Sunday, August 29, 2010

Week 3 at Navajo Lake State Park

Can you pick out which photos are of Cat?

I finally had a good opportunity to get photos of VC the Visitor Center’s cat. Can you tell which photos are of Cat and which are VC? Here’s your clue – there is two of each.

There’s never a dull moment as a Camp Host at Navajo Lake State Park. Things do quiet down, mostly Monday through Wednesday, making that a good time for longer visits with campers, to do motorhome chores and read (finished “The Old Patagonian Express – by train through the Americas” by Paul Theroux) and passed the book onto a camper from Argentina. Off and on I read bits from a book I bought at Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods gift shop. It is Cowboy Poet Baxter Black’s “Horseshoes, Cowsocks & Duckfeet.”

And then there are times to just sit back and enjoy the sky, clouds, sunrises and sunsets. Oh, yes! Time to pet Cat.

Macky the Rooster (motion activated) has been on duty, crowing when people walk up to Jeremiah’s door. (Thanks Essie! I know you really wanted to send one of your real roosters with me.)

I’ve enlisted Bucky (the ventriloquist dummy) to be my co-host, riding around in Zippy as I make campground rounds. He is a big attraction with children and adults.

Hannah the dog walks his “mom” (Jean Holloway-Burkhart) several times a day. Jean, a delightful and interesting lady is a full-time RVer. Hannah is one of the most alert dogs I’ve met. The way she sits amazes me – and I took a picture.

During the three weeks I’ve been here, we’ve had some wonderful evening and nighttime rain storms. Sometimes the rain is gentle; sometimes it comes down in buckets. Either way it cools things off and makes for good sleeping – and beautiful pictures. Here’s one I took between storms one day.

This week’s highlight – Hilda Ripley

Hilda, a friend from Albuquerque, has been my first visitor. By herself she was a great treat – but the bonus was the groceries and such that she brought me. If that wasn’t enough, she also took pity on my ‘no laundry facilities’ circumstance, taking me to a Laundromat at the nearby town of Aztec.

She also became my host assistant as I helped campers get settled into sites. One day I had to go to one of the park’s remote campsites. We took advantage of the scenic route to ohh! and ahh! at the lake and take pictures. Hilda was fascinated by a lizard and while she took a picture of it, I took a picture of her.

Upcoming Labor Day

It’s count-down until the Labor Day camping rush hits. We expect to be completely full. I’m just hoping that the majority of campers will be respectful of others and keep their sites clean. Wish me luck!

It’s raining now, so I’ll end this. Here are some wise words written by Author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Finding a routine in a non-routine job

Every man can transform the world from one of monotony and drabness to one of excitement and adventure. --Irving Wallace

“While Mom (Carol) is out and about – and she left the computer on – I’ll write about my days of leisure. Yes, indeed! This is the life of luxury. Here’s how my nights and days go:

= Nighttime is my busiest time because I’m on guard duty while Mom sleeps. I go from window to window (Mom keeps the blinds up and windows open.) looking for dangerous night creatures such as raccoons and skunks.

= At 5 a.m. I lovingly tap Mom on the face with my cool paw. I think she pretends to be asleep so I’ll go away. No such luck. I’m persistent.

= She finally gets up, gets dressed and goes outside. In a while she comes back in, fixes her breakfast, gives me some petting time and then fires up the John Deere 6x4 Gator and leaves again. I wish she would let me go outside. During the day, when I’m not sleeping I watch the birds, ground squirrels and rabbits. They would be fun to chase.

= My night and early morning jobs done, I go to my bed and sleep.

= Mom returns about 10 a.m., does some inside chores and has lunch. I usually sleep until I hear her fixing food. I try begging for some of the good cat food (canned stuff), but only get three tiny cat treats. Mom reads or checks email and give me some more petting time. She tells me what a good cat I am. She also told me that the park office has a cat that looks just like me! Imagine that!

= Later I again bug Mom for the good food. She gives in about 4 – yea! I’m a happy cat. By then it has cooled down outside. Mom leaves again and doesn’t come back until about 6 when she fixes her dinner.

= Her bedtime is about 9 p.m., and I’m on duty again.”

Well, I see that Cat was a busy writer while I was outside this morning. She IS one lucky cat to be able to travel – and I’m blessed with the interest and ability to travel.

