Epic Road Trip #15 (The Final Leg)

Had an expensive fastfood type breakfast at a diner in Granby. Did some laundry and found dispersed camping in the National Forest. I took a not so great site lower on the mountain since I had the donut on. I walked up the road to the High Lonesome Trailhead and hiked that to the cabin at the end.

The next morning I drove into Winter Park, I think and got my tire fixed. Had another expensive fastfood type breakfast and checked out the local thrift store. It was $44 for the flat fix, which was steep but since the other was free I made out ok.

I backtracked to head north and picked up a hitchhiker and took her to Sulphur Springs before her Food bank milk spoiled. It was my third hitchhiker of the trip which made up for my two rides and one for the hundreds of times I’d hitchhiked in my youth.

I drove up north through a large burned area of the Rout National Forest. It was surreal seeing the total devastation which read like an indictment of our poor forest management practices.

I stopped at the big wildlife management area and saw it was moose country. There was no free or cheap camping or hotels in the Walden area and all the restaurants looked like the same pricey fastfood like stuff I was coming to hate about Colorado so I pushed on to Wyoming.

I found a hike in the Medicinebow National Forest on a rails to trails trail. There were a lot of ponds from the borrow pits making the railway and I saw a lot of Willow and some moose droppings so I camped in a burned out area and got up in the cold predawn for a morning hike to see Moose, but no luck.

I drove into Laramie and filled up on cheap Wyoming gas. I drove to the Lincoln statue which is at an elaborate rest area celebrating the Lincoln Autoway which was the first cross country auto route. There were allegedly trailheads there but I couldn’t find them. All the trails had a $5.00 day use fee so I drove on up to Cheyenne.

Cheyenne has a great municipal park with a botanical gardens and a swimming lake. Had a nice lunch at a Filipino restaurant and looked at my options. When I went to Cheyenne I’d decided to turn towards home. I did Yellowstone and Grand Tetons a few years ago and Devil’s Tower at 250 miles away didn’t seem worth it.

With nearly a full tank of gas I figured I could head back to Colorado. Drove down to Fort Morgan where I found a reasonably priced hotel in the High Plains. I hiked a riverside trail along the Platte which wasn’t great.

I headed west and had lunch in Nebraska before turning south into Kansas. I had talked to my friend Trevor that morning about our bi-annual trip to the Detroit Jazz Festival and he reminded me of Nicodemus so I decided to head there. Passed a memorial to the Sand Creek Massacre and related tragedies some of which had happened nearby. I found some free camping east of their in Hill City at a municipal park. It’s hot in the flatlands and I slept poorly.

The towns along 24 each had little historical parks and signs about their settlement. Nicodemus is a National Park site being settled by former slaves. I took a solo guided tour with a ranger and we had a great dialogue on racism and city development.

Nicodemus had a strong start but got screwed out of their railroad stop by the white developer who had helped found the town but pulled some shenanigans to get the stop in one of his white towns. In addition to a good breakfast place the ranger told me about a dugout Nicodemus residents had made outside of Stockton which was a sundown town. It was in good shape and I don’t recall having seen one for as many as I’d read about in westerns growing up.

I drove to Grand Junction and got another hotel as it was hot again. Had some so so barbecue and another crappy hike on a riverwalk this one the Republican River. Then I drove home. It was nice to be back. Nine weeks on the road, ten states, 5,000 miles, 5 nights at friend’s places, 4 nights at hotels and never paid for camping. It was a sweet trip and a great adventure.

Epic Road Trip #14 (Across Colorado continued)

I forgot to mention before I had van trouble in coal seam pass I had a really cool alpine hike to start the day. I was hiking to an alpine lake but I wore my tennis shoes and the first snow I had to cross they didn’t fare well. I did make it to a beautiful alpine meadow above the treeline and saw an elk and the tiniest chipmunks I’ve ever seen. I turned back when I got to some serious snow realizing I wasn’t going to be able to swim anyway.

I ultimately made it into Silverton and had some ok barbecue and picked up a six pack of Colorado beer. There was great dispersed camping right outside of town next to a rushing river with beautiful views. There really wasn’t a site left but there was a gravel area where the boundary marker was set and it was flat and worked out fine.

I drove towards Ouray along the million dollar highway which was about as windy of a mountain road as you’ll find. There was a high waterfall and some amazing scenic views. I stopped at all the lookouts and large areas are despoiled from historic mining. In Ouray they have a park with a waterfall that was pretty impressive. I meditated in the spray, had lunch and watched the people.

