Surprise beginning

Where: it’s a secret, but not for long.  Read on!

Everyone is familiar with the concept of a surprise ending, where the twists and turns of the story lead you to assume one outcome, and then you get another one entirely.  This week on Holding Intentional Space, I give you the new concept of the surprise beginning.  See, this year, for a complete change of pace, we have just started work at Three Rivers Resort in Almont, CO!  We expected to start in May, but this area had a mild winter that has morphed into an early spring.  I checked with the resort a couple weeks ago to see when we might expect to start, and the answer was “ASAP”.  We cut our New Mexico plans short and headed north.

Because we like to work in the summers and over the holidays, and then take the spring off, there’s a lot of the US that has been unavailable to us–technically, we *can* handle freezing temperatures, to a point, but it’s not my idea of a good time in an RV.  So, we’ve driven through the high points of Colorado, but we’ve never spent any time in the state.  And while my heart will always belong to the Eastern Sierra, but I couldn’t help but notice how much everyone raves about the Colorado Rockies.  I did a lot of searching this winter, and came across a family owned resort in the Gunnison National Forest, with cabins, a cafe, fly fishing shop, and rafting tours.  Three Rivers Resort had great reviews online, and I was so impressed when I called to ask some questions about employment and heard lots of awesome things.  We get cell service here, and a full hook up RV site.  Plus, we’re allowed to take free rafting trips on our days off when there’s open seats!  The fact that it’s in the epicenter of all thing mountain really clinched the deal.

We’re working in housekeeping, which allowed us to start earlier and work later in the season.  The resort has !67! rental cabins, ranging from small hotel style rooms, to one and two bedroom houses, up to a giant 5 bedroom beast.  The resort keeps a couple cabins open year round, but the main season is the summer.  Right now, we’re doing spring cleaning, with every single cabin surface getting a shine before they start getting rented again.  A two bedroom cabin takes a 3 person crew about a day and a half to spring clean, which means we’ll be at it for a while!

Small one bedroom plus loft:

Two story, two and three bedrooms:

The 5 bedroom, 4 bath beauty that is just being built:

Cabins line both sides of the road:

The hamlet of Almont is pretty tiny, with Three Rivers and the Almont Resort making up the bulk of it, along with about 30 private homes.  The East River and the Taylor River join here, forming the Gunnison River that flows south. Ten miles south is the small college town of Gunnison, with most everything you need, provided you only need things from small town hardware stores and Wal-Mart. (And can I tell you how excited I was to learn that the City Market grocery is owned by Kroger, an Ohio grocery.  They stock Graeter’s ice cream, my hometown favorite!!) Eighteen miles north is the skiing town of Crested Butte, with swanky boutiques and exotic restaurants.  Almont is at 8000 feet, a high desert area of sagebrush and rocky canyons, but within an hour in every direction are mountains and wilderness and hiking galore.

Almont overlook:

Taylor River:

Rocky cliffs line the canyons here:

The weather was a bit better at the beginning of April than it was in the last week.  We had a couple days of snow, and one day that only got up to 34.  Today was a wacky mix of seasons, in the 20s this morning, with ice everywhere, and then it was sunny and warm enough to lay out this afternoon.  As much as I want to get out in the high country, most forest service roads aren’t opened until the end of May, and we may not be able to hike high until June, after the snow melts.

We’ve been doing a little driving to explore the area, and although we can’t get out for hiking, the views into the high peaks are amazing.  We’ve also been doing the basics like getting library cards and learning the lay of the land. We even found an area where we can go rock climbing with little Soupy.  Landscape photos (and excessive cat photos) will be featured next week!

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Blown by air

Where: on vacation until our summer job begins.  Current stop: The Enchanted Circle, New Mexico

Prescript: the title of this post comes from an interaction with a patron when I worked at a library.  He had limited English, but wanted help to find a movie, “an old one with women in big clothes”.  It wasn’t until he gave a direct translation of the title in Russian that I got it.  Blown by air= Gone with the Wind!

