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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.

Epic Road Trip #5: On to Arkansas

Been a little gap in the narrative. It’s been easier to make a quick Facebook post with a couple pictures to let people know I am safe and where I am at. But it’s raining and I don’t have a signal so it’s a good time to get caught up.

It was a fairly decent legitimate site at Pine Ridge. I drove down to the Piney Creek Wilderness area the next afternoon and there were lots of well maintained dispersed sites. I did a hike in the wilderness but couldn’t find the trail so came back. I had a controlled fall on some wet loose rocks which was a good reminder of the inherent risks in solo back country hiking. I’m pretty careful but you never know.

I didn’t want to take another hike so I headed south on back roads into Arkansas. I stopped in Fayetteville and saw an old friend. With short notice she was a great host and I got a hot meal and a shower and a chance to go to the grocery store for some goat cheese (a soft peppered one that is delicious) and local beer (Ozark Beer Company, Hardwork APA, it’s ok) and whatnot. I tried a couple gear stores looking for a Forest Service Map but no luck.

After Fayetteville I just drove on some long unpaved roads until I found stuff to do. I was heading towards Mills Springs Day Use area in what is mostly ATV infested woods when was stopped by a tree in the road. There’d been storms when I was in Fayetteville and there were a lot of downed trees. A couple in an F-250 with a camper shell were taking it apart with a hand axe. I got my full size one out but it was a little dull to their liking. We got the branch off and they were trying to pull it out of the way with their truck when the Forest Service arrived with a chainsaw and made short work of it. The couple was cool, recently retired marines who were 5 months into their cross country road trip. I told them about the water falls hike at Hercules Glen and they showed me a good campsite I stayed for 2 days.

I hiked both ways on the Appalachian Highlands Trail. A lot of poison ivy but pretty falls and a nice trail. There was a whole hillside that collapsed onto the trail which made it tough to get around but I navigated the edge until I found the trail again. Spent some time at the Springs area which was cool rock, maybe CCC era. There were some more modern additions maybe 1950s showing their wear and semiabandoned toilets, which are the very worst kind.

So today I drove out of the woods and came east and back into the forest. I’m south of Newton County I believe and there are some cool hikes I found directions too. My plan is to hike them over the weekend, between showers and then down to Little Rock for a couple few days to visit my old friend Jay and his wife.

It’s been smooth sailing and I’m hoping this part of the forest is in better condition then what I’ve seen so far. Well that’s it faithful reader. News from home is Smokey passed on and was buried by the other dogs in the backyard. It’s a sad thing, she was a good dog and had a lot of heart. She’d have liked all the cows I drove by today and barked at them all. Rest well Smokey, the cows will have to take care of themselves.

Newton County is as beautiful as I remember it. I did a couple of hikes near where I camped. Pretty decent trails, more ferns and wildflowers. Then I drove into Newton County and did a cool hike at a natural bridge site. There were a number of caves and pillars and such as well.

I then drove up to the Ponca Wilderness and hiked into Hemmed in Hollow. It was 2 miles of steep drop to get to the overlook to see the falls. It’s the tallest between the Appalachians and the Rockies but was hard to see from the overlook. I hiked out racing the dark and pretty much made it.

I then drove into the Buffalo Scenic River Area to park and camp. Drank a couple of the local APAs which are growing on me with some local jerky. I was bushed and slept hard. Came back to Jasper and will try to add some photos at the Subway with WiFi.

Categories: camping, hiking Tags: , ,

Epic Road Trip #3: Dogwoods & Whatnot

So this didn’t get posted, was lost in the ether, and showed up some time later in drafts after I made a new #3. So these paragraphs do not haunt me forever in drafts I will try to upload again.

Rained all night and into the day. So after a few preliminaries I hiked into the Paddy Creek Wilderness Area. I only went to the first stream crossing which was more then I wanted to do with my boots while I was still needing them. Looked for morels in low spots and on the road. Found a fern in flower that was quite impressive.

I haven’t been able to get to a ranger station that has water. The campground on my ancient of days map is now a day use area so I’m not optimistic. I have enough for tomorrow. I did find a nice dispersed spot with a fire pit and found dry wood. There is more forest noise and I’m on a ridge top. I have occasional cell network.

I’m camped in an area that was burned. Looks controlled and some stuff is coming back. It’s very open and lots of wood for the fire. It’s also a short walk from the ruins of a Civilian Conservation Corps site.

It’s late and I didn’t get a nap today since I traveled. I still have another meditation to do and I get to do a little texting. I’m going to try to publish this without pictures since my signal, which I am grateful for, is the nonetheless, piss poor.

Epic Road Trip #4: The Glades

The deluge came and I managed pretty well through it. I did decide to head to higher ground, the Swan Creek camp trails were all flooded. I think it’s really called Bar K Wrangler Camp, by the way.