Coming out of the mountains I stopped at a historical marker where a fort had been that was used to Dispossess the Utes when ranchers found them inconvenient. I struck up a conversation with another epic road tripper and noted about every third history sign documented genocide. Zach had been on the road for a year and we exchanged numbers but it never worked out to hang out.

I drove into Gunnison Black Canyon National Park and did all the overlooks and short trails on the south rim. It’s like the Grand Canyon only smaller but black rock and more sheer. It was pretty cool and I saw a 650 year old pinyon pine. I met another epic road tripper and read her “To You” out of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass which has been my daily devotional while she cooked dinner. She shared her dinner and we had a great talk, she’s been on the road for a month and seemed pleased to have a break in the solitude.

I got to the BLM site well after dark seeing the obligatory mule deer for a twilight drive. I managed to find a space after getting myself into a bad place and having a long back up in the dark. I’m getting cavalier about navigating sketchy road and this was a nice wakeup call. I found a spot but it wasn’t flat and it was tough getting out in the morning. I still considered myself lucky.

It’s hot at Gunnison so I hiked the 3 longer trails between six and nine. When I came off the trail it was packed and all the tourists made me feel weird. I had breakfast and made plans while I had internet at the highpoint in the park.

I texted my buddy with the hotel and drove through the hot in a, for me, marathon drive to Steamboat Springs. A shower, a whirlpool, AC and a king sized bed dismissed the notion of heading home. The heat broke in Steamboat so I lingered until checkout and enjoyed breakfast and second breakfast at the free breakfast bar as well as another jacuzzi session.

I went to see another waterfall and did the 2.5 mile hike to the upper falls. It was incredibly beautiful and everyone was really friendly. I carried a GPS for some University of Wyoming researchers. Then I drove to some dispersed camping. Even that was crowded and touristy. I did get flagged down by a big pick up who wanted to marvel that I had a minivan up there. I found a widespot/sort of pull off with a trail to a campsite that I made my home. Lots of traffic for a sketchy Forest service road.

This morning I got up early as I always do and did a historical tour of downtown. I also caught the farmers market and got some gluten free chocolate chip cookies and a cup of good coffee. I checked out the hot springs. Steamboat had a geyser but the railroad ruined it. I took a swim in the river and checked out the hot springs from there.

Then the crush of bourgeoisie tourists started to bug me. I had met a City Council person and she was smug on their lack of homeless people and the whole place was getting to me so I drove up through the mountains East on 40 to Sulphur Springs. I’m camped where Beaver Creek meets the Colorado and it’s pretty nice. It rained some and it’s chilly which is sweet in a giant heatwave. I’m going to take 40 East to 115 North, I think and check out Wyoming. The cookie guy says it’s nice up there.

I’ll post this and add pictures when I get some internet. Tata for now faithful reader.

Woke up to another low tire. I put on the donut and would have stayed put, it being a Sunday, but I noted my campsite required a Colorado fishing license so I drove into Granby. I’m going to try the National Forest near Gavel Mountain and come back to Granby for tire repair in the morning. Happy Father’s Day to the Dad types out there.

Epic Road Trip #13: Across Colorado

June 18, 2021 1 comment

Boy a lot has happened in the last 6 days. As I mentioned in the last post I stopped at The Ancestral Pueblo Cultural Center which apparently is rebranding but the maps haven’t kept up. There were a couple of ruined pueblos on site and the museum had tons of current artifacts. When they built the nearby reservoir they harvested all the artifacts they could find before submerging them.

The ranger recommended Sand Canyon and to start early but it was already too late for that and I hit the trail at noon. I took it slow and with a gallon of water I hiked to all the sites on the first 3.7 miles before I decided to turnaround. It was really cool being in the wilderness and finding all of these cool cave dwellings you could get fairly close too.

I was surprised I was up to 14 miles with the hiking I had done earlier and the spur trails to get to the sites. I had also missed Castle Rock Pueblo by entering on an alternate trailhead but I stopped in a winery and picked up a half bottle of a white blend to taste the local terroir. I considered a tasting but even 4 oz of wine didn’t seem wise when I was going to be doing more desert hiking.

Took me a walk to find the site which turned out to be the big rock that looked like a castle. It was sad to see it pockmarked with gunshots and you couldn’t see the ruins from outside the prohibited area.

I drove on to Hovenweep and saw in the brochure my dispersed camping was really a campsite. It was $15 which I would have paid if it had included a shower. I decided to hike the 2 mile main trail even though I was 15 miles into the day and dark was approaching. It was an amazing hike and Hovenweep is the unknown gem of the trip for sure.