Apparently, New Mexico is famous for having not four, but five seasons: summer, winter, fall, spring, and wind.  Wind–doesn’t sound like such a bad interlude. Who doesn’t like to feel a nice breeze, watch birds dance on the currents, and grasses ripple like water?  Here’s the thing about New Mexico wind: it is an evil banshee, vicious in intensity, and it has been a near constant since we got into the state in mid-February.  In the sandy southern areas of the state, it becomes a projectile, hurtling sand into your eyes and closing down roads with sandstorms.  In the north, it’s been cold and angry, the kind of wind that makes your eyes tear like mad, and it finds every crack of your clothing, no matter how far down you pull your hat.   The common refrain here is “at least you don’t have to shovel wind”, and an acceptance that it’s a better scenario than snow.  But, as I laid awake, nauseous from the rocking of the RV and therefore, my bed, I decided I’m more in the camp of the prairie settler women who cursed the constant winds of the plains, and dreamed of calm skies.

The insanely strong winds are probably the reason that we were the only campers for 3 nights in a row at Eagle Nest Lake State Park, on the eastern side of the Enchanted Circle.  The Circle is a US Forest National Scenic Byway through Taos, and the mountain communities that ring the base of the tallest peaks in the state.  The whole route was filled with tiny hamlets with all kinds of visitor services, but most of it was closed–it was too late for snow play and too early for most hiking, and plus, you know, wind season.  We planned to do much more outdoor activity, but we just couldn’t get up the gumption to be outside all that much. Thankfully, the views from the campsite were lovely.

Our one hike was in Cimarron Canyon State Park, climbing up a creek with tons of water falls, the upper ones still frozen.

We did enjoy a daytrip to Taos, where it was magically warmer and (get this!) not windy!  Although we’ve been on a strict not-eating-out phase for about 4 months, we splurged in this city known for yums, and went to 3 different places.  We had Christmas enchiladas at Orlando’s (that is, both green and red chile sauce on the same plate), homemade ice cream at Taos Cow, and a chocolate flight from Chokola, a bean-to-bar chocolatier.  The drive up to Taos Ski Valley was gorgeous, with steep walls rising up from the road to the mountain peaks high above.  The top, at 10,000 feet, had just finished the ski season, and was still well-covered in snow.

And then, because we were so over the wind and the cold, we decided on something very out of character for us: we booked a two night stay at a hot springs resort, with unlimited soaking included in the overnight price.  It was such an amazing and unique find that I’m not going to share the name here.  However, should you ever find yourself in this area of the country, I highly recommend you do some serious Googling, and perhaps you’ll find this nirvana as well.  It would have been worth the experience at twice the price.

Postscript on my tardiness: I’m having major problems with Flickr, which is what I use to put photos on this blog.  A couple updates ago, the photo uploading started to be really slow–I would post my pictures via the app, and they would take about an hour to load.  Now, they sometimes take a day or more to show up, and occasionally, (like this post) I have to find wifi for it to work at all.  It seems like this is a common problem with newer versions of the app.  If anyone has suggestions on how to make the process faster, I’m all ears!

Holiday Haven: Spring Break 2018

Where: on vacation until our summer job begins.  Current stop: New Mexico

With a practiced but nevertheless very weary air, the Park Ranger gave a weak smile and said “I knew you were going to say that.  See, it’s spring break.” To her credit, she only showed a hint of an eye roll.

Some backstory: In Ohio, Easter is mostly an indoor holiday–too variable, in terms of weather, for it to be a very popular time to be outside.  In the southwest, it’s much more of an outdoors holiday, with loads of families heading out for picnics and camping.  In my research, I came across the fact that the campground at Bandelier National Monument is all first come, first serve, and rarely fills up. And while we had no problem getting a camping spot there, the park itself was absolutely wild, which led to us asking the ranger about less busy places to hike. And that led to the rangers response, which was about the best anyone could do under the circumstances considering how many million people had already asked the same question.

But, we did manage to find plenty of solitude on our hikes, mainly by committing to arriving at the trailheads way before the temperatures would recommend it.  I thought this stop would just be nothing more than a good place to hole up during the peak of spring break, but we ended up loving this park!

