Rockhound State Park, New Mexico, yes, you can TAKE rocks here!

Little Florida Mountains at sunrise from the campground

It was established in 1966 as the first park in the United States that allowed collecting of rocks and minerals for personal use. Each visitor is allowed to collect as much as 15 lb of rocks and minerals from the 1,100-acre park, mineral dealers are not allowed to collect for sale though. Is that cool or what! Not that I have actually scoured the ravines with a pick and hammer, there are enough cool little rocks on the trail to keep me happy! You are limited to the size of tools you can use, no jackhammers;) The park is located about seven miles South of the I 10. You get to negotiate cattle crossings and vados to get there but no big deal!

The park sits at an elevation of 4250′. It deserves more than the one line on the park website! It’s small, 29 sites in total, 23 with electric, I chose the only uneven pull through as that was the only site available. I’m told there are groups of snowbirds that rotate around in these sites, from Rockhound, to City of Rocks as they are only allowed to stay 14 days at a time, I get it, beautiful spots.

Next time I’d choose one of the outside sites, 15-19 are huge and very level! There are over three miles of trails, some with interpretive signs pointing out different types of plants. After we arrived Mike wanted to go into Deming to refuel, to see if the check engine light would go away so we did that, and a quick stop at Pepper’s, the local grocery store, todos estaban hablando español, I felt right at home!

Back at our site, yeah, the check engine light went off with a new tank of diesel! We took the cats for a quick walk and then settled to leftover turkey! No train whistles or horns, no sirens, no jets and NO lights, not a single friggin’ light. Halle-f-ing-lujiah!

Sunset and crescent moon at Rockhound State Park

I was up early, I could hear the chatter of a Cactus Wren and sure enough, one was building her nest in a clump of opuntia at the front of the trailer. I love Cactus Wrens, they are chatty, bratty and cute as can be, they can wiggle their tail like no other!

She yelled at the cats when they got too close and she might have dive bombed them! The wind was howling, I was hoping it was going to die down but no luck! There were a lot of feathers being blown about! This is a Groot, Gamora and Rocket approved park. Gamora froclicked all over, chasing grasshoppers, climbing all over the stone walls, learning what pokey things were again, those chollo cactus!

My best Marilyn Monroe pose, I am just SO classy! Look at those wind blown feathers and weep ladies!

I grabbed my camera and took the hike around the top of the campground, the Thunder Egg Trail. I started at the top of the campground and was immediately surprised to find a few flowers blooming and so many butterflies, small and medium sized, and bugs, so many grasshoppers. A black one, about 3.5″ long was spectacular, when it jumped/flew away it’s wings were bright red!

Scattered along the trail you come upon benches to sit, I did, the wind was cool but I was working getting up the hill. One bench is in front of some kind of cedar, or juniper, I could make out several small birds foraging in there, yellow, fast, flighty and eating bugs, must be Ruby Crowned Kinglet, one did finally show him/herself! As well as a Rock Wren and a small flock of Chipping Sparrows.

There was the coolest little yellow butterfly, Dainty sulphur, when it’s wings opened they were the most incredible shade of yellow, he was uncooperative so no picture of the wings open! There was a tan coloured butterfly as well, this little guy blended right in with the reeds he was sitting on! Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe) it’s called. I wasn’t expecting all this beauty in November!

By the time I got back Mike had everything ready to leave, I would have stayed an extra day or two but there were no sites available, Kartchner Caverns State Park awaited us, it will be goodbye to New Mexico and Hello Arizona! Stay tuned!

Sand in every possible body crevice you could want?

The KOA lady at the campground asked me if I wanted any of the free sleds they loaned out…

Yes, you can do that. As we checked into the KOA in Alamogordo the very friendly chatty lady at the counter offered free sleds to go riding the dunes at White Sands National Park. I replied saying I had had sand in every crack and crevice of my body previously and was not looking forward to that at any point of my life right now. The guy behind me nearly lost his coffee he was chortling so hard…

We have driven past this National Park on more than one occasion, just never got the chance to stop in, last time they kicked us out of the Oliver Lee Memorial State Park just South of here in the Spring of 2020 as Covid started, all their parks were closing. Not this time!

During the Permian Period, shallow seas covered the area that today forms White Sands National Park. The seas left behind gypsum (calcium sulfate), and subsequent tectonic activity lifted areas of the gypsum-rich seabed to form part of the San Andres and Sacramento Mountains. Before the Pleistocene epoch ended about 12,000 years ago, the land within the Tularosa Basin featured large lakes, streams, and grasslands.

The mineral that forms the dunes of White Sands National Park is about 98 percent pure gypsum sand. Gypsum sand is considered rare because gypsum is water soluble—it dissolves in water like sugar in iced tea. It is even rarer to find gypsum sand in the form of dunes, which are mounds of sand piled up by wind.

The park’s primary feature is the field of white sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals. The gypsum dunefield is the largest of its kind on Earth. The San Andres Mountains rise beyond the park’s western boundary to the left. The depth of gypsum sand across the entire field is about 30 feet (9.1 m) below the interdunal surface, while the tallest dunes are about 60 feet (18 m) high. By carbon dating seeds embedded in the footprints, the U.S. Geological Survey showed that humans have been living in this region for 23,000 years, whereas previous estimates of human arrival into North American were between 13,000 and 16,000 years ago.

The missile range and air force base were established after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, with continuing operations after World War II and throughout the Cold War.Errant missiles often fell within the park’s boundaries, occasionally destroying some of the visitor areas…0_0….overflights from Holloman disturbed the tranquility of the area. Flight training missions continue over the dunefield, and the park closes temporarily for several hours during missile tests in the adjacent range and cooperative use area on the west side of the park.