After the cliff dwelling period the ancient pueblans built free standing towers right before abandoning the area and moving south into the Rio Grande basin. There is another ruin on a 4 mile trail but I left that one for next time. I took the hour plus drive back to the BLM land by Mesa Verde I’d been staying at. It was a bit of a harrowing journey with 3 episodes of mule deer in the road one where I slammed on the breaks and stopped within inches of it as it looked at me sort of dumbfounded. Even more nerve-wracking there were these birds flying in front of the van scooping insects out of the headlight glow I assume. I made it back late and slept the sleep of the just. 17 miles hiked through the desert, I’m definitely getting stronger.

I drove the Canyon of the Ancients loop the counterclockwise this time and went to Sand Canyon Pueblo. It’s excavated ruins reburied to protect it. It had a subtle beauty and good interpretive signs but the young family who hiked it after me were unimpressed.

Then I challenged some dirt roads and visited a couple more ruins. You never know what you’re going to get but Painted Hand Pueblo was especially cool with a nice freestanding tower.

I then did some driving and got a burger and green chili beer at a brewpub in Durango. Drove seven miles up a mountain and was in some beautiful Aspen/Ponderosa Pine forest and a nice cool night. I noticed I had a rapidly developing flat tire but decided to wait until morning to deal with it.

I swapped on my donut and drove back to Durango. Got a great breakfast at a diner, picked up a pair of pants at a resale shop and they fixed my tire for free. I’d hiked a piece of the Colorado Trail on my way down the mountain which was amazing and hiked the interpretive trail by the overlook on my way backup the mountain. Had a nice campfire that night which was a nice surprise being in a worse drought then what drove the Ancestral Pueblans out of the area in the 13th century.

I hiked the Log Chute Trail coming down the mountain and should have known better by the name. It was a 5 mile loop with the last bit being super steep downhill and was obviously designed with mountain biking in mind. It was a lot of loose sand and I had one bad moment but I got my feet back under me before I had a fall.

I started up 550 North and pulled into an overlook at Coal Bank Peak, steam erupted from under the hood. I popped the hood and saw a hole in my radiator hose, about the only mechanical problem I was capable of fixing. I saw an auto parts store and looked at the map and thought it was in Silverton so I hit hitchhiked there. Got a ride right of way and quicky learned Google was messing with me sending me to Silverton to turnaround and drive back to Durango.

Rather then doing that I went to an auto repair place and the old boy running the place sold me a random one for $22.00. I had a choice of 2 so I picked the longer of them. I walked about an hour before I got a ride back to my van with a dude who knew his way around cars and gave me some sage advice.

It was difficult getting at the clips and then getting the hose on. Twice I felt my composure slip a little bit and I took a few breaths and centered myself and treated it like a meditative exercise. I got it done and it heat sealed and I drove my hot and filthy self to Silverton. I searched hotels and they were all pricey so I settled for some ok pulled pork and fries and got some cool dispersed camping by the river right outside of town.

I took this as a sign that mountains were not for the Cookie Monster and considered heading for home. My ride had said only a couple of passes and 550 flattened out. My last picture wouldn’t upload so I’ll wrap up and publish. I stayed at Steamboat Springs last night and am going to camp and hike in the Medicine Bow-Rout National Forest for a couple of days and figure out my next moves. The heatwave broke here and it’s pretty nice being at some elevation. Looks hotter then he’ll everywhere else so I’ll try and stay put. Stay cool.

Epic Road Trip #12

June 12, 2021 1 comment

So after buying shoes I drove back up into the Jemez and went west on 4. I stopped at a hot springs which was more of a warm springs but was beautiful and after a hot and sweaty day, much appreciated.

I found another dispersed camping site and was able to get back more into the woods, just in time for the sunset. I cooked dinner in the dark which turned out to be a critical error. I use zip stove and left it out to cool and broke it putting it away when I packed up in the morning.

I drove down to Battleship Rock, which is an impressive formation. It’s really a pinnacle as the Jemez Creek horseshoes around it. I hiked 6 miles over tough terrain trying to follow a path to a hot springs. There were so many informal paths I ultimately realized my knees were shot and I needed to head back while I still could. I met some hikers who said most who tried couldn’t find it and one was making her third attempt and wasn’t optimistic.

