Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Seven weeks down; one more to go

What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. – George Leigh Mallory

My Adventure at Navajo Lake State Park is nearly over. One week from today I’ll stow items, unhook, dump tanks and drive to Rio Rancho. If this last week holds true to form, there won’t be a dull moment.

Here are highlights from this past week (remember you can double-click on photos to enlarge them)

The wild critters continue their antics

SKUNKS: Two women came with two large, barky dogs to camp in a tent. The dogs continued to be a nuisance and the women repeatedly said “they will settle down soon.” I told them about the raccoons, skunks and feral cats, advising them to put the dogs in their SUV or in their tent at night. The barking of dogs woke me and other campers sometime before midnight. In the morning on my morning rounds the odor of mad skunks was strong enough to make my eyes water. Here’s what I found out from one of the women. They did put the dogs in their tent (must have been crowded in there). When the skunks showed up, the dogs burst out of the tent to attack – and the skunks wasted no time spraying the dogs. Then the dogs ran back into the tent to share the brunt of the skunk odor with their owners! They packed up and left shortly after that.

RACCOONS: I was awakened about 1 a.m. by noises. Upon investigating from the safety of my motorhome, I saw four raccoons in the cargo portion of the gator trying to get into one of those ‘Costco-size’ containers of dry roasted peanuts. I watched with amazement as they tried – and failed. I did get a photo to share with you. On other nights, several campers thought their food was safe in coolers – bad assumption. Those crafty critters cleaned them out.

Food Fairy

Just as the groceries that Hilda and Jesse brought from Albuquerque, a camp neighbor who was leaving after a weekend here brought a bunch of her “extra” food to me! I called her my Food Fairy.

Splash for Trash

Teams of divers arrived on Saturday to clean up portions of the lake bottom and shore. When the day was over, they had gathered about 300 pounds of trash. They picked up cans, bottles, used diapers, odds and ends and even a swamp cooler (the large whitish item on the left of this picture). This photo shows just a portion of the trash. These divers were coordinated by a Dive Shop in Durango, Colorado.

Bass Championship Tourney

Fifteen teams (two per team) of bass fishermen from the Four Corners Team Bass Association qualified to participate in their weekend championship tournament. I was their for Saturday afternoon’s weigh-in, Sunday morning’s launch and Sunday afternoon’s weigh-in. It was fun meeting team members (all men except one female) and learning about bass fishing. One team also had a dog (see group photo). Of course I had camera in hand and took more than 100 photos and put them on a disk for them. Each day each team could bring in up to five bass (they had to be alive and were returned to the lake following the weighing) and vie for the largest bass and largest total catch. The fourth picture shows a bass receiving ‘first aid’ – something to do about being caught at a deep depth. I didn’t stay for the awards ceremony; I hustled back to Jeremiah to be ready to go to the local harvest festival.

San Juan Winery’s Harvest Festival

I had heard that the San Juan Winery’s wines were quite tasty but had never stopped to check them out. This was my chance! Rangers Shawna and Carol B invited me to go to the harvest festival with them. The winery is located along the San Juan River among towering Cottonwood Trees. The wines were delicious, the booths had a huge variety of crafty things and it was a great people-watching place. And surprisingly I met a couple - Loraine and Don Martin - from Prescott! I was interested in the nicely decorated porta-potty/wash stand that was provided (see photo).

Books I’ve Read

So far on my Great Summer Adventure I’ve read a dozen books! The most recent ones were A Walk in the Woods – rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson and Commodore Hornblower, by C. S. Forester – copyright 1945.

This coming weekend

Friend Selma is coming for a visit this weekend. She and her friend Tom will pitch a tent and in between my park responsibilities we’ll have a nice visit.

Oct. 5 to 11

While in Rio Rancho, Jeremiah will be parked at Jesse’s campground while I take care of some motorhome maintenance, shopping and visiting with family and friends.

I end this with some words of wisdom from this morning’s devotion. Think about this.

When someone speaks harshly about or to you, hurting your feelings, just move your sails out of their wind.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Kidnapped by a book!

Kindred camper, Jean, walked her dog several times a day and oftentimes stopped to chat a bit. Then she would scurry off to “read a very interesting book.” The day before she left Navajo Lake State Park, she finished the book and offered it to me – all 1,000 pages! Since she left right before the Labor Day weekend, the book sat on a shelf while I worked. I finally got around to starting it and could hardly bear to put it down. The book is – The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. While the story kept my interest up and stole my blog writing time, it was quite “raw” at times (I don’t need sex, blood and guts in minute detail) and the architectural discussions (for the cathedral buildings) were boring.

