Archive for the 'Summer 2009' Category

Nov 13 2009

Finishing up with Big Bend

Published by under Summer 2009

Sunday did turn out to be a football day, but we really needed it because Monday we took our most ambitious hike of all.  The Lost Mine Trail starts from the highest elevation the Chisos Basin road gets to, around 5,700 feet, and climbs 1,100 feet in two and a half miles to the top of a ridge where there are magnificent views of the basin and the surrounding desert.


The trail has nature markers and a booklet describing things to provide reasons to stop every few minutes, but it is still up every step of the way.  Thank goodness we had worked our way up to this one, and thank goodness we had rested the previous day.  It was a good hike and we spotted a white tailed deer in the trail on the way down.


Tuesday we recovered from the previous day’s hike with just a short hike on the nature trail that starts in the campground.  Unfortunately the start of the trail was washed out in the floods last year so we had to hike a circuitous route around the beaver pond instead of taking the boardwalk over it.  The trail climbed a small hill near the river that had nice views.  That evening we gave ourselves a treat.  We rode up to the Basin Lodge and had dinner at their restaurant.  The food was OK, not great, but the views were worth it.

Wednesday we took our leave of Big Bend, having given it a pretty good look over for almost two weeks.  We feel like we know it pretty well.  We drove to Pecos, TX were we stayed in an RV park so we could do laundry.

Thursday we traveled east on I-20 to Midland, TX where I spent a couple hours touring the  Permian Basin Petroleum Museum.  I found it interesting but Dianna stayed in the truck and read.  Afterwards we motored north to a small county park north of Andrews, TX for the night.  Today we will move further east somewhere, and probably spend a couple days getting to Denton where we plan to spend the holidays with Dayna and her family.

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Nov 08 2009

Exploring Eastern Big Bend and Terlingua

Published by under Summer 2009

Thursday we did some exploring on this side of Big Bend.  First we went to the visitor center here at Rio Grande Village, then rode out to Boquillas Canyon where the river again cuts through a mountain in a spectacular gorge, then on towards the center of the park at Chisos Basin.  On the way we stopped at Dugout Wells where a small community sprang up around a well in the early part of last century.  The only school in the area was located there.  It is now a pleasant oasis in the middle of miles and miles of desert.  We continued on to Panther Junction where the park headquarters is located, along with the largest visitor center.  We then headed up the steep and winding road into the Chisos Mountains to Chisos Basin.

The Chisos Basin in considered the heart of Big Bend NP.  The Chisos Mountains rise from the desert floor in the center of the park to a height of 7,832 feet.  The developed area is in a bowl located within the center of the mountain.  It feels similar to being inside a volcano.  There is only one opening, called the window, with a view of the desert below.


There are very tame deer wandering around and one of them approached to within 10 feet of us as we ate a picnic lunch.  After lunch we took the Basin Loop Trail through the pines.  It was only about 2 miles but it gave us a good feel for the area.  It is just barely in the pines at about 5,400 feet, so there is a combination of trees and cactus but it was much cooler than down by the river.  We had a pleasant afternoon and plan to return to do another hike in the area, as well as have dinner at the lodge some evening.

Friday we returned to Boquillas Canyon and took the short trail into the canyon.  It ends where the rock walls come down to the river.  Just before arriving at the end there is a cave high on the wall with a steep sand dune leading up to it.  The angle of the sand is extremely steep.  It took us 10 minutes or so to climb up it, but only 20 seconds to come down.

Along the trail we discovered Mexican trinkets lying on the rocks, with prices marked and jars for money.  Mexicans living across the river come over in canoes when no one is watching, and leave the items, hoping to make a little money.   As we were hiking in we were suddenly serenaded by a Mexican on the other side of the river.  We then came across jars with signs the read “Donation for Mexican Singing.”  Dianna did buy a nice walking stick from one of the displays since the prices were about 1/4 of the cost for the same ones in the gift shop.  Whatever it takes.

Yesterday we decided to attend the Terlingua Chili Festival.  We had seen reference to the festival posted on the walls of some BBQ restaurants we have been in, and some of the people here in campground mentioned they were here to attend.  Terlingua is a tiny desert town just outside the park boundaries about 50 miles from the campground.  At one time it was a mining town that produced most of the mercury mined in the US.  It is now pretty much a ghost town that has become a haven for some artists and others who like to live away from it all.  It reminded us of Jerome, AZ without the mountains.

