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.



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