The Dunes Drive leads 8 miles (13 km) into the dunes from the visitor center at the park entrance. Here we are following some Canadians who are “out to pasture”…cute;)

Both the park and U.S. Route 70 between Las Cruces and Alamogordo are subject to closure for safety reasons when tests are conducted at White Sands Missile Range which completely surrounds the park. Dunes Drive may be closed for periods of up to three hours during missile tests. Park staff is usually notified two weeks in advance of scheduled tests; however, notifications from White Sands Missile Range may be received as little as 24 hours in advance of a test…😳

The park’s flora must be tough to live in the nutrient-poor alkaline soil of the dunefield. Drought-tolerant plants are able to survive in temperatures that range from sub-freezing to over 100 °F (38 °C), depending on the season. We saw no birds or bugs but lots of familiar and interesting plants. I can imagine most everything else comes out after dark as I saw lizard or small rodent trails around several shrubs. I read that over the centuries, a number of species of mice, lizards, moths, and other insects that inhabit the dunes have gradually changed color, becoming substantially lighter than their cousins elsewhere. Many of these white species are endemic to White Sands. It helps not to stand out!

The park is completely surrounded by the military installations of White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base, and has always had an uneasy relationship with the military. They wanted to make it a UNESCO World Heritage sight but the military pulled their weight, they didn’t want anyone telling them what they could and couldn’t do here.

If you are passing by, this is well worth the $25 per car charge to get in. There are several trails and even a boardwalk to wander upon. There are the to be expected folks leaping up in the air selfie shots and look at me in the desert. We passed a bikini shoot, Mike thought that looked more interesting, as well as a woman in a wind blown flowing red sari being photographed. I imagine it can make a wonderful photographers backdrop.

We stayed in Alamogordo, we wouldn’t again though. The KOA was friendly, clean, typical KOA but the train whistles and sirens going off all night long were not pleasant, no gunfire though;) Ha! We put our small turkey in the oven on Friday, yes, I’d missed a few ingredients, OK, cranberries and you can’t have turkey without fresh cranberries! and just rested, OK, I vacuumed as well, our clothing was beginning to look like everything we owned was a pelt from some kind of wild cat! Rocket was most distressed to see the vacuum monster actually came with us! Mike took him for a walk while I did the dirty deed! Ha! and no, there was not a single grocery store open in Alamogordo on Thanksgiving day, none, zip, nada. Otherwise we would have cooked it then!

After three days we were ready to head West to some quiet, if we pass this way again we’ll take our chances at Oliver Lee Memorial State park just south of here, but as they only have first come, first serve campsites I figured they would be full over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Off we went towards the missile range and then South to our last stop in New Mexico, Rockhound State park. About a third of the way up the hill past the missile range the engine was chattering away like a six year old having consumed three cans of coke-a-cola and the check engine light came on, Mike groaned, I got out the Dodge Book. Bad fuel at the Circle K gas station we stopped at on the main drag was to blame, maybe that is why it was $4.19 a gallon, lowest we’d seen…sigh…Mike had the pedal to the floor the entire way up the pass, and several small ones after. But we did get up the hills…slowly!

We left behind the lawyer billboards and a few other strange ones as we headed out of Alamogordo. The lawyer, Keller, pointing, must have like himself, a lot, there were a half dozen billboards of him in various pointing positions, I guess I get his point now;) Ha! A Cowboys for Trump horse trailer was a bit perplexing, what exactly has Trump done for cowboys? I had to google it: “Cowboys for Trump” founder Couy Griffin has been booted from his position as Otero County Commissioner by a New Mexico judge over his participation in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Check out the article here, Cowboys for Trump if you really want to know more…hahahaha!

The truck made it up the hills, barely, chugging along with a lot of clackety clack at 40 mph until we reached the summit and headed down into Las Cruces it evened out a bit, just need to use up this tank of diesel and cut it with a fresh one in Deming! At Las Cruces we got on the Interstate 10 and headed West towards Deming and Rockhound State Park. We did resist the urge to go visit “The Thing” at least the billboards are interesting, the little girl with the ice cream cone looks demented!

According to Wikipedia:

The Thing (aka The Thing Museum) is an Arizona roadside attraction extensively advertised by signs along Interstate 10 between El Paso, Texas, and Tucson, Arizona. The object, supposedly a mummified mother and child, is believed to have been made by exhibit creator Homer Tate for sideshows.

The Thing was purchased by former lawyer Thomas Binkley Prince in the mid-twentieth century, who quickly based a tourist attraction around the strange object. Although Prince died in 1969, the attraction was run by his wife Janet for many years. Today, the site is under the ownership of Bowlin Travel Centers, Inc. Despite its remoteness, the attraction has been popular; it has appeared in several tourist guides, and has been the subject of several news stories and reports. The step-great-great-grandson of Homer Tate and the curator of the Arizona Historical Society-Pioneer Museum in Flagstaff has said that this was created by Homer Tate. Tate was famous for producing sideshow gaffes. Based out of Phoenix, Tate produced a variety of curiosities like faux shrunken heads. You must go see for yourself;)

We’ll leave it there for today! Stay tuned for Rockhound Park, peace, quiet, no lights, no sirens, no train horns, did I miss anything, oh, and cactus wrens, oh I do love those cactus wrens!:)

My best Marilyn Monroe pose, I am just SO classy! Look at those wind blown feathers and weep ladies!

The truth is out there…the town of little green aliens:)

You have to love a town that embraces it’s inner alieness;) Ha!

We had to get there first. A quick early morning trip to a very friendly Pecos Propane outlet just up the road to get our two 40 lb. propane tanks filled didn’t set us back much $50 for both, $2.99 a gallon, that still confuses me that it isn’t sold by the pound. I had told the attendant filling the tanks how much the new tanks cost in Canada, $300 each as he was looking at the reconditioning stamp on ours, holy sh*t he said, they are $109 each here brand new, then he said he understood why we had reconditioned ones!

Leaving Carlsbad we headed North on the 285 towards Roswell, you go through Artesia, more guns and gods and oil. Comes with the territory.

