Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

A wonderful weekend spent at our newest National Park, The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

This is a great family park offering a multitude of recreational opportunities, including, camping –  in a campground or back country, hiking – easy walks to strenuous back country hikes, wading in the shallow Medano Creek, exploring the dunes, or taking an adventurous four wheel drive trek through the Medano Pass.  This is one park that can really offer something for just about everyone.

At the base of the Sangre De Cristo mountains lies the Great Sand Dunes.

Of course the biggest thrill for everyone, is to hike the dunes.  The children love it, and the adults turn into children as soon as the sand is underfoot.  Can you climb to the top?  Lots of folks do.  A little farther then we wanted to attempt, we did get several dunes high, and found the experience quite pleasant.  Watching the children climb high and then scoot down the dunes as they were squealing with excitement was a joy.  Before getting to hike the dunes, one must cross the Medano Creek, which flows mostly in the spring, and is often completely dry in the summer.  The flow is based upon the snowpack from the prior winter.  This winter was very dry, and Medano Creek is flowing at much reduced rate, but there was still enough water in it for the children to giddily wade in, and for Jim and I to make a valiant effort to cross without getting soaked.

The campground consists of two loops, one in which the spaces can be reserved, and one loop is a first come first serve loop.  We were in the reserved loop.  Our loop (the reserved) was very quite, but the other loop was much more crowded, tended to have more families with children and was much noisier.  However, it was only regular noise from gleeful children on their camping trip.  At night, there was hardly a sound.  The campground felt tight to us.  Although the sites were set up to maximize the views and privacy,  the parking for the sites was generally just pulling off of the narrow road, the back in sites were very short, and we saw many travel trailers elect to pull in instead of back in to the site.  We were very lucky and feel we choose the very best site in the park.

An example of a 37' parallel space

An Example of a 25' back in space

Our space - said to hold a 45' (we are 29.9)

And for the first time in our six camping outings we had guests at our campsite.  Uninvited guests, yes, but we welcomed their visit nonetheless.

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Datil Well Recreation Area

This weekend we camped at Datil Well Recreation Area.   I didn’t have a specific plan for this weekend.  We had considered going to Chaco Canyon, however reviews of the road, as well as personal experience from previous visits there had led us to the decision that we were not prepared to put GROVER through the potentially damaging effects of 20+ miles of bouncing over extremely rough road.  So we chose Datil Well.  From the reviews we had assumed it was a pretty popular place and had anticipated that this would most likely be our first encounter with and full campground (well Rockhound was full, but it was so eerily quite we forget that), however, only two spaces (plus the camp host) were in use when we arrived at around 9:30 AM Friday morning.   It pretty much remained that way until Saturday evening when a truck camper, a class C and tent campers came in.  This is a campground without hookups, which we have experienced before (City of Rocks), however, we were surprised to see a class A and then when the truck camper arrived, both using the generators all day during generator hours 6AM-10PM.   The campground has a nice loop trail for even the novice hiker, however on our first trek we are sure that we hear a mountain lion growl a warning to us from over a small hill.  (Mountain lions are noted to be in the area).  Therefore we left quickly, and future hikes were much more limited not wanting to go to the area where we first herd the growl.  That would be the only disappointing aspect of the entire trip, I would have loved to have completed the loop.  I am sure others more brave out there would have continued on with no problems, but alas, I am not known for my bravery when it comes to the area of wild animals (or a whole lot of other things either – LOL)  Here are some photos in and around our campsite and on the trail.

Our Campsite

These trees at our site created a great private alcove in which to set our chairs

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The Weekend Quest to “Get The Pciture” – Day 3

Day three begins with an early rise at the Holiday Inn Express in Tucumcari.

I am excited that we are going back through Cuervo again, the town we passed on the way to Tucmucari with all the “ruints” . Once back home I Google the history of Cuervo and from what I can gather, basically when Interstate 40 came through the town it literally came THROUGH the town, cutting a swath right through it demolishing buildings, the remains of Cuervo lie north and south of the Interstate.  Oddly, so many of the towns died because Interstate 40 bypassed them, taking away the Route 66 traffic, but this town died because Interstate 40 came right through???

