Sunday, September 21, 2014

2014-27 las Vegas and Taos New Mexico


New Mexico

Taos NM

Campground:  Storrie Lake St Park.  $14.00 water/electric.  Dump station not working during my visit.  10 over air tv stations.  Good Verizon cell service.  Walmart a couple miles away.

I had a great talk with one of the rangers here at Clayton Lake State Park.  As you know from last weeks report, there are dinosaur tracks here, but the ranger has seen tracks throughout this NE corner of New Mexico.  How cool would that be to go hiking and find dino tracks along the way.

Bear proof trash cans are used in the park since bears have been seen in the state park and occasionally mountain lions (cougars).

Another very interesting thing he was involved in was the building of their welcome center here.  It’s a hay bale construction.  Using used steel framing, the bales of hay were pinned into place using rebar, then the hay was covered with a stucco type material.  The walls are two feet thick and insulate the building both summer and winter.  They rarely ever turn on the a/c in the summer and only turn on the heat after about a month of really cold weather.  The ceilings were insulated using a shredded newspaper insulation which is very thick.  He told me he was one of the builders and it’s been so successful that they have built others at many of the other state parks in New Mexico as needed.  The roof tiles which look like slate are in fact recycled tires and plastic bottles.

Distance traveled:  157 miles

Prong horn

I-25 rest stop

My drive today along NM-412 and Interstate 25 was a dream.  The high desert landscape opened up all that grazing land looked stunning with mesas and buttes and mountains off in the distance.  Prong Horn were visible romping along through many of the fields of golden colored grass lands.  Along hwy 412 I noticed many abandoned homesteads.  The owners preferring to live closer to town or perhaps the areas wells had run dry.  Still the expansive skies and landscape that seemed to go on forever kept a smile on my face the entire way.  Both highways were in good condition with I-25 having been paved recently felt like I was driving on the smoothest pavement I’d been on in years.  Very little traffic also added to a super pleasant drive.

When I arrived at Storrie Lake just outside of Las Vegas New Mexico, they still had all the signs up for “reserved” camping and all those electric sites were empty with folks waiting in the wings to get in.  Come to  find out  I could take my pick of sites as there was only one day remaining for the year for reserving a site and then they would be “first come first served” sites for the remainder of the season.  Most of the electric/water sites were pretty similar, so I took the second one in and I’m a happy camper.   Later in the day, they opened the remaining sites and campers started to move in.

covered ramadas at Storrie Lake

A few days later, my good friends Kathy and Randy (from Iowa) were traveling through Colorado and headed into New Mexico and we’ve met up again for a few days.  Decided on a day trip to Taos NM.  We of course took all the country/forest roads leading up there and stopped at another state park called Morphy Lake State Park.  It’s outside of the small community of Mora.  An adventure for sure.

Randy and Kathy

Old adobe buildings along the way, the park is located off of a narrow one lane road up a hill and there it was, among all the pine trees and a small mountain lake.  The campsites were small and not suitable for our larger Rv’s.  I think the trailer limit was 18 feet.  No elect or water at the sites, but wonderful rugged campsites.

view before entering Taos NM
Then it was back on the road to Taos.  An artsy community on the edge of a large plateau surrounded by mountain ranges.  Elevation is around 8,500 ft.  After lunch at “Orlando’s” a 5 star Mexican restaurant with really good authentic Mexican food we headed to the Taos Pueblo.  It’s a 1,000 year old adobe structure(s) that have been continuously occupied by the same native Indian tribe.  Listed as the only "Living" World Heritage Site.  In the early 1600’s the Catholic priests forced them to become Christians, enslaved them in order to “civilize” them.  The Spanish came in the 1700’s and put more restrictions and controls on the native Indians.  Eventually Europeans moved in as the area came under U.S. control.   But they survived and survive today, living their native ways along side their now Catholic roots and modern culture that surrounds them daily.  Walking through the community, we were permitted to take pictures of the Pueblo itself, avoiding taking pictures of the residences.  Many of the first floor dwellings are now shops for selling native made arts and crafts.  The Pueblo stands as it did 1,000 years ago with the exception of small windows and doors being added.  As each room would have been accessed via an opening in the roof and entry made by ladders.  None of the small rooms were originally connected.  Electricity and piped in water are prohibited in the pueblo buildings.  Continuous work on rebuilding and re-facing the adobe exteriors is required with the original mud, straw and water mixture.  We were able to see a number of native American workers plastering and repairing walls.  They told us the Labor Day weekend was filled with visitors and many of the shops sold out of much of the pottery, art and jewelry items that sustain their livelihood.  The adobe village and 100,000 acres of land owned by the Taos Pueblo tribe is considered sacred.

