Thursday, March 31, 2016

Island in the Sky

We had just arrived in Moab. Ed was walking Benton; I was hanging out on the street next to Thistle. I must have looked forlorn although I was appreciating the first sunshine we'd seen all day, when a bright red pickup truck pulled up and stopped next to me. The window was rolled down and a man, leaning over his wife and hanging out the window, said, "I sacrificed a chicken for this sunshine." I grinned and thanked him profusely. He laughed. I laughed. He drove on. He made my day.

From there our tasks of resupply and regrouping began to fall into place. We found a good lunch spot with Internet. We located a place to fill up with water getting our bath and kitchen systems water-functional again; we filled our diesel tank; we found hot showers for bodies not having seen clean for way too long; we discovered our night's camping spot along the Colorado River. We were set. Tomorrow we do laundry, grocery shop and figure out where we're headed next. And the sun shines! There's nothing like all systems ready for the next adventure. We're good for another week before needing to resupply. The road calls our names...

We decide to return to Canyonlands. Canyonlands has three sections. We were in the Needles section before coming to Moab. Now, after restocking, we explore Island in the Sky. Below is the  confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers.

See that road, hanging onto the cliff, about two-thirds from the bottom. That's a two day outback, 4-wheel drive adventure.

The third Canyonlands section is the Maze. Four-wheel drive territory and inaccessible to us in Thistle. We feel a little rugged vehicle envy right now. However, that's short lived as we begin to smell the scalloped potatoes baking in our oven. I pour a glass of wine. We settle in, closing up Thistle, tight and cozy from the cold night quickly settling in over the desert.

After exploring Arches, we plan to return to Needles in Canyonlands. When we landed there last week we were too sick to hike, so return we must.


"Love is a powerful tool, and maybe, just maybe, before the last little town is corrupted and the last of the unroaded and undeveloped wildness is given over to dreams of profit, maybe, it will be love, finally, love for the land for its own sake and for what it holds of beauty and joy and spiritual redemption that will made (wilderness) not a battlefield but a revelation."

~ T. H. Watkins

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Down but not out...

Low...low energy, low enthusiasm, low appetite, low...spirits.

I've been brought down! Struck down by the flu. Busted flat in a blur of coughing, headaches, and several other symptoms too messy to speak of. We were camped at Cochiti Lake when I woke up with a cough, which developed into the worst flu-cold I've had in quite some time. During the five days I've been sick, we've moved on to Bandelier. At Bandelier Ed explored and I slept and coughed and slept some more. Each morning I've optimistically hoped for the return of my good health.

Then we moved on to Chaco. Still I coughed and felt listless. Ed's beginning to feel puny too. These are the vacation experiences no one writes about. It's the highs that are fun to exclaim over, not the lows. We're meeting friends here tomorrow and might end up being the worst camp playmates they've ever had.

The drive from Bandelier was long and dusty with wild winds trying to push us off the road. Ed white knuckled it all 200 miles. Tumble weeds blew onto the road just to be crushed under our wheels. The dust penetrated my body, setting back my recovery by days.

And the weather is cold. At Bandelier the nights were getting down into the low thirties. Here at Chaco it was 23 last night. Glorious this morning. The wind has stopped blowing and the sky is bluebird blue. Our health is still precarious, with me not being able to kick this junk and Ed hanging on the edge. Ed and Benton manage a long hike with our friends. I nap. I'd hoped to sit in the sun basking in it's warmth, but the wind returned, along with the dust and cold, driving me inside.

We cut our Chaco stay short. The cold and wind win, contributing to the lows we're both feeling. Leaving Chaco we have warmth in our sights so bypass Mesa Verde, at 8000 feet and head for Canyonlands at 5,500, in the hopes of finding more comfort --- seeking a place to heal. At 10 sick days for me, and Ed coming under the grip, we're needing to find warmth and beauty and a place to mend our bodies and spirits.

Canyonland is the reprieve we sought. Warm, beautiful and windless. Peaceful and quiet. Soul mending! We will rest and heal here. We will stay as long as we need to recover our energy, enthusiasm and appetites -- appetites for both food and life!

But, life isn't done with us yet. It's snowing as we depart for Moab.



"Life isn't about learning how to weather the storm. It's about learning how to dance in the rain."

