Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Departing Joe Skeen Campground

Guess where I am now?

Since my alloted 7 days were up at the Joe Skeen Campground in New Mexico, it was time to move on, but not before driving 10 or so miles south first, just to survey the scenery. The photos below do not do justice to what can be seen from the highway, since most times there is no place to pull over for a shot. Let’s just say that the drive south toward a large stone arch is not to be missed.

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AR-24

What’s AR-24? Some kinda side road heading east out of camp. It’s fenced off with barbed wire, using a “two stick” gate. That is, several strands of barbed wire span the opening in the fence, being attached to two sticks. When you want to drive through, you undo a couple of wire loops that hold one stick in tension, and walk it and the wire running to it off to one side. Once through, you grab the same stick and put it back where it was so that the fence is continuous again.

My getting through during the day’s walk was especially easy, since the gate was left open. That’s not normal, as the rule is to leave any gate as you find it. So, I left it open. Just a hundred feet or so in, I began to hear a clanking and pounding that was getting louder. Vehicle coming. Vehicle coming and getting the crap knocked out of it, by the sound of it! I stepped up and off to one side Read more…

Walkabout – Joe Skeen Campground

Looking from my campsite down to the bottom of the loop shows a sizable loop!

I thought I’d take my camera along as I waltzed down to the campground entrance and back. I walked a bit along the highway too, but it’s not really conducive to that. It’s a quarter mile to the south end of the loop, and another quarter mile to the entrance.

I was surprised to see a teardrop trailer from Adventure Trailer, which is also my Four Wheel dealer in Arizona. They apparently started out with them, but then moved on to pure off-road utility/camping trailers. Now teardrops are back, and this one looks able to be dragged just about anywhere. Handy tip: it is burdened neither by a beam axle nor a self-disassembling torsion axle. Surprisingly pricey compared to the usual teardrop, they are absolutely uncompromising in design and capabilities, and when fully optioned can offer nearly everything my Four Wheel Camper can, and for less money. If you’re not into pop-ups, and enjoy spending your days outside and your nights inside, here it is.

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The Joe Skeen Campground

No cramped quarters here! I’m over where the ground is most level.

Weird name for a campground, eh? Well, Wikipedia says that “Joseph Richard ‘Joe’ Skeen was a conservative Republican congressman from southern New Mexico. He served for eleven terms in the United States House of Representatives between 1981 and 2003.” So now it makes sense, if this is who they named it after. This campground is at the eastern edge of El Malpais National Conservation Area.

The drive down was through some classical New Mexico terrain, what with its long hills, buttes, and great vistas to tempt you out of your lane as you gawk. I especially like how some buttes are rimmed with a solid topping of rock that has since split into gigantic boulders that eventually lose their support and drop a ways down.

At first blush, this campground is great. It has 10 camping spots, each with a covered picnic table and waist-level grill. Mine also has a ground-level grill to boot. As a BLM-run camp, one can stay here 7 days, and can then hang out elsewhere in the El Malpais for another 7 days in a month. For me, this is starting to get back to Read more…

NF 445 – Surprise!

My “new” campsite along NF 445 in the Cibola National Forest.

After some errands, I moved to a nice site on the western side of the NF 445 loop near Bernalillo, New Mexico. I’d been there for a couple of days when an equally nice County Sheriff stopped by in the morning to inform me that this whole loop is a day use area only! My rig’s presence had been “reported”, and the officer’s main concern was that the Federal rangers might cruise through and cite me (with a big fine).  Oops! She mentioned that Bernalillo had a city-run camp in town, and I, having postponed my further travel planning until mid-week, had nowhere else to go locally that I knew of. Bottom line: forget this corner of Cibola National Forest!

Just a gully that I liked enough to capture.

I’d noticed a “Day Use” sign at the western entrance of the loop (there is none at the eastern entrance), but I figured its location at a parking area applied to that lot only. I’d gotten this loop from my installation of The Ultimate Public Campgrounds app on my iPhone. I had noted that the MVUM covering this section of Cibola Read more…

The Nature of God – Part 12

[If you are just now stumbling onto this post without having read the various parts in this series from the beginning, I strongly urge you to go back to the start and continue on from there through each successive post. None of these individual entries stand on their own, and you may wind up with little but confusion and unanswered questions by starting here. That is easily done by entering “The Nature of God” in the search box on the home page, which will list links to all available parts.]