remains of the first missionary church

first glimpse of the Pueblo

  • 150 Indians live in the north and south Pueblo fulltime
  • Other families that own homes in the pueblo buildings live in summer homes near their crops or in modern homes on pueblo lands only using the pueblo during special tribal ceremonies  
  • 1900 Taos Indians live on Taos Pueblo lands.
  • The pueblo is 5 stories at it’s highest point

there are two large Pueblo's, a North and a South pueblo

the South Pueblo

the South Pueblo

the North Pueblo

mud, straw and water

Well, that was worthy of the drive up through the San De Cresto Mountains and a couple of National Forests.  We drove over to Angel Fire and then south on what was expected to be a straighter road leading back to Mora and Las Vegas.  Ha.  Were we fooled.  The road became very narrow, twisting and looked to be at least a hundred years old, as we traveled through rugged forested mountains, country streams flowing along side the road, with Kathy asking every couple miles, “are you sure we’re on the right road?”  Even had to pull off the roadway to permit a few vehicles to pass coming in the opposite direction.  It turned out to be quite an adventure and we all commented that we were glad we were NOT towing our campers.

Mountain Aster

large fields of wild aster

The adventure will continue in this area for a few more days before moving over the Cochiti Lake south of Santa Fe.  All areas I’ve visited a number of times in the past.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

2014-26 From Kinsley and Elkhart Kansas to Clayton New Mexico


Kinsley Kansas
Elkhart Kansas
Clayton New Mexico

Moon rising over the prairie

Campground:  (2 days) The 4 Aces, Kinsley KS.  A Passport America park.  $17 half price.  Full hookups, 50amp, free wi-fi and concrete pad pull-thru sites (very nice). One over-the-air tv station.  Free movie rentals.

Campground:  (2 days) Prairie Rv park and Wash, Elkhart KS.  $20, full hookup w/cable tv and free wifi.  Right off hwy 56.  Very nice pull-thru campsites, easy access.  Car wash is in front of entrance.

Campground:  (0 days)Elkhart City Campground.  $10, full hookup w/cable tv.  6 rv sites available.  Not heavily advertised esp. online, but if you head towards the mainstreet the campground is clearly marked with those blue signs indicating camping.  Note: I did not stay here, but would def. consider it for the price.

Campground:  (4 days) Clayton Lake St Pk, Clayton NM.  Water and electric 30 amp.  No Tv. No Cell phone.  No wi-fi.

Clayton Lake State Park

Because I have a desire to get into New Mexico for a month or more of adventures, I’m taking short hops across the rest of Kansas and a corner of Oklahoma.  Haven’t done that all summer long.

I have a cricket in my….

How is that for starting an article?  The cricket(s) hopped aboard my truck and have been happily chirping away for the past couple of days in the back seat.  Not sure how long they’ll last, but there are probably enough left over snacks that have fallen on the floor to keep them happy for a while anyway.

The town of Kinsley is famous for being half way between New York City and San Francisco via historic highway 50 (The Lincoln Highway).  And it’s pretty much in the middle of Kansas no-where.  But every place has something to hang their hat on and being 1561 miles from either end of the country is where I’m at today.

The big sign is next to the Sod House museum where I talked to the volunteer taking care of the place.  He had moved back into town after Greensburg was hit with a tornado in 2007.  Which would be my touring destination the next day.

museum display case

just what every home needs

The Sod House

The 30 minute drive to Greensburg was very pleasant through almost flat Kansas land used mainly for the grazing of cattle with the occasional crops being grown with the aid of those huge sprinklers as this part of Kansas is much dryer than the rest of the state.  I was heading in particular to The Big Well museum.  It’s the largest hand dug well in the world at 109 feet deep and 32 feet in diameter.  It was built back in 1888 to attract more people to this prairie town in SW Kansas.  Without a reliable water source folks wouldn’t settle here.  It was later discovered that they had tapped into the Ogallala aquifer, a huge ice age aquifer that covers 7 western states.  With the well dug the town could attract a train as well.  Steam engines require lots of water.

