June 19, Wednesday
At 3 AM I awoke to turn over. After I got settled on my right side I felt something soft and furry brush my forehead. I opened my eyes in time to see a mouse dash behind some gear. The vestibule doors were closed but the tent door was open. Altho the tent sides were affixed to the tent floor and no animal could get inside, the vestibule hung a couple inches above the ground. I told the animal to leave my house and I went back to sleep.
Temperature was 44 degrees at 5 AM. I had slept in an extra half hour. Low this morning was 41. The night before, I had set a couple of clean nose tissues on the table. They had rips and little teeth marks in them. Very small torn pieces littered part of the floor.
Betty got up at about 5:45 AM because Angel wanted a bathroom break. While Betty took the same, I walked Angel on around the campground loop. Then Betty and I sat in the newly-risen sunlight while Angel conked out on her side. Fifteen-year-old Angel was exhausted but she was game to get up and walk in the woods any time we were.
Yesterday a nondescript flicker had climbed around on the bare trunk of a tall ponderosa pine tree, looking and listening for bugs, which it did not find. This morning Betty and I watched a male woodpecker do the same. Male had lots of black and had a wide white patch on each wing. Without binoculars we were unable to ascertain other markings on the birds. Later we saw a raptor fly by. Dark brown with a much lighter patch on its back just above its tail. Large hawk.
Leza got up around 7 but did not cook breakfast for another hour or so. She treated herself and me to scrambled eggs and bacon. Plus bread and jelly.
Vegan Betty treated herself to fruit. She also ate a container of guacamole (they’d brought an ice chest) using celery to dip with. She offered us some of her food. I ate more than ¾ of the cantaloupe Betty had just sliced. It was at least 10:30 when we finished breakfast and began cleaning up.
I suggested a walk to Williams Creek Reservoir. A nearby camper that I had met, Mary, had returned from her day’s hike. We stopped and invited her to the camp fire we would have later. Mary mentioned she’d never married, had 2 natural children and 2 adopted. Yesterday she had told me she was/had been a lawyer.
We took a quick side trip to site 40, in our loop, and enjoyed a small view of Williams Creek roaring over a bunch of rapids. There seemed to be a waterfall hidden behind the trees.
We headed out of the campground, turning right onto the Forest Service road. Leza said she didn’t think she could walk very far. I said we would all turn around whenever she or Betty needed to start back.
Scene along road to Williams Creek Reservoir. Aren’t you just a little jealous? But you would only be able to use the house for a few months between the melting of the last snow of spring and the falling of the first snow in late summer.
Leza is an experienced singer. After a while, sunshine and lovely scenery cheered her and she began singing. That cheered her even more.
Somewhat to her surprise she made it to the spot where the road overlooked the reservoir. She sang on the walk back, also. At times she got the forest to echo back, to echo the last sound of each phrase, at least. From our campsite we had walked about 2¼ miles.
Because of her back problems, Betty called a brief sit-down rest break every so often during the uphill portions of our walk. After one stop Betty asked if we were ready to walk again. Leza said, “You called this meeting and it’s yours to lead.”
Once we could see the reservoir I walked a bit farther downhill than Betty and Leza to take pictures. They sat down and waited for me at the top of the rise. When I returned to them I said, “Is the meeting adjourned?”
Angel and Leza enjoying the view at the entrance to Williams Creek Campground.
Back at camp, Leza fired up her ancient white-gas-using Coleman stove. She heated a vegan soup Betty had made before they left home, then she fried the hamburger patties she had bought yesterday. She also provided fixin’s for the hamburgers.
Me looking on while Leza cooks.
We had told Mary we would light the camp fire some time between 4 and 6 PM. Mary arrived after eating her 4 PM supper (her usual time) and during our supper. We all chatted. After dishes we were washed Leza lit the campfire, strummed her guitar, and sang until bedtime.