Live each day as a newfound treasure chest full of jewels just waiting to be opened.

That’s my motto, and it serves me well. The expectations keep me alert so I don’t miss a thing. Here are some 'jewels' I discovered since the last blog posting.

Rain and hail

Yes, I do like New Mexico’s summer thunderstorms; hail is OK as long as it is small. During the afternoons, clouds gather, the winds blow, and thunderstorms pass through, dropping rain and cooling the day off. One early evening last week the rain poured down and then it turned to hail. It sounded like rocks hitting Jeremiah’s roof. Hail stones were up to about 1/3-inch in diameter. “Rivers” of water and hail flowed everywhere in this hills campground creating gullies. It was amazing. Here’s a photo of Cat’s view.

The “Bass” guys

After the Labor Day campers left and kids were back in school, I thought the campground would become fairly quiet. Well, it was for three days. And then campers with boats filled a lot of the campsites – they were here for a Bass fishing tournament. I could hear sleek, well-outfitted boats leaving shortly after 5:30 a.m. each day; they came back mid to late afternoon with tales of woe. Bass aren’t biting – water is too cold, weather is too cold, lake is too high, lake is too low, and so on. But they were in good spirits.

The “Trout” guys

I’ve learned to recognize the trout guys’ campsites by the waders hanging out to dry each evening. Since the San Juan River (one of the rivers that form Navajo Lake) is recognized as primo trout fishing, there’s no lack of folks hoping to catch some. The part of the river just below the dam is a “catch and release” area. Farther from the dam, fishermen can keep their catch. They too have comments about their successes or lack thereof. One camper reported that when he switched to “gray triple threat” lures (purchased from the local bait shop), he started hauling them in.


I’ve always said “sunrises are God’s gift to early risers.” And here’s a picture taken from my campsite of the sun rising over Navajo Lake.

New spark plug

Zippy (my 4x6 Gator) was threatening to quit zipping. A trip to the maintenance building to have a new spark plug installed was in order. I was shown how to replace it and given a spare “just in case”. It sure made a difference!


This plant is loaded with stunning yellow flowers, and the park has plenty of them. I’m blessed to have two large bushes behind Jeremiah; they brighten up the otherwise green/gray of the pinyon and juniper trees.

Williamson's Sapsucker

Something that was moving up the trunk of a pinyon tree caught my eye. I was out on Zippy which startled the bird, causing it to fly away. Making a mental note to come back when I could sit and perhaps get a good look of the bird, I finished my errand. Later I went back with binoculars and bird field guide and parked in the shade to wait. I was rewarded – it was a Williamson's Sapsucker (related to the Woodpeckers). It was shiny black with some white on its wing, small red throat patch, two white stripes on head and a yellow belly.

Raccoons, skunks and feral cats

These wild critters continue to raid campsites. And even though I caution campers to put all food items and meal trash in their vehicles or the dumpster before going to bed, they often neglect to do this and have a mess to clean up in the morning. One camper said that when his back was turned, a cat jumped on the picnic table and snatched a cooked chicken leg from a plate and ran off! And raccoons continue to get into dumpsters at night. We keep a long board behind the dumpsters to give the animals a way to climb back out. These photos show the most recent raccoon snoozing in the dumpster corner and Camp Host Dick putting the board in.

International campfire

Having camped in numerous places around the country, I’ve found out that not all park staff and/or camp hosts ever stop by to say hello, glad you are here, or do you have any questions. As a park volunteer I’ve made it a point to make time for a quick visit with all campers. And what jewels most of them are. This past week, we had campers from England, Germany and Australia. Before the evening I had chatted with them and instigated an informal “international campfire” at one of their sites. They were so appreciative.

Camper/fisherman with ‘bionic’ leg

Six guys from Texas were here to fish for trout; one had lost a leg and proudly showed me his new bionic leg. He gets around really well and has a great attitude. He explained that he also brought his old prosthetic leg to wear while fishing because he can’t get his new one wet! All six were super guys and they really enjoyed their week here.

Zucchini and tomato

Yum! Another payoff from befriending campers is occasional edible ‘jewels.’ One camper who lives in nearby Aztec brought me zucchini and a tomato from her garden.

Jesse, my ‘personal shopper’

Just as the perishable food that friend Hilda brought to me was running out, I got a surprise phone call from friend Jesse. He was on his way to visit family in Colorado and would stop and do some shopping in Bloomfield.

