Fort, Volcano, Dinosaurs, Blizzard

Like so many other spots we’ve been, Santa Fe was one more place we hated to leave. Return trip is a must – at this rate, we’ll spend the rest of our trips forever revisiting spots we’ve been to one time before.  How will we ever see anything new?

Naturally, we decided to take the roundabout way to our camping destination. So, our first stop was Fort Union National Monument, a US Military post in NE New Mexico from 1851 to 1891.20140412_113501 Perched right on the Santa Fe Trail, its huge storehouses made it an important supply depot.20140412_120331 The only hospital for miles was also located here, with non-military patients paying $.50/day for treatment. Preservation began in the 1930s, although much of the huge site had deteriorated by then. It was an interesting morning in a lightly-traveled spot.20140412_121246One of the things I loved most about this site was that we could see the ruts of the Santa Fe Trail, although wagons had been gone for decades.  Unfortunatey, none of the photos I had picked these up, although they were clearly visible with the naked eye.  We were amazed that the wagon path could still be detected over a century later.20140412_120653
Our find of the day perhaps was the National Park System Map we picked up for $1.75. Now we have a visual guide for all the National Parks and Monuments – an actual map with the locations pinpointed.  We are happy map people.  Sometimes you just need a paper guide. Going to try to hunt them all down. Too many are lightly traveled – like this one.20140412_121727
Armed with our new map, we discover that we can go only 60 miles or so out of our way to visit the Capulin Volcano National Monument. Off we go. 20140412_144002Along the way, see piles of lava rocks alongside the road in one of the most eerie landscapes ever. Bright blue skies with puffy white clouds, bright golden fields of prairie grass, and an absolutely flat surface, save for the occasional extinct volcano scattered around. It’s bizarre.20140412_151355 Who knew that New Mexico had an entire line of volcanos? Capulin is the most recently active of these – erupted 50,000-60,000 years ago. We watched the movie at the Visitor Center and perused all the exhibits. But, in order to take the scenic drive to the top, we would have had to unhitch the Fireball. 20140412_150936We agreed that if it would have been bare volcanic rock – we would have done it. But this particular site has already grown over with shrubs, pinon pines, and other high desert plants. We grabbed a brochure and headed on our way.

At this point, the wind was picking up, and we were getting biffed furiously around.  The bonus to this was that we passed an area where we saw an updraft that was completely filled with tumbleweeds.  A tumbleweed tornado.  By the time I grabbed my camera, we were passed, and it was gone, but we had an amazing sight for 20 seconds of a huge cyclone of tumbleweeds, high above the ground.  You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Clayton Lake State Park was our destination for the night (and for Sunday as well). Formed by a dam, Clayton Lake is a fisherman’s dream. We watched several boats on Saturday afternoon pull out, having caught their limit of trout (5/person/day). The two other campers there were both frying fish for dinner. We hung out with pathetic looks and empty plates, hoping for a dinner invitation, but it was not to be.20140413_110521

Sunday morning, we decided to explore the Dinosaur Tracks(!) at the Park. After the dam was built, the spillway was bulldozed. The spillway floor eroded, exposing dinosaur tracks that are 100 million years old. From an overhead viewing station, there’s a good view of the entire area, and a boardwalk around the edge gets us up close and personal.20140413_103417 One particular three-toed track really captured our imagination. We dangled our binoculars out next to it to capture the enormous size. Amazing.20140413_10273220140413_103546wpid-20140413_102447.jpg
Winter weather warnings have us concerned. During the day, we battled 40mph wind gusts, which are not uncommon in the Southwest spring. But, there’s a winter storm warning. The only other campers here abandoned their big 5th wheel trailer, and headed to Dodge City for the night and a warm hotel room. We’re here by ourselves, and it is roaring outside. We can barely open the door. We disconnected our water, put antifreeze in our toilet, and are hunkered down for the night. This shot is about 6pm, out our porthole window.  wpid-20140413_184112.jpgIt’s blowing snow straight sideways. Prediction is 4-6” of snow, with temps in the 20’s or teens. We’re hoping we can get out in the morning.  It’s uphill between us and the Visitor Center, and uphill again to the road out from there.  Ugh.

Monday morning, we awoke to this.wpid-20140414_073559.jpgThe Park Rangers (with their 4-wheel drive trucks) tell us that we have NO CHANCE of getting out of here with our 2-wheel pickup, trailer, and puny tire chains. Pure ice!  wpid-20140414_081135.jpg We resign ourselves to a solitary day/night.  It’s still whistling outside, and the windchill is -19 (according to the one radio station we can get).  We resign ourselves to the day – hiking up for a mile to the one point where we have a bit of cell service to send a text message to folks who might wonder where we are.  Freezing, but beautiful.  Snowy tumbeweeds are everywhere, less of a nuisance when frozen than not.wpid-20140414_080944.jpgHey, New Mexico sun!  Thanks!  By 1pm, the dark pavement has de-iced itself, and we decide to bust out and head to our next destination in Dodge City, KS. We see snow nearly all the way there, and it’s cold.  But, we’re not stranded.  wpid-20140414_163843.jpg

10 thoughts on “Fort, Volcano, Dinosaurs, Blizzard

  1. Your pics are amazing and descriptions bring everything to life. Glad you made it out safely! Love the dinosaur tracks. I’ll have to show them to Rachel.


  2. I wish I had enough money to hire you to be my travel guide and companion. Your pictures and descriptions make your adventures come to life for me. You seem to love the same parts of nature that I do. So grateful for your sharing your blog with us.


    • I am available for hire. ;-). I get a kick out of writing the blog – started it really as kind of a journal for us to remember out own travels. Going back to some of the old posts is like opening a box of old postcards. Thanks for reading.


  3. Your photos are beautiful enough to make any one want to travel to those places to see the sights! You’re finding so many neat places in your travels that I had never heard of before, like Fort Union and the dinosaur tracks at Clayton Lake State Park. I’m glad that you included the binoculars in the one photo to show how large the tracks really are.


  4. We are wary of tumbleweeds, when we see big packs of them blowing around – they can get caught up underneath your truck/camper – anywhere. Saw what appeared to be a windbreak today, and it was nothing but a wire fence that had been jammed with tumbleweeds from both east/west. They can be trouble…


  5. Glad you were able to get out! Fort Union and the dinosaur tracks both look really neat. I want to go there one day, but not enough time on this trip! I have never seen a frozen tumbleweed before!


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