Friday, May 04, 2007

Four State Parks in May 2007

Navajo Lake State Park, northwestern New Mexico

The tangle of park roads had me somewhat frustrated. They didn’t look so confusing from the map I got at the Visitor Center, but driving around looking for a suitable site is another story. On the map the Loops had names: A, B, C, D, E, but as I drove around, the loops were not identified. Also on the map, some of the rectangles signifying sites were numbered; some were not. Many sites had odd configurations, probably because the park was laid out in the ‘60s when large RVs were not common. And many of the sites were available only by reservation.

After trying to figure out the layout, I gave up and parked at site #31. I had to back into a tight place, level, hookup, get my slide out and then organize the inside. THEN I decided to walk around. Wouldn’t you know I would find a better site? After all my work to get settled in 31, would it be worth it to move? It was 5:30. I debated with myself – move or don’t move. I moved.

Site #4 is a ‘full hookup’ site: electricity, water and sewer. It is the only non-reserved site in the A Loop, and formerly was the camp host site. I’m glad I moved.

My first three full days here have been one adventure after another. I’ve met several campers, including Kurt. He’s a single RVer that doesn’t fit the ‘single male camper’ mold. Instead of a ‘beat-up Ford Econoline-type vehicle with a cot and hot plate in back and hoping to find a quality woman’ guy; he pulls a two-year-old Airstream trailer with a Hummer. Kurt is very familiar with the park, including the hiking trails and the communities in the area. And he is interesting to talk to.

He’s been my tour guide. On Wednesday we to the town of Aztec to tour the Aztec Ruins National Monument, then to Bloomfield to tour the Salmon Ruins (a part of the San Juan County Museum Association). Both are fascinating places. Researchers theorize that construction of the settlements by the Ancestral Puebloans (not by Aztec Indians) began in the late 11th century. The trails took us through rooms in formerly two- and three-story structures that were made of sandstone walls with log-braced ceilings.

After lunch in Bloomfield, we returned to the Navajo Dam area where we walked along the San Juan River. This river is rated as one of America’s top ten trout fishing waters. The river flows through scenic sandstone canyons. Fishermen routinely catch kokanee salmon, rainbow and brown trout, channel catfish, crappie, northern pike, bluegill and large- and small-mouth bass.

We startled a beaver that refused to pose for a photo. I did the best I could, but this camera-shy critter wouldn’t come fully out from the river’s vegetation. Look carefully in the middle of this photo.

Navajo Lake is formed by Navajo Dam. It is an earth- and rock-filled dam that is nearly a mile long. Spring runoff is quickly filling the lake – New Mexico’s second largest lake, and the dam operators have been releasing a lot of water into the river.

Thursday morning (my birthday) started with a hike – measured by smiles, not miles – took us to a sandstone cave that will eventually erode to be two or three natural stone arches.

As we slowly picked our way uphill toward the cave, we were entertained by birds, wildflowers, and interesting rock formations. The cave has a huge opening and is fairly shallow. It was interesting to try to figure out what animals had been there (found furry pieces of a slow or dim-witted rabbit), what bird/s might have nested in cave wall crags, and who scratched out the image of a human.

On the hike back from the cave – Kurt led the way and inadvertently stepped right over a rattlesnake that was stretched out, warming up half-in and half-out from under a rock. I saw it and froze in my tracks while alerting Kurt. After I skirted the snake, Kurt borrowed my hiking stick (aka snake stick) to nudge the snake from a safe distance. After a few gentle pokes, the snake was sufficiently irritated to come fully out from under the snake and rattled furiously at him. The rattle on this quite large snake had eight segments. Whew!

Thursday evening I sat, overlooking the lake while sipping wine, reflecting on the day (it was great – had several birthday cards and phone calls), my life and celebrating my decision to adventure in a motorhome.