…then you can’t help but giggle as you come into Roswell, of course there are gun signs and god but there are also little green aliens everywhere welcoming you as well! All because of the the Roswell incident. According to Wikipedia:

The Roswell incident occurred amid the flying saucer craze of 1947. On June 26, media nationwide had reported civilian pilot Kenneth Arnold‘s story of seeing what became known as “Flying Saucers”. Historians would later chronicle over 800 “copycat” sightings that were reported after the Arnold story was published.

On Saturday night, July 5, 1947, rancher W.W. “Mac” Brazel made a trip from his remote ranch to town, Corona, New Mexico. The ranch had no phone and no radio, leaving Brazel unaware of the flying saucer craze of the prior ten days.

As a result, it was not until Saturday night that Brazel connected debris he’d found three weeks earlier with the flying disks in the news. The debris – tinfoil, rubber, and thin wooden beams – had been scattered across a square mile of the ranch. Brazel previously had gathered it and pushed it under some brush to dispose of it.

When Brazel heard stories of silvery flying discs that Saturday night in Corona, he decided to gather up his prior find. On Sunday, July 6, Brazel dug out the debris and on Monday, July 7, he took it in to the sheriff’s office in Roswell. The sheriff called Roswell Army Air Field, which assigned the matter to Major Jesse Marcel. Brazel took Marcel back to the debris site, and the two gathered up more pieces of rubber and tinfoil. Marcel took the material home on Monday night.

On Tuesday morning, July 8, Marcel took the material to his base commander, Colonel William Blanchard. Blanchard reported the finding to General Roger Ramey at Fort Worth Army Air Field (FWAAF). General Ramey ordered the material flown to FWAAF immediately. Marcel boarded a B-29 Superfortress and made the flight to FWAAF.

On July 8, 1947, RAAF public information officer Walter Haut issued a press release stating that personnel from the field’s 509th Operations Group had recovered a “flying disc”, which had landed on a ranch near Roswell.

The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff’s office of Chaves County.
The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff’s office, who in turn notified Maj. Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office.
Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher’s home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters.

Decades later, Roswell radio announcer Frank Joyce recalled contacting Haut by telephone to verify the release. Recalled Joyce: “I said ‘Walter, don’t run this story. If you do, you’re going to be in trouble. They’ll ship you out to Siberia.” I remember mentioning that, that was a common phrase in those days”.

There you have it:) But it never happened right? Ha!

We went through town and then turned right onto Highway 380 towards Bottomless Lakes State Park. We had been here in November of 2017. Everything is so dry, even the live oaks look like they are dying, so did parts of town. Lot’s of closures and boarded up stores, no tourists during the pandemic have been hard on these tourist towns.

After we got settled at the park we drove back to town for a late lunch and went for the prerequisite green chili burger. The Cowboy Cafe was closed already so we found Julie’s Place. It looked abandoned but had a hand written sign that said “drive up” only, we did. The menu board and order area had been smashed to pieces a long time ago so we drove up to the only window left. An older woman, Julie I presume took our order for two burgers. I had to get out as when we made the turn past the smashed order board we spied a horde of cats. Some feral, some not. This was Midnight the older man said. There used to be a dairy behind them but it’s gone now so the cats are here. Mike gave him the last of Groots traveling crunchies, they looked in OK shape. I still want to take all those kittens home..sigh. 

Bottomless Lake State Park is about fifteen miles Southeast of town, not super close but it is a lovely spot. We had one night here as we’d decided to add an extra day in Carlsbad so when we checked in before noon (check in time is 4 pm) I didn’t feel bad, I’d already paid for the day, at $18 a night it isn’t a bank breaker! No one on duty, go find your spot and set up. It said reservations only on the sign, we saw a few campers turn away but you know what, it has free wifi, good wifi at that! They maybe could have stopped and made reservations on their phone. Lots of empty spots. The park takes its name from nine small, deep lakes located along the eastern escarpment of the Pecos River valley. It was very quiet as the main area is closed for remodeling, bathrooms, docks, so hardly a soul to be seen. Perfect! Just the alien at the front of the camp hosts spot;)

First of all, a state park with good wifi? Wow! But not the reason we came…this….

Lea Lake

The campground is quiet, small only 32 total campsites with hook-ups (6 full hook-up campsites, 26 sites with water/electric hook-ups) the cats were very interested in the airstream trailer across from us, a dachshund and a peregrine falcon lived there. There is a falconers club nearby. Not an everyday sighting!

The unique lakes at this park are sinkholes, ranging from 17 to 90 feet deep. The greenish- blue color created by aquatic plants is what gives the lakes the illusion of great depth. I’m a sucker for reflections.

The park consists of approximately 1,611 acres and includes eight of nine lakes; the Fin and Feather Club owns Dimmitt Lake, the southernmost lake. Vaqueros (cowboys) who could not find the bottom of the lakes reportedly gave them their name. They would tie two or three ropes together and drop them into the lakes to try to reach the bottom. The ropes were not long enough, so the vaqueros thought the lakes were bottomless! Silly cowboys, but it gets better…other tall tales and folklore abound. One tells of a horse that fell into one of the Figure Eight lakes, drowned, and was pulled out of the other. Numerous objects reportedly have been lost in the lakes, only to be retrieved later from Carlsbad Caverns or even the Gulf of Mexico. How about the stories of strong underground currents that suck divers and swimmers deep into the bowels of the Earth, never to be seen again! And of course every lake has its monster; the Bottomless Lakes monsters are fictitious giant turtles that lurk in the deep, murky waters! Ha!

Panorama of Lea Lake

Lea Lake is the most popular lake and the only lake where swimming is allowed. Most of the developed facilities are at Lea Lake. It was named after Captain Joseph C. Lea, a rancher, veteran of the Civil War, and early settler of Roswell. Lea rode with Clark Quantrill and Frank and Jesse James during the Civil War and was a friend of William Bonney, alias Billy the Kid. Three sinkholes, 40, 60, and 90 ft deep, form the lake. A mesa overlook provides a bird’s eye view of the park.