Map of Navajo Lake

I had heard that the lake was huge, even reaching into Colorado. It looks large from my campsite, but after looking at a map of the entire lake, it is not the biggest part. Here’s a photo of the map – the dam is at the bottom; I'm not too far from the dam.

Mountain lion in Prescott Valley

Meanwhile, from the Prescott Courier newspaper this week, a mountain lion was seen on the street that is behind my house! Sister Elaine emailed me the info. Check it out at the Prescott Courier website

Getting to the end

With October 5 set as my departure date, I’m beginning to feel like a short-timer. I counted days yesterday and found out I have 18 days left. I’ll be driving to Rio Rancho and staying a few days there.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Labor Day Weekend – my mantra: “Focus on the good campers”

Actually I had three mantras: "Focus on the good campers" and "This too shall pass" and "This is part of the adventure." It was a hectic weekend.

Friday, Sept. 2: When I turned in for the night there were few campers in my immediate area. I awoke to full campsites and boats and cars everywhere; children on bicycles and scooters.

There were wall-to-wall campers, tents, cars, boats and dogs all weekend. Even with the "campground full" sign up, RVers continued to come in, driving around the narrow campground roads hoping to find a campsite.

A large proportion of the campers brought boats so by mid morning they were all out on the lake and by late afternoon to early evening they were back. Campfires were burning and the aromas of cooking foods signaled dinner time.

My great next door neighbors on one side – 10 people, three dogs, five or six vehicles, three tents, a camping trailer and a large boat! On the other side of me was Gloria, a state parks employee from the headquarters in Santa Fe (she worked the entrance station).

Thankfully, the Pine Main campground (77-campsites; where I am) was pretty quiet Friday night. Not so, at the remote campgrounds according to reports on Saturday. There were partiers going full blast until the wee hours of the morning at one of the remote campgrounds. It was such a ruckus that four rangers with badges and guns evicted the noise/trouble makers.

As I made frequent rounds, at each campsite I introduced myself. I warned them about the raccoons, skunks and feral cats getting into trash bags left outside. Then I asked the campers to do me a big favor – “please no cigarette butts on the ground or in the fire rings and don’t burn trash, including glass, plastic or aluminum in the campfire.”

During the weekend, as Bucky and I were out and about in Zippy, I waved to campers, sometimes stopped to chat, and talked with the children. Bucky is a hit with kids and adults alike.

It didn’t take me long to identify the two campsites that I predicted would be problematic - # 63 and #69. They were across the road from each other and were somehow related. It didn’t take long before their campsites resembled a war zone – trash, soda cans, beer cans, towels, etc. During the three days they had numerous visitors, many that spent the night in tents or in their cars. They were quite a rowdy bunch of perhaps 40 people at one time. They promised me they would leave clean campsites.

Most of the campers were pleasant and courteous; a joy to be around. Then there were some that didn't respect others or willingly follow park regulations. For those few, it is nice not having to be the enforcer. I'm just the eyes and ears for park staff; informing campers of regulations and calling a ranger to handle difficult situations.

On Sunday evening I delivered large heavy-duty trash bags to several groups who have been extremely trashy. I smiled sweetly as I handed bags to the camper who arranged the campsite, saying "You said you would leave your campsite clean and here are trash bags to use."

This morning, Monday, I had 60 campsites being vacated. As I set out to check and clean them, I wondered how effective my ‘keep things clean’ campaign was. I’m pleased to report that only #63 and #69 needed extra cleaning (and they had filled the two trash bags and left them for me to take to the dumpster). The rest of the sites needed minimal, if any, cleanup. Yea! I’m celebrating with a glass of wine and some popcorn.

Backup to pre-Labor Day

I decided to put Mack (my motion-activated Pennsylvania rooster that crows when people walk by) outside near Jeremiah’s door. He startled quite a few people. Here’s a photo of him tied to the railing post.

Last blog entry I told you about a really nice full-time camper – Jean Holloway-Burkhart (an Escapee member). She invited me to go to lunch in Navajo Dam (delicious green chile cheeseburgers). Afterwards she wanted to see what the Sims Mesa campground was like. We set out to find it. Even though it is visible from our side of the lake, it was a long drive. After nearly 40 miles, we found it. As we neared the campground, we saw a sign that said “Navajo Dam shortcut.” After asking the park ranger who said it was a really rough road, but passable, we took it. It was only about 12 miles!

I’m looking forward to a few pretty quiet days before next weekend’s rush. It is definitely an adventure here! The park staff – rangers, office gals, maintenance, seasonals, etc. – are super. They are appreciative of my work.