The Main Loop is an easy, paved stroll to several cliff dwellings and through a multistory circular housing complex arranged around a large plaza.  Our favorite part was that you are allowed to climb ladders into a couple small rooms.  The Alcove House has 140 feet of ladders up to a natural cave, for the more adventurous.

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A few miles away from the main section of the park is another small section called Tsankawi, which is an unexcavated mesatop dwelling, with canyons below that were used for farming.  The soft volcanic tuff wears away easily under use, and you can clearly see the paths of the ancients.

Pottery sherds were absolutely everywhere:

Cavates (hollowed out caves) with steps leading to the mesa above:

The visitor trails are worn deep from many feet:

From inside a cavate:

We also tackled the highest point in the park, Cerro Grande, at just over 10,000 feet.  From the top you can see across the massive depression of Valles Caldera, a very old and very big volcano. (And apparently still considered geologically active.  Eek!)

So to recap, Bandalier was amazing!  We loved the quiet campground, unique hiking trails, and the fact that we could find some peace on a holiday weekend.  Check it out!

Northern New Mexico, finally!

Where: on vacation until our summer job begins. Current stop: New Mexico

For all you hear about sunny New Mexico, it seems that we’re here at the wrong time to enjoy the golden warmth. It’s not quite like the gray of Ohio, where you can go weeks without seeing the sun, but it also hasn’t been very bright. Today is especially gloomy, with rain predicted all day.  So, here’s another long collection of photos, from the few points in the last week with some light.

Last week, anticipating a repair stop in Albuquerque, we visited Manzano Mountains State Park, just southeast of the city. The park is about 7000 feet high, and deep in a pine forest. I chose this stop not only for proximity to the shop, but also because of all the hiking in the National Forest right behind it. We woke up our first morning there and headed out to the trailhead with a packed lunch, ready for a big hike. However, just as we entered the forest boundary, we encountered a locked gate. Stymied, we returned to the state park to ask what was up. As it turns out, the forest is “closed” in the winter, and only open to foot traffic. We never got a good reason why–there wasn’t a lick of snow on the ground, so it wasn’t due to dangerous roads. But, the ranger had an alternate suggestion, to visit some petroglyphs in a canyon behind the park. It was a great outing, with no one else out, and fairly warm temperatures down in the canyon.

This was a string of heads, each one about 2 inches high, and the line ran about 5 feet along the wall.  Perhaps a yearbook? :

The next day, armed with plenty of food and water, we drove back to that locked gate, and walked all the way to the trailhead. We were enjoying ourselves so much that we decided to do the hike up to the crest, to 9900 feet. The trail wove through cool cliffs and waterfalls, with great views over the snow covered valleys. We were out for about 6 hours, and didn’t seen a single other person or car!

Our repair in Albuquerque was quick, easy and cheap. If you ever need anything in that area, be sure to see Tony’s RV Repair!

Officially entering northern New Mexico, our next stop was Cochiti Lake. The campground was awesome, with loads of first come- first serve dry camping spots that overlook the lake. It was the perfect base to explore in all directions, and we generally only had a couple other people in our loop. It was quiet enough for the Adventure Cat to get out every day.

Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument was a true gem, with other worldly shapes and colors, a slot canyon, and outstanding views. I took way too many pictures there, especially once the skies cleared and the deep NM blue came out.

From this overlook, we could see Cochiti Lake:

This picture had not been altered.  The sky was actually that blue!:

We took a day trip down the Turquoise Trail, and visited Tinkertown, a quirky little museum of one man’s creations and collections. Ross Ward started carving as a hobby in 1962, and eventually created a whole town filled with the characters of his imagination. He started off exhibiting the display at county fairs and carnivals, and opened a museum when his display got too big to move. The museum is a sprawling maze of imagination and fun, with collections of all kinds, like wedding cake toppers, antique fun machines, and even a sailboat that a family member sailed around the world.  There’s darn few perfect museums in the world, but this a top contender!

The card from the Grandmother said that “You love a beautiful home and one of these days you will be in possession of one”:

Everything in the town was made by hand, and so detailed!:

The oldest wedding cake topper in this collection was a wax pair from the 1840s:

We also took a few day trips into Santa Fe. One day was mainly as a major resupply, hitting the big box stores that are hard to come by in little towns. We did stroll through the downtown plaza, which was positively bustling with the after church crowd of Palm Sunday. The next day, we hiked the Atalaya Trail, with views out over the city and to the mountain ranges beyond.

