shoreline to explore. One can bike on the trails and ride down to the primitive camping area. You can also bike up the road in front of the park (north to the ‘T’, then left) to the old dam. It will take about half an hour each way. On any of the days I took this route, not one vehicle was on the roads. My kind of road.

There are a couple of biking trails in town. One is along the southern canal (you will pass over it as you go into town, just past Pate St.). Park by the Eddy Flue along Calloway, just north of the Carlsbad Medical Center. The canal goes for a few miles all the way through to the south end of town. For a nice ride along the Pecos River, take a left at the light by Albertson’s (Church St.), heading east, go to the end, and park at the Municipal Beach Park. There is a low dam here and as you can see from the photo, the Pecos is allowed to back up. I know, it sure does not look like the Pecos. There is a walking/bicycling path along both sides of the river for a couple miles. The shot was taken from the footbridge across the river just above the dam so it’s easy to bike on either side. In addition, a boat house by the swimming area, rents kayaks for $10 an hour and 4-seat peddle boats for $14 an hour. Very nice.

Meadow, Onyx, and I are back to out dusk-walks. Sure did miss them at Bottomless.

The park must have gone in on a deal with the local correctional facility on toilets. The heads are seatless steel. Can’t be having crazy campers ripping off the seats and beating on other campers with them. Remember the term, ‘three dog night’ (a night is so cold that you need to sleep with three dogs)? Well here, you have ‘three strip mornings’. When it is cold, one wants three layers of TP between your butt and the cold, cold steel.

One thing that I remember from being here last year, is the stink. Open the door first thing in the morning and one gets a good whiff of the oil fields. It can be quite a stench but at least it’s not really noticeable during the day. Makes me miss the cow and waste smell up at Oasis. Maybe it’s time to get back out onto public land.

The hosts, Donald and Heather, have been coming back here for five winters and know quite a bit about the area. They both ride Catrike Tadpole trikes. It was my first time on a bike like this and it was way cool. They handle well, are extremely comfortable, fast, and it’s an awesome feeling being so close to the ground. The trikes only weigh 30 lbs, BUT costs $1800.

Most mornings I stop half way through my run to do Tai Chi. One morning, part way through the twenty minute form, a flock of birds kind of disrupted my frame of mind and I stopped. I know—it’s probably like sacrilegious. What got my attention was a ‘V’ formation of nearby low-flying geese going by without any honking what so ever. I thought this was way cool so I just stood there off the trail and watched them go by. Then turning back, here comes another formation—also flying in stealth mode. I got to thinking that these were probably not geese. Some of the ‘V’ formations were pretty ragged (like they did not have their equivalent of morning coffee and were still a bit groggy), some flights flew by in an offset line (like half a ‘V’), there were a few birds flying between the formations, the birds were a bit smaller than geese, and—they were silent. They turned out to be cormorants. All in all, 21 flights flew by in the next ten minutes or so without a sound. They must have been spread out two or three miles. The birds stay at the lake overnight and commute south for the day, returning at dusk. I ended up seeing them roughly every other morning. I love simple stuff like this. And yes, I did start the form over from the beginning.

A Canadian couple from Manitoba were camping for a two nights out in the disperse camping area. They had a 20’ KZ Sportsman; a nice looking rig. They were cruising around the states for a couple of months with two bird dogs. Gradually heading over to California for some field trials.

Another Canadian couple came through in a 19’ Roadtrek class B van. I might be looking into one of those rigs one year. Anyway, they spend four winter months down in the states but last year they spent most of that time in Australia. They did an RV swap so once they got to Australia, they had an RV to travel around in and it worked out well for both couples. That sounds interesting.

For a change from taking the highway into town, one can take a back way. Go out to the road in front of the park, turn left onto CR 30, when you get to the stop sign make a right onto CR 34, take a right at the next stop sign, and when you get to the next stop sign just keep going straight. The road will become Canal St, which is the main street through Carlsbad. For a very nice place to have breakfast, head east on Church St. (at Albertsons) for one block and make a right onto N. Canyon. Two blocks down is Blue House Café and Bakery. Can you guess what the building looks like?

The Mexican wolves and the bison were just outside the camper one morning. Oh wait—no, I forgot, they were at the Living Desert state park in Carlsbad. DEFINITELY worth a visit, and a steal at only $5. The six Mexican wolves sure cover a lot of ground each day, even in their limited space. One of them snarled at a smaller wolf while I was watching and it was definitely not a sound I would like to hear while I was out dry camping. Quite impressive. I’ve heard large dogs snarl but none came anywhere close to this sound.

