The mountains have provided more cool weather, 58 degrees in the camper when we awoke and 50 degrees outside. I haven’t had a fire yet and I am sure that would help but I didn’t purchase wood; too late now. We will have to figure something out (a heater, more blankets, or an electric blanket) for the colder sections of our Northern leg. I hate waking up cold, but then again isn’t it the little bit of misery that makes camping fun?
We climb the hill across from our campsite and I let Mabel go off leash. She is chasing squirrels, bounding like an antelope over the fallen trees and rocks, and absolutely loving it. But she gets too far and I can see her smile extinguish when I leash her up. I can’t have her running off and she only sporadically comes when called, so I exert my authority. The hill is steep and rocky, everything we are looking for in a hike. The view from the top, although not high, is beautiful and we catch the sun coming up over the trees. Nature at its best! The walk down takes longer for me than Mabel, I gave her a second chance at running free, and she took full advantage of it.
The campsite is coming alive and I can hear generators for the trailers that use power. There were no hookups at this campground so I used battery power, nice and quiet. The bigger rigs, with all of their electrical needs, must create noise to keep their beer cold and the 40” TV tuned into Good Morning America. I think to myself that the campgrounds with hookups are quieter.
We pack up, Mabel jumps in the car eager for her new adventure. Whenever we pull in or out of a campground she surveys the situation with head out the window. She is getting to know the rhythm and can sense our arrival and leaving, even when in a deep sleep. Her head is out the window, ears back, and nose sniffing where we have been or where we will go.
The ride on HWY 126 down the mountains is very scenic, the cliffs rising high in the air, their rocky demeanor challenging trees or people to conquer them. We follow a small river, the road winding its way down, but allowing for picture stops. This area is so different than what I expected and a welcome respite from HWY 40’s charge through the state. I knew of the mountains but never thought they would look like this, I feel like I am farther West.
We arrive in the Pueblo of Jemez; the red rock looks painted and not real. This is how I pictured New Mexico, more desert like, with the typical rocks cowboys poke their heads around. I stop to survey the food booths that line the road at a small stop. Plywood stands, similar to what you would find at a carnival or church fair offer food and beverage. A local couple come up and ask about the trailer so I go into salesman mode, maybe needing the conversation. Mabel doesn’t answer me much. They are amazed at the camper and that I have a kitchen and air conditioning. I think, yeah, this little camper is pretty amazing, all we need in a little package. They like my story and I receive an email from them at night. This is one of the best parts of the trip; meeting people and hearing their story while I share mine. I hope I can inspire someone else to take a trip or break out of their comfort zone.
We are soon back on HWY 40 heading West, the Arizona border approaching, each mile similar to the last. I am happy we diverted North for the night and would like to visit again. Maybe see some of the South but spend more time in the mountains, and a night or two sampling the cuisine in Santa Fe.
We cross over a little after 3:00 and it looks like what we just came over from. I guess geography doesn’t care what side of an imaginary line it sits on, that is more of interest to man. I pull off at a rest stop for a break and to get some pictures. We passed by a cool looking tourist trap complete with fake animals and tee-pees but our path didn’t easily allow for a visit. I walk Mabel in the small pet area, mindful of the warning signs stating poisonous critters inhabit the area. She is oblivious and I sense a curiosity that would be exhibited if we run across an angry local.
Our destination for the night is Holbrook, Arizona, about 60 miles in on HWY 40. Another KOA for the night, they are reliable and their book makes them easy to find. I opted for the KOA membership and have been accumulating points to use for something, not sure what. It’s a frequent kamper kard, much like a frequent flier program.
The Petrified Forest National Park stands between us and the KOA and it looks really cool so we stop. Unfortunately, it is late and we have an hour to see what we can. The Rangers will push you towards an exit I am told so see what you can. I am glad I bought the pass, from a financial standpoint it makes sense and saves you money. I am also not upset at spending full price to see half the park.
It is hard to describe what I see, so I will let the pictures do it for me. This is another example of America’s beauty, something I never thought I would see. We take the tour and stop where we can and I try to get photos to show what it is like. It’s 6:00, the Rangers are nice, not like the Central Park Rangers in Elf, and direct us to the gate. I chose to continue through the park, still more beauty, even as the sun is going down, and I take advantage of one last stop to see petrified wood. Our exit gate appears and we spill out HWY 180, a back road, that will lead us to Holbrook. As we travel towards the KOA, HWY 180 deserted with no cars or houses along the way, it occurs to me that a breakdown would be very bad. Very bad indeed.
We find our campground, the facilities are nice but our spot is in a large gravel field, thankfully next to a tree with a few other trees on the campground’s perimeter. It’s a place to stay for the night, not the destination stop we had in Albuquerque. I see a home built tear drop across from us and will stop to chat in the morning, first order of business is set up and dinner. Actually, it’s walking Mabel and finding the dog park. They had rain so the park was a little muddy but she didn’t care.
Thankful tonight for the opportunity to see this part of the country.