I caught a burger in Jemez Springs and drove out of the mountains. I stopped at the Pueblo Cultural Center and checked out their museum and picked up some trifles for the folks at home taking care of my house and dog. I also got a Zia ginger ale, it’s nice to see regional sodas making a comeback and it’s spicy and delicious.

There was no closer free camping to Chaco then where I’d stayed last night so I drove out there and steeled myself to pay to camp if they had any sites left. They didn’t, so I did some sunset hikes and boondocked off the first turnoff from the rough gravel road you take to get there. My first time this trip and it was nice. Peaceful with lots of stars. I did realize I’d made 2 critical mistakes in the morning and had left my hygiene/med bag on the roof of the van when I stopped for my morning constitutional.

I went to the visitors center and met a local Navaho getting water. We talked about living without running water which I had done for a few months squatting a cabin outside of Columbia. He was sanguine about it and filled enough barrels to water his plants.

I hiked some of the main sites when they opened and took a long hike in the back country to see isolated ruins, petroglyphs and some rare pictographs. It was all told about 15 miles mostly over loose sand and I was whooped. Killing time in the shade until I could boondock again didn’t seem appealing so I drove to Fairfield and got a Subway salad and a hotel room.

I went to Aztec which is a cool ruin, right in town with a reconstructed kiva. It was a great spot to grab some meditation time. I’d planned to head west into Arizona but threading the needle between fires didn’t seem appealing and I was so close to Mesa Verde I decided to head north into Colorado.

I stopped in Cortez and got some sage advice at the Colorado Welcome Center as well as maps and guides. I did a nice hike at a nature preserve and saw some pueblo ruins and got my steps in. There is nice dispersed camping on BLM land right outside of the entrance to Mesa Verde where I’ve spent the last 2 nights.

Mesa Verde is very cool but the one large cave dwelling you can go in without a reserved ranger led hike was closed because of a landslide. I did have a great 5 mile hike with Shannon, another epic Road tripper on her way back to the Northeast. We both talked up a blue streak and it was nice to connect with a kindred spirit.

I did the petroglyph hike which was a tough hike in the heat and coming after a lot of miles and had close to 15 miles in again. It was only one panel but it was a nice one.

This morning I drove into Dolores for breakfast. I’m going to the Anasazi (note that word is a slur and ancestral Pueblo is the preferred term) Museum and then tour the Valley of the Ancients sites. There is BLM dispersed camping on the far side of the circle and I may take 2 days.

After that I have decided to explore Colorado and stay out of the southeast heat wave. I’m going to go to Durango and then north up the valley and spend a couple of days at my friend’s hotel. Then I am going to go West on 70 more or less and work my way to Bay Area and then south down the coast to San Diego before turning towards home. I’m 7 or so weeks in and am a little past the halfway point time wise. It’s been truly epic and I feel blessed to have made it this far and seen so incredibly much.

Epic Road Trip #11: Jimez Mountains

For full disclosure I have left the Jimez and moved on to Chaco Canyon, one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. I’m on a back country hike and I’ve settled in some shade under an overhang/shallow cave and I am going to wait out some of the heat.

At the end of my last post I was camping in the Santa Fe National Forest trying to hike this elusive Civil War Trail. I ultimately found it and it was closed on a Saturday. I have never known a trail to keep banker’s hours or worked so hard to do something I wasn’t that excited about. Google maps took me to another trail which was not open for the public and I drove to the Jimez a day easier then I’d planned.

You have to pass through Los Alamos which was weird having a military checkpoint but I ended up spending enough time in the area it just became life. They have great dispersed camping in the greater Bandelier National Monument.

I spent a day at Bandelier proper which is very cool. Long house ruins and cliff dwellings. Lots of tourists but I’ve been isolated enough to find them all charming.

I took a long drive to the second site. It had a nice unimproved trail and there were cliff dwellings and some petroglyphs. It was an interesting climb up the Mesa and didn’t see too many people.

I did enjoy the prairie dogs and saw some elk. There is a stand of old growth Ponderosa pine but it’s a manicured stand and didn’t feel like a forest. I climbed one of the hills and there were a lot of wildflowers especially wild irises which I’ve seen a lot of on this trip.

I went back to camp and the next morning I went to Valles Caldera at my friend Rodger’s suggestion. It’s a beautiful valley surrounded by the hills of the long extinct volcano that formed it. It’s a fairly new National Park (2015) and feels more like a cattle ranch (which it still is by statute, when there’s not a drought) then a National Park.