San Miguel Mission, the oldest church in the US, from 1610:

On the trail, we appreciated the honesty and the options. (We chose steeper for the up and easier for the down.) :

I was woefully under dressed for the top:

Til next week!

Visiting the wild, wild West: Picture Post

On vacation before our summer job begins.  Current stop: New Mexico

One of the things I like best about our slow method of traveling is that we often find ourselves in very interesting areas, that we would never discover if we were on a short vacation. Yes, there’s something to be said for !Big! and !Dramatic! areas like National Parks, but there’s also so many small town adventures to be had, too. Last week, we found a fantastic boondock in the Fort Stanton-Snowy River National Conservation Area, and ran all over in the footsteps of Billy the Kid. It’s a spot that I had never heard of before we started traveling, but it was filled with awesome things to do in all directions.

First, the Fort Stanton area was fabulous for camping and hiking. It’s crisscrossed with over 70 miles of hike/horse only trails, and was pretty much empty when we were there. We loved the big skies, grasslands, and mountain views all around us. The trail with a petroglyph rock was a particular favorite.

We visited Fort Stanton, which started as a fort to protect settlers who were farming in the area, then was a tuberculosis hospital, and also a detention center for German prisoners of war during WWII.

The snow capped mountain range of the Sierra Blancas was a delightful but cold hike.

Lincoln Historic Site is a town-wide museum devoted to the Lincoln War and Billy the Kid. The stone Torreon was a defensive structure where the townspeople could hide during Apache raids, or when the hired gangs of the warring merchants started firing. (Do your own reading on the Lincoln War–crazy stuff!)

The Hubbard Museum of the American West was filled with all things horsey.

Our favorite was the Smokey Bear Museum. Did you know there was a real Smokey, found as a cub in a forest fire outside Capitan? His grave is there at the museum, which was the best $2 I’ve ever spent!

You may have never heard of it, but I would highly recommend Billy the Kid country for your next vacation!

Testing out the waters

Where: on vacation until our summer job begins. Current stop: New Mexico

We may be on a trip through the desert Southwest, but our last couple stops centered around water. The two campgrounds couldn’t have been more different; one was an all-time favorite, and the other was a real dud. The part that cracks me up the most it that I had read some bad reviews about the one that we ended up loving, and the whole rest of the world adores the park that we hated. As we travel, we’re learning that we just have to experience a stop for ourselves before we can make any judgements!

Three Rivers Campground was a bit out of the way, but the area included a couple to-do items that I’ve been interested in for years. The campground was a true gem, with well spaced sites up at 6,000 feet, thick with pinon and juniper. There were clean and well stocked vault toilets, bear-proof trash cans, and plenty of water spigots. Plus, all the other campers were quiet as mice, and the night skies were perfect. For $6/night, this was a deluxe Forest Service find!

The main event was Three Rivers Canyon Trail, a beast of a trail at 12 miles round trip, and 3,300 feet of elevation gain. It was an exceptionally well laid out trail, with easy water crossings and perfectly engineered switchbacks that made the incline a breeze. The route follows a stream up to alpine meadows and views over White Sands National Monument. We saw not a single human for the first 6 hours of hiking, but did see a flock of turkeys and a herd of elk.

Just down the road was Three Rivers Petroglyph site, set aside just for the astounding number of petroglyphs made by the Jornada Mogollon. More than 21,000 petroglyphs were created between about 900 and 1400 CE, and they are still dazzling and vivid. I loved that the trails wind between the rocks, giving you intimate access to the images.

The weather was predicted to get a bit ugly, with high winds and snow, so we headed to the (much lower in elevation) alien outpost of Roswell, NM, to use our state parks pass at Bottomless Lakes State Park. It’s New Mexico’s first state park, a line of deep blue sinkholes formed when underground water collapsed the limestone above, and it sounded really promising. But, this was an example of a situation where we do not agree with the crowds. We made one pass through the park, and I wanted to cry. The sinkholes looked like quarries, and the land around them was salt crusted and barren. But, we decided to stay a few nights to get past the bad weather, and we focused on getting our taxes done for the year. Soupy, on the other hand, adored it here, with plenty of space to roam around the in the canyon behind our site, and oodles of lizards to chase and sniff. I have to admit, it was nice to be laying out in the sun, while the mountains just 60 miles away were getting pounded with snow.