Next stop was Santa Fe.  Which was a great stop.  First, as we entered town on Old Pecos trail headed to the Plaza I spot one of the photos I had not yet identified.  Great find.  The other great thing about this stop was that all of the photos were in the Plaza area, and we could park, walk and click, just racking up the photos for the contest.

Leaving Santa Fe we head north to Las Trampas where there are two photos.  A beautiful and scenic drive on what they call the high road to Taos.  When we arrive in Las Trampas we spy the photo right away but there is not a place to safely pull out and “get” the photo.  We drive a bit past to the second photo and find a huge parking area.  Great!, we will simply walk back down the road and grab the other shot.  WRONG!  as we head down the road roughly six dogs start running out of their homes toward us, barking with vigor.   Well that was just to0 much for me to take, so I quickly turned around.  Kathy, may have ventured further to get the photo, but I barked at here to come back.  So alas, it is assured that I will not obtain all 100 photos (any bloggers out there that got this photo, let me know your experience).

From Las Trampas we continue on the high road into Ranchoes de Taos and Taos, to get the final two photos of the weekend.  When we left the Taos area, we went home via the more frequented route along the Rio Grande River, and it was just gorgeous.  The weekend was wonderful, productive and relaxing, enchanting and stimulating.  It was Grand!

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The Weekend Quest to “Get The Picture” – Day 2

After only a few hours of sleep, I am up and ready to go, Kathy, on the other hand would love it if I could just be a tad quieter for just a little while longer.  Actually, Kathy was a great sport on this trip, getting up very easily even though she is a self admitted “non-morning” person.

So Day 2 begins with us leaving the Fairfield Inn in Roswell and heading east on 2nd Street/NM380, to our next destination for photo number 2 of the trip at The Bottomless Lakes State Park, where before obtaining our photo, we encountered a rattlesnake on a trail to one of the seven small lakes that are located in this park.  Only feet away from the snake I hear Kathy “STOP, there’s a snake”  I skidded to a halt (literally).  We both leaned far forward with our cameras in out stretched arms to take a photo of the snake – and yes, it was a rattlesnake, see those rattles? (Click the photo for a larger view)

Once down the road, however, we were able to enjoy the quite of our early morning visit and get a great shot for the contest.

From the Bottomless Lakes Sate Park, we retraced our steps back through Roswell, turning north on NM285 and then turning east on NM70 toward Portales for our next photo stop.  The drive from Roswell to Portales was new for me.  In all my years of traveling around the State I have never found myself on this road.  It was a pleasant and easy drive with a lot of vast land on either side of the highway.  I missed a great “ruint” in Kenna on the way to Portales, and sadly I may never be back down that road, at the right time of day in order to capture it again.

In Portales, armed with a printed GOOGLE map and a nav-app on a smart phone, we were having difficulty locating the site of our next photo.  Round and round the square we went.  Until at one point I pulled into an empty lot as we studied the two maps closely, identifying all the streets and still unable to find the photos subject.  Finally, in bit of frustration, I decided I would go to the middle of the square to take a photo of the Roosevelt County Courthouse (which could be a sub-subtitle to this adventure.) As I pulled into the parking lot, but what did I spy, across the street on the corner – yes the photo subject the Tower Twin Theater, and to my utter dismay, and what caused Kathy and I to have a fit of laughter – when we were parked in the empty lot studying our maps, we were right next to this very building.

  • 1978, a devastating fire broke out in the sweet potato warehouse and spread severing electricity and phone service in the downtown area. Firefighters from Portales, Clovis, and Cannon Air Force Base responded and the entire downtown area was ordered to evacuate.  Other buildings that caught on fire included The Print Shop (still in existence but located south of this site), the McKillip Agency, Mickey Barnett’s law office, and the Tower movie theater

We made an additional stop in Portales at the Sunland Peanut Company to pick us up some Made In New Mexico peanut butter.  We then continued on NM70 toward our next destination Clovis, where we turned west on NM60/84 in route to our next photo destination.  The old Hotel Clovis.  As you can see in the photo the renovations have begun on this 80+ year old building.  Hopefully I can get back there to take a photo of it after it is completed (guess then I could go down to Kenna and get that “ruint” photo I passed by)

After our very quick stop in Clovis, it was off again west on NM60/85 toward Fort Sumner for our next photo.  This section of road is dotted with very small to ghost towns, such as St. Vrain, Melrose, Tolar,  and Taiban (Taiban being a previously visited subject on this blog).  Arriving in Fort Sumner, we decided it was time for a comfort break, and a quick snack.  We picked up a Chimichunga at an Allsups store and headed to a park to quickly squelch our hunger and off to the Old Fort Sumner Museum for a photo of Billy the Kid’s grave.