Now it’s interesting to me to learn about the history of places like this and of course the tornado that destroyed virtually the entire town back in 2007.  Imagine only 7 years ago and in that short span of time, much of the town has rebuilt itself as a Green city.  Of course they had a ton of help from G. W. Bush and FEMA especially after the devastating response given to the Katrina hurricane victims in New Orleans two years earlier.  Using as much sustainable building methods as possible the town has become a eco-friendly town, reinventing itself for the next century.  10 giant windmills provide enough power to keep the entire town in electricity.  The Hospital and School have their own windmills.  Half of the population did leave after the mile and three quarters wide tornado ripped it’s way through town.  I heard all those stories and more.

The Big Well Museum

the story boards were wonderful

Helen, the talkative attendant at the Big Well told me many of those stories.  But I knew she had something else to tell me so I took my time and sat with her for a while.  Her story unfolded this way.  She and her husband owned a 5th wheel camper as well and would take it to the same spot every year in Colorado for three months during the summer.  Her husband died of a massive heart attack on their last trip there.  But sometime before that, she and her husband promised each other that who ever got to the other side first would try and communicate in some way to the other one still on the earth plane.  She went on to say that she had seen her husband twice since his passing.  The first occurrence was when her sons came to pick up the camper and drive her back home to Kansas.  They happened to stop at a gas station where her husband always went to get a soda.  While her sons were in the shop to get soda’s themselves, she was sitting out in the car.  As she looked over towards the station, she saw her husband standing there with a pair of sunglasses he had lost and had kept looking for just before he died and he was dressed in his good clothes that they had left behind in Kansas.  The second time she saw him, one of her sons had driven her to Hobby Lobby to do some shopping.  The son stayed in the car in the parking lot and said when she came out of the store he would drive up front to pick her up.  After finishing up her shopping, she came outside and thought she saw the car, but when it started to drive towards her, she figured it couldn’t be, since there were two men in the car.  Yes, her husband was sitting in the car as well and she saw him smiling at her as they got closer and closer before he finally disappeared.  Helen went on to tell me a few other occurrences of things happening to her and wondered why she felt compelled to tell me, a total stranger, because she was sure no one would believe her.  I told her probably the reason she was telling all this was because I am a Spiritualist and believe in special instances when we can communicate with those on the other side through mediumship or psychic events.  I assured her, I believed her story and what she saw whole heartedly and I then shared a personal story with her from my families experiences.

You never know when you will be of some benefit to others, even if only by listening to their story.

the new art museum, wasn't open on the day I was here

reminders of the 2007 tornado 

A new town is built

the Silo House

Silo house with a green roof

After that most interesting tour and experience at the Big Well, almost directly across the street from the museum is a demonstration house called The Silo Eco-Home and I was able to get a private tour of the place.  The houses main core is a round silo shape the same method and materials used to build the traditional grain elevators that survived the tornado were used to build the house.  Along with a ton of green features used in the showcase home for sustainable living.  Many of the homes in town now feature those sustainable features though only one other silo home has been built so far.  It’s a great concept and one I would endorse it wholeheartedly if I were to live in this tornado alley country.  The silo design was created by architects in Florida to withstand hurricanes and tornados.  My tour guide Carol who lives in Greensburg told me how her Mom who had moved to Houston Tx and had lived there for a number of years, had wanted to move back to Greensburg because she couldn’t stand the fear of any more hurricanes down south along the gulf of Mexico.  They built a small house here in Greensburg and she moved back less than a year or two before the tornado hit.  Carols older brick home survived the tornado, one of very few that did, her Mom’s new home was destroyed.

I’m crossing Kansas on a diagonal line heading to the very SW corner and Elkhart Kansas.  It’s also the location where three states touch.  Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma.  They’ve had rain this year after a few years of really dry summers so things are looking pretty good.   They say the recent drought was worse than the previous dust bowl of the 30s.  It’s also home to the Cimarron National Grassland.  Land that was purchased by the Government during the dust bowl and stock market crash years.  Giving farms a chance to sell their useless land and get out from under a condition that was only getting worse.  The government went ahead and used various work programs to reintroduce native grasses back onto the land.