We’re moving a bit faster than our normal pace of one place per week, because there’s so much we want to do before we head back to work. We really want to see some of the mountainous areas of New Mexico, so we’re going to get out our winter coats and start heading up!

The best of times, the worst of times

Where: on vacation until our summer job begins.  Current stop: New Mexico

Last week, we were ready for some warmth and sun, so we headed towards central New Mexico, to the largest lake in the state, Elephant Butte.  Just north of Truth or Consequences, it is the site of a sprawling state park, and in the center of lots of interesting, unique things to do.  It was a crazy week, because while we really enjoyed certain parts of the experience, we also encountered some serious lows.  And with that preamble, I’d like to present my current rant, my manifesto against generators.

But first, some background on what started the whole mess. With our NM parks pass in hand, we checked out the dry camping options at the park.  Apparently designed by someone with a deep dislike for those who eschew electricity, they were all situated right beside the busy road that leads to the campground complexes further on.   In this park, lakeside camping on the beach is also permitted, and we found a quiet area, on packed and level sand, right next to the water.  The first 3 nights were lovely: glorious views over the water, pelicans and seagulls flying over, and no one nearby so little Soupy could play. (Soupy’s review: pretty good, until you’re just trying to get a drink from the lake and then a tiny wave jumps up and attacks out of nowhere!)

Doesn’t this look nice?

We arrived home after an outing on Friday morning to discover that 3 enormous RVs had set up immediately beside us.  The closest one was about 20 feet away, and all three had their infernal generators screaming away. The part that really burnt my biscuits was the fact that there were no other RVs in sight along the next mile of shore; these folks had their choice of literally miles of real estate, and they shoved in right next to us. We debated moving, but it was the weekend, and with warm weather in the forecast, we expected a lot more arrivals. There was no guarantee that other parts of the beach would be any better, and plus, most spots were unlevel as hell. We decided to stay put and just deal.

My video about the event:

TRIM_20180303_063813

Between the 3 of them, they had a generator running until 2 in the morning. I thought we might get a reprieve in the morning, but it started up again at 6:30. (Why do jerks never sleep!!??) As we headed to the car for an outing, the fiends came over. “I hope we’re not bothering you!” I just stared at the guy for a second, trying to figure out what to say. “Well, y’all sure do run your generators a lot! Don’t you have any solar? We really love ours!” “Yeah, but can it run a coffee maker?!”, he retorted.

So, they arrived Friday morning, and left Sunday morning, and at least one of them had a generator running except for a couple hours overnight. I know the standard reply is that we should have just moved. But, I present an analogy. If someone’s in an elevator, and I get on as well, do I stand on the other side of the car, or directly in front of them, looking at them? If they feel creeped out by this, is the right answer that they should get off and wait for another car, or that I should refrain from being a butthead?

I’m staring to hate certain aspects of RVing culture, and excessive and inappropriate generator use is probably number 1. It’s invasive, obnoxious, and inconsiderate. I get that solar setups are more expensive that a generator, and that they can’t run everything. But, if you need to run a fume-spewing-racket-monster for most of the day, go to a campground and get some hookups. And for the love of all that’s holy, set up somewhere further away from other people, so they don’t have to endure your cacophony!

Besides that fiasco, we also did tons of awesome things. How about a picture post from here, for a break from all the words?

A hike up Turtleback Mountain, with views over Elephant Butte Lake to the north, and Caballo Lake to the south.

A visit to Riverbend Hot Springs in Truth or Consequences, where hot mineral waters fill baths that overlook the Rio Grande.

A daytrip to Chloride, a ghost town from the silver boom era that has been lovingly restored, singlehandedly by a devoted family.

Gorgeous beaches and skies.

Final verdict for beach camping: go during the week, and get the hell out for the weekends!