Sunday, May 20, 2007

Lots of surprises at El Vado Lake State Park

Monday, May 14.
The Chama Library had computers to use and I was able to download some of my book editing work. My two email accounts had a total of 700 messages – nearly 650 of them “junk email along with far too many forwarded things to have time to deal with”.

I was impatient to get to El Vado Lake State Park. The park information I had said there were only 19 electric/water sited, and I sure wanted one. The nights are still getting down in the mid 40s; the days in the 80s – weather where I am glad to have electricity.

Ha ha! How silly to think the park might be full! It was totally empty! No RVs anywhere. It was just a wide expanse of grasses, a few young trees, picnic tables and ramadas. I had the entire park to myself.

I wanted a lake-view site, and #19 looked good to me.

Cat went out to explore, I fixed lunch and walked to the water’s edge for my picnic. Between the ramada support and a nearby tree, I put my hammock up and spent the early afternoon reading “The Wrong Stuff” by Phil Scott. This is a pictorial review of aviation history told through its most creative disasters. It shows pictures and stories of early, odd and unusual-looking flying machines – many of which never got off the ground.

Mid afternoon thundershowers and wind sent Cat and I hustling inside Jeremiah. And shortly after that I met Gene and Katie from the El Paso area. They had arrived to camp and fish.

Tuesday morning I explored around the park and also got some work done. A serious rainstorm came in with fury and lasted about an hour. As evening was setting it and I was fixing some dinner, I caught a glimpse of some large white thing flying – grabbed my binoculars just in time to see it disappear from sight as it was landing on the water. I dashed outside, then quickly came back for my camera. Good thing, too! I hurried through mud and wet grass to the lake edge and saw it and quickly took photos. It was a swan! What? A swan in New Mexico? Yes, indeed! And here’s the picture to prove it. Back in Jeremiah, I checked the picture in my bird books and identified it as a Trumpeter Swan.

On Wednesday I unloaded my bike. My destination this morning would be the El Vado RV Park on NM highway 112 – about 12 miles roundtrip. A new acquaintance, Curtis Campbell, and his parents bought this RV park about a year ago and they’ve been renovating it. He encouraged me to spread the word to my RVing friends, and to come and check it out.

The road I took was the same one I came in on – and I swear there weren’t so many hills the other day! On my way back I saw a cedar tree alongside the road that evidently was recently struck by lightning.

After lunch I took a walk to Pinon Point – a primitive camping peninsula. As I rounded the point, I startled a flock of ducks and huge fish started jumping!

On the way back I saw what I thought was a duck with strange black and white markings. I took some pictures and since have identified it as either a Clark’s Grebe or a Western Grebe. And I saw two osprey nests – occupied ones.

The sky was threatening when Gene and Katie got back from their trip to Chama – and they announced that they were moving to Heron Lake. So, I’ll have my private park and game preserve to myself again.

They hadn’t been gone more than 15 minutes when the wind started roaring, rain and fairly large hail was coming down, accompanied by lightning and thunder. It lasted about 30 minutes, leaving a gentle steady rain.

In walks around the park this week, I’ve noticed trash, and decided that I would do some cleanup. By noon I had cleaned most of the Grassy Point camping areas, and I had a large bag of assorted trash.

And during cleanup, I came across a fairly patch of lilacs in bloom. When my cleanup was finished, I went back to the lilacs and picked me a fragrant bouquet for my rolling home.

Thursday evening’s surprise came just shortly after sundown – a small herd of deer walked by – a 5-point buck with only a left antler – was in the lead, followed by at least five others. It was too dark to get any photos.

Friday afternoon friends Larry and Viola drove up for a weekend of fishing and hiking. Larry eagerly got his fishing pole and headed for the boat dock area. He was hoping to catch a fish before Viola did. But, nothing was biting. Viola and Larry grilled hamburgers for our dinner and we made plans to hike the El Vado to Heron trail. You’ll recall that I saw the Heron trail head and decided it was not a good idea for me to hike it alone.

After “drowning a few more worms” in the early morning, the three of us set out on the trail – advertised as 5.5 miles one-way. The trail started off as fairly easy – but then a lot of trails seem easy at first. It definitely was not an ‘easy’ trail. Up and down, up and down, over bedrock, through dirt, across the suspension bridge that crossed the Chama River and finally up the stairs to the Heron trail head. Just over 6 miles later we had oohed and aahed our way to the other end. There were lots of things to take photos of.

Probably the most awesome sight was there a huge boulder decided to move down the treed hillside. It cut a huge swath, dug a trench, and didn’t come to rest until it dug a large enough hole that it could go no further. We found out later that this occurred in 2005.

We also saw a huge pine tree that had exploded from a lightning strike earlier this week. The tree splintered, sending spears of wood everywhere.

Then we walked about another ½ mile to the dam overlook – bathrooms, water and a place for lunch. We were sure pooped! We had hiked nearly 7 miles – and still had to hike back! Ugh! My lack of recent hiking was apparent and Viola – in her own words – said her butt was dragging.

I did get Viola and Larry to pose by the trail sign before we started our return hike.

It was a tough hike back. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Sore feet, tired legs (Viola and I) – it was just the thought of cold beer and a hot shower awaiting us back at camp. In all we hiked about 13 miles.

While Viola and I propped our feet up and enjoyed our beer, Larry, the ‘energizer bunny’ headed off to fish. And he succeeded in getting a fairly large German brown trout and a huge carp.

The trout was gutted and cleaned and joined the Rainbow trout, that I was given last weekend, on the grill. Viola turned them into a very tasty dinner.

Sunday morning after coffee and breakfast we went to the El Vado dam where Larry and Viola again drowned worms. The Chama River was cascading down the spillway – a pretty sight. With no luck fishing, we headed back to camp. Viola and Larry headed back to Albuquerque about noon.

I again had the park to myself – with the exception of John and Carol, who had arrived for about three months as park volunteers here. I tidied up Jeremiah and decided to move to Fenton Lake, stopping on my way to get on the Internet.

It has been a great time here at El Vado.