I hiked a short nature trail and drove down to Los Alamos for a vegetable rice bowl which was cheap and excellent (Tiger Bowl). I did the Los Alamos walking tour and learned about life during the making of the first Atomic bomb. There are a few original buildings, some settler stuff and some ancestral Pueblo ruins; all right downtown.

I meditated at the Unitarian church and grabbed a Gatorade out of their Gaia Box. It was raining so I went to Starbucks and enjoyed a coffee and some WiFi and it was well worth three dollars and a poor nights sleep.

It was still raining a bit and their was a nice rainbow which I took as God’s promise he wouldn’t destroy us with atomic bombs. I picked up a quart of oil and made the clerk go look at the rainbow. She was glad she did.

After another night at my usual spot I drove down through Santa Fe and south to La Cinguella Petroglyphs. It’s on BLM land and it’s pre-columbian and a huge collection. I scrambled over the rocks awestruck for 5 hours before I was done in and didn’t see them all.

I got some great Guatemalan food down the road. A steak with a chili sauce and all the fixings. Then I went to REI and got a new pair of Chacos. My old pair were hanging together by a thread as I’d had them for more then a decade of hard wear. Coincidentally I broke the new pair in at Chaco Canyon. Having some tread is amazing.

Speaking of those Chacos. I’ve forgotten how unpleasant the afternoon heat is and I’m getting stuff setting here so I will get back to the adventure and catch you up later. I’ll have to climb a bluff to get a signal tomorrow so maybe I’ll have time to catch the narrative up to the present before then.

I got hot and tired at Chaco and got a hotel room. Going to Aztek today and camping in Bizi badlands tonight.

Epic Road Trip #10: Petroglyphs and ruins

Petroglyph Rock was impressive. I hiked 2 1/2 miles down a jeep trail to get to the trailhead. I got on the wrong trail and spent a couple more miles following false paths. I did a thorough search of the parking area and found the trailhead clearly marked and a short hike to Petroglyph Rock.

It’s a paleolithic artifact 8-10,000 years old. Very nice piece. I found one other petroglyph on another rock after a pretty exhaustive search. I hiked most of the trail twice but it’s really just a connector to a nearby campground and some exposure to the ecosystem which I’d already done on my misadventures on the Rio Bonito.

I did see what I assume is a horny toad. If anyone knows more, please chime in. I then drove over to Fort Stanton and checked that out. It was a fort built for the Indian wars and had some parts of it burned by Confederate sympathizers. It then was used to ensure the Mescalero Apache stayed on the reservation.

It was the best built of the western forts and in spite of being a tool of genocide was quite beautiful. There were lots of intact buildings from the late 19th century. It got a new lease on life as a CCC project and German sailors were interned there as well as some Japanese Americans during WW II.

It got its final makeover as a hospital for turbuculosis patients. The climate is really sweet and they added some buildings and upgraded almost everything. When we got better treatments then hanging out in the desert it was closed and is a historic site. It seems really underutilized and would make an awesome resort.

I camped in the next canyon over on some BLM land. It’d been a pretty full day. The next morning I started driving north towards my next historical site. A tip from Ray who I had met at Bridal Veil Falls and a historic sign map gave me my next 3 stops.

After breakfast, at the Smoky Bear Cafe where I finally got one of those Mexican breakfasts with beans and tortillas (It was in the area where he was rescued from a fire, I skipped his park because they wanted $2.00), I went to White Oaks a former ghost town which is now about half occupied.

I stopped by the graveyard it being Memorial Day and paid my respects to a deputy gunned down by Billy the Kid. They also have a little historical museum you let yourself in with little dioramas of settler life.

I then drove down to Valley of Fires, which was really cool. It’s a 4-5,000 year old lava flow and had a cool interpretive trail. A thunderstorm blew in with some serious hail and I got soaked in the second wave.

I then drove out to Three Rivers Petroglyph National Conservation Area. I was going to camp in the nearby National Forest and explore it the next day but the road was closed because of flooding from the storm. Even a quarter inch of rain can flood some arryos I learned and we got much more than that. I did some serious backtracking to find camping in the National Forest but the site was beautiful.

I drove out to Three Rivers the next morning and wow, just wow. It’s the largest collection of petroglyphs that is publicly accessible. There were so many I spent the day there hiking and taking pictures and meditating.

I then made a serious drive and got my second hotel room in Santa Fe. Again out the door for $43 and wifi problems on one of my devices. Today I got up and poked around downtown some but was scared off by the price of parking. I went to the National Cemetery and then further up north to the Pecos Pueblo ruins.