Check out wasn’t until two so I walked around Lea Lake before we headed out. The wetland path was mostly dry with a shy Kingfisher and a few coots swimming around. Reluctantly we left as the campground was booked for Thanksgiving, I did manage to find a spot for three days in Alamogordo, busy holiday weekend, we often forget these holiday things! We sadly drove away.

Our way out took as back through town, past the bullet riddled stop sign, the welcome and thanks for visiting signs, the green lives matter was fabulous but someone would give me the gears if I wore it me thinks! We stayed on the 380 past the towering Capitan Mountains in the distance, a peak of 10,300 feet. Elevation in Roswell was 3570′. We went up in elevation to a high plateau before cutting through a beautiful valley near Hondo.

Didn’t see any God billboards, a few for ammunition…you already have the gun right? and goods, what the hell are goods? Guns-Antiques…would those be antique guns? and Mike wouldn’t stop and let me buy an alien! Only $29! a steal, which he said is what would happen to it if I put it at the end of Bula Lane…sad face here….I may get one on the way back! Ha! I’ll chain it down!

We followed the Ruidoso River as we wound our way through the valley and then climbed to a summit of 7500′. There was snow on the northern faces of the hills! After we entered into the Mescalero Apache Reservation, there were casinos, several casinos and a horse race track…and a castle. The castle was odd, and suddenly we were in the pines! So many landscape changes in two hours.

We finally started to go down, over three thousand feet and the white sands became visible in front of us. We turned South and headed to Alamogordo and the White Sands National Park. But that, will be another story…I’ll be starting a petition for that carved $29 carved alien to convince Mike! Saludos amigos, are there aliens or not? I want to believe….

Green lives matter? The truth is out there!

Into the caverns we go! Carlsbad, New Mexico

The incredible Carlsbad Caverns

The Caverns are located about twenty miles South of the town of Carlsbad. I’d made an appointment to walk in at 12:30 as I’d read they only allow a certain amount of people down at once. The parking lot was full, crap, it was Sunday but most of the plates were from out of state, and out of country, I saw a few Sonoran and Chihuahuan plates as well as Alaska, that’s out of country! ha! And a poor soul from Manitoba! We’d stopped at the entrance where there is a large RV park and gas/gift store, they had propane, yeah! But…they were closed, boo, don’t run out of propane in Carlsbad on a Sunday, no one is open, not even the stores that say they have propane, Tractor Supply Store…does not. The park road goes in seven miles after you leave the highway and you wind your way through canyons and up onto the mesa where the entrance is.

Our last time here, yikes, twenty years ago, we rode the elevator down and back up again, we really wanted the experience of walking down this time. Sadly the bats here have all flown South to Mexico, smart bats, so there was no bat flight but the walk down was quite the trip! Now, it did say it was strenuous and steep, I believe the steep, really only strenuous if you decide to walk back up…:) It’s a two km 750 foot drop to get down. It was cold on the surface and actually warmed up quite nicely as we went down!

Well lit it is not but your eyes do adjust as you go down. There are spots to stop and rest if you need to, or to let the running children go by…0_0…large family groups did tend to block the pathway but you could also stop and let them by:)

Altogether over thirty miles of passages have been discovered. The deepest chamber is at 1037 feet below the surface. An estimated 250 million years ago, the area surrounding Carlsbad Caverns National Park served as the coastline for an inland sea. Present in the sea was a plethora of marine life, whose remains formed a reef. Carlsbad Caverns National Park is situated in a bed of limestone above groundwater level. During cavern development, it was within the groundwater zone. Deep below the limestones are petroleum reserves (part of the Mid-Continent Oil Field). At a time near the end of the Cenozoic, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) began to seep upwards from the petroleum into the groundwater. The combination of hydrogen sulfide and oxygen from the water formed sulfuric acid: H2S + 2O2 → H2SO4. The sulfuric acid then continued upward, aggressively dissolving the limestone deposits to form caverns. The presence of gypsum within the cave is a confirmation of the occurrence of this process, as it is a byproduct of the reaction between sulfuric acid and limestone.

The most difficult thing to capture is the immense scale of the caverns. Not having a flash proved to make things difficult! Things on my wish list, flash, and lightning trigger! I had to push the ISO and deal with the noise but mostly it was just about looking. Such beauty and SO many people with so few manners. Nothing wrong with taking a selfie but when you block the entire path over and over again, at every formation for everyone else as your stare and grin dumbly into you phone, or try to arrange your family of seven into one shot (Have you heard of birth control?) do people want to see your ugly mug there, or the beauty of the caves. Ha! Curmudgeon am I. Twenty years ago there were no f*cking phones, it was lovely! Ha! Rant over! Maybe…hahahahaha!

“Carlsbad Cavern is one of over 300 limestone caves in a fossil reef laid down by an inland sea about 265 million years ago. Twelve-to-fourteen thousand years ago, American Indians lived in the Guadalupe Mountains. Some of their cooking ring sites and pictographs have been found within the present day boundaries of the park. By the 1500s, Spanish explorers were passing through present-day west Texas and southeastern New Mexico. Spain claimed the southwest until 1821 when Mexico revolted against her and claimed independence. Mexico, fighting the westward expansionist United States in the late 1840s, lost the southwest to the US. In 1850, New Mexico Territory was created, and or the next 30 years the cultural conflict between American Indians and the US government continued. Eddy, New Mexico, the future Carlsbad, was established in 1888 and New Mexico became a state in 1912.” from the park website.