While we were doing the final cleanup I said to Betty, “Isn’t it amazing how clean our camp sites are by bedtime? [No gear outside on table or ground.] But don’t look inside our vehicles.” I doused the fire about 8 PM and we all headed for bed.
Me watching Leza strum her guitar and sing.
June 20, Thursday
During the night I heard a grunting sound moving thru the meadow near my camp site. It sounded like a bear huffing. I had left one vestibule door open. I thought, “Bears are curious and if a bear gets close to my tent and sees the open door it might walk in.” I got up and zipped the door shut. The noise of the zipper apparently startled the animal and it left the area because I heard no more heavy animal sounds and soon went back to sleep.
The closest I got to a bear this trip was this bear on my back.
43 degrees at 4:45. Moon still shining in almost clear sky. No dew! There had been heavy dews the past two mornings and a light dew the day before that. Low temp 41. Correction: no dew on tent or SUV but there was dew on wooden picnic table. The clicker key worked on 4titude’s key fob first thing this morning.
I hope this doesn’t gross you out, but I blew black-stained matter out of my nose this morning. It was probably soot from last night’s camp fire.
Betty told me she and Leza were not staying to cook and eat breakfast. They had decided to get an early start and do some sightseeing between here and Santa Fe. After the wooden picnic table dried I got out part of my voluminous camp cooking gear. Betty had handed me a rasher of pre-cooked bacon and asked me to heat it for me and Leza while they were breaking camp. Leza would use some of it to make a bacon sandwich to eat while driving. I could eat the rest with the half dozen eggs they were leaving me. Sounded good to me. Betty was having her vegan fruit breakfast piece meal. When they were completely packed Leza slathered a little mayonnaise on a couple slices of white bread and inserted a few slices of fresh tomato and a bunch of slices of bacon.
Leza and Betty got in the minivan and Leza made the motions for starting the vehicle. Nothing. She had jumper cables but I told her my battery did not have a plus and minus sign painted or engraved anywhere on it. She went to the two pickups at the next camp sites and a man came over to help. When I lifted 4titude’s hood a big red + stared up at us from the top of the rubber cover that was over one of the battery connections. When my battery had refused to start in Portales last month that rubber connection had been flipped off and was upside down and the + sign had not shown. I then thought there was no way for me to know which cable connection was which. I now wondered if some vandal had managed to get the hood of the SUV up and drain the battery. The vandal had neglected to put the rubber cover back down on the cable connection. I’d had to get help because 4titude would not start that morning in Portales. I called USAA and a man came with a small hand-held battery pack and a set of jumper cables and got the battery cranked.
As my daughter and I set out for an excursion I stopped at a place in Portales and a man checked my battery with an instrument. He said it had now plenty of power, after recharging during the drive from campground to town. I have not had any more battery trouble.
Back to this trip. We used my battery to jump-start Leza’s car, then I drove around the entire campground, which took about 8 minutes, and recharged 4titude’s battery. I wanted to make sure the battery was charged enuf so I could type up my notes this morning. I wasn’t sure how much battery power had been drained by the combination of typing notes yesterday and jump-starting Leza’s battery.
Leza and Betty had waited while I drove around. Leza had left her vehicle running to recharge her battery. Leza told me she had chased a chipmunk away from the food on my picnic table.
Leza and Betty then drove away. Leza had declared she was not going to turn off the motor of her minivan til they were in Santa Fe where there would be a Honda dealer-mechanic well-versed in the 2019 hybrid models. She stated she would not even turn off the engine when buying gas.
Leza had left me a number of things. She was now headed for civilization and did not want to have excess perishable camping items in her minivan. I fried the six eggs all at the same time in the little bit of bacon fat that had melted out of the pre-cooked bacon. I also ate the remainder of the tomato from Leza’s bacon sandwich.