My sort-of routine

My days as a volunteer at Navajo Lake State Park are settling into a basic pattern. First thing in the morning I walk the park’s four loops (77 campsites), noting RVs that came in late yesterday. The mornings are pleasant and cool. After breakfast I head out in the Gator. Besides greeting campers, I spend time cleaning vacant campsites – picking up trash, cleaning out fire pits - my biggest peeve is cigarette butts on the ground. And why is it that people throw glass bottles and jars, aluminum cans and foil, and cigarette butts in the fire pits? News flash! They don’t burn!

Tuesdays through Thursdays are a good time for serious site and fire pit cleaning in early mornings before sun and heat arrive. Lots of campers come in on Fridays, and the park nearly fills up. However, since I’m the only daytime camp host, I’m basically ‘on duty’ all day.

Speaking of local critters

Cat was mesmerized by a ground squirrel that was exploring the Gator – I think it was hoping it could jump and get in the window bird feeder.

It took the House Finches a week to discover my window bird feeder. Other birds I’ve seen include Titmouse, Scrub Jay, Dove, Brewer’s Blackbird and Magpie.

On one early morning walk around the campground I picked up some trash and took it to the dumpster that had the lid off. I heard some noises and peeked in – coming practically nose-to-nose with a raccoon. Where is my camera when I need it? A quick walk back to Jeremiah for my camera and I was rewarded with this photo of two of the three raccoons who were looking for a meal.

The saga of the water leak

A camper told me that water was bubbling up at the base of the faucet, and I reported it to maintenance. Later four men and two shovels arrived to assess the problem. After digging at least four feet down, the problem was determined. The vertical piping/faucet unit is made to withstand freezing temperatures was not working right and needed to be replaced. After figuring out the location of shut-off valves, the leak was repaired.

Current reading

I’m working my way through “The Old Patagonian Express – by train through the Americas by Paul Theroux. It is slow-going travel book, but interesting enough to keep me going. It’s basically a diary/journal of a trip he took in 1978. His plan was to travel by train from his home in Medford, Massachusetts to Patagonia.

I especially liked his introductory travel comment: “…travel – its very motion – ought to suggest hope. Despair is the armchair; it is indifference and glazed, incurious eyes. I think travelers are essentially optimists, or else they would never go anywhere.”

Friday, August 13, 2010

Heron Lake and Navajo Lake State Parks

State and local highways are my kind of highway for my trip, and my kind of traveling – a journey, an exploration in which stopping is a virtue, not a vice. I have an ultimate destination, but the point is in the going, not just the getting there.

Sunday’s drive from Antonito, Colorado, to Heron Lake, New Mexico, on Highways 285 and 64 was made-to-order for me. There was very little traffic, the countryside was scenic, the blue sky had fluffy clouds with interesting, ever-changing shapes and formations and the weather was delightfully cool. Jeremiah was slow and steady up the grades and we poked our way back down. I was in no rush. I stopped at a couple scenic overlooks to enjoy the views.

As I drove down Heron Lake Park roads to find a good campsite, I encountered two sets of serious speed bumps. Concrete parking curbs – about 4 inches high – had to be driven over. Yikes! Even though I was creeping along way below the park limit of 5 mph, they sure gave Jeremiah a good jolt.

Jeremiah easily backed into site #21 at Lake Heron State Park. As with nearly all New Mexico State Parks, the sites are spacious and well-separated by trees – primarily pines, junipers and mountain mahogany. I knew from a previous stay that I would not have Internet. Surprisingly I did have a poor cell phone service.

Right off the bat I met Campground Host Rusty. He was checking sites and raking the camping areas with his home-made raking contraption.

After a good night’s sleep, I wrote out my to-do list: give Jeremiah a spit bath, clean and reorganize all storage areas, clean windows inside and out and give myself a manicure. I added take walks, read, work on my blog and cook salmon for supper. I am reading Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France.

I had a peaceful and quiet day, alternating between chores, reading and walking. The park has a lovely short nature trail that overlooks the lake.

In the afternoon I connected with Rusty and learned that earlier this morning a hiker came across a mountain lion making a meal of a deer he/she had taken down. The mountain lion high-tailed it toward the lake when the hiker appeared. A couple of the rangers loaded what was left of the deer and took it to a remote part of the park.