By the time we hit the big room I was tired of people. It’s not as if people are inherently stupid, well, maybe but they just seem unaware of others around them. Just a tiny bit of courtesy, being aware that stopping with your entire family in one spot, over and over again and not seeing that if you all just lined up single file everyone could get by, or see as well. The sun had come out when we rode the elevator to the surface, I admit to needing to distance myself from the crowds, it was overwhelming at times, maybe I have Anthropophobia, fear of people or Enochlophobia which refers to a fear of crowds. Your new words for the day! Ha!

Map of the caverns

I think we’ll be avoiding large crowds for awhile, it was certainly somewhere we wanted to wear a mask. It was warm and humid with little air flow and lot’s of coughing sneezing homo sapiens:)

As the American’s say “Stay Safe” after the latest mass shooting this week, maybe they are right, or perhaps it should be..stay aware and try not to piss anyone off, no matter how hard that is!! Saludos amigos, hasta pronto! Get ready for a bit of an alien experience;) Roswell!

Texas, everything is big, trucks, tailpipes and flags..and little birds;)

We tried to hit the Dallas/Fort Worth complex of highways at midday, luckily no traffic as we headed to the Western side of this large metropolis, Tyler State Park, in Tyler, Texas:) A new stop for us. Ranger wasn’t that helpful or enthused but shoved a map our way and pointed to the Cedar Point camping area. I asked if we had to go in any particular way to get backed into the site, he said no. He was wrong. Inside sites you need to enter one way, outside sites the other. We had to continue around on the park road to find a spot to turn around without wiping something out on an oak branch before coming in on the angle we needed to back in. Tight with the oak trees but doable. Not always the best way to end the day when you’re tired. It was gloomy as well so added to the melancholy. I’d had news the night before my wonderful stepmother has liver cancer, three months maybe to live. Her dementia has so overpowered her life she isn’t the person she used to be but made me incredibly sad.

In the morning after the cats were walked about I decided to go check out the bird blind on the park map, it couldn’t be that far right? Also nice to check out the other camping areas, another reservoir here. No mile markers/feet on the campground map. Sigh…I got a work out I wasn’t planning on. By the time I got to the bird blind I said screw it! There were a lot of steep hills and no way was I planning on going back the way I’d come. At least it was quiet, I encountered two other walkers, so many American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) alongside the road but not a single bird sound, it was eerily quiet.

It was almost 10 km the whole way around the park road, Mike was getting worried by the time I got back but as I get sidetracked with the camera he hadn’t decided to go out looking for me yet! Ha! we packed up and hit the road to go further West. We had read great things about Lake Mineral Wells State Park. As we got there we both looked at each other…we’ve been here before! 2016, those blogs come in handy to look back on things. It had been in November as well, but the temperature was close to 100° and our first travel trailer with one air conditioning unit was not cutting it! Not today! Both the heaters were needed!

Apparently the concrete causeway makes some campers feel uncomfortable. In 2016 water had been running over the side and down the spillway, not today. On the way to the park a church had a sign out in front that said “Pray for Rain”. We had to go a fair bit North of the I 20 to get to this spot but it was going to be a two day rest, needed by all!

Of course, there was a plethora of billboards…and of course, many more lawyers…the IRS problems lawyer has scam in his name, ha! Car Wreck Cowboy Sadat is not what I envision when I hear cowboy, where’s Clint when you need him, maybe he’s helping Jim, a lawyer and why does he have a sledgehammer in his hand????? Perhaps he takes the heavy handed approach! Ha! Also why just english, hay abogados por todos! There was also your GOD for the day, yes even the churches in Texas are BIG! The “Stop slavery, end socialism/communism” was a new one, they have another billboard that reads “stop marxist teachers” I didn’t get a shot of that one. They want to “Take America Back” perhaps to the middle ages I’m thinking! The “Going to Heaven?” one, well, it’s as if you had a choice? Hahaha. None of my friends will be there 🤣 I did call upon his name when I stubbed my toe this week 😜 and then just the plain friggin’ weird! Guns, Mickey d’s having a “dining” room is an oxymoron. The “I MAKE SEXY TEETH” guy was a dentist who wanted his beautiful picture and winning smile on a huge billboard, arsehole no doubt;) and would you send your kid to a school/academy called Barrel of Monkeys? Perhaps it’s true but….ha!

Just such a strange country…

The view to the reservoir is blocked by mesquite and oaks but there is a great trail the cats discovered! We were in site 21 of the Live Oak camping area where they had 50 amp service, it was getting cold! Sites 29-30 and 31 have a view of the lake and are relatively flat, some sites are very short, when and if we come back I’ll aim for those with a view:) The town’s “Crazy Water” tagline goes back to the 1880s when, according to local legend, a woman was relieved of a mental affliction by continued quaffs at the “crazy well.” As the alkaline water was found to be generally beneficial, the growing town became known as the spot “Where America Drinks Its Way to Health.” Folks bathed their way to health, as well. It appears the water had lithium in it! I should have taken my five gallon container down to fill it;)

and the birds…you could hear them as soon as we stopped, chirps and tweets and cardinal calls. I cleaned the back window off with a rag and put the stick on feeder for the cats up, and hung my other two feeders on an oak and mesquite tree.

This is also a Groot, Gamora and Rocket approved park. With trees to climb and small paths that led down to a path that meandered around the reservoir, they were very happy, a few puffed tail moments…danger, coyote, or a killer rabbit! Ha!

Speaking of killer rabbits, I was trying to figure out where I’d heard of Antioch, there was a road sign exclaiming it’s presence. Mike laughed, the holy grenade of Antioch he proclaimed!

The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch was a weapon in Brother Maynard’s keeping. According to the Book of Armaments, chapter two, verses nine through twenty-one, it was consecrated by Saint Attila.

“And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, ‘O Lord, bless this thy hand grenade, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy.’ And the Lord did grin. And the people did feast upon the lambs, and sloths, and carp, and anchovies, and orangutans, and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats, and large chulapas. And the Lord spake, saying, ‘First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it!” all said in a pleasing British accent please…..Ah, Monty Python:) Thank you Monty Python Fandom!

