Sunday, August 31, 2014

Plaza Blanca, New Mexico

Plaza Blanca isn’t a town or even a crossroads.  It’s an area off a remote dirt road that is full of rock formations and towers.  Instead of the red rock that is so prevalent in this area, this is more a light concrete or sand color.  Whatever the color, it’s a very impressive area.  The area was all off-white color, except for rocks of all colors that had washed down from somewhere above, they were scattered over the entire area, adding contrast.  Someone had even arranged some of them into a spiral formation.
 I hiked all over the area and followed a gully that would have been a river had it been rainy season.  It turned into a miniature canyon and I followed it until it was just a little stream coming down from the rocks further upstream.  I kept seeing dog footprints, and then I realized it was probably a coyote.  Then I kept looking for a coyote, but didn’t get to see one.  I did get to hear a few of those when I stayed at a campground that was in a canyon.   I did see the cute little critter in the photo below.
The area was quite large and a bit spooky since I seemed to be the only person in the area.  There were no noises except for the occasional bird call and except for the cute lizard, the only other critter I noticed was a tiny frog about an inch long, and he blended perfectly into the sand that had washed down from above and was brown shades. 
Further on into the gully area were some large trees which have been hanging on for years during the rainy season and they seemed quite healthy. 
After an hour and a half of wandering around these amazing structures, I decided it was time to get some lunch.    


Friday, August 29, 2014

Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

Ghost Ranch is a retreat as well as an art colony - they have classes on pottery, painting and other arts.  They also have numerous hikes for day visitors as well as resident students or other visitors.  Since they serve meals to residents, they also have a farm where they grow their own vegetables and flowers.  While I was there, I noticed a really pretty flower (so I thought), with purple plumes.  It’s not really a flower, it’s a type of grain similar to wheat or millet. 
 On the drive up to the complex, I passed a rustic cabin complete with a stone chimney on the outside and a fenced area in back.  I found out later that it was built for the set of a movie back in the 1990s – City Slickers.  They did a great job of construction since it looked like it could have been a couple centuries old.  I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t ancient.
I elected to do one of the hikes, one of the more strenuous ones.  The trail is only 1 ½ miles to the top, but to get to the top of the trail, you have to climb over 600’ of elevation in that distance.  I was thinking on doing a less strenuous one, but I decided I shouldn’t wimp out – and besides that hike would give me some great photos.  It was the climb to the Chimney Rock.  The photos below show the rock at about halfway up the trail and then at the top of the trail.  The trail leads to the mesa next to the Chimney Rock, so the photo is from the back of it.  Luckily, I had a liter bottle of water with me, and drank most of it.  The weather was great for hiking, cloudy without being overcast and there was a breeze for most of the hike.  The temperature was probably about 80-83 and not much humidity.
In the end, I’m glad I decided on that hike, and there were great views, such as the one below, coming down the trail – it was a long way down.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico


 This Pueblo is inhabited by the Red Willow Indians and is known as the Taos Pueblo.


This is only a portion of the main northern structure, which has been inhabited continuously for over 1,000 years.  Some of the homes have been converted into shops for tourist trade while others are still used as homes.  There is a restriction on electricity or running water within the village.  Homes have little fireplaces and some have wood stoves for heating or cooking.  The walls are at least a foot thick and keep the inside cool in summer and warmer in winter.  A large quantity of homes are in this complex - homes are built side by side, sharing common walls, ceilings, etc.  Individual homes are anywhere from 1 to 3 rooms.

The construction is adobe brick, which consists of dirt, straw and water formed into bricks.  They are dried and then stacked with more adobe mixture between them.  The structure is then plastered with more adobe mixture.  As it ages, the straw shows through.

The majority of the population is Catholic, but the native culture and way of life is evident in the total population. 

The photo below is a shot of a couple Kivas, which are their sacred religious shrines.  This area is off limits to visitors, and they are underground, with sticks marking the entrance.
The photo below shows a typical house with the ladder to get to the roof and a bunch of dried chiles hanging on it.  Entrances were through a hole in the roof in the early days and ladders were needed to get inside.  In order to help protect themselves from invasion, they would just pull the ladder up on the roof.  