Back in the car and back on the road, headed north on NM85 to Santa Rosa, where our next photo subject was located.  Kathy is credited with identifying this photo.  A long time visitor to Santa Rosa Kathy had the advantage on this one.  The Guadalupe County Courthouse.

Picking up Interstate40 we headed east to Tucumcari, where we were to find our last photo of the day before heading to our hotel and getting some much deserved rest from our day on the road.  Along the way we passed through the town of Cuervo, where I could see I was in “runit” heaven.  Cuervo is full of “ruints” Not knowing to get off the Interstate before passing the town of Cuervo, it was a plus that we would be backtracking along this same stretch of road in the morning so that I could stop and get photos.

We made a stop at the Tucumcari cemetery so that Kathy could visit some of her husband’s family who are buried there.  It was a peaceful moment for her to share some of her thoughts, and she took a few photos of the markers.  Our destination was the Blue Swallow Motel for our final photo of the day.  We stopped inside their gift shop and had a nice visit with the proprietors of the property, who were well aware of the contest and have had many participants stop and also stay at their motel.

<<<<<<<For the final day be sure to check in tomorrow>>>>>>>>

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The Weekend Quest to “Get The Picture” – Day 1

This weekend my friend Kathy and I went on a two day trek to get as many photos for the New Mexico Centennial’s “Get the Picture” contest as we could.  We did a pretty good job too, 17 photos (for the contest anyway, many more for the scrapbook).  We had a “BLAST”.

We left on Friday after quitting time and headed south, with our first stop our very own little town, Moriarty, to snap a few shots of some old abandoned buildings.  (Abandoned buildings, or what I like to call “ruints” could be the subtitle for this blog entry as I was also on a personal quest to get photos of these).


From Moriarty, we traveled south going through McIntosh and Estancia on NM41.  Turning east on NM60 we travel through Willard and quickly make a turn onto NM42 heading south and southeast, through the community of Cedarvale where my next “ruint” photo is taken.  Unfortunately the lighting condition was poor for the angle in which I needed to take the photo, and therefore I was unable to achieve the desired look of this structure, therefore I changed them to sepia tone which corrects for the harsh sunlight.  The photo is of the Cedarvale school and below is an excerpt from the Historic Preservation Weekly Report for September 2008

  • Cedarvale’s Population Jumps Tenfold (Torrance County)

    Cedarvale’s population is 3.  But on the afternoon of September 18, its numbers jumped to nearly 40 as the descendants of
    the town’s original homesteaders gathered to celebrate the tiny burg’s Centennial and dedication of an Official Scenic Historic Marker.  Cedarvale’s boom started in 1908 and relied on rainfall to germinate pinto beans that thrived for about 20
    year’s in central New  Mexico’s rich, sandy soil.  But  the rains stopped, the cisterns dried up, and the men moved away to
    find work to support their families while the wives stayed home and wore stiff-billed bonnets to keep the gritty wind and the
    harsh sun off their faces while they hoed the last crops .  But in 1916, everything seemed a go, and the townsfolk pooled
    their resources to build a school of monumental proportions that still stands, although the pit gym added by the WPA in
    1936, crawls with rattlesnakes, a cornice of the grand window bank that dominates the Romanesque façade is about to cave
    in, and the tongue-and-groove ceilings have collapsed onto the once polished wood floors that now see rain more often than
    they do human footsteps.
    A town granddaughter, Gail D’Arcy worked closely with HPD, initially to list the building, but soon was advised a scenic
    marker would be the best route to honoring the school’s legacy.  She invited more than 100 people from all over the country
    and 40 of them showed up for an afternoon of memories, fine food and an official dedication presided over by HPD Scenic
    Marker Coordinator John Murphey and documented by Tom Drake, Public Relations.  Baishram Hindi, whose Lebanese
    grandparents homestead in nearby Duran, was so taken with the event that he’s invited HPD to visit his town, site of New
    Mexico’s last hanging, to establish a marker there.  His father and namesake, at 90, took quick, firm steps up to the large
    marker cut the ribbon and then Gail pulled off the bow.

