Weeks 2-3: Northern NM and High Country Colorado

Off the Grid (well, the telecom one) in El Vado Lake State Park

As we have often noted, we have been huge NM State Park fans. For a mere $14/night, one gets water and electric hookups and usually a huge amount of space and an interesting location.

This is a deal that cannot be beat, and it turned out to be true for El Vado Lake State Park, where our planned one-night stay turned into a relaxing three nights because a landslide from the huge monsoonal rains wiped out the campground at Ojo Caliente, a favorite spot of ours, which we'd planned to revisit for two nights.

So, we had no phone or Internet, but we got to watch ospreys tending their nests and making very cool sounds (which they are also doing right now as I type this at Flaming Gorge NRA). We read books, let Bago go swimming, and had front row seats to the nightly monsoon thunderstorms.

The lake was really, really low, which accounted for the very few people at the campground.

But it was still quite beautiful.

Every day: sunshine. Every afternoon/evening, the monsoon.

Oh, and I had time to cook, too. Lovely farm fresh eggs from pasture-raised chickens from James Ranch, and cantaloupe and corn from Durango's farmer's market with a new favorite RV recipe: shrimp/tomato/old bread on a skewer basted in olive oil/lemon juice, then grilled and topped with Greek seasoning and feta cheese when served. That's some fine dining!

But on the way out from El Vado Lake to Taos (via Echo Amphitheater where we were serenaded by a fellow on guitar playing "into the echo," Abiquiu, and restocking trip in Espanola), we just HAD to stop for a green chile cheeseburger at Blake's. Best to ignore all those flies inside the burger stand and the rough-looking kids at the picnic tables, though. Missed Nicky boy here.

Bago has been taking to sitting on the passenger's lap at the beginning of a day's drive (Where we goin' now, mom?) and whenever we are passing through an area with water (lake, river) and trees. When he doesn't see anything he likes, his ears lay sideways, kind of like Yoda's.  These ears aren't down as far as they go when he looks out upon desert, but they're definitely just ho-hum ears:

But when there's a river or lake out the window, those ears are standing straight up and he turns to the driver and then to the passenger, as in this blurry series:

HEY! That's a river, isn't it?

Can you pull over?


We finally found a decent pull out along the Rio Grande for Bago to have a quick, on-leash dip:

Time Travel in Taos

We had a lovely time in Taos during this year's visit, most likely due to a combination of beautiful weather and great travel tips from a new Taos resident (thanks, Sam!). We sure didn't care for the place much last time, and seeing this on the way in filled us with trepidation.

We arrived late on a Saturday afternoon and suffered one of the drawbacks of loose, unresearched travel--we had just missed the all-day Tour of Homes in Taos. Oh well. Carry on...

Since it was already 3PM, we quickly toured the San Francisco de Assisi Church (it closed at 4PM and, as we knew from our previous visit, wasn't open on Sundays). As we walked around the neighboring art galleries, I found a gorgeous mixed-media, three-dimensional painting/sculpture we just had to have for our burgeoning antler collection. We made that shop owner's day. Lisa, however, made me cool my jets over the enormous, beautiful painting (a NM landscape painted on a 30"x60" door!) by convincing me it wasn't the right thing for over the mantel. That's a purchase that must be unanimous....

Then we visited Taos' official dog park, probably the saddest place we've ever seen. It's adjacent to the animal shelter, and the big dog area runs right behind the shelter dogs, who bark miserably at the "free" dog they see. Poor things. Plus, it was just a dirt lot filled with stickers. No shade or water, either.  But Bago got a few ya-yas out, so then we could carry on to our commercial RV park, Sierra Village. What a blast from the past THIS place was. It was clearly a destination camp back in the 1950s or 60s, with its A-frame lodge (that is now some kind of creepy apartment living), store, tents and RV sites. It has not been maintained very much since then, though. The "Rec Room" and "Workshop" were metal awnings over a collection of old (50s again) metal desks and chairs--never seen anything like that. Should've gotten a picture. But it worked out well for us because there was grass, no one next to us so dog could stretch out, and a little "nature trail" in the woods for morning walks. Awfully close to the highway (noise), but that meant only 10 minutes to town. We preferred this funky place to the shadeless, gravel parking lots of RV parks in town.