If you have read through this series of posts, you’d now think that presto, this guy got through whatever unexplained problems he had and now walks with God and stuff, right? Well, not exactly. I have to summarize and not explain things, because the details are not relevant to the topic, frequently involve other people, and this series of posts would top out at 700 or more parts. You don’t want that, trust me.

It turned out to be a very timely thing that God gave me such a bulletproof sense that his One-on-one affection was so deep and, when push comes to shove, unwavering. It was timely because I promptly and unknowingly headed into the swirling circumstances of what I considered to be Shitstorm #3. Without that utter convincing, I might not have made it through. Time passed, and I headed into Shitstorms #4 & #5. At some point still a decade short of the end, my very brief solace was a counselor who said, “The good news is that, obviously, this situation can’t possibly get any worse than this!” Oh, yes it could, and did, oh my yes.

In general, I never felt that constant, close connection with God that I had hoped for through all this. It was more of a distant relationship, with us crossing paths every great now and then. He would give me something intimately meaningful and restorative to keep me going, and then seem to be off and away. Something made me suspect that Read more…

NF 445 in the Cibola National Forest

This is a bit of okay!

As far as campsites go, I finally found a winner that meets my needs. Just three miles east of Bernalillo, New Mexico are two unmarked turnoffs for NF 445, which is a fairly compact loop that borders the Sandia Mountain Wilderness. 445 is a rough, rocky trail that just about any vehicle can ascend (with care) in dry weather. Wet weather may stop the show for 2WD, but rather than getting stuck, you’re more likely to have to back on down. The sheer amount of rocks here makes forging long, deep mud ruts likely only in certain spots.

This is looking in the opposite direction, down the trail. More to the left, the town of Bernalillo can be seen at night, looking like a gigantic lighted Christmas tree.

And slope it does. Not aggressively, just persistently. With two days and three nights of rain coming on quickly, the forecast is for more than 3/4-inch in total. I remember camping on a slope near the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, watching a mini-tsunami Read more…

The Price of Being Picky

The Furd looks better from a distance. Though merely filthy on the outside, the wheelwells and side steps looked like giant barnacles on a ship’s hull. I cleared away all I could by hand before this photo was taken.

Problematic campsites, like plane crashes, seem to run in threes. This one was called the Caja del Rio Plateau, miles west of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The coordinates given were 35.691879, -106.21582. What I’m guessing was 15 miles of off-road adventure led me to open pasture with no sign of past camping activity, no promised magnificent vistas, and nothing to recommend it but solitude and solar. Then again, I couldn’t do the last several hundred feet because of vegetation and slope. I assume that the coordinates given are bogus, or perhaps I copied them incorrectly.

Once I arrived in that alleged camping area, two problems stuck in my mind: No cell service, and a peculiar silty “soil” that compressed underfoot and promised to create a sticky mud when the rains hit in a couple more days. The kind of mud that stays a half-inch thick on shoe soles and doesn’t want to come off. It was time for an executive decision, and I decided to seek better. Problem is, the selection of campsites in this overall area that are Read more…

Catching Up in White Rock

While the White Rock Campground is nothing to write home about, it works.

After leaving Taos Junction Recreation Site, I headed for the town of Taos for a shower and sundries. Taos, oft praised by motor touristas such as myself, struck me as a sprawling, artsy-craftsy town in a valley between high mountains. Kind of like some Colorado towns. Supply-wise, its road layout is a close-packed rat’s nest, where you have to hope that your destination offers parking off the street. This day’s resupply list was thankfully short. What they lack in supply choices, they make up for in art galleries and Spanish street and place names.

At this time of year, a hot shower is offered for a two bucks at the Taos Youth & Family Recreation Center. Good deal. I had to get a street address for it at the Civic Center in town, since neither my GPS nor my iPhone could deal with just its name. Once out and back in the Ford, I had to promptly finish up errands and determine a plausible camping spot somewhere. In this case, that meant one with an electrical hookup and a cellular signal. Two full days of heavy overcast and rain at Taos Junction with two more promised meant that even with a cell signal, I wouldn’t have the reserve battery power to catch up on the blog or keep running the fridge. Previous partly cloudy days had taken some of the steam out of recharging the battery pack, and the two rain days had nearly finished it off.