    Cedarvale’s Population Jumps Tenfold (Torrance County)Cedarvale’s population is 3.  But on the afternoon of September 18, its numbers jumped to nearly 40 as the descendants ofthe town’s original homesteaders gathered to celebrate the tiny burg’s Centennial and dedication of an Official Scenic Historic Marker.  Cedarvale’s boom started in 1908 and relied on rainfall to germinate pinto beans that thrived for about 20 year’s in central New  Mexico’s rich, sandy soil.  But  the rains stopped, the cisterns dried up, and the men moved away to find work to support their families while the wives stayed home and wore stiff-billed bonnets to keep the gritty wind and the harsh sun off their faces while they hoed the last crops .  But in 1916, everything seemed a go, and the townsfolk pooled their resources to build a school of monumental proportions that still stands, although the pit gym added by the WPA in 1936, crawls with rattlesnakes, a cornice of the grand window bank that dominates the Romanesque façade is about to cave in, and the tongue-and-groove ceilings have collapsed onto the once polished wood floors that now see rain more often than they do human footsteps.A town granddaughter, Gail D’Arcy worked closely with HPD, initially to list the building, but soon was advised a scenic marker would be the best route to honoring the school’s legacy.  She invited more than 100 people from all over the country and 40 of them showed up for an afternoon of memories, fine food and an official dedication presided over by HPD Scenic Marker Coordinator John Murphey and documented by Tom Drake, Public Relations.  Baishram Hindi, whose Lebanese grandparents homestead in nearby Duran, was so taken with the event that he’s invited HPD to visit his town, site of New Mexico’s last hanging, to establish a marker there.  His father and namesake, at 90, took quick, firm steps up to the large marker cut the ribbon and then Gail pulled off the bow.

From Cedarvale we continue on NM42 to Corona where we turn on to NM 54 which takes us to Carrizozo.   After a brief stop in Carrizozo for a comfort break and a cool drink we head east on NM 380.  Along NM380 is a Carrizozo land development Valle del Sol which appeals to me as a retirement destination, if that is,  I had the ability to retire.   Just a short way on NM380 we turn south onto NM37 where we pass through the community of Nogal.  The scenery begins to change quite quickly, from the flat high desert/prairie landscape we have been traveling through thus far.  As we climb, the air starts to feel much cooler, and the tall pines begin to fill our view.  From NM37 we continue south on NM48 which takes us through Alto, with our destination for our first photo being Ruidoso, just a little further down the road.

Ruidoso is a major tourist town.  With it’s mountain setting, cool temperatures, abundance of lodging, dining and shopping opportunities it has become a destination for many New Mexican’s and also receives a lot of tourism from the residents of Texas as well.  Our photo destination in Ruidoso is the Old Dowlin Mill.   Our trip could not have started on any better note, we had researched where we were going to dine in Ruidoso and had decided on the Cattle Baron restaurant.   To our great surprise, the Old Dowlin Mill is located right next door to this restaurant.    Kathy’s prime rib was excellent, as were both the appetizers we ordered, green chili won tons, and spinach artichoke dip, and the salad bar was full of fresh goodies and was very tasty.  Not able to fill my order of rare prime rib, I selected a fillet mignon, and although tasty I was unable to chew most of the steak.  Did I cut against the grain? or was it just tough?  I don’t know, but I would not count my experience with this cut of meat to be the norm, as the restaurant was extremely busy and I heard many comments of satisfaction throughout the evening meal.

The Last leg of the trip before stopping for the night was to head east on NM70 to Roswell.  Being dark already we were unable to enjoy the sights of some of the towns we passed through, San Patricio, Tinnie, Glencoe and Hondo.  Arriving at the Fairfield Inn in Roswell at about 10:00 pm, tired and road weary we were anxious to get to our room, take a hot shower and make ourselves a good cocktail.  We sat up later than we should have “girl talkin”, buy we thoroughly enjoyed it.

<<<<<check in tomorrow for day 2 of our quest>>>>>

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Three Rivers Petroglyphs

Three Rivers Petroglyphs is a wonderful place with thousands of petroglyphs.  Living and traveling mostly in the southwest, I have been to many locations with petroglyphs, but this site was impressive in the sheer number of petroglyphs.  Mostly used as a day use area, there are strangely two RV sites with water and electric.  Because of this we were fortunate to hike the petroglyph trail early in the morning and early in the evening when the day crowd was not there.