I left Tuesday morning – destination Navajo Lake State Park. The drive was another adventure. After stopping in Chama for groceries and gas, I continued west on Highway 64. I decided to take 539 from 64 to the park. It was a blacktop road that twisted and turned, dropped down to an area that had been washed out from recent rains. That part was dirt with major holes to navigate. After that the blacktop reappeared. As I dropped down toward the lake it became apparent that I would be driving across the very top of the dam – narrow two-lane road with drop off to the lake on one side and drop off to the other side. I’m not a fan of high places and avoid them if possible. This was a HIGH place. Fortunately no traffic was coming, so I took my half of the road out of the middle, staring at the center line instead of the drop offs on both side.

Settled into Navajo Lake State Park

Campsite #48 overlooking New Mexico’s second largest lake is where Jeremiah, Cat, Bucky, Mac, Fargo and I will spend two months. The main campground, where I am, has 77 campsites in hilly terrain.

Shortly after arriving I discovered three undesirable circumstances:

l. I would not have a sewer hookup (will have to unhook and take Jeremiah to the dump station when waste tanks are full),

2. The park does not have laundry facilities for volunteers (closest town with a Laundromat is between 20 and 30 miles one way). Perhaps I should just take my washing down to the lake and beat things on the rocks!

3. Since I’ll be using the campground restrooms for my showers, the one nearest my campsite does not have hot water. (The restroom that is closer has a broken water heater.)

Admittedly I went to bed that first night feeling somewhat bummed out. After a good night’s sleep (wonderful cool nights and dark skies) and giving myself a talkin’ to about attitude, I decided to make a list of the good things about my situation: I have a great campsite and love seeing the lake, the New Mexico sky is always interesting and scenic, I’ll have a Gator to get around in, I have a very nice co-host to work with, I’m well-stocked with food and clothing for all weather, and I’m fairly close to Albuquerque and Rio Rancho where I have friends who will come to visit.

We had a major wind and rain storm early Thursday evening. Jeremiah was rocking side to side because very strong wind was hitting broadside. One camper, who left his awning out, returned to find it torn to shreds. We got buckets of rain dumped - visibility was nearly zero. Great thunder and lightning - loved every minute and hoped that Jeremiah would stay upright. Everything was soaked. One camper found his boat cover plastered against a fence.

I will make the best of the situation, enjoy meeting and being helpful to campers and park staff and find joy in every day. It’s amazing what a change in attitude can do.

I hold fast to a quote by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross:

It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it were the only one we had.

The get-around Gator was delivered today – I’ve named him Zippy! According to Vic the tech who delivered it, top speed is about 10 mph.

Litter pick up astounds me

In the past few days besides regular camp host duties (be helpful to camping guests and park staff) I’ve been doing major clean up in and around vacant campsites and on trails to the lake.

By far I’ve picked up more cigarette butts and beer and plastic bottle tops than anything else. That’s the conclusion I’ve come to after two mornings (about 4 hours) of cleaning up a tenting and lake front area.

Today’s haul also included two pair of women’s underpants (Yup! I was thinking the same thing!), a couple dozen beer bottles and cans, water bottles, broken glass, paper plates, tent stakes, and assorted pieces of plastic and wire. I also fished non-burnable aluminum foil, cans, wire, and plastic bottles from campfire rings. In all, I filled one large drawstring plastic bag and three grocery store bags. Also as I cleaned campsites from departing campers I found more cigarette butts (why are some smokers such slobs?), cardboard boxes and a dog leash. Oh the adventure!

I’ve met some mighty fine campers these past few days. Also the park staff is super, supportive and greatly appreciative of the volunteers.

Basically I make rounds of the campsites after breakfast posting notices on reserved campsites. The while it is still fairly cool, I pick another lake or trail area to clean up. After lunch I again make rounds of the campsites with my pick-up tool and trash bag to clean campsites that have been vacated, getting them ready for new campers. Then after supper I make rounds again, listing new campers’ information on the daily roster. In between I take care of my motorhome chores, read, and simply be available to help campers.

That's all for this blog entry. I close with an admonition, a phrase from a song, that one of my friends adds to email messages: Keep the sunny side up!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Adventure Continues - Life is Great!

Sweet Solitude

My two days at Pony Soldier RV Park near Lingle, Wyoming, were set aside for some time of solitude. And interestingly, as I spent time in quiet and reading, I read two quotes – one by my fellow RV-traveler Pat Bean (check out her interesting blog at: and the other from Pastor Chuck Swindoll in his daily Internet devotion.