Things we learn along the road, the town has a population of 25…in 2000, maybe 27 now? Unless the grenade went off….

Our two day stop gave us the chance to call a Mobile RV guy I looked up on Google the morning after we arrived. You have to realize that half the population here seems to live in RV Parks, oil workers, you name it, there are dozens of all straight in a line sand and gravel RV parks dotting the exits of I20. How many Sleepy Hollow Campgrounds can there be? I dare not google that one! “No problem!” Burson’s RV repair said,”I have a furnace to fix then I’ll drop by!” He removed the offending ten year old leaking propane hose from under the slide, popped off into town, found a replacement, abit longer but it worked and yeah, we have our hot water, furnace and stove back! Quite the character. A camp host motoring by in his cart asked for his card. “Can I call you next week?” he asked. “Yup, you sure can, as many times as you want but I won’t pick up!” He laughed. “I’m off fishing for sharks in the gulf! Call me the week after!”

I got to sit and watch the birds at the feeders, as well as a very plump squirrel who didn’t look like he needed any extra seed! We wandered into town before the RV guy came out to the local Metro grocery store and then to the Dollorama to find a squirt bottle, for Gamora;) ha! Mike was a bit worried after I went in he said, some truly scary people were going in and out, I agreed when I came out, but the older lady clerk was helpful and cheerful and together we found a wee cosmetic spray bottle to remind Miss Guardian of the Galaxy Gamora that we can only take so much jabbering and meowing at times! I did say that it made Giant Tiger in Perth look like Saks 5th Avenue;)

I had remembered the Black Vultures from our last visit, maybe not the most attractive birds but beautiful flyers and a part of our ecosystem. We packed up after the 2nd morning reluctantly and planned out next stop at Lake Colorado City State Park. It was a three hour hop, as soon as we turned off the I 20 Mike looked at me and said “We’ve been here before too!” It’s a few miles South of the freeway, past a huge electric plant. The town looked no better than it had in 2018, somewhat desolate, old empty brick buildings five and six stories tall, windows gone, not even boarded up. The freeway maybe took away it’s livelihood? Lake Colorado City is an unincorporated community in Mitchel County, Texas, United States. Its population was 588 as of the 2010 census. That was it in Wikipedia….

The entrance to the park isn’t promising but once in the sites are nice in the Rolling Hills camping area, well spaced and longer than the Mesquite loop, never made it to the Lakeview loop. It’s very open in places with mesquite and low oaks, not a bird sound to be heard.

Gamora said it was fine and dandy, paths and open areas and no dogs, Groot and Rocket were not as impressed. Every morning and afternoon when they climb out, it looks as if they are maybe expecting to be somewhere else and there is a look of shock on their faces most days. I keep telling them they will get to go back to the lake!

The sunrise was spectacular, the clouds rolled in and after the cat walk we set off. A couple in a trailer from Alamogordo stopped to chat on their way out, she was a pyjama/bathrobe dog walker, me, a pyjama/bathrobe photographer, we gave each other the salutary nod, comfortable in our skins, and pyjamas. We got off the I20 and headed North towards Lamesa and state road 180 to Seminole. This is oil country, gas tankers, pumps, blazing stacks in the middle of plowed fields, with lots of signs of Water for Sale. Not exactly scenic, the cats were thrilled, to sleep, and the roads were smooth. Mike called the RV park in Carlsbad and the owners son told him the 180 was the road to take as it’s not somewhere we have been before, always good to know if there are low bridges or really bumpy county roads!

We headed North out of the park on a different state road back to the I 20. Mike held way back as we approached a railroad crossing. The train came by blaring it’s horn, it was too much for Groot who slithered behind Mike’s seat and stayed a while until all the blaring and railroad crossing dinging stopped!

Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea….had me humming the Beverly Hillbillies theme song…not exactly a lot to take pictures of out here. This is the Permian basin.  The basin contains the Mid-continent oil field province. Oil, lots of oil and potash. You can smell it at times. We took a round about to miss Lamesa and headed for Seminole and Hobbs on a brand new road, smooth as silk, I could have fallen asleep. The cats all did. No semi’s passing, little traffic, the towns weren’t too bumpy and we rolled into Carlsbad before three, we gained another hour…sigh. I’m never going to be able to sleep in again!

We made this a two day stop. One day to rest, grocery shop and repair, recoup and rejoice, one day to go to the famous Carlsbad Caverns South of here and then we’ll be off to check out the aliens in Roswell;) Stay tuned for the Carlsbad Caverns amigos, the truth is out there!

The truth is out there!?

What, drive through Daiquiris? Wait! Let me call my lawyer officer! I saw him on a billboard!

Entering Louisiana will be remembered for drive-through daiquiris. The shops have been a fixture in the state for four decades. In 1981 Louisiana was one of 24 states that did not prohibit drinking alcohol and driving. That was when the drive through daiquiri was born. Daiquiri shops use tape to close the lid. Legally, if the tape over the straw hold is on the lid, the drink is not considered to be an open container. If the tape is removed or broken, it is considered an open container and subject to open container laws.

Welcome to Louisiana! We’d just left all the lawyer billboards behind in Mississippi to get these! Ha! From choosing a lawyer of any shape or colour you may decide, to having a frozen daiquiri after stopping at the den of iniquity! What a country!

Lawyers, lawyers everywhere!

We left Roosevelt State Park headed for Lincoln Parish County Park in Ruston, Louisiana for the night. It was cold when I got up, damn time change and into central time as well has me wide awake at 5, OK, 4, but I stayed in bed until 5. It was 31° out, just below freezing. I wandered out for some pyjama photography with my winter jacket on! I didn’t last long! Damn it was cold!

I went back in and waited for it to warm up. We had our electric heater going in front and the electric fireplace going all night. With the propane leak we can’t use the furnace! Bundle up! The sun did help once it was up!