A view of the "campground" from the Petroglyph trail

Some petroglyphs along the trail.

Some Scenery Surrounding the Petroglyph Area

Our Campsite in the evening sunset

Sunset on the Petroglyph trail

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The Cactus Flower

The Cactus Flower

Cactus on the Village Trail at Three Rivers Petroglyphs

Posted November 12th, 2009 by Karla Bardanz

Surviving without any water or even care,
the enigmatic cactus flower bloomed alone
in a harsh tropical desert lost somewhere,
hidden by its shy thorns and a quiet stone.

Adaptable to arid surroundings, silently it grew
pretending to be strong when it was so fragile.
Afraid of dark afternoons and everything new,
The cactus flower learnt to live in tender exile.

Being difficult to handle due to its spiky spines,
It is a beauty hardly ever cultivated or admired.
But even in solitude, this flower always shines
As it has the qualities a difficult life required.

Lovely plant of sweet pricks people fear
But they don’t know your pain and scars
Or even how many times you shed a tear
Sighing and gazing at the golden stars.

A delicate enigma, this flower will always be
for people who are heartless and totally blind
as it holds the mysteries some are unable to see,
those which are the most beautiful and refined.

Karla Bardanza

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Valley of Fires Recreation Area

Our third adventure of the year took us to the Valley of Fires Recreation Area.  Again another very quite campground, with wonderful views of the mountain ranges surrounding the area.  A super easy campground to get in and out of, right off the highway, but you don’t hear any traffic noise.  sites are decently spaced and well maintained.  Ours had a little path to the edge of the Malpais where we could sit and look across the lava field.
A nice visitor center/gift shop is on site, however it was never open when I went there.  When Jim checked in on Friday morning it was open though, and he said it was very nice.  This is a great jumping off point for places of interest nearby – White Oaks ghost town –  which really isn’t a ghost town there are actually a lot of people residing in the area.  Lincoln State Monument – which is more of a ghost town.  There are several residents, however many of the historic buildings now belong to the State Monument and Museum and a few are open to walk through.  Most notably, the former Lincoln County Courthouse where Billy the Kid escaped custody and killed two lawmen in the process.  Fort Stanton – which appears to have a very active and productive volunteer organization behind it refurbishing the various buildings to their previous luster.

Our Campsite at Valley of Fires Recreation Area

Overview of the campground, looking north, ours is the last rig toward the top of the photo.

Sunset at Valley of Fires Recreation Area

The Malpais Trail

Growing between the huge lava rock.

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Get The Picture – My Next 5 Matches

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100th Anniversary Of The Sinking Of Titanic

On April 15h, at 2:30 AM  (North Atlantic Time) will mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the White Star Lines infamous ship the Titanic.  Touted at the time as unsinkable the Titanic foundered and sunk on her maiden voyage.  1500 passengers and crew members lives were lost.  It took 73 years for the wreckage of the Titanic to be found.  After the discovery of the wreckage a flood of theories have been made and changed as to just how the Titanic sank.  Just a month ago new information was released regarding the mapping of the Titanic debris field.  Apparently this project has been ongoing for quite some time and using sonar, and 1000 of photographs taken of the wreckage a complete map of the 3 mile by 5 mile debris field has been able to be constructed.  Another new theory as to the manner in which Titanic sank has also been formulated based on the positioning of the debris.  To think 100 years after the sinking of this ship, people are still diligently examining this wreckage for further clues.  The sinking of this ship has proven to be of great interest and is the subject of countless articles, books, documentaries, and films.

I have long been captivated by the accounts of the Titanic.  In 1998 when the blockbuster film by James Cameron was released I was not sure that the dramatic retelling of this event would interest me, but all too soon this film became number one on my all time favorite list.

This year to mark the 100th anniversary several memorial cruises have been planned.  (I wonder if there were any cancellations due to the recent cruise ship mishaps)  Robin Gibb (of the Bee Gees) put out a cd Titanic Requiem commemorating this event, the 1998 film has been re-released in 3D, and many new documentaries have invaded the airways of cable and public television stations.

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