Travel has as much to do with internal discovery as it has with seeing the world. New places, new sights, new experiences wash away stereotypes. – Pat Bean

“…the value of quietness, slowing down, coming apart from the noise and speed of today's pace, and broadening our lives with a view of the eternal reach of time. It means saying no to more and more activities that increase the speed of our squirrel cage. Knowing God requires that we "be still" (Ps. 46:10). It is necessary for survival. Our minds must be liberated from the immediate, the necessary stuff in the mainstream of our world, so we can gain perspective.” - Pastor Chuck Swindoll

The drive from Beulah to Lingle

I had no idea how large the Black Hills are! They encompass an area that from north to south is 125 miles and from east to west is 65 miles! My drive from Beulah to Lingle, Wyoming, was mostly lush green pines and undergrowth until I came to the Salt Creek Overlook.

I rarely pass up an overlook since these stops allow me to see the country from a high point. Here, the valley floor was a mostly lighter green and tan with an abundance of oak trees growing along the Salt and Beaver creeks. As Jeremiah made the long descent to the valley, the lush green areas ended.

My 190-mile drive ended at Lingle, Wyoming, a small town at the intersection of highways 85 and 26. I was eager to get settled into the Pony Soldier RV Park. When I had called to check on availability for parking, I was struck by the sweet cheerfulness of the voice on the other end assuring me that they had space. When I met ‘the voice’ she was such a delight. Julie and her husband Tom own the RV park and do everything they can to make their guests’ visit a pleasant one.

After hooking up and settling in, I headed to the row of sunflowers alongside an adjacent field to cut a bouquet to enjoy. To do this, and to do any walking around the park, I was “accompanied” by millions of grasshoppers, and thankfully no mosquitoes or gnats.

I love trains! And I was in the right place to enjoy the whistle and clackety-clack as frequent freight trains passed just across the highway from where I was parked. They passed, day and night, carrying loads of coal eastward. I had sweet times remembering my many train adventures around the USA and Canada on Amtrak and Via Rail.

I finished reading “The Secret Lives of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd (thanks for the book, Barbara). I enjoyed the book immensely, keeping me intrigued with the twists and turns of the story that was set in South Carolina in 1964. Besides the story, it was fascinating to learn about honeybees. For instance, I was surprised to read that “It takes honeybee workers ten million foraging trips to gather enough nectar to make one pound of honey.”

Fort Laramie

After two delicious days of solitude, it was time to move on toward Colorado. But first I made a side trip to Fort Laramie, a National Historic Site in Wyoming that sits along the Laramie River. The first fort on this site was built as a trading post by a fur trader in 1834 and originally named Fort William. In 1849 the army bought the fort and made it a military outpost along the Oregon, California and Mormon trails.

The brochure enticed me to spend time there by saying, “Walk in the footsteps of larger-than-life characters of the old west such as Red Cloud, Spotted Tail, Jim Bridger, Kit Carson, Generals Crook, Sherman and Sheridan, Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane.”

I wandered through some of the restored structures – the infantry barracks, guardhouse, captain’s quarters, and “Old Bedlam” (the name given to the building that housed bachelor officers). I also found the trail to the river and walked around the Commanding Officer’s Chicken Coop and one of several ‘privies’. The latter two intrigued me enough to take photos:

Next night’s stop is River View RV Park and Campground

Lingle, Wyoming, to Loveland, Colorado, was a leisurely 190 miles. After driving through the Black Hills, the landscape along the way was ordinary. I found myself more interested in the blue sky and the cloud formations.

I made stop to fill the tank with gas and another stop at the Colorado Welcome Center. Then once in Loveland, I again got “lost” – aka took the scenic route – thanks to the new Interstate exchange that was not well-marked. Again I’m grateful for my compass (continual thanks to you, Jesse). RV friend Carol Rayburn gave me her old Garmin GPS, but until new software is installed and I make time to learn it, the device sits on my console at least giving me my route as I drive.

Finally after a phone call to the RV park, I arrived to a lovely wooded area that sits along the tree-lined, fast-moving Big Thompson River. Jeremiah fit nicely into its assigned space. It was time to do laundry and make some phone calls. Sadly, the Internet is poor here so this won’t get posted until another day.