It was pretty cool. It’s an archeological site where this dude figured out layering and dating sites by pottery. The Pueblo folks sent Coronado on a wild goose chase to Kansas figuring he’d get weakened or killed on the plains looking for cities of gold. It worked but they got conquered by the Spanish anyway.

They had a revolt and destroyed the church and had 12 years of freedom but the Spanish won out who became the Mexicans who got pushed out by the Americans. The Pecos Pueblo traders dwindled until the remnant joined a nearby pueblo.

There were some reconstructions and foundations. The second church ruins were built in a smaller footprint then the first one. There is a kiva in the church which there’s only a couple of those. I did my meditation down in it which was cool.

The park closes at 5:30 so I didn’t get to do the Civil War hike. Texan militia tried to conquer the area to open up Colorado gold fields and Californian access to the Pacific but got their asses handed to them by Colorado and New Mexican militia.

That’ll be tomorrow’s hike. Now I’m at a great dispersed site in Dalton’s Canyon in the Santa Fe National Forest. I’ve got some split peas cooking on a fire for a late dinner. Didn’t expect to get to make a fire out here but all this rain has been a Godsend for droughtland. My peas are old and are taking forever which has allowed me to get this written.

Rest well faithful reader. I’ll get this posted tomorrow and hopefully have enough signal for petroglyph pictures.

I forgot to post this yesterday when I went into Pecos for coffee and was looking for the Civil War trail. I couldn’t find the trail and drove up into the mountains and hiked a trail. They wanted $8.00 for a day use pass so I just hiked the one and relaxed at camp (in the evening drizzle again).

I decided to take a slow day today and push on to Bandelier tomorrow. I found the trail in Google maps I couldn’t find yesterday so I’m going to hike that. Been reading Leaves of Grass, the deathbed edition; a book on the Apostles and studying Book 4. Good stuff for a deep dive both into America and myself.

Epic Road Trip #9: to the BLM

I lingered for several days in the Sacramento Mountains/Almagordo area. The lunar eclipse was incredible and the BLM land was a nice spot to view it. There is a state park right by it and I checked out some ruins of an early settler and a pretty impressive native plant garden the next morning.

I didn’t want to pay the $5.00 day use fee so I skipped the hike and drove back into the mountains. I hiked a nice overlook trail and then back to the dispersed camping I’d been staying at but a nicer site. Did a lot of hikes over the next few days with Bridal Veil Falls being the best.

I spent Thursday night at a Motel 6 in Alamogordo. My first hotel at 6 weeks in. It was $43 bucks out the door and my long anticipated WiFi was a bust but what do you expect for $35. I didn’t even complain.

I needed wifi for a zoom presentation Friday morning and I found a coffee shop and it worked out fine, a bit better then that actually. A young Latinx couple introduced themselves afterwards as I had been talking about racism in my presentation and they were new to the area and looking to make activist connections. We were both sorry I wasn’t local.

I realized I’d been loud and when I apologized to the other dude on the patio we also struck up a conversation. In an answer to his question I told him I was on my last day of doing the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. He and his wife do Ignatian retreats and he was in transition himself and we had a great conversation on spiritual practice and the change process.

He encouraged me to be transparent about what I’m doing when I mentioned the blog morphing into a travelogue of late with some of my Spiritual posts being used against me politically. It was a sweet capstone to 31 days of prayer, meditation and reflection.

After some barbecue I was going to hike Bridal Veil Falls and met Ray there. Another fellow in transition and we hung out and hiked together and I payed my free expert consult forward on helping Ray with his plans to homestead the family plot. After not really talking to anyone for weeks it was amazing to get into 2 deep spiritual conversations in one day.

I checked out a new part of the forest and hiked some more later. Met a civil engineer reading Travels with Charlie which got us talking about our various epic Road trips. He mentioned some sites in the Gila National Forest I plan to check out when I head down that way.

I hiked again this morning on the Ridge Top trail which had a section recently logged. I haven’t seen any clear-cuts on the trip and some thinning didn’t seem out of line. Saw my first coyote of the trip stalking through the woods.

I went into Cloudcroft for an art show and alleged farmers market but it was only pecans. I did get a pair of New Balance for a dollar as my hiking shoes are falling apart. I also got an excellent bowl of pasole.

I was going to keep hanging out as their were more trails in the rails to trails system I wanted to hike. I’ve done a lot of those but never one in the mountains. The sidecut trail was pretty cool but I got turned around and was tired of being lost in the same spot so I left the area.