Sunday morning had us as the first parkers in the RV lot near town--free AND shady. Boy, does the sun get hot at this altitude. We left the dog inside during the cool morning and took in the Kit Carson Home and Museum, a few more galleries, and then we walked the labyrinth at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House (recently owned by Dennis Hopper). We must go back and tour the house on another visit, when it's open.

Then we sprung the dog and took him to the Taos City Park and Cemetery--a very odd combo of graveyard and recreation--but Bago didn't care.

There was shade, grass, and pinecones to play with. Then, as the day heated up, we took him to a dog-friendly patio at a local brewpub, Eske's, where he was a rock star, particularly with a 5-year-old boy who insisted that he "needed some exercise, too" and wanted to go walking with Lisa and Bago. Lisa returned the boy safely to Dad....

We walked around the Plaza area more after lunch, but it just got too hot for all of us. So, we got the RV and drove north to the Millicent Rogers Museum, which we enjoyed very much, for its architecture especially but also the beautiful Maria Martinez pottery. By this point the clouds had gathered for the afternoon rain, and we headed back to our campsite for dinner.

Monday was an interesting day. We started out early at the Taos Pueblo (before it got too hot) and enjoyed the tour, the architecture, a piece of fry bread, and the shopping--Lisa scored a Christmas present for Miss Ellie (!), an ocarina made by the famous flutist Robert Mirabal (we have his Christmas album), and a bracelet for her collection.  We also got 2 little pocket pies, baked in the communal clay ovens for later.

After that lovely morning, duty called and we did 4 big ole loads of laundry, followed by an afternoon siesta then a trip to the Taos Tennis Club and Spa for massages. Ah, that was necessary. After showering there and feeding poor Bago in the RV, we completed our oddly wonderful day with a grown-up dinner out (which we rarely do) at El Meze (again, thanks, Sam!) for the most wonderful meal we've had anywhere in a very long time.

We shared the Spanish tapas appetizer of Manchego cheese, white peaches, and Serrano ham drizzled with local honey, and then we each enjoyed our own grilled trout, made the Pueblo way with lemon, watercress, and mint. Spectacularly good food AND service, along with the now-requisite evening monsoonal lightning display over Taos Mountain. Very memorable experience.

Tuesday found us heading out of town on Route 64 across the Rio Grande Bridge. We passed a possible destination for NEXT time--a newish RV park across the street from the cleverly named doggie daycare/boarding facility 10,000 Wags. That could be a better solution for Bago if it's so hot. And we'd like to go back again to drive the Enchanted Circle in the fall and perhaps attend a festival at Taos Pueblo.

Getting High with Friends

We departed Taos Tuesday morning with the intention of making the 4+ hour drive in about 6. (It seems that we need to add 1-2 hours to every Google estimate to account for our more frequent stops and lower driving speeds.) However, this trip took much longer because of a rookie mistake we haven't made in a long time--not really looking at the route map carefully! Our route (as they are wont to be) went right up the spiral of the atlas, and our wifi/AT&T reception was non-existent, so we relied on memory--oh, we just have to take this one road. Well, that put us about an hour extra out of our way, but all turned out perfectly.

As we climbed up, up, up to Leadville, Colorado and Turquoise Lake (over 10,000 feet in elevation), the weather got progressively worse. We arrived at the fully reserved campground late--around 4PM--with a dilemma. Julie had made another rookie mistake and accidentally booked only 1 site at this popular place and 1 site at a wholly different campground miles away. Where would our friends camp? Well, right as we got there, the site across from our--the ONLY ONE in the place without a reservation placard on it--was empty, except for a collapsed tent. I quickly put out one of our chairs across the site and hoped that our friends would arrive ASAP. Not 5 minutes after this, a car load of high school kids comes to retrieve that tent and leave. Turns out that they had paid for the wrong campsite, too, and they were sick of the cold, rainy weather and were leaving. The site was ours! Hooray!