The Carlsbad library installed wireless last year. They also converted their book exchange shelves to a book sale area. Still works well, though. Book prices are donations. In the same building, with an entrance on Fox St., is the Carlsbad Museum and Art Center. Well worth a visit.
On the next block is Calloway’s Café; a popular place to eat but I had the worst omelet there that I have ever attempted to eat. The other entrees must be probably fine.

The antique mall on Canyon St. offered wi-fi last year at their coffee shop. I didn’t get a chance to check it out this trip. Across the street is the Artist Gallery, an artist co-op with quite a range of arts and crafts. Almost bought a beautiful Damascus TRL handmade knife. All his work was fabulous and the prices were very reasonable. At least I left with a wooden bowl.

If you need to have a package delivered to you while staying in the area, you can have it sent to Pac N Mail on Canal St in Carlsbad. They charge $1.50 to hold it for you and will give you a call when it comes in.

One night, Alan Hale of Hale-Bopp comet fame presented a star program. Hale and Bopp, independently, happened to find a new comet on the same night. What are the chances of that? Hale lives in nearby Cloudcroft, NM. There were a number of telescopes set up after the slide presentation. Not bad.

I have finch feeder hanging outside the back window, a suet cage hanging in a nearby tree, and I sprinkle wild bird seed on the ground. So we get to watch a lot of birds up close. Lately there has been an unexpected guest. He’s pretty quiet though.

Well, this is it for my three electric months. Probably won’t be hooked up again until December, other than maybe while visiting friends. I can’t see how most do this year round. Looking forward to checking out some FRs in Gila National Forrest on my way north next month.

Finding this lifestyle enjoyable seems somewhat strange to me in that I have never really been into travel, nor am I really into it now. I did, however, really enjoy bicycling through Europe for nine weeks with a girlfriend back in ’79. My idea of ‘traveling’ is to drive a couple hours down secondary roads, turn onto dirt roads for a few miles, and find a place to camp for a couple weeks. Then I check out the area with my hiking boots, running shoes, and mountain bike. The Cherokee generally gets to rest up during this time. Then it’s break camp and meander down the road for another couple of hours to another choice spot. No set route, things to see, places to go, miles to rack up. It’s probably more ‘roaming’ than ‘traveling’. Should be getting back to it next month. I tend to prefer what I can see from trails to what I can see from the asphalt. Not into the butt-voyeur concept of travel. Granted, I live on wheels, but I don’t do this lifestyle for the travel or to see the sights, but rather to live out in nature. That’s why I do not so much live in the camper, as just outside of it and follow the geese.

Being outside the conventionally straight and narrow is .... fun.


Friday, February 6, 2009

bottomless lakes state park

After a run, Tai Chi, and breakfast, we rolled out of Oasis. I stopped in the Do Drop In one more time for coffee and WiFi before heading south to Bottomless. Sure glad it was not windy during the drive. I would imagine that this 90-mile stretch can get gnarly with heavy winds. Passed over the Pecos twice more. That makes eight times so far on this trip. Still no Bill. Roswell has all the stores one would need. ‘Not of This World’ coffee shop at 209 N Main Street has wi-fi, sandwiches, and smoothies. That pretty much covers it. If you already had your morning coffee, go to the city library. It has faster wi-fi and plenty of nice widow nooks with power outlets.

The state park is 14 miles east of town.

The lakes were formed when underground water dissolved salt and gypsum deposits to form subterranean caverns. The roofs of these caverns eventually collapsed from their own weight forming sinkholes that then filled with water. Mirror Lake is two adjacent sinkholes. What’s strange is that there are fish in the south pond but the water in the north pond has too high a saline content to sustain fish.

The park has a 1¼ mile nature trail (Bluff Trail) connecting the lower lakes campground with Lea Lake campground. Three and a half miles up the road is a 3-mile mountain bike trail. It’s a nice change from Oasis where it was almost like running laps around a track since all the trail sections were so short. Nice sand running though.
There’s a nice one-hour loop with some nice views. Just north of Pasture Lake is an easy climb to the top of the bluff. Hike south towards Lea Lake. There’s no trail but it’s easy terrain. Hike down the gentle slope behind the shower house in the Lea Lake cg to get back down off the bluff. Walk around the lake and take the flat Bluff Trail back to the lower lakes cg. Or start at Lea Lake and go either clockwise or counter-clockwise. Either way is good.