Early mornings hold magic, the light, the mists, the quiet, all combine to create a wonderful way to start the day. We took the cats out for a stoll, hoping it would wear Gamora out so she would sleep while we were driving. Ha! I looked unsuccessfully for the spray bottle. It had been nice stopping for a day, the only driving was out to the Exxon station at the park entrance to diesel up.

If anyone can explain the top billboard to me that would be great, an AK 47 or M4? What exactly does it mean, is it code? WTF? What was noticeable along that stretch of the I 20 was the many empty billboards, or faded signs that hadn’t been replaced for a very long time. I’m not too worried about being shackled by lust, interesting choice of words there, I do wonder about their grammar…Jesus sets free, doesn’t quite sound right, who wrote this crap? Ha! I guess I need to talk to James…

Guns and God

We did cross over the mighty Mississippi River, it looked drained, with beaches running towards the center for hundreds of feet, drought is real here, hard to deny.

We’d read about Lincoln Parish County Park, Louisiana Campground of the year 2022, we were not disappointed. It was a lovely park, many of the sites backed up onto a small lake, full hookups, cement pads, balconies and picnic tables. I can imagine it would be full over the weekend. The man I spoke to the night before laughed and said we’d have the choice of many spots on a Sunday night and not to worry, pay when I get there, it is all first come first serve. Its famous for it’s mountain bike paths. I read on a sign by the lake it had been the mission of one man to get this park done,  it was Ruston’s Fredrick Hoogland. Sale of the water in the lake to an oil drilling company subsidized much of the construction. There was a small waterfall but turns out the stream is now just a trickle, we saw a sign coming in that said “Pray for Rain” in front a church.

All I saw were birds in the lake when we backed up…short attention span! Ha! Mike had read that the last site was the most private so we took that one. We were a bit low in front but better than having the jacks all the way up, the front wobbles about then when Groot and Rocket jump off the bed!

We did take the cats for a walk before I wandered down with my camera! Seemed we were parked at the end where the fish were, and ducks, muscovies, cats were not fond of their very loud quacking! Some kind of aquatic monsters Rocket said! Ha! Very friendly wandering people, amazed we’d come all the way from Canada to their little park, very pleasant spot! I lost the sun so decided to get up early to walk the lake and look for birds:)

Sorry about the bird overload, it’s been awhile since I’ve gotten to spend much time with cooperative Egrets and Herons. After a walk around the lake in the morning I realized they were it, for the lake wildlife:) Right in our backyard. After the morning cat walk I wandered the paved path around Hoogland Lake, found an uncooperative Kinglet, and a Hairy woodpecker.

I went back and sat on the bench and watched the two grumpy old men of the lake, the Heron and Egret interact, all while being chastised by two very loud Belted Kingfishers.

Get out of my backyard the Belted Kingfishers were yelling at them! Ha! This is my nemesis bird, they usually are very shy and I get pictures of their ruffled bums! Love that crest!

We made a quick trip into town, Mike was sorely disappointed to find that Ben Christmas’s Crawfish shack was closed, out of season thought the young girl at the grocery store we stopped in at after refueling. Instead we bought a pound of possibly the largest shrimp I have seen in awhile. Groot thought he might have died and gone to heaven when we got back to the trailer, we’d eaten the last of our Canadian frozen shrimp the night before…and shrimp AGAIN? This was just TOO good to be true! All the cats each had a feast of two whole raw shrimp each and then Rocket begged for the cooked ones as well. These guys:) Spoiled rotten!

The next day, well, we were headed to Texas. Tyler State State Park, but that is a whole other state, a big one, well, not that big actually, we could fit several into Ontario, but don’t tell the Texans that. We were reminded why we didn’t come back this way in the Spring of 2020…Shreveport, my God please let someone scream in my ear before we decide to drive the I 20 through here again. The worst roads of the trip. no concept of joining their bridges and overpasses to the actual highway as both truck and trailer lept and bounced over wild cracks and joins. White knuckle for the driver and Gamora voiced her complete displeasure but at least the rain held off until we passed the hideousness of that part of I 20 and we settled into a calmer remainder of the drive. I was feeling very melancholy, the rain, maybe the miles catching up and I managed to get the small front trailer door to the hydraulic system smushed by the truck tailgate when we were hitching up, I thought it would clear but Mike had to come in on an angle. Mike used his foot to push it back in place after I bashed on it with the blocks of wood we use for the jacks…sigh…one more thing to fix. I’ll try and take it off at our next two nighter to see if the hinge can be salvaged, if not, it’s locked and closed for now, lesson learned, I just hate breaking stuff that could have been avoided. Bye bye Louisiana, see you in the Spring, just NOT Shreveport! Sorry about the novel today;) Saludos amigos, hope you are not shoveling snow my Northern comrades!

Warriors Path State Park, Tennessee to Oak Mountain State Park in Alabama

Looking across the park at Fort Patrick Henry Lake, a reservoir.

We’d looked at pictures of Warriors Path State Park in Tennessee, it was a three hour jump from Natural Bridge in Virginia, about the most we like to do, yes, we are not in a hurry, first time ever. Warriors Path State Park is a 950-acre Tennessee State Park in Sullivan County, Tennessee. It is named for the Great Indian Warpath that was used by the Iroquois in war raids with the Cherokee and other tribes. We’d read it was an older park and sites were tight to get into with a bigger 5th wheel on some of the RV forums. I usually go to campsitephotos.com to get a look at the sites but there wasn’t any pictures for this particular park. I took an educated guess with pad length, 40′ and the fact it angled away from the road in a way we could back in according to the park map and made a reservation for one night. It was also fairly close to the I 81 and not miles and miles from the freeway.