Most of the homes have only one oven, this one has two.  An oven is called horno and they are still used, especially for large quantities of food.  Wood is used to warm up the oven, then the food is put in.  The pieces of board in this photo just cover the opening.

The cemetery is sacred and no one is allowed to enter unless there is a funeral.  This is why it looks unkempt, they do not maintain it because they would have to enter it.  The ruins within the walls of the cemetery are the church that was damaged by US troops in the 1800s

This area was fascinating and I walked through the area at least twice.  They have several shops that open during the morning, with all sorts of goods for sale, including beautiful native pottery, jewelry, paintings.  There are also baked goods for sale, including fry bread, oven bread and cookies.  I had to try the fry bread, which was pretty good with cinnamon and sugar on it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Enchanted Circle


I took a trip around the Enchanted Circle, starting and ending at Taos, New Mexico.  This circle of roads goes around some of the ski areas of northern New Mexico, thereby allowing for great scenery and a fun day trip.

I started early in the morning and drove north into the Carson National Forest.  I kept stopping at different areas to take photos.   The first town on the way was Questa, which wasn’t much of a tourist destination, but seemed like a nice little town.

Moving along, the roads were good and not at all crowded, and took me up to almost 8700’ and the ski resort town of Red River.  This area was very crowded due to a chili cookoff/music festival this weekend.  The main street  is situated between 2 mountain areas and is a very touristy place.  They make use of the ski lifts during the summer by giving rides up to the top at 10,000’.  I was feeling the effects of lower oxygen saturation, but I walked around town for a while, checking out some of the shops.

My next stop was Eagle’s Nest, a smaller town, and less touristy.  I had lunch there in a little restaurant that had all sorts of memorabilia for decorations – ice skates, vintage hub caps and chrome car names on the walls.  There were a few old license plates and a traffic stoplight in the corner. The menus were glued on old music LPs.  After lunch I went into a little shop that had a variety of rocks, minerals and crystals for sale.  Very pretty stuff, and some of them are priced anywhere from $5 up, mostly up.  I’ve seen some that are priced in the hundreds. 

The weather in this area was very pleasant – sunny, with a few clouds and about 75, with low humidity – just right for running around without AC in the truck and walking around these towns. 

On the way to the next town, Angel Fire, another ski resort, I stopped at one of the state parks and took the photos shown below. 


The prairie dogs are plentiful in this area.  They will stand by the side of the road or run across the road even with vehicles coming by.  I tried to get some good photos of them on the trail to the lake, but they wouldn’t come out of their burrows.  I got this photo at the last little town I stopped at today.
Coming home, the roads were mostly downhill and very twisty, with lots of turns and brought me down to about 6700’, where I’ve been staying.  Along the way, I had to stop and take photos of a cute little house – a bit of a fixer-upper.  Check it out……


Friday, August 15, 2014

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, Taos, New Mexico


The above photo shows the Rio Grande Gorge near Taos, about 650 feet deep, with a small river running through the bottom.  Further south, the river widens and there are rafting tours down the river on a pretty swift current.

Below is a photo showing the bridge going over the gorge.  As I was driving up to the bridge, there were green fields, a little bit rolly, but mostly flat valley land.  As I got closer, I could see the deep gorge where it made a cut in the land.  I didn't look down when I crossed the bridge, since I really don't like heights.  I didn't want to see how far down it was.


I might have mentioned that I really don't like heights, but there's a walkway on the bridge, on both sides, with spaces to step away from traffic to view the bridge.  It was there, and it was the only way I could get a decent photo of the gorge, so I had to walk over to the viewing space, which is where I got the first photo above.  As I was standing there, taking photos and looking down at the river, a large truck drove over the bridge and I could feel the vibration as he passed.  That was while I was taking the photo below, looking directly down from the bridge.  I was glad that someone had just told me the bridge had been refurbished recently.