When choosing a campsite, my first consideration is how it will work for Meadow and Onyx. I look for a site off a bit from other rigs and backs up to open land where M/O can go off and explore. Bottomless does not work for us. There is a public road only about 50 yards behind the camper so the felines pretty much stayed in except for an early 5:00 to 7:00 outing each morning. No walks at dusk. Guano. We’ll only stay a few days. For most campers, however, the campground would be fine. And more HOT showers! Hot damn!

On the first morning, I ran over to the disperse sites and also checked out the lakes (ponds). There is one disperse site that would work great for M/O and if I pass through here again, I’ll try to snag it. I like to stick to electric sites December through February though. There’s also another pretty good disperse site and a third that would be okay for Meadow and Onyx. I would have SO many more campsite choices without two felines but I would be missing out on WAY too much enjoyment.

I bicycled back to one of the disperse sites later that morning and stopped where there was a converted 1959 International school bus. WAY COOL! Dennis is from Oregon and has had the rig for over 20 years. As you can see, he did a fabulous job with the interior. He also made the rack on the back and does all the work on the inline six. The platform for his Honda is wide enough so one can sit in a chair up there. Over the back door is painted, ‘LET’ERRUST’. Siscily, you would love this bus! A couple more weeks in New Mexico and then Dennis and his feline are heading east to tour the country.

It is not the grand destination or the mileage
that makes the experience richer,
but rather the journey itself.


Monday, February 2, 2009

oasis state park, clovis points, LEDs,
and the snow moon

Stayed longer at Sumner Lake than I had intended. Except for the last few days, there was intermittent wireless coming from somewhere and was such a treat, I did not want to leave. Then a class A motorhome pulled into the site next to me even though there were other vacant sites not next to any rig. The gods were telling me to roll-on. Scooted over to Clovis before heading down to Oasis. I wanted to get supplies at a grocery store with more of a selection. Clovis is large enough that one could probably find whatever they need there.

This area has a number of dairies. I almost feel guilty with all the non-fat milk I drink. These cows are only milk-machines. Their black and white bodies are packed into large dirt pens with no room to roam let alone have any grass to graze. Not truly living—merely existing in perpetual black despair. There is a dairy two miles from the park and if there is no wind, one can easily smell all the cows and their waste early morning or evening.

The park offers 13 electric sites among cottonwoods. Three are reservation sites where one can only stay for one night without a reservation and a fourth site is taken by the host. The sites are pull-through and are laid out in-line so one can look out your side windows to the grasslands. If there isn’t a rig in the next site, there is a decent distance between RVs. Sure beats the standard side-by-side, sardines-in-a-tin layout. There is a network of trails (maybe a mile and a half) around the lake area and out in the grass covered dunes. No dirt roads to bicycle but the 2 mile road out to the highway has very little traffic so at least one can get in a token amount of leg work.

FINALLY—a hot shower! A long time coming—I was losing hope. Actually, it was a bit too hot. Never thought I would say that during the winter months. I ended up lookin’ like a boiled lobster. NM state park showers are not adjustable. Press the button and you get whatever comes out for twenty seconds.

Portales is 8 miles south. The library has a used book room with 25 cent paperbacks, 50 cent hardbacks, and $2 books-on-tape. It also offers wi-fi but it’s an old system so new laptops will not be able to access the web with it. The Do Drop In coffee shop (I won’t comment on that) a block away also offers wi-fi. Eastern NM University, at the end of town is another option. As you go into the library building, there are tables and outlets where you can sit down and access their wireless without going into the library. One can also drive back to Clovis which is only about 14 miles north of the park. The Clovis library on 7th and Main also provides wi-fi. One could probably blow their budget by staying in this park since there are so many places to spend money. The Portales laundromat is expensive but has plenty of machines and provides free wi-fi.

I walked on water. Well, I would have if there was water in the pond. As you can see from one of the photos—the pond is somewhat dry. It had a leak. A lot of leaks. The bentonite and red clay base became perforated after twenty years by crawfish, roots, and natural breakdown, letting the water drain through to the underlying sand. They worked on the problem last year, filled the 3acre pond back up, and the water drained out in two weeks. Next month they are going to scrape out 18” of clay, lay down a liner, cover it with the clay, and refill the pond. If it does not work, I guess they will be changing the name of the park.