We didn’t know exactly what to expect but even so, it was not at all like we thought it might be.  While there was some judging and cooking going on, only the participants and judges were paying any attention.  In fact, unless you were a participant or judge you could not even get into that area.  Mostly what it was was a couple thousand people getting together in the desert for four days to drink beer and party.  It reminded us of a biker gathering.  It was certainly not our cup of tea and we only stayed an hour or so.  We did get some free chili and some Buffalo Wings, but they were not worth the $20 admission fee.


On the way back we filled up the scooter with gas.  Since the speed limit in the park is only 45 MPH we got the best mileage ever — 70.5 MPG.  Wahoo!

We still have a few things we want to see and do here.  Today may be just a football day, but who knows.  Soon we will start heading for Denton.

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Nov 02 2009

Big Bend National Park – Day 1 thru 3

Published by under Summer 2009

We continued south through a couple small towns, lots of open desert, small desert canyons, and open vistas with larger mountains in the distance, seeing lots of Border Patrol vehicles along the way.  We finally entered Big Bend NP at Study Butte and took the Ross Maxwell Scenic Road turnoff to Cottonwood Campground.  We dropped a couple thousand feed as we drove the 21 miles and found ourselves in a pretty grass covered primitive campground along the Rio Grande River.  There are no hookups of any kind so we will be relying on our solar panels, and since there is no cell service we will rely on our satellite internet and TV for entertainment and connection to the outside world.  After setting up camp we kicked back and relaxed for the rest of the evening.  It was quite cool and the furnace ran a lot during the evening.


We awoke to a temperature of 27 degrees, but bright sunshine soon warmed the day.  We set out to explore by scooter.  Our first stop was the Castolon Visitor Center where we learned about the history of the area.  This area has always been sparsely populated.  Even Native Americans avoided the place.  It was not until the late 1800’s that some very hardy ranchers arrived in the area.


Our second stop was at the end of the road where the Rio Grande carved Santa Elena Canyon through the mountains.  The river was too high for us to take the trail into the canyon and we are hoping that the water levels drop before we leave so we can return.  It is supposed to be one of the highlights of the area.  The canyon itself is impressive.


We continued our ride back toward the main road, stopping at each of the roadside exhibits.  Some explained the geology of the area, telling of the volcanic origins of most of the land, then the uplifting and mountain building, followed by ongoing erosion that left what we see today.  It is not what I would call spectacular scenery, but it is interesting and very pretty.  The center of the park is in the Chisos Basin area of the almost 8,000 foot Chisos Mountains that dominate the area.  We will explore that area later.


Yesterday we took a hike to Mule Ears spring.  The hike was only about 4 miles, but it was hot and lacking shade all the way.  The area around the spring where we had our lunch was a real oasis in the desert.  The small stream from the spring disappeared into the wash within a couple hundred feet but along its banks and in the pools were bulrushes, cattails, frogs, tadpoles and dragon flies.  There were tall cottonwoods and many smaller trees.


Today we didn’t do much.  We did ride a few miles up the road to Tuff Canyon overlook.  We had stopped at the overlook two days ago but had only looked.  Today we took the trail down to the bottom of the canyon and hiked as far up it as we could without rock climbing.  It was a relatively short trip but just what we needed to get the kinks out after yesterday’s more strenuous hike.


The rest of the day we just sat around, played on the computer, read, watched TV, napped and watched wildlife.  There are several coyotes who call the campground home, as well as a herd of 15 or so javalina, several road runners, woodpeckers, and a great horned owl.  All are accustomed to people and will pose for photographs as long as you don’t get too close.  The campground is very peaceful since even generators are not allowed.  It is a quiet and pretty place to spend a few days.


Pictures are in the gallery.

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Oct 26 2009

That doesn’t look like Texas!

Published by under Summer 2009

I know we told everyone we were headed for Big Bend National Park in Texas, but you never know with us.  We are still headed that way but we made a small detour.  Can you tell where from the photo?

We have had satellite internet for about 8 years now.  Setting it up involves erecting a tripod mount, mounting the dish, installing the arm, cabling everything together, and then aiming it at the correct satellite.  It usually takes me only 20 minutes or so to get online, and about 10 minutes to get it all disassembled and stowed, but it feels like it takes longer and gets heavier each time.  I finally broke down and bought a used automatic dish that mounts on top of the trailer.  All it takes is a push of a button and the dish unfolds, searches for the satellite, and locks on.  Stowing for travel is just another button.

