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!