After breakfast I buttered the almost complete loaf of white bread Leza had left me and toasted the slices in my skillet. I hoped the crustiness on both sides would help deter mold from growing. I buttered two pieces at a time and while they were toasting I buttered the next two. However, when I picked up the back crust and the slice next to it I noticed that both pieces had a damp, orange spot. Chipmunk urine. I threw those two pieces away. Altho the chipmunk had nibbled the edges of a few of the other slices I figured the toasting would kill any germs the little animal left behind. Later note: I did not get ill after eating all the buttered, toasted slices, and the toasted bread with preservatives lasted six days until I finished eating it.
Leza had told me she had asked the one neighbor who came to help if he would like to have my dining canopy because I was getting rid of it. He did not need it but he asked his friends who were in the site next to him. While I was eating my brunch-time breakfast the couple from the pop-up camper came over and gladly took the canopy.
I finally finished all the above activities, including typing diary notes, at 12:40 noon-hour. I sat in the tent vestibule to relax. Clouds began dripping now and then, but not enuf to soak things so I left one vestibule door open.
When the skies did not look drippy I walked to site 40, then walked down the slope to the high bank above Williams Creek. I walked along the bank a ways. There was no waterfall, just lots of rapids.
My next project was to find the trailheads of three trails that were listed as being on up the road, beyond Williams Creek Reservoir. I was successful.
At Poison Park Trailhead.
The scenery seen on the six-mile drive back down a side road after leaving Poison Park Trailhead was spectacular.
I was lonely after my friends drove away, but I was proud of myself for keeping busy.
I was wearing a somewhat bright blue sweatshirt when I made my last walk to the dumpster this evening. The resident hummingbird stopped me while I was walking and gave me a very good once-over. He had not seen my blue shirt before.
For supper I ate the 8-ounce can of beer Leza left me. (I admit it: I had a snack of peanuts during late morning.) I had on my bright red vest. It was checked over carefully by the little hummingbird.
The camp hosts paused in their evening rounds and chatted for a few minutes. They did not make it to our camp fire and Leza’s singing last night because a site in the lower loop had been double-booked by recreation.gov clerks. The camp hosts had to unruffle feathers and find an acceptable camp site for the second RV, which had arrived late afternoon. The two women said they had dropped by now, this evening, to say goodbye in case they didn’t see me in the morning. They also mentioned that, at the first cattle guard on the way out, if you parked on the downhill side of the cattle guard and waited a few minutes your cell fone would get enuf reception to make fone calls. Otherwise, can only send text messages.
June 21, Friday
Temperature 42 at 4:30. Low dropped to 39. A light wind was blowing so I closed the windward door of the vestibule. In the vestibule I was able to heat water for a couple cups of hot cocoa during the hours of dawn before sun hit my camp site.
There was no dew this morning. Not a shred of cloud in the sky. It looked as tho it would be a perfect day for hiking, but I would be confined to packing, riding, and setting up another camp.
After the sun had warmed the temperature into the 50s I began dismantling camp.
The camper who accepted the dining canopy caught me as I was leaving and again thanked me. She said Kelty had a similar canopy but it was expensive. I said I would go to REI and see if they would let my try to see if one of the canopies they sell could be put up by me alone. I added, “I consider it part of my medical expenses, keeping me healthy by camping in the mountains.” She thought that was a great idea, or maybe excuse.
I drove away at 8:17 AM. While driving down the mountain I ate the chicken ciabatta bread sandwich half left over from the Tuesday dinner Betty and Leza had provided. It tasted delicious, even for breakfast. A couple hours later I followed it with some peanuts.
Clouds had come overhead by the time I left the campground. As I drove westward I watched more and more small clouds form and gather together.
Soon after the gravel road changed to pavement as it neared Pagosa Springs 4titude’s Bluetooth announced an unsolicited call. I was back in civilization.
I arrived at the West Dolores Campground at 12:50. Temp 70 degrees. A strong, cold wind was blowing but I was able to erect my small, two-man tent.