Loveland to Monument, Colorado


Cat, Jeremiah and I have voted the ‘Mary RV Resort’ to be the very best! I was at the lovely mountain home of my friends Claud and Judy Mary. The Mary’s had been neighbors when I lived in Valley Center, California. Their 6,000 sq. ft. home sits on 3+ acres among tall pines at about 7,500 ft altitude. Jeremiah was indeed parked in a beautiful setting north of Colorado Springs.

This area is home to many wild creatures, but the ones I saw were the Stellar Jays, nuthatches, Abert’s Squirrels, and a ‘regular’ reddish brown squirrel. Claud and Mary have seen elk and bear. And of course there were other birds. From one of the back decks I had super views of the birds and squirrels. I had never seen Abert’s squirrel before and took a bunch of photos. This squirrel is a very dark brown/black, giving it the nickname of a 'black squirrel'. Unfortunately, the trees always cast at least one shadow on this interesting critter.

Cat watched the squirrels that romped on the boulder wall outside the motorhome.

Claud and Mary are super fun people to be with; we laughed a lot. Judy took me on a beautiful walk through the nearby Garden of the Gods.

Judy and I talked about driving up Pike's Peak, but I decided to save that outing for another visit - no need running ourselves ragged to try to see it all. I did have a view of the Peak from the Garden of the Gods - unfortunately the clouds had already started gathering.

As we were leaving the parking lot, masses of people on bicycles were passing by. According to the support vehicles that passed it was a Ride for Wounded Warriors, and they were headed in the same direction we wanted to go – to see Balance Rock. We followed them for a while until we saw that they were using the rocks near Balance Rock for their group photo. (See photo)

We decided to have lunch first rather than continue to creep behind the bikers as they wound through the hills. Judy took me to the Visitor Center/Gift Shop/Café where we enjoyed lunch out in the patio. Afterward we went back to Balance Rock and then drove through the historic towns of Manitou Springs and downtown Colorado Springs.

With time still left in the afternoon, Judy took me to do my stock-up shopping at Walmart and Sam’s. On the way to Sam’s the afternoon thunderstorm hit, the clouds dumped masses of rain and hail on us as we drove. At one point, a car in the other lane drove through a huge puddle and we briefly lost all visibility! Since Judy and I both love rainstorms (as long as the hail isn’t big enough to damage vehicles) and cheered with each flash of lightning and thunder clap. It is ‘monsoon’ season and the daily weather prediction is scattered thundershowers with rain capable of flooding low-lying areas. Whee!

My last day at the Mary’s was a day to sit back and enjoy their home and pine forest. We walked the property looking for signs of the screech owl that makes itself heard each night – no luck. And we laughed a lot, getting caught up with each other’s lives. It was an outstanding visit and besides many photographs, I have many memories to file away for future enjoyment.

Today’s drive from Monument to Antonito

I did not want to move on, but my date with Navajo Lake State Park is nearing. My drive took me south on I-25, west on highway 160, south on 159, west on 142 and south on 285 – about 233 miles. I made a stop in Pueblo to get a haircut at Walmart and to get gas at Sam’s.

It was a beautiful drive through much of the San Luis Valley! The sky and clouds were picturesque, and I managed to take a photo that shows the beauty as I drove west on highway 160. Once I turned onto 159 I practically had the two-lane road to myself – I could take my half out of the middle.

On highway 142, I crossed over and puny-looking Rio Grande! I had expected it to have much more water. I passed by the Old San Acacio Church (considered to be the oldest standing church in Colorado).

I’m at Mogote Meadow RV Park 5-miles west of Antonito, just five miles north of the New Mexico border. It is a nice park and a good Internet connection so I can get my blog updated. Tomorrow morning Sharon (park owner) will be serving pancakes in the recreation room.

I’ve again modified my route and tomorrow will drive on to Heron Lake State Park – just 80 miles from here. I’m partial to the New Mexico State Parks and have decided to visit this park again. The only drawback to this park is that I’ll be without Internet or Verizon phone service for two days. So, don’t panic if you don’t hear from me until Tuesday when I arrive at Navajo Lake State Park in northwest New Mexico. I’ll be there two months as a volunteer.

Thanks for traveling along with me. I’ll probably update my blog at least weekly while at Navajo. I’ve camped here before but never been a volunteer here. I have no idea what my jobs will be, but whatever they are, I’ll enjoy them. It’s all in the attitude – I make up my mind to find pleasure and goodness no matter what.