A steam tractor, they were very heavy, when
no longer needed, many were buried along the banks of the Cimmaron River
to stop bank erosion

Kansas grass lands

Cimmaron National Grasslands

auto tour through the Cimmaron National grasslands

There’s a nice loop auto tour route through the Cimarron Grassland and I took a good portion of it today.  Besides recreational uses, about 100 ranchers and farmers are permitted to use the land in a conservation managed way and over 450 oil and gas wells are on the national grasslands as well.  I heard a story the other day from one of the welders working on the pipe lines that crisscross the entire state.  The welder said they were working near the southern boarder of Kansas where many of the pipelines cross over into Oklahoma.  A pipe had ruptured and was capped temporarily off .  Everyone assumed that the owner of the pipe line would contact them in a short time asking what happened to their fuel.  Well, the pipe has remained capped and no one has ever asked about the pipeline.  Makes you wonder who’s keeping track of all these pipe lines doesn’t it.  In another example a new pipe line was being put in and no one was testing it along the route before using it.  It was finally put into production and the pipeline was leaking like a sieve.  They are in the process of digging up the entire pipeline and re-welding it.  Said there is a new “pig”, that’s a device that travels inside of the pipe looking for problems.  Well this new pig is very sophisticated with special electronic sensors and gps location gathering abilities.  Those welders anticipate that once it is used on all the pipelines they’ll be overloaded with work fixing all the problems.

Distance traveled:  98 miles


this was my drive to the state park

Rabbit Ear Mountain


Thursday and it was time to head into New Mexico today.  Leaving Kansas took all of 5 minutes as I was right on the boarder with Oklahoma.  Hwy 56 became more of a tight two lane highway crossing those super flat ranch and farm landscapes.  A few large trucks passed in the opposite direction, but the camper and truck held true to the road as I inched to the white line boarder each time they passed.  Before I knew it 60 miles had gone by and a sign appeared welcoming me into New Mexico.  The two lane road expanded with a nice wide paved shoulder making driving much more enjoyable, though little traffic was seen through this final section of roadway I‘d be traveling on today.  What I did get to see right off the bat was a herd of Prong Horn.  Those beautiful tan and white animals with their short curved antlers found out west.  What a nice welcome into New Mexico.  I passed through the town of Clayton and can’t wait to travel back there to explore my first taste of a western town once again after being gone for a couple of years.  It’s nice to be back out west.

As I took the turnoff from town leading the final 15 miles to the state park the scenery became what I can only describe as a real stunner.  A flat topped butte came into view off in the distance, a small mountain range appeared out of the landscape and some really dramatic rolling grazing land with a canyon carved out like a giant gash in the landscape revealed itself.  A few twists and a sudden descent down into the valley where the state park created a man made lake and I had arrived.

The skies finally cleared and I was able to take a number of pictures of the shoreline.  The campground side has steep layered walls of sandstone/slate that have broken off creating jutting rocks out over the lake.  The other side has that sweeping high desert look spotted with bushy cedar trees.  Almost across from my campsite is the sign leading to the Dinosaur tracks site.  I was tempted to save it for the next day or so, but realizing the weather was about to turn ugly, I decided to take a late afternoon walk.  With the sun low in the sky and only shafts of light peaking through flat layered clouds, the landscape took on highlights of deepening shades of greens and golden wheat.  Light sparkled off the lake as valleys and crevasses became highlighted with dark shadows.

A well maintained path led me to the earthen dam a quarter of a mile away where the trail continued across the top of the dam.  The wide path bordered by shaggy layers of grasses.  At the site of the spillway I’d find the dinosaur tracks.  The tracks were discovered after building the dam and the spillway.  Carving out a path from the rock and shale for the spillway, no one had any idea they would find dino tracks.  It actually took a few years after the dam was created and the spillway became clean of debris from rain and snow that the dinosaur tracks were revealed.  Can you imagine the excitement that must have created when the tracks were first discovered.  A raised boardwalk now circles the area for viewing the tracks.  Looking back in time, estimated to be 100 million years ago when the tracks were first made, I can imagine these giants of the earth roaming along the shoreline in search of food.  Stomping through the mud, leaving large rounded pod shaped prints, some three toed prints and even web toed footprints.  Hard to believe they were preserved under all those layers of rock for 100 million years and only recently discovered.  Imagine that a number of different species of dinosaurs actually wandered along this muddy stretch.  Did they walk side by side, or did each group come by shortly after the other dino’s left the area in search of food and water, all leaving their distinctive prints behind.  History sure gives us the ability to look into the past and relive a portion of it.

walking across the earthen dam to the spillway

ripples made in the shallow water before drying up and being preserved

these tracks are 100 million years old

another perfect impression, 100 million years old

the spillway was dug out without knowing they would find dinosaur tracks

view of the spillway

a thee toed dinosaur

a perfect impression

can you see all 4 tracks?

All that and the week is coming to an end, glad I could share these experiences with you.  With temps in the low 40’s over the weekend, I’m spending more time inside with the fireplace on thinking about what my next adventure will be….

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