Saturday, August 30, 2014

Finally, camping at Fenton Lake State Park

“Carol, we need your help at Fenton Lake State Park,” was the message from Darcie, the NM State Park Volunteer Coordinator. It was a 3-week assignment in a beautiful setting – huge Ponderosa Pine Forest at an altitude of 7,900 ft. Of course, I said “yes.” 

Disappointments and Frustrations can be a blessing in disguise!
In 2007, I attempted to camp at Fenton Lake – Here's what I wrote about at 9 pm on May 20, 2007:

I’m somewhere on NM 126, a narrow dirt road – obviously I missed the turn to Fenton Lake State Park. I sure didn’t see it, and by the time I was sure I had missed it, there was no place to turn around. It was dark.

It has been raining steadily for a couple of hours. The road I’m on is very muddy, slippery – and according to the sign I finally saw ‘not passable in winter.’ Well, I’m sure it is because of snow. I’m quite high in altitude.

And I’m scared. I stopped on the road a couple of times, but each time I decided I was in an unsafe place to stay. Right now I’m at the turnoff to some ‘forest road’. The road is wider here, and I doubt there will be any traffic on it tonight. I think I’m about 18 miles from Cuba. But since it is pitch black outside, I decided it best not to go any further until daylight. Continuing on didn’t seem like a smart idea given the fact I’m in the mountains.

For the last bunch of miles, I’ve been creeping along between 5 and 10 miles an hour, straining to stay in the middle of the road. At times there was a drop off on the left, and a cliff on my right.

I’m real jumpy – cat bumped something, and I jumped. Thank goodness for my batteries – I have some light while I write this; and have a glass of wine. Soon I’ll lie down and sleep if I can. I’m tired.

I’m regretting my decision to go to Fenton Lake. Tomorrow morning, I’ll drive on into Cuba and then drive home.”

Of course, I am remembering that night
That night was probably my worst of my motorhome travels. I do recall saying to myself, “only a fool would be on a road like this on a night like this!” I did not succeed at sleeping and in fact a couple of cars did pass that night. It was a L-O-O-O-N-G night! I was frustrated at not finding the park entry.

And now, being here at Fenton and seeing that there are only five sites with electricity and 30 sites that are “developed' – meaning a picnic table and parking place, I realize that it was a blessing in disguise that I missed the turn. Most of the campsites are suitable only for tents, pickup campers, and small trailers. Most of the parking areas are not long enough nor level enough for longer RVs. And in the dark on the muddy park road, it would have been impossible for me to have parked my 27-ft motorhome.

About the park
This is a “leave the city behind” park -- it has no cell phone or Internet service; it has pit toilets, no showers. But who needs such amenities when nature comes right up to the camper? The antics of the Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels (they look like chipmunks) and cottontail rabbits provide hours of amusement, the many kinds of birds sing lovely songs, and the mule deer roam. The variety of wild flowers are too numerous to count. On one of my first mornings here in the park, I had a doe and her two fawns in my campsite! The ground squirrels play “chicken” with the John Deere Gator – seems like they sit alongside the road and wait until I get real near and then make a mad dash for the other side!

When I arrived on a Sunday afternoon, the only park vehicle for me to use was an old, very beat-up Gator. Or I could walk – which I did my first day – the two-mile road to the last campsites while I cleaned up the areas. It was a long day and a long walk. Weather was much cooler than in Rio Rancho and the views and solitude are such a blessing!

On Tuesday, two park employees from Navajo Lake State Park delivered Fenton's new Gator! It had only two-tenths of an hour on the engine. What a delight and so helpful on the extra-busy weekends.

Weatherwise, high temps have been in the 80s and the lowest was 45- Brrr! Sure glad I packed my electric blanket! It's been long-sleeved t-shirts and jeans topped by a hooded sweatshirt and gloves for my early morning Gator rides in the park. Often the day starts with blue sky, then later some puffy white clouds decorate the sky. About the time I'm thinking of short sleeves, the white clouds gang up and turn dark. Then it turns chilly and on some days it rains!

The park is full of surprises – one night I was awakened twice by a low flying aircraft. Found out later that it is an Osprey on a military training flight. I've seen and heard it several times more, but always during the day.

There is a Osprey (the bird) story here, also. On a really tall pine near the park's entrance, an osprey pair built their nest, producing two baby birds. Before they were old enough to fly, a major wind storm destroyed part of the nest and one of the babies ended up on the ground. After rescuing the bird, the rangers built a “nest” and put it up as high as possible in a nearby tree. The parents found the “nest” and the bird, feeding it until it could fly.

My park 'jobs' include greeting campers, making sure campsites are clean, and picking up wads of fishing line around the lake shore. Originally I decided to also clean up the lake shore – cigarette butts, bottle caps, and assorted trash (yes, there are trash containers nearby, but seems like folks are too lazy or too inconsiderate to use them). I spent two afternoons cleaning the shore up – and then just two days later, it didn't look like I had ever been there. So I have given up. I continue to pick up the fishing line because birds and ground critters get tangled up in it – and I care about them.

I've had some visitors – Friend Marty arrived for a short visit, bringing me some wonderful coffee from Boyers' – Rocky Mountain Thunder dark roast (yum!); Friend Adria arrived to camp here for a few days; and Friends Jesse, Sylvia and Selma came bringing their friend (whose name I've forgotten). We managed some visiting time in between my park duties.

The three weeks went quickly and soon I was organizing Jeremiah for the drive back to Rio Rancho. After two-plus days there, I left for the 1,200 mile drive to my sister's home in Gardnerville, Nevada.
I drove longer days than usual, stayed one night in Flagstaff, (Arizona), one in Delta (Utah) and one in Austin (NV). At the RV park in Delta, I discovered that Jeremiah had a very low/flat tire that required a call to road service to change it out.

This current trip's 'Oh Dear!' event
Which reminds me of this Advice from a Dog: No matter what life brings you, kick some grass over that shit and move on.

I accidentally crunched my computer lid, resulting in not being able to use the screen and therefore not able to use the computer. Since I'm at my nephew's place (my personal IT guy), a new screen has been ordered and he will install it. In the meantime all local family members and friends are helping my sister Linda get moved from her home (she sold it) into an apartment. A busy time for all.

Linda and I have also planned a 30-day, 12-segment Amtrak trip that will start October 7. Basically we will be traveling from Flagstaff, Arizona to North San Diego County; Whitefish, Montana; Medford, Minnesota; Columbus, Nebraska; Colorado Springs; and back to Flagstaff. I will not be taking my computer, but will keep a paper/pencil journal of these adventures. 

What a life!
I welcome the unexpected! Opportunity rarely comes in neat, predictable packages.