I drove north to a BLM area Fort Stanton National Recreation Area. There is a trail to some petroglyphs I am going to hike tomorrow. It’s not that long of a trail but I’m going to walk the 2 1/2 miles of jeep road to get there and I’ve already done 11+ miles of hiking today. A storm is threatening but so far only wind and a few sprinkles. They need the rain bad here.

It’s a nice area with some elevation so it’s not too hot. I might check out Fort Stanton tomorrow as well. See what it costs and has to offer. Thanks for hanging with me faithful reader and I’ll post again when I’ve done some more stuff.

Epic Road Trip #8: Oklahoma to New Mexico

The fishing lake I camped by was nice and quiet and I set out back on the road early. I made for the Chocktaw National Recreation Area which turned out to be a sweet stop. There was some great hiking and I replenished my supply of spring water I’d drank from Hot Springs.

There were some nice trails with good interpretive signs and lots of CCC masonry. Don’t know if I’ve ever felt compelled to take a photo of a shitter before, but I have now.

I also got a swim in which keeps the road funk in check. I spent a rough night in a Walmart parking lot. I was considering visiting a friend who was relocating to Norman and I thought there was more prairie to hike. The little splash of it I’d hiked in was really lovely after the poorly managed Ozarks and Ouachitas.

Turned out the prairie “trail” was just gravel road surrounded by dense shrubbery and Norman didn’t seem worth frittering 3 days over so I put some miles on. I drove up to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and there I found my prairie. Best prairie I’ve ever seen. So many wildflowers.

There was also a really scenic prairie dog town, some wilderness rock scrambling and awesome hiking. I visited the Holy City which is a WPA project of some stone buildings and arches and stuff where they do a sunrise Easter service. Quirky in the extreme. I also saw some elk.

I got some wifi at a Subway and found a site to camp (freecampsite.net is awesome by the way). It was a drive but I pulled into a municipal park on a lake just over the border in the Texas Panhandle. I relaxed woke in the morning to let it warm up enough to swim and made my way west.

I stopped to hike and “swim” again at Copper Breaks State Park. I hiked a short trail and went to the knee deep swimming area. They have a beautiful little lake but it’s reserved for the boats. Not worth the 18 miles and 3 bucks I invested in that side trek.

I boogied on down to Silverton where they had a little free RV campground at their municipal park. It was a charming little dying town I explored the next morning. Had dinner at a cute little diner and breakfast the next morning. The locals were bitching about illegals and I thought they could use some immigrants to fill their vacant storefronts and bring a little vitality before they become one of those ubiquitous historical markers about where a town used to be.

I backed track to Caprock State Park and took an arduous hike. I missed the fern cave I was looking for and took another wrong turn adding another 2.6 miles to a tough hike. You don’t expect a 600′ vertical climb and decent in the Panhandle but they’re serious about their erosion in Texas. Still not doing a damn thing about it as far as I can tell

I did get to finally see bison after missing them at Chocktaw and the Wyandottes. A local rancher saved them from extinction in the hopes of making desert tough beef crossbreeds. It’s the source stock for the Yellowstone herds amongst others

I learned this at a little museum Comanchero Canton Historical Museum. Has a nice collection of arrowheads and whatnot. The curator was nice but warned me about the crazy democrat governor closing down the entire state of New Mexico so it’s probably not worth visiting.

I was going to crash at Silverton a second night but the travel bug got me and I pushed on to another free municipal campground at Mule Shoe Texas. Got in late enough had to have Subway again.

I stuck around for church, my third time on the trip. Nice, nice folks even mentioned the sin of racism in Sunday School. Better then the harsh criticism of the new religion of Critical Race Theory I’d been hearing on the local airwaves. Had my first Chinese buffet in a year and a half and I was on the road again.

I pushed on to the Sacramento Mountains Lincoln National Forest. I missed my turnoff and I was glad I did. After turning around I saw some creature shamble across the road. I would have sworn it was a sloth if I had to say what it was. I looked it up the next day when I got some internet and it was a white faced coati. Pretty cool. Also saw some mule deer.

Found a cool site nonetheless even arriving after dark. The moon was so bright I took a little hike. The next morning I realized I was camping with a cow carcass. Our National Forest and it’s multiple uses. I hiked some closed forest service roads and cooked some lunch on the zip stove. No more campfires I’m in droughtland now.

I drove to the other side of the forest where the recreation areas are and met some nice campers and cooked some dinner. (I fried an onion and some canned chicken in margarine, which has held up for better then a month, with some white sage I found. Added water, chicken bouillon and powdered goats milk and instant mashed potatoes when it boiled. Pretty good).