At the Rec Center in Taos, I had parked near an ancient Shasta motorhome, the kind where the flat windshield aims downward toward the pavement instead of being swept back in typical aerodynamic form. It was tired, but its aluminum slat siding still gleamed where it could. I was back in the Mighty Furd and just beginning to look up my next destination when the denizen of the Shasta appeared at my window. It seems that his motorhome, from the 70s I think he said, was waiting for a new distributor cap that would take a week to show up. Nobody minded his staying here because he was practically a fixture in the area and knew everyone in town. He had been a master mechanic, he said, so getting his rig going again would be no problem once the part showed up. He also had relatives in the area, his mother among them. She was 88 years old, which impressed me mainly because he himself looked to be between 75-80 himself. Some people weather more badly than others, but there was no way he was close to my age. This apparent disjoint, his eagerness to keep me strung along in conversation, and his offer to show me the inside of the Shasta made it seem like a good idea to relocate the Ford in order to feed in Stop #2. If in doubt, move on out.

I finished my errands and decided to take a chance on what I thought was free BLM camping to the southwest. It looked like an electrical connection was available. Nope, that campsite was not free, and not affordable for any length of time. I thought I would take a look at a boondocking site near Los Alamos. By the time I got there, the sun had just set, rain was about to hit, and I was going to have to settle for anything for an overnight. The trail down to the coordinates looked like a definite problem for mud, particularly with more rain on the way. I took another track and found that promising to become interesting, too. So I found a level spot near the entrance on relatively high ground and set up camp, aware that my solar wouldn’t stand a chance surrounded closely by tall pines. Overnight only. It was quite a downpour that night!

The next morning, I looked up an affordable campsite with electrical hookups located nearly an hour northwest. The drive was nice, though the many hills pulled the Ford’s fuel gauge down faster than I preferred. Once I arrived at camp, I found the sites having electrical hookups blocked off from use. Oh well. I made an executive decision to drive through the rain to White Rock Campground, which is simply a parking lot beside a tourist center. It offers power, among other things. Two days there would allow a full recharge in spite of the dark overcast, and serve as a launching point to explore a couple of potential boondocking spots further east.

Apart from anxiety-ridden dogs left alone in rigs while the owners tour the area, there isn’t much to complain about in this lot. Overall, it’s pretty quiet. Payment is done via an automated credit card gismo, the electrical hookups work, and there’s a dump station with potable water source as well as dumpsters. It’s not perfectly level, but not sloped enough to cause any noticeable issues. It makes for a decent jumping off point for further travels, and worked well as a way to both get online and avoid discharging my batteries too deeply during the recent spell of dark skies.

Taos Junction Recreation Site

The Rio Grande at Taos Junction.

[This post is photo-heavy, so if you’re on a very limited cellular plan, exit right now and go to the home page or anywhere else.]

The drive down from Buena Vista, Colorado via Alamosa to Taos Junction, New Mexico was scenic, to say the least. Broad, sweeping valleys bordered by high, rugged mountains were the order of the day. Just don’t run off the highway staring at them. Alamosa, Colorado is a good-sized town with much to recommend it in the way of supplies. When 2 o’clock rolled around, I stopped at an improvised burger palace in a section of a repurposed city building, where I got a good hamburger, perfect onion rings, and perhaps the best chocolate shake I’ve had so far. The shake came with a straw large enough in diameter to pass as plumbing pipe, and it worked admirably. Due to their running a special and providing a 10% senior discount, I walked out with a loss of under $7. Yes, that’s no typo. Even the Safeway in town had unusually low prices on most food items, and with the fuel credit they give to regular customers, I was able to top off my tank at their station for just $2.29/gallon, which was a lot better than the $2.98 stations I’d passed on the way down. People in the Safeway parking lot greeted me with a friendly hello as we passed. My kind of town, Alamosa. Nirvana for cheapskates.

Here’s one view of camp, showing the shelters.

I had three sets of GPS coordinates for my next potential camp, all hopefully between 6,000’-7,000’ high. All are in extreme northern New Mexico. The first was Read more…

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