Find us on Google+ Rick and JoAnne's RV Travels: March 2013

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Sunset, Petroglyphs, and a Chapel


We were wondering why we weren’t getting the beautiful sunsets we had while in Arizona, so Thursday we decided to “stay out” until there was no-more light in the sky. Guess what? We were treated to a marvelous sunset!  Dah! Maybe we need to hang outside a little longer in the evening!

Friday we planned to drive the 40 miles from Oliver Lee State Park in Alamogordo to see the Three Rivers Petroglyphs which is on BLM land. So we did just that and headed out on our journey. We drove past McGinn’s, the World’s Largest Winery and Pistachio Ranch, as well as the World Famous Three Rivers Trading Post in Tularosa with plans to make a stop on our way back to Alamogordo.

 Arriving at the petroglyph site, you are surrounded by the San Andreas Mountain Range with a spectacular view of Sierra Blanca. We parked the car and traveled out to see how many of the 600 to 2,000 year old petroglyphs we could actually find. No problem, as there is over 21,000 petroglyphs at Three Rivers. There are numbers along the long, rocky ascent to the top of the rock art site indicating the most notable and most photographed depictions. However as you travel the trails you see petroglyphs virtually everywhere, and yes, sadly there is some contemporary graffiti.

It was all very exciting to see and photograph and along the way learning more about the Jornada Mogollon people and the art depicting their lives.

As a side note to fellow RVers, there are two full hook-up sites, and numerous dry-camping spots in the parking area at the Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

While driving towards the site, we saw signs for a chapel 4 miles down the road. So after our exploration of the petroglyphs, we headed that 4 miles and found the historic Santo Niño de Atocha Chapel. What a beautiful and enchanting place devoted to The Holy Child of Antioch. It is remarkable, filled with religious artifacts, and icons honoring the small pilgrim boy, Santo Niño de Atocha.

Heading back down the road we did stop at the trading post, and yes, they do have some amazing art work and jewelry, but we’re still not sure about the “world famous” claim. The next stop was McGinn’s winery and pistachio ranch, again we’re not sure about the “world’s largest” claim…but they do the tallest pistachio (see photo). On site is their winery and orchard, inside were delicious tastings of both the wine and pistachios offered.  So yummy - of course we could not leave the ranch without purchasing some “samples” of our own.

Then it’s back to camp for one more day at Oliver Lee State Park and on to Valley of Fires Sunday.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park and White Sands National Monument


As we pulled out of Elephant Butte State Park we headed toward Alamogordo. Plan A was to see if we could “luck out” and get one of the first-come first-serve sites – it appeared all of the reserved sites had been taken. Plan B would be a site in one of the commercial campgrounds in the area. Lucky us! We found a great site in the relatively small campground at Oliver Lee. 

The beauty of the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico, the largest in North America, takes some time getting used to. If you let it, it grows on you. The park sits at the base of the very rugged Sacramento Mountains. Yes, there is a rigorous hike up the mountain – but we decided to pass – it was much easier to just sit and relax in our front yard. 

Instead we took a short but very pretty nature loop hike behind the visitor center. There is some very interesting Old Western history associated with this particular area. 

Unbelievably, the area’s first homesteader was a French carpenter - Francois-Jean Rochas, known locally as “Frenchy”. A loner, he arrived in Dog Canyon in 1885 and built his home from indigenous stone, constructed stone walls for his cattle, and an orchard. Parts of the structure still stand in the park and some artifacts derived from an archeological dig are displayed in the visitor’s center. 

Frenchy met an untimely death in 1894. He was found shot in his home, dead from a single gunshot to the chest. His death remains an unsolved mystery along with the other unresolved mystery surrounding him. Did he really build the helix staircase in the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, or was it built, as legend has it, by St. Joseph?

It would have been fun to tour the ranch of the parks namesake, Oliver (Milton) Lee. His arrival in Dog Canyon in 1893 established him as a famous local rancher who raised cattle and horses. He was well known for helping to establish the city of Alamogordo and the Otero County area. Unfortunately, they only offer access on Saturday and Sunday. Yet, the visitor center did provide a good overview of the full history of the area. 