So, what does all that have to do with the picture above?  Well, the man I bought it from lives in Ouray, Colorado.  We made the deal Saturday morning and decided to go get it.  Part of the deal was that I would help him remove it from his RV.  We decided to make an adventure of it, and left the trailer in Deming, NM, taking only the truck.  We didn’t get on the road until almost noon after a stop at the bank to get cash.  We are very familiar with New Mexico and headed north to Hatch, NM where we joined I-25, past Elephant Butte Lake, Socorro,  through Albuquerque to Bernalillo where we left the interstate and headed up to the northwest corner of the state.  It was well past dark by the time we got to Aztec, NM where we decided to spend the night in a hotel.  Afterward we kind of wished we hadn’t.  We paid $83 for a room that was worth less than half that, but there were no other options in town.

Sunday we headed north into Colorado, stopping in Durango for coffee, and then up over Molas Pass and down into Silverton at an elevation of about 9,300 feet.  There was not a cloud in the sky in Durango but by the time we reached Silverton the mountains were all covered with fresh snow and the roads were still wet and icy in places.  Beyond Silverton the road is one of the most spectacular in the world.  By spectacular I mean that it hugs the sides of magnificent mountains, has uncountable twists and turn, climbs to well over 11,000 feet, and has no shoulders or guard rails.  It has no guard rails because there is no room for them.  In many places the  edge of the pavement is the edge of the several thousand foot drop off.

I love such roads but Dianna does not.  We sit up very high in the truck and when we are on the outside of the road, all she can see is the canyon below when she looks out her window.  That and the fact that the road was wet and slushy in places, and that it was still spitting snow occasionally, really frightened her.  She became so nervous and scared that she finally moved to the back of the truck where she could just close her eyes.  I reminded her that she has ridden millions of miles with me, including hundreds of miles on similar roads, and that in all those millions of miles I have never driven off the edge of the road.  Not only that, but given the  consequences of driving off the road in those mountains, I was acutely aware of the situation and would not let that happen.  Didn’t make any difference.  She was scared.

Anyway, we arrived in Ouray, had lunch, met the man selling the dish, drove up his extremely steep and muddy driveway,  removed the dish from his rig and headed back.  Except for a short distance, we were on the inside of road most of the way back, and Dianna felt somewhat less uncomfortable.  We continued over the mountains, back into New Mexico, and all the way back to Albuquerque where we slept in the truck in an Indian Casino parking lot.  Today we drove back to Deming with just a stop in Hatch for some green chile.

So, that was our weekend.  1,100 miles.  Snowy  11,000+ foot mountain passes.  Beautiful scenery.  New toy waiting for me to install it.

P.S.  All the scenery pictures on on my gallery.

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Oct 26 2009

From Tears to Cheers

Published by under Summer 2009

Dayna called yesterday to tell us that Deidra had been involved in a road incident. It was dark so no one really knows what happened. An 18-wheeler passed her and then the next thing she knew she heard a noise that sounded like someone had hit her. It wasn’t until she got home and they looked at the car that they found some of the damage. (She and her three friends who were with her were really freaked out by the time they got home.) The windshield on the driver’s side is totally spidered, there is a huge dent where the windshield and roof meet and scratches and dents along the roof. Later they found a major scratch right above the driver’s side headlight. When we realized how close Deidra came to being seriously hurt it brought tears to Mom & Nana’s eyes. Needless to say her car is parked until they can find the money to fix it.

Dayna has been studying and taking pre-tests for her CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner) license for months. It is tough and similar to a CPA exam as it is in multiple parts with about 800 questions all together. She finished the actual exam this weekend and heard this morning that she passed! So now she is well on her way to being able to fulfill a life-long dream to work for the FBI or possibly Homeland Security!! A former supervisor has friends who work for H.S. and told Dayna he’d call them this evening to see what he could do for her.

She called later to say Deidra (after months and months of putting in applications all over Denton, Aubrey and Providence) has been hired at her first job. She started tonight as a hostess at a small Mexican restaurant near their home. Her first comment was, “Now I’ll be able to afford to fix my car!” Her bubbly personality ought to bring in lots of customers!

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Oct 22 2009

We saw a Cherry Cow today!

Published by under Summer 2009

That title will mean something to only 5 other people, and they will know exactly where we went today.  The rest will have to read on.