After getting my shots of the view, I carefully looked for traffic on the bridge and crossed over to the other side, where I got a few more shots of the gorge.  Then I walked back to the safety of land and back to my truck. 
That gorge is definitely dramatic.  I can imagine back years ago when the river cut it's way through the valley, it would have been a very deep river at that time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Propane Blues

I know the flower has no correlation to propane at all, but I feel I need to share photos.......

The other day I ran out of propane on one tank, so I went outside and turned the empty tank off and turned on the tank that was full. Immediately, I heard hissing. I turned it off, went inside to get a cup of soapy water. I then started checking the connections and got sloppy with the cup of water, spilling it all over the regulator. Interestingly, that was the only thing that was creating bubbles, indicating a leak.

It was a red regulator, all metal, so I had no idea that would be my problem. Sometimes, it’s good to be sloppy! I turned the tank off and then took the regulator out of the system. Sounds easy, but I struggled with those connections for a long time someone strong put them on!

It was Saturday, but I took it to about 4 places in town to see if I could get a direct replacement. I’m in a small town, so there wasn’t much to choose from. No one had a direct replacement and one place wanted to sell me one with a step down connector because the threads weren’t the right size on one side. I declined because I didn’t want an extra connection. Good instinct, although I didn’t know it, and not because of the connections.

Monday, I took it to a propane shop in town. They fill all sorts of tanks and sell parts. They had been closed on the weekend, unfortunately. In doing some research, the manager there found out that I had a 30 psi regulator (hence, the red color) and it sends the propane to the secondary regulator on the other side of the RV, which then sends the propane to the stove.

The part was ordered, since it was not something they carried. It came in the next day and I installed it. Of course, I checked it for leaks - multiple times. I also checked the other side for leaks - I have 2 tanks, one on each side of the RV.

I had a double tank system on my boat, but the tanks were in the same compartment and there was only one hose with a regulator. In order to change tanks, I had to move the hose (with the regulator attached) from one tank to the other. It was a much more simpler system than this one I’m dealing with now.

I am very respectful of my propane system - I’m very careful with it and was worried that I may get the wrong part, which I almost did at that one store. It had been the wrong pressure specifications as well as the wrong connector size. It was a good thing I was so skeptical and felt I had to get the perfect replacement to be safe.

When checking your propane system, it's probably a good idea to be a bit sloppy and dump that soapy water all over everything. It can't hurt, and you just might find a leak where you wouldn't expect one!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Conchas Lake State Park, New Mexico

I just got back to civilization from a week in a state park no internet, no phone, no TV. During the week, it was quiet, very few people in the park. On Friday, there was a parade coming in - trailers, big motorhomes and lots of boats. By Saturday night, there were only about 2 spots open there were even a few tent campers. People started leaving Sunday, some on Monday and it was back to a quiet park with only a few people.

On the way there, I went through some dramatic scenery, hills with red rocks and dirt with several contrasting shades of green grass and trees. On the same road, there’s a winding stretch along a side of a mesa with a steep drop on the other side.  That part is a "falling rocks" zone with big boulders perched on the side, just waiting for a big storm to wash them down.
As with most of the New Mexico parks, this one is situated on a lake with a dam. The lake is actually a canyon, which makes for a pretty scene, high rocky shores and gigantic boulders along the lake. No beaches unless the water level is very low. Since the elevation is about 4200 feet above sea level, the water is cold. The weather usually gets down between 65-70ish during the night, even though the days can be in the 90s. While I was there, we had a few overcast days, which made it very comfortable during the day, only in the 80s with not much humidity.
There were a few houseboats out on the lake, permanently anchored. One was a travel trailer that someone had put on a barge type boat, with a roof built over it. At least the guy has waterfront property.
While I was there, I took a tour of the dam, very impressive. It took about 3000 men about 4 years to build back in the 1930s. It's 1250 feet long and 200 feet tall When we got down into the depths of the concrete tunnels running through the dam, it was about 67 degrees - quite chilly, reminding me of all the caverns I'd been touring. I was not allowed to take photos inside, for security reasons. The tour was about an hour long, through long concrete tunnels and multiple steps down to about 160 feet below the water. Well worth the time, especially since I'd never been in a dam.