Ding…You’ve got mail! Fellow bloggers and Google + contacts Paul and Carol Goldberg sent us an email asking if we were going to be in the area for a few days. It turns out they were camped in Las Cruces. A few emails later, we agreed to meet at the White Sands National Monument. They had been to White Sands many times and suggested we pack a picnic lunch and they would serve as our personal guides. We had a great time with Paul and Carol. Picnicking, fun hikes and lots of sharing of RV travel adventures. Oh, and we were also joined by Flat Stanley.

Wow! White Sands is indeed a fascinating place. White indeed…as far as you can see, a sea of white dunes of talcum like gypsum sand. It’s so very different from the Sand Dunes National Park in our home state of Colorado. It was partially overcast the day we went which was good for hiking around but not the best for pictures. It was still very bright and I can’t imagine the intensity you would experience under full sun. 

On the way back to Olive Lee we just had to stop at the Oliver Lee General Store. What a mish-mosh  of stuff much of it the personal collection of the eccentric owner.

More pictures here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Elephant Butte, a Museum, an International Heritage Center, an old Fort, a National Wildlife Refuge and a Great Hamburger.


Sunrise over Elephant Butte
We are at Oliver Lee Memorial Park for the next several days. But I need to backtrack and let you know about some fun adventures we had while staying at Elephant Butte State Park in Truth or Consequences (T or C as the locals refer to it).

We chose to stay in the South Monticello Point campground, which is close to 10 miles from the park entrance and main camping area. Why? Because it is more remote, and less congested. We were in site 19 right on a point overlooking the lake. It was a great location and we can only imagine how great this area would be if it were not suffering from severe drought. As you can probably tell from the pictures the lake is very, very low – pretty sad actually. Yet, this was a perfect home base for exploring the area. We already blogged about our trip to Chloride but that was not our only adventure.

 One of our first stops was the Geronimo Springs Museum in historic T or C. This little museum was a pleasant surprise. Its displays covered the history of Hot Springs from prehistoric times thru its rich Native American heritage, Hispanic explorers, to the more recent change in its name to Truth or Consequences – thanks to Ralph Edwards and his TV show by the same name.  We were very impressed by there collection of pots dating back to 200 AD.

 Next we headed to El Camino Real International Heritage Center. You know about William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims starting Plymouth Colony. But have you heard of Don Juan de Onate and his colonists traveling from Mexico under the Spanish flag on a route that had been used for centuries by Native American tribes through what is now New Mexico and founded the community of Socorro. He did this in 1598 about 20 years before the Pilgrims stepped foot on Plymouth Rock. The route they were following was named El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (The Royal Road of the Interior).

The trail has a very long and rich history and played a key role in trade and the establishment of what is now the southwestern United States. For example, it was the Spanish that introduced horses into North America. The trail was used continuously until 1880 when the railroad replaced it. In 2005 this center was created to both study the history and provide an educational experience to visitors. If you are in the area this is a place you don’t want to pass up. Interestingly enough is sits right along I 25 – the modern version of the original trail. So, now be honest… How many of you learned about this in you high school American history class?

Moving right along – we headed to The Fort Craig National Historic Site. This fort was one of 8 that were situated on El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro that were designed to protect travelers and settlers. Perhaps its main claim to fame is that it was host to the largest U.S. Civil War battle in the Southwest. A very helpful volunteer and Fulltime RVer explained the Fort’s history and gave us some tips for walking the grounds and seeing the ruins. Personally, I can’t imagine how rough life would have been being stuck out in such a remote, harsh, windy, and dusty place.

It was now late afternoon but still figured we had time to make a quick stop at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. We had been there years before and so we knew better than to think you can stop at such an expansive refuge for a short time. This place needs at minimum a day but really several days to be explored and fully appreciated. Oh well… We drove on of the loops and watched all the busy duck and shore bird activity.

Ok, now we are really hungry. Where should be go? About 8 miles up the road from the Refuge is the very tiny town of San Antonio. But is home to the world famous Manny’s Buckhorn Tavern – and #7 on the top 100 best hamburgers in the US. Yep, the Green Chili Cheese Burger. Check it out.

More pictures here.
El Camino Real

Monday, March 25, 2013

Chloride – A Blast from the Past


It’s not so much the pure history of the old 1870s silver mining town, and believe me there are many writings and impressions of Chloride, but the synopsis of the story that follows that we find so fascinating.