I camped in some high country which was nice. After a couple of skewer cooked meals I got a cast iron skillet and a new sauce pan, as well as a baking sheet. I’m keeping them in a messenger bag as cooking on fires leaves a lot of soot on the pan which is how I left my last set.

I took a glades drive and hiked some forest service roads yesterday. Feel like moving south has advanced the season seeing cardinal flowers and indian paintbrush and not the spring ephemerals that go along with morels.

Today I hiked in the Hercules Wilderness Area. I hiked about 5 miles in the morning at the Fire Tower trail head. Later I found a shorter trail to the waterfalls (Blair Ridge TH) . It was 3.8 miles and with what I’d already done a bit of a stretch but I’m glad I did.

Saw a hummingbird in a patch of cardinal flowers and the glades had lots of wildflowers I’d never seen. The creek water was cold but swimmable and the falls were incredible. Nice pools and water action. Met a couple of young guys whose excitement was infectious.

Saw my first copperhead. He was big but had a meal in him and was pretty chill. I got some good pictures and video and I’ll see what I can post. It was a long walk out. I went into town for fajitas and took a little detour to the Pine Ridge section of the National Forest because I didn’t want to drive all the way to the Piney Wilderness Area, my last stop in the Mark Twain nearly complete tour.

As long as I’m not actually parked in someone’s front yard I made a good decision. I am bone weary tired but the best day of the trip so far.


Epic Road Trip #3: Swan Creek

April 28, 2021 1 comment

After a week I’ve really settled in and I feel great about the trip so far. Van life is good and today I went through and did a reorganization and everything is put away tidy.

I found some great camping on Forest Road 202 opposite the road leading to the damn with a day use area and a hiking loop. Up a few miles there is an old CCC camp with interpretive signs. People camp there but it feels like a historic ruin so I drove up to the next intersection and camped by a fire pit.

It was pretty sweet in spite of a likely controlled burn there. Not a lot of duff in the pine forest but not really sooty either.

The CCC site was cool with foundations, the swimming pool and the fireplace for the bunkhouse still standing. A great amenity for a dispersed camping site. I explored it a few times. The workers there built the damn, by hand, amongst other things.

I got up early and drove towards Springfield. I did a morning hike and meditation at a Conversation Department run nature center. Met a woman who lived next door. None of the neighbors would sell an access route for the property so they sold to the conservation department. The trails were well maintained and the wayfinding was excellent. There was some garlic mustard along the creek which seemed unseemly for the conservation department.

I then got my East and West confused in classic Mike fashion and drove across town to a Civil War Battlefield site, Wilson’s Creek. It was the first battle in Missouri. Union forces had advanced on Missouri and Arkansas Confederates. Outnumbered 2 to 1 Nathaniel Lyon led union forces in a surprise attack with heavy casualties on both sides.

Ultimately Lyons was killed in battle and only the Union Batteries allowed them to withdraw without being decimated. While the battle was lost it took Sterling Price’s capacity to wage offensive action away and Missouri was not much contested after.

The interpretive signs were blase about slavery but it’s worth a visit. You can’t really understand Missouri today without reflecting on the Civil War. “Little Dixie” has some shameful roots that grew a tree of hate that still fruits today.

I got supplies and meditated in a local park until Anthony got off work. There was a bluebird who was putting on a show. I realized he had a nest there and I had meditate through a couple of angry blue birds as well as a couple of women and a gaggle of little kids coming up on what I thought was an out of the way picnic shelter. I was glad Anthony called as toddlers fell in ditches and a growing wave of nonsense swept the park.

Had a nice dinner at a barbecue place and got caught up. Consulted with Anthony on my new meditation routine. It was a lot of fun and I got to shower and do laundry and sleep in a bed.

In the morning I caught a Denny’s breakfast so I could use the wifi and get my video game (Evony) set for the trip. It feels good to be able to eat out again. I’m sticking to low traffic times and will keep assessing and adjust if needed.

Drive into the Mark Twain piece closest to Springfield, just a half hour away and camped at Swan Creek Horse Camp. Swan Creek got its name in the Civil War when Union forces were camped there and a soldier shot a goose but shouted he had shot a swan.

It’s a nice place to camp. Picnic tables and pit toilets. A nice place to swim if it were a bit warmer. I met a local, Raven a recent nursing school grad who gave me the rundown. We’re supposed to get 3-5″ of rain in the next 2 days and she showed me where it floods to.

The next morning was going to drive into Ozark for pans/aluminum foil as I’d left my pans at my last camp but the road was covered with water so I skipped it and came to an ATV day use area that’s higher and has wifi. Not enough to download pictures but I’m going to try and post this. My van is not made for the rough life so I’m being super safe with the off-road parking, driving through water, and other forest driving hazards. I have dubbed the van The Cookie Monster.

I got a good supply of wood under a tarp and have everything organized for the coming deluge. I have an easy out and I think I can ride out the storm quite nicely. There is no signal so may add on later. Now it’s time to put stuff away and get some shut eye.