We left Apache Junction Tuesday about 11, and drove only 150 miles to Roper Lake State Park near Safford, AZ.  Our original plan was to continue east yesterday, but just didn’t feel like it.  Instead we rode the scooter up Mt. Graham.  The road is very scenic, but also very winding.  Most of the way the speed limit is 25, but many, many turns required slowing to 10.  The road is paved to a little over 9,000 feet and we were plenty cold by the time the dirt road started.  We don’t enjoy dirt roads on the scooter so we turned around.  The trip up and back only took a couple hours and was a lot of fun.  The views on top were incredible.  We could see the Chiricahua’s, the Dragoons, Willcox, the Rincons, Safford, and a lot more scenery that I used to know the names of.

It was seeing the Chiricahua’s from the top of Mt. Graham that gave me an idea.  Instead of leaving today, why not make another trip down memory lane?  So that’s what we did.  First thing this morning we loaded the scooter on the back of the truck and headed south, through Willcox, past the Dairy Queen where we used to eat banana splits and I first had Dilly Bar’s, and south to Chiricahua National Monument.

For those who are not familiar with Lafferty family history, we spent 2 or 3 weeks camping there in early 1959 after Mom sprained her ankle.  The camping we did there in the old school bus is one of our favorite family memories.  During that time there, Dale and I hiked every trail in the park, some of them multiple times.

We parked the truck at Faraway Ranch, the original homestead in the area which has been preserved as it was in the 20’s or 30’s, and unloaded the scooter.  The roads in the monument are narrow, with overhanging trees, and I didn’t want to add a new sunroof.  We stopped at the visitor center, then rode up to Masai Point at the end of the road.  On the way we rode through the campground were we had spent that time years ago, but I could not remember which site we camped in.

We ate our lunch at a picnic table at Masai Point, and were quickly visited by some old friends.  Chiricahua Jay’s are a kind of blue jay, although the visitor center called them something else, and they are notorious camp robbers.  Dianna couldn’t resist tossing them a few small pieces of bread.  They were totally brazen, and came right down to the table.  I remember them well from years ago.

After eating lunch at a picnic table we rode down about a half mile to the Echo Canyon Trail  parking area where we parked the scooter, put on the rucksack, and headed down the trail.  The formations were even better to view from up close as we walked through them and down Bonita Canyon. It was a pretty steep descent, but the loop back up to the parking area was a little more gentle.  Regardless, this little 3.2 mile hike was much, much tougher than any of the trails Dale and I took back in 1959.  I wonder why they made the trails so much steeper and more difficult?

We rode the scooter back down to the truck, loaded it up, and returned to Roper Lake, getting home just about 5:30.  It was great fun.  The place looked different after 50 years, as I only have general memories of the places and trails.  I had forgotten most of the details and would not have been able to describe much of the roads, campgrounds, visitor center, Masai Point, or any of the other places.  But it sure felt familiar and good.

And now, for those who have never seen a Cherry Cow, here is the story.  One day in early 1959, when camping at the campground there in Chiricahua, we all watched a white tail deer wander through the area.  On of my young siblings asked, quite innocently, “Is that the Cherry Cow?”

Today, shortly after arriving and unloading the scooter, the Cherry Cow pictured below came wandering through.

The rest of today’s photos are on my gallery.

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Oct 04 2009

On The Road Again, Again

Published by under Summer 2009

After 6 months camphosting at San Onofre we are once again on the road to places elsewhere.   The campground closed on the 1st of October and we spent a couple quiet days getting ready to move.  Sitting in one place for six months results in lots of things to put away.  All was ready by this morning and we hooked up and were on the road by about 10 AM.  We drove south on I-5, around San Diego and then east on I-8.  Up and over the mountains, down into the Imperial Valley and across the desert to Yuma we went, with the winds pushing us all the way.  I’m sure glad we weren’t headed west today!

We’ll be here for a couple days to get some dental work done, then it’s off to the Phoenix area for a couple weeks, and a big family reunion.  We’ll be staying in an RV park in Apache Junction this time.  Normally we like to boondock near the river but it’s still warm to be without air conditioning in the desert.

Our long range plans, which are cast in Jello, are to spend another month or so getting to the Denton area for the holidays, then back to the Arizona desert for three months until our season starts again in April next year at San Onofre.  We have been thinking about only staying there for 3 months next year.  Six months in one place starts to feel like a job about half way through, and by the time we are ready to leave there, the summer is over in the mountains where we love to spend time.  Maybe we will find another park somewhere to volunteer for the other three months, or maybe we will just travel and explore.  Who knows.  Like I said, Jello.

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