The town has the usual story of miner strikes a claim, is killed by roving Indians, word gets out about the silver strike, more miners arrive, saloons, stores, hotel, mercantile, stables, Chinese laundry, brothels, a drug store, and law office are built. The town acquires a stage stop, and a post office. Before you know it by its heyday in the 1880s, there is a population of  3,000 people. The population consists mainly of men and they recruit woman by offering a free building site to any woman who comes to Chloride to live.

With the change to gold as the monetary standard after the 1896 presidential election silver-mining towns all over the west begin an almost overnight decline and journey toward the fate of becoming “ghost towns”.

Yet, Chloride had a slightly different journey. Canadian, James Daglish who moved to Chloride in 1879 with the hopes his health would improve in the New Mexico climate built the Pioneer General Store 1n 1980 and operated it until 1897. The store sold anything and everything needed by the residents of Chloride. But by 1897 he finally realized the town and his health would not improve. The store was sold and resold and finally ended up being bought be the James family. The James family ran the store until 1923 when only a handful of residents remained.

This is where it gets interesting. In 1923 Mr. James locked the door and walked away leaving all the contents inside and it stayed that way for close to 70 years.

That brings us to 1989 when Mr. and Mrs. Don Edmund moved to Chloride, met the descendants of the original Mr. James and bought the Pioneer General Store. They then began the massive job of restoring the store and cleaning the items that spanned its history from 1880 – 1923 – stuff like still in-tact whisky bottles, clothes, tools, medicine, food stuffs, etc). Today, the store is showcased as a museum – and one we found well worth the trip to this out of the way town. Their daughter eventually moved to Chloride in 2005 and she, along with two, volunteer full-time RVers, help with the ongoing restoration of other town buildings, give tours of the museum, and relate the history and mysteries of this remarkable story. Today, the town is has risen from its ghost town status having 13 people (some are descendants of the original inhabitants) who call Chloride home. This includes the 2 fulltime RV volunteers.

BTW – they are looking for someone to run the Café” – the job comes with room and board.

We were fascinated by work of the Edmunds family and the volunteers who are trying to preserve the history of this community. They are able to acquire some funds from donations, the rental of two refurbished cabins, and parking spaces for four RVs the come with complete hook-ups. But more then money – this is a labor of love.

We seem to be drawn to the off-beat and quirky stories and sites like this. All you have to do is listen and look around and you too will be able to imagine a time in history…a blast from the real past in Chloride.

Some more photos here.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Big Rocks and a Funky Town


City of Rocks State Park between Deming and Silver City, NM is perhaps one of the more unusual parks where we have camped. If you are familiar with the Chichauan desert in southwestern NM you know that it is pretty much a flat, barren, and scrubby landscape with distant horizons of the surrounding mountain ranges. And that is what you see before you crest the hill just south of the park and get your first look at what for us was a very unexpected sight – lots of really big rocks. Yes, a City of Rocks.

Geologists tell us that this area was formed by a very large volcanic eruption the occurred millions of years ago. The Columnar rock formations we see today resulted from millions of years of erosion. In a few million more years what we see today will probably be reduced to dust but for now we get to marvel at this very unique place.

We had reserved a site out in the Pegasus camping area, which sits apart from the main camping area. We had expected this to be a pretty isolated and quite spot. Unfortunately, the first day we had some “nut case” that spent the day yelling (no screaming) at his dogs. Thankfully, he left the following day and this park served as a perfect home base for us as we explored the park and surrounding area. You can check out our visit to Gila National Wilderness and the Gila Cliff Dwellings here. The bonus was the great sunsets.

On of our days of exploration, we stopped in Silver City. Silver was discovered here in 1870 and the town grew from a single cabin to over 80 buildings almost overnight. Like so many mining towns in the west boom went to bust. In this case the switch came as a result of the 1893 economic depression and the return to the gold standard after the 1896 presidential election. Yet, do to an ordinance requiring brick construction of most buildings the town dogged the ghost town fate of many frame built mining towns.

Today, Silver City is a “funky” little city. It stands as a gateway to the Gila National Wilderness and home to an eclectic collection of little shops, galleries and restaurants. We had a good lunch at Tre Rosat Cafe, which we were told is Albanian for Three Ducks. Go figure!

If you visit Silver City make the Visitor Center you first stop. You can get a city walking guide and read up on some of the local history.

More pictures here.