Our friends arrived shortly after that, claimed and paid for good ole site 18, we got some firewood, and began cooking. Rain be damned!

Dinner consisted of appetizers of raw-milk cheese from James Ranch, caprese with home-grown tomatoes and basil and buffalo mozzarella from Boulder, lamb chops with Cherry Republic BBQ sauce, garlic quinoa, grilled veggies, salad--served at the dinette quite comfortably for 4!

The next morning brought more of the same weather, but even colder. We made the best of it by having delicious cappucinos made in the Roadtrek followed by a pancake breakfast with organic eggs and James Ranch whey-fed pork sausages served in the Navion. Much more conversation, then a brief, soggy walk (no hike because of the rain) to the lake where Bago got to chase sticks.

Noon came much too soon, and we all went our separate ways. We skipped touring Leadville (which looked quite tour cute and where there was a Rupp Hotel my dad tells me) because of the cold, steady rain and headed down to the Frisco/Dillon area and scored a boondocking site for 2 nights.

Chillin' in Dillon

We decided to stay in Heaton Bay Campground after we found that we could score a site for two nights in this almost fully reserved campground. Here's Mr. B. looking for all the world like our next Christmas card, if I can figure out how to Photoshop some ornaments and lights on those baby Christmas trees....

Lisa took the sunshine opportunity to clean the solar panels, after all those rainy days.

Bago didn't know the difference between a swimming lake and a reservoir (which Dillon Lake is), so he went swimming anyway.

We hung out all day Thursday, taking a nice 3-mile walk to and from the Frisco Safeway store, a nap,

and then getting all cleaned up to go out to dinner in Dillon with our college friend and sorority sister, Janet. We had a great time catching up.

Steamin' in Steamboat

Friday morning had us making the turn and heading west again. Since we so often go very far to the east on our trips, it felt positively odd to be turning back west while still IN the West! But turn we did and we headed up to our weekend reservations at Steamboat Lake State Park, one of the parks we visited on our very first RV trip in the Rialta. I had given it such a glowing review before that I was curious if the place would still be viewed as favorably, given how much travel we've done in the last five years. It did. All that rain has made the landscape bloom.

 (And yes, Bago did have a nice swim and play in the lake with a bunch of other dogs. And, no, we weren't supposed to do this! But it got hot during our 5-mile walk, so what's a boy to do?)

View of the fog on the lake during the early morning dog walk

We spent Friday in Steamboat Springs proper, taking the architectural walking tour of downtown, sticking our heads in the art galleries, having a coffee at the cute independent bookstore, and generally saying, "Yes, thank you." to all the people commenting on either (a) how big or (b) how handsome Bago is. A few fun snaps:

We had stopped at the Visitor Center on our way in and found out the best place to park the RV, which was by Howelsen Hill--the ski jump training area. Interesting place, and clearly not somewhere I'll ever go for real! That's one sport I shan't ever try.

Flamin' in the Gorge
We drug our heels leaving Steamboat Lake on Sunday--such a beautiful alpine area--and the drive to/from along the Elk River Valley truly is one of our favorites. We stocked up with organic, natural yumminess at the local store, refueled (18 mpg average!), and headed north to the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area (run by the USDA as part of the Forest Service). We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into on this drive. Most of it was pretty monotonous, and Bago's ears were way down. But then we started the climb through the Uinta Mountains. Gorgeous!

We liked this so much we decided to stay two nights, especially since the Forest Service folks are VERY chill about dogs in the water. "Wherever you want!"

Our streak of monsoons and pretty sunsets continued here:

As did the theme of staying next to nesting ospreys:

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