4titude and Little Man at site 16, West Dolores Campground.
The camp hosts said the weather report was for off-and-on showers today and some actual rainstorms tomorrow. I decided I would go home tomorrow. If I had to sit in the SUV seat to get out of tomorrow’s rain, I might as well be sitting in the seat and driving home.
Camp hosts talked about a microburst that hit the campground on Tuesday. It never touched the ground; the bottom came to within 15 or 20 feet of the ground. But it hit the trees, badly. The hosts and the other campers watched tall, sturdy spruce and fir trees bend way over. A couple of large trees in the campground collapsed. As they fell they hit smaller nearby trees and cracked them so badly that the Forest Service cut them down the next day. Luckily, no tree fell on RVs and other metal camping vehicles, on any of the driving vehicles, or on any camper. No camper was injured.
For supper I put the left-over hamburger patty from Wednesday’s lunch on a piece of my buttered toast. Ate fresh tomato, sliced, on the side. Plus mixed fruit jam on two pieces of buttered toast. The toast was very buttery and delicious.
I sat outside in my chair, reading, til sprinkles fell at 6:15. Then I put the few items outside back in the SUV, including myself, and read til bedtime. Walked around the campground every hour, weather permitting.
June 22, Saturday
I awoke to light sprinkles at 3 AM. Fearing a real rain would start at dawn, I changed to my daytime clothes. Temperature was 50 degrees in the little tent when I stepped out. I put a hand in my pants pocket but felt no keys. Using my flashlight I followed the trail to the toilet that I had taken after locking up the SUV at bedtime. No keys on the ground. I returned to my camp site and spent a few minutes getting my spare car key out of my wallet. Then I had a thought — Sure, enuf, the keys were in the bedroll where I’d turned my hips and pants upside down when putting the slacks on.
Now I could enjoy the fact that the sprinkles had stopped and I could see the moon and a few stars shining between the clouds that were shredding off the large cloud. A couple of birds woke up and scolded me for shining a light (flashlight) during night-dark sleeping hours.
Bolts of adrenalin during the lost-keys episode had exhausted me. Altho I had slept 7 hours I felt very tired while putting bed and tent in the SUV.
Temperature was 48 at 4:15 AM when I drove away. Adrenalin and exhaustion did not leave my body til the SUV had soothed me with a few miles under its wheels.
I treated myself to my favorite McDonald’s breakfast, a Bacon-Cheese-and-Egg McGriddle, in Cortez. Followed by peanuts later.
I stopped several times and took pictures of the scenery near Kayenta,
Including Baby Rocks
Somewhere along US 160 and/or 89 there were several signs that said “Active Fire Area, Smoke Possible, Use Caution.” I did not see or smell the wildfires.
Approaching Flagstaff I saw a charming sight that rarely existed in late June. I saw snow on the higher peaks of the San Francisco Mountains. Not so rare was a heavy bank of clouds above the peaks.
Approaching Sunset Point Rest Area I saw an uncharming sight that existed only too often in June. I saw dead, black, scorched plants in the median of I-17 and a scorched area heading east from the north-bound lanes. On the news later I learned the blackening had been caused by the Badger Springs Fire which was still burning to the east.
During my stop at Sunset Point I had a lunch of two slices of buttered toast slathered with the last of the mixed fruit jam. My taste buds loved it.
Arrived home at 3 PM, temperature 99 degrees (the high for the day). Odometer 78,533. I had driven a total of 1,369 miles.
At home I had a second supper of link sausage wrapped in buttered toast. Even so, my scale told me the next day that I had lost two pounds since the day I left on this trip. Do you wonder how I lost weight after eating some of the meals I described? Perhaps my usual camp food did not provide many calories. Camp breakfast was one 16-oz. can of canned beans and one 4.6-oz. can of Vienna sausages. The other meal of the day was one or two 16-oz. cans of ready-to-eat canned soup plus a few peanuts.