Tons of traffic in this corridor and it seems no one ever gets trained in how to merge! Pedal to the metal. It must drive truck drivers crazy as motorists reach the end of the yield lane, are still not up to speed and force the semis to move over or they’ll smush the cars…I’d be an evil truck driver and let them figure it out on their own…some do…ha! How hard is it? Get up to speed and move into the lane smoothly, sounds easy enough…not. Mike had a special German vocabulary for the drivers too busy looking at their phones, or who are simply put, idiots. He did come up with a new slogan, drive like there’s a buffet at the end fat boy, he yelled at one particular man in a vehicle that realized at the last moment he had to merge…not PC I know, it’s a vicious world out there. Sometimes you can’t move over to accommodate these fools…

There was no one at the park entrance store when we got there. A hand written note in the window said they were sick, to call the main park office if there were any questions or proceed to your site, we toodled off on the narrow paved roads and yes, many of the sites were really small, it’s an older park, but oh so beautiful. The campground is up on a heavily treed point that juts out into the reservoir. We followed the arrows to our site and backed in with a few back and forths to get lined up. The camp host came by to see if we needed any help, not a problem we said and settled in.

What was obvious was there had been a significant wind/storm event here in the last year or two. Whoever had been in our spot would have been smushed (my word of the week) by a 2 and half foot in diameter 80′ tall tree. Half of it would have been in the campsite, right where we parked, the other half, root ball and all lay pointing towards us. These downed trees were everywhere. It was a bit shocking, all were pointing in the same direction. I went out for quick wander, I didn’t have a map so I scurried down the steep hill behind us to the lakeside where I discovered a trail. I followed it along the lake and eventually it turned and went back up to the B campsites, which were all closed, only the C campsites stay open all Winter.

The nights are still chilly, it was 43° flintstone scale at dawn. The cats were all on the back of the sofa catching the first morning rays until a squirrel ran under the trailer! I had planned on getting up to see the eclipse but it would be too low to the horizon and blocked by the trees so decided to snuggle with Rocket instead. He has become a bed boy. He has taken the whole moving thing the hardest, the youngest with the least experience and given the fact that he is a huge baby huey to begin with, he needs extra attention.

I wandered off to the park office to see if there was anyone there in the morning after following the path the other way, towards the boat launch to look at the campsites on top of another hill. There was one there we could get in, in a pinch. I write down the spots and keep them on hand, we are coming back, not sure if we’ll take the same path but we’ll see, always good to know!

On one of the many trees fallen into the lake I came across had oyster mushrooms growing on it! It was slick, I wasn’t ready to play log rolling on the lake. I’d nearly fallen in earlier, the path around the lake has been worn away in many places with iffy footing along the edges. In some places only the tree roots are holding the path in place. I walked up the boat launch to look at the campsites in the 2nd circle. A man was leaf blowing using what sounded like a redneck’s truck exhaust, you know the ones I mean with the F*ck Trudeau bumper stickers and oversized flags, here they might be flying confederate flags, I didn’t actually know what was making the horrendous noise until I was quite close, f*cking leaf blowers. It was 8 a.m! I found another site we could get into, in a pinch, if everything else is booked. I’d like to come back here if we are taking this way back in the Spring! I’m working on the leaf blower ban petition!;) ha!

There was an abundance of fungi, the ones with the little white knobs, Panellus stipticus is one of several dozen species of fungi that are bioluminescent. Strains from eastern North America are typically bioluminescent, but those from the Pacific coast regions of North America and from other continents are not. I need to go back after dark! Ha! I could have stayed a few days here to explore, and another chance to go back to Broad Street BBQ in Kingsport…I should have taken pictures, we got a family pack to go with pulled pork and brisket, added ribs, beans, slaw and potato salad (I was thinking a few meals here plus pulled pork sandwiches for the road!) We devoured it. The owner was chatting with an old man from NY, telling him how he’d traveled all over the world and the food in America was CRAP! I laughed under my mask, he smiled. You buy a tomato at a market in Italy he said, It tastes like TOMATO! Here, they taste like cardboard! He has a point. I don’t put crap in my BBQ or beans or slaw, all natural! he proclaimed and I thanked him for that. Man, was it tasty, we sat in the trailer and ate until I had to go lie down, damn it was good! The smokiness (Hickory he said) of the meats, the sauce with just the right amount of sweet and sour of the vinegar, my mouth is watering just thinking of it…all gone now! It was Rocket approved pulled pork and ribs said the cat licking his chops!

Oak Mountain was a six hour jump so we chose a KOA in North Chattanooga for a one night stopover. Good for laundry, $2 wash or dry but man it was noisy right beside the interstate. I’d hoped the trees would block some noise but no, we won’t go back, but we do have clean clothes now:)

I got out to stretch my legs after we checked in and got situated, down to the lake, the familiar path around it and was shocked by the devastation of what appeared to be a large wind event. The path meandered now around huge fallen pines, sometimes I had to scramble over them. Trees were toppled at the roots, some snapped off a few feet from the ground. In the sunny clearings new Southern yellow pines had sprouted, new life returning, a cycle, but so sad to see so many spectacular trees snapped off and ripped from the ground.

I asked an older man, a camp host who was leaf blowing around the bathrooms. Said he was happy to chat and stop work for a moment, smiling with his soft Alabama drawl. He’d been working here for a decade or more and I asked him about the trees and destruction. This March he explained, a tornado came down the valley along the lake and did incredible damage. “We are in tornado alley!”he exclaimed “but this was a doozy!” It flattened the park pavillions on the other end of the lake, as if nothing was ever there. That same storm front hit Warriors Path, several states he said. His son lost the roof off his house. Angry nature.

A North American Spur-throated Grasshopper hitched a ride on my pant leg for part of my walk before I set him down in the leaves. I wandered towards a swampy area, usually good for birds but it was remarkably quiet. I spotted a Red Bellied Woodpecker high in the canopy, their chatty call is unmistakable, a few American Goldfinches fluttered away but not very busy bird wise.