~ Vivian Greene

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Dam Bicycle Ride

We're staying in our first Army Corps of Engineers camp ground for the season, Cochiti Lake. Nicely appointed if not slightly over-engineered, including a solar light at each site. It's inexpensive, especially with winter and senior discounts, and provides hot showers, hookups and a dump station. It's located near Santa Fe, giving us a close camping option for city visits. There are lots of vacant sites during this winter season, mid week.

The dam is on Pueblo land, built by the corps for flood control of the Rio Grande and Santa Fe Rivers. According to the engineer we spoke with at the Visitor Center, the work for this earth dam was started in 1965 and completed in 1975. Because of damage to sacred Indian land, it was a controversial project from the beginning, with relations not resolving into team work until 2006. Now there is, according to our source, a model relationship between the two previously feuding parties.

We met a young Pueblo man and his girlfriend at the viewpoint near our camp last evening. His grandfather was one of the workers on the dam and the lake was a popular swimming hole as he was growing up. No animosity with him. He plays in a 4-member band called the Rude Boyz, but he was anything but rude.

Our dam bicycle ride was about 14 miles, or so roundtrip. The crossing on the dam itself was five miles, one-way, plus another couple of miles from the campground. Not a wildly exciting ride, but interesting enough, good exercise and no traffic. The muted desert colors always please.

We've been having heater mechanical problems in Thistle resulting in time with mechanics, but with no resolution. In e-mail exchanges with other Westy folks, we think we have found answers and we're feeling optimistic tonight after feeling completely discouraged last night. Thank you Westy friends.

We will be staying another two nights at Cochiti Lake. One day will be for Santa Fe and the second day will be for exercise. We are working at maintaining an every other day exercise routine, feeling like we are spending too much time driving and too little time way to stay fit or to keep the pudge away.


Hold on to what is good,
Even if it's a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe,
Even if it's a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do,
Even if it's a long way from here.
Hold on to your life,
Even if it's easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand,
Even if some day I'll be gone away from you.

~ A Pueblo Indian Prayer

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Our home for three days is Villanueva State Park tucked in between the Pecos River and tall sandstone walls. Many of the sites are winter empty so we feel like we're boondocking, except for the hot showers. Yesterday it was 76 degrees, today it's 56, with clouds and wind making it seem much colder. Nevertheless, we had a nice hike to the top of the ridge.

See little Thistle tucked into the trees?

And we can't wait for Santa Fe. Our first trip is brief, mostly to do laundry but also to get an initial Santa Fe hit. We were smitten immediately. At some point during our Santa Fe afternoon we thought about lockout, always a State Campground issue. We figured it would be 9:00 or 10:00, but we hadn't remembered to check. Returning home, a little before 9:00, we discovered we'd missed the 7:00 curfew and were locked out. Just as we were settling in to boondock outside the gate the ranger appeared and unlocked the gate for us disobedient campers.

Tomorrow we're heading back to Santa Fe for more exploration, a coffee shop for internet, and a gallery or two, keeping in mind our 7:00 curfew.

We've only had time for one gallery so far. It was Georgia O'Keefe. Much of her best work is in private collections, we assume, as it was not in the gallery. What was very fine in the gallery were photographs of Georgia O'Keeffe herself, and her artistic passion.


"One can not be an American by going about saying that one is an American. It is necessary to feel America, like America, love America and then work.

~ Georgia O'Keeffe

Monday, March 14, 2016

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, 57,191 acres of Rio Grande flood plains, became our destination for a day. The marshes, fields, and woodlands are intensely managed to provide habitat for a wide range of species. Management includes the removal of non native plants and replanting with native plants (you just know how much I love this!), as well as mechanical controls for managing pond water levels, just like when the Rio Grande River ran wild, mimicking natural flooding cycles.

In the 1930's the Civilian Conservation Corps began work to restore the Bosque del Apache flood plains and in 1939 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt establishd the refuge as part of a national system of lands dedicated to wildlife protection.

Peering through the bird blinds...

We were too late in the season to see the Sandhill Cranes, but found the refuge a wonderful place to visit nevertheless. We spotted blue heron and hawks; tortoises basking in the sun on floating logs; and roadrunners, including one who entertained us for quite some time, right outside Thistle's windows, as we ate lunch. Along the reserve's driving route several more roadrunners did what roadrunners do, ran across the road. There were geese and ducks and deer in abundance, but no cranes.

Naturally, we had our bird book handy (thank you Anne)...


"There is a delight in the hardy life of the open. There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness that can reveal its mystery, it's melancholy and its charm. The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value. Conservation means development as much as it does protection."

~ Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States