The night sky is nowhere near as spectacular as it is at some of the other parks—too many lights off in the distance. A dairy out on the highway stays lit up like a ball field. The park is small and without the lake, it does not get much business. I like it for that reason; it’s quiet. During my first week, only one potential overnighter drove through, but then they continued right on out the park. The second week three rigs stopped, but only for one night. Didn’t even check out the trails.

Meadow, Onyx, and I are still going out for our half-mile walks at dusk. I attached a shot of one of our walks. Sometimes we just wander but mostly do an out-and-back or a loop. If we are heading out, Meadow is always in front. Once we start to head back, Onyx is ALWAYS in the lead. It’s a hoot. At least once during every walk, Meadow darts out of hiding along the trail, knocks Onyx over, and they tumble and roll along in the sand. I guess its payback since Onyx is always the one jumping on Meadow when inside the camper. Once they are in for the night they always get wiped down with a wet microfiber towel and brushed. Except for the first time out each morning at 5:00, the first thing they do every time they go out is roll in the dirt. The twits.

This shows where Meadow and Onyx frequently end up if the window cage is out. They jump up, grab the bars, climb up the side of the cage, and walk onto the roof. These two definitely keep toned. There is only one thing I do not like about them going up on the roof. If I am working inside at the bench and one of them jumps up and grabs the cage, it sounds like something large is slamming the side of it. It’s pretty loud and can have me starting to jump up off the stool. The twits.

The hosts fulltime in a Fleetwood Pioneer. When I was invited inside, I had a hard time believing the trailer is only 19’—it looks way bigger. As you walk in, there is a walk-around queen size bed to the right with a closet and a set of drawers all the way across the front of the trailer. To the left, the galley is on the far side with a dinette that seats four along the near wall. Across the back of the trailer is the bathroom with a tub and shower to the right of the bathroom door, sink in the middle, head to the left, and a 2-door closet at the end. The trailer rides on double axles so one can probably put a good deal of weight in it for extended travel. It has good ground clearance and three outside lockers. Very nice design. I’m kind of set on fiberglass trailers but the Pioneer might be worth looking into at some point.

Wish I had known about before I bought my LEDs a while back. Mine work okay but the design does not make good use of all 9 LEDs on their lamps. I recently installed some Superbright LED lamps (1156-PCBxWHP9) in cool white. MUCH better. I also bought some LEDs from, their RV LED Retrofit lamps. The Rigid Industry lamps are rated with more lumens than the Superbright and have a warm (yellow) light. I don’t have a strong preference for one over the other. The cool white from the Superbrights brighten up the camper more than the Rigid Industry ones but I like the Rigid Industry lamps over my bench when I’m doing my silverwork. I do way too much reading under both types and find either one works well. So I can’t make a call on it when people ask me for my preference although I know many have strong feelings for one or the other. I relegated my Prudent RVer lamps to I don’t need serious light.

Figured it was time to work the brain cells a bit so I started putting together a new web site. It’s been years since I have used Dreamweaver and BBEdit and worked with nested tables and css. It’s been fun but definitely frustrating at times. Need to start doing more stuff like this again.

I thought it was pretty cool being so close to where Clovis points originated. The points are associated with the North American Clovis culture. They date to the Paleo-Indian period around 13,500 years ago. They are named after the city of Clovis, New Mexico, where examples were first found in 1929. Clovis points are often found within the remains of ice age animals. The completed spear was either thrown by hand or with the aid of the atlatl, or spear thrower. I have an atlatl and a couple of spears and if I had to hunt with it, I’d starve to death. If I was in a barn, I could possibly hit a wall from time to time, but that’s about it. At least I have some skill with my sling and longbow. Clovis points have hence been found over most of North America and as far south as Venezuela. Around 10,000 BCE, a new type of fluted projectile point called Folsom seemed to emerge, replacing the Clovis-style points over much of the continental United States. The Blackwater Draw Museum is pretty close to the park and covers all this. I was surprised to find that ‘fluted’ points were a New World invention. I have to look up Old World points to see what they were like.

Well, just about ready to roll on down to Bottomless.

February’s new moon is known as The Full Snow Moon. Usually the heaviest snows fall in this month. Hunting becomes very difficult, and hence to some tribes this was the Full Hunger Moon.

Everybody needs beauty…places to play and pray in,
where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.
John Muir