Headed out early and did all the hikes at White Sands National Park. That 5 mile dune hike kicked my ass. Had dinner at Denny’s (yay WiFi) and had a mocha and browsed used books at a dying mall in Almagordo. I’m camped at a dispersed BLM campground now so I can watch the Lunar Eclipse. It cools off nicely so I think I don’t have to hide out in the mountains all the time.

Tomorrow it’s back into the Sacramento’s I think to hike the trail I saw coming out this morning and to nap in the cool mountain air. Not enough signal to upload pictures. if it doesn’t upload this post I’ll add some. Otherwise consider following me on the Book of Faces to see pics. Mike Trapp in Columbia Missouri. Goodnight faithful reader, I hope the super blood moon shines on you in peace and prosperity

Epic Road Trip #7: on to Oklahoma

I did some more hiking in the area and spent another night at the site on the Winona scenic drive. I drove into Mena and checked out that dilapidated and quirky town. They have a funky park with a spring and goldfish pond with some aggressive geese keeping an eye on things. There are howitzers and an old cabin. There is also a closed Studebaker museum that looks like a car dealership.

I drove back up to the woods and again easily found a dispersed site. The next morning I hiked 7 miles on the Ouachita Trail. It got a little overgrown three miles in and I was soaked. It’s a consistently well marked and well maintained trail and there are a lot more wildflowers in the west. Wild Bergamot, spiderwort and some I couldn’t name.

I then went to Queen Wilhelmina State Park and checked out this funky stone house built by a Harley riding union organizer in the 30s. They have an old train and some nice scenic views as well.

I drove down the scenic mountaintop road that becomes Oklahoma 1 at the state line. The national forest becomes National Recreation Area and there were a lot of overlooks and interpretive sites. It was fun even in the rain and I busted out the umbrella and checked them all out.

I drove into the next town and had carnitas in a Mexican place. I grabbed some beer as Mena was in a dry county. It was from an Oklahoma City microbrew and their pilsner had a lot of flavor for a pilsner. Pricey but worth it.

The free camping website found me a nice lakeside site west and north. I’m the only one here and it’s quite picturesque. Hopefully I’ll find some internet and post some pictures. Tonight I’m going to bed early.

Epic Road Trip #6: A Pause in Little Rock

I drove south out of Jasper and enjoyed the scenic drive. Went to Pedestal Rocks and gave that a pretty thorough look over. Lots of caves and pedestals and other cool rock formations. I drove to the next Forest Road and found a nice fire pit with a couple of wood piles. There was a drainage I couldn’t get the van through but after dinner I drove down to a flat pull off and had a quiet night.

Pedestal Rocks has a pit toilet so it was nice to camp close. I drove south on 7 and it’s really beautiful. I checked out a horse trail area but it was muddy and didn’t look like good hiking. I never did find a good hike so I searched for attractions and detoured south to Petit Jean State Park.

It is really cool. Nice well marked trails and a cool cave with faint pictographs. I couldn’t find the ones the sign said should be there. There was recent graffiti which is really sad.

I spent some time in Little Rock visiting friends and giving Cookie Monster a good airing out. I pulled all my stuff out and reorganized some. I took a day trip to Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Had a nice local plant garden which was really superb with name plates. Always love that. I tried to climb the summit but got turned around.

Mostly I hung out with friends. It had been 10-15 years since I’d seen either of them but we all agreed we just picked up where we left off. We were all older but just as close. I stayed long enough to feel like a neighbor and not a visitor. So I was excited to get back to the woods.

Went south and West to the Ouachita National Forest. Tried to go to the Flatside Wilderness but the road had a big wash out. I was challenging it for awhile but it was getting real sketchy for a Dodge Caravan. I managed to get her turned around and was proud of myself for making the maneuver over definitely my most challenging drive in Cookie.

There’s no internet so I was glad I downloaded directions to not only the wilderness but the ruins of a CCC site. It was on Scenic 7 and it was cool old ruins. There’s a scenic loop road I’m camping on tonight. Probably built by those CCC boys.

Tomorrow I’ll finish the loop and look for hiking. There’s another CCC site down the road and a day use area. Monday I’m going into Hot Springs and get my Federal Lands Pass and visit my first national park.

Then I have to see where I’m at and where I want to go in New Mexico to choose my route across Oklahoma. I paused longer in Arkansas then I intended which has been nice, but as I told my friend Jay: I’m burning Spring.