Two For The Time Of One

July 25, 2019

Debi Quarry and Dave French had planned a double-feature outing for the North Mountain Hikers this day, July 25, 2019.  Some of us met at the North Mountain (Preserve) Visitor Center and car pooled to Flagstaff.

N. Mt. Hike, N. Mt. VC sign, B, 25july2019

The words read:  “Pug is the biggest of the Desert Tortoises who live in this area of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve.  His size gives him the confidence to face any challenge.  He will confront a human who demonstrates the temerity to approach his burrow with insufficient respect.  As far as the four females that reside in this burrow are concerned they belong to him.  The only other male that lives in this burrow has been on the receiving end of Pug’s anger several times after he foolishly tested Pug’s patience by attempting to seduce one of the females.”

Others had driven to Flagstaff days or weeks earlier.  I’ll let the reader figure that one out.  It isn’t quite what you think.  In Flagstaff we condensed the cars, eliminating one, and eight of us drove to the trailhead for Red Mountain in the Coconino National Forest.

Red Mountain is a lovely hill whose origins are still being debated by geologists.  It is composed of cinders, ash, and rocks of hard lava.

N. Mt. Hike, Red Mountain, sign, A1, 25july2019

The exposed, beautiful area of the mountain is called the “amphitheater.”  It is not the center of the eruption.  That is located on the backside of the hill from the amphitheater.  For an excellent description and explanation, in layman’s language, go to the web site

Eight hikers, accompanied by Debi’s dog named Goofy, walked the gentle incline from the parking area to the base of red mountain.

N. Mt. Hike, Red Mountain, inside the crater, Aj, Debi Quarry telling Goofy to sit, 25july2019

Goofy in the process of obeying a “sit” command from Debi.  (Inside the amphitheater.)

Hikers and web sites said the incline was gentle but unfortunately, any uphill (especially at that altitude) is difficult for me and I lagged farther and farther behind.  I saw a small bug wearing what looked like white fur running down its back.  The very narrow unfurry parts of its thorax that were visible appeared to be black.  I did not have time to take a better look because I was already yards behind the others.  I also saw a velvet ant with bright orange fur on the tops of the two components of its body.

Later, at home, I looked for the insects.  The web site

Red Velvet Ant or “Cow Killer”

said, “These insects are wasps, not ants. Females are wingless and covered with dense hair, superficially resembling ants….  They are black overall with patches of dense orange-red hair on the thorax and abdomen.”  The orange hairs cover the backs of the wasps’ mesosoma and metasoma.

I am not good at searching the web.  When I Googled, “small bugs with white hair on their backs,” or similar requests, I did not find anything that was the size of the bug I saw.  It was about the size of the velvet ant-wasp.  If anyone knows what I am writing about please contact me either thru this blog or thru my email,

The trail went through a lovely pinyon-juniper forest with grasses, a few flowering forbs, and associated downed, dead timber.  Some of the juniper trees were decorated thickly with little blue berries.  The last half mile or so of the trail was in a gravely wash, hopefully dry.

N. Mt. Hike, Red Mountain final approach, Aa, 25july2019

The wash ended, or began, at an approximately eight-foot tall cliff at the base of the amphitheater.  The Forest Service had built a simple wooden ladder and attached it to the rock.  Goofy, however, did not know how to climb the ladder so he and Debi climbed up one side of a steep ash flow and down the other side, in order to get into the amphitheater.

The other six hikers were still climbing the 8-foot ladder when I walked up, so I had not been very far behind.

N. Mt. Hike, Red Mountain final approach, Ac, 25july2019

In the amphitheater, and during the return to the vehicles, I had no difficulty keeping up with my fellow hikers.

We wandered around, looking at the views of the cliffs and hoodoos from the floor of the amphitheater.

N. Mt. Hike, Red Mountain, inside the crater, Ac1, 25july2019

A few nimble ones of us climbed a ways up some of the cemented cinder cone-like formations.

N. Mt. Hike, Red Mountain, inside the crater, Ah, 25july2019

When everyone had gathered back on the floor Debi announced she was going to take us up an arm.  She didn’t say of what and I assumed she was going to lead us up a route that climbed partway up the cemented cinders, but I asked, “Does it have flesh?”  Debi responded, “Yes, and it’s hairy, ― long hairs.”  I planned to trail in the rear, stand on the floor, and take pictures.  Debi led us up a narrow, scenic side ravine.  After a number of yards the thought penetrated my thinking that this little dry wash was the “arm.”  I did take pictures of the “arm.”

N. Mt. Hike, Red Mountain, inside the crater, Ao, only for the skinny 25july2019

An arm only for the skinny.

We strode back to the vehicles as a single group.  We remarked how the many clouds floating by had shaded us from the burning sun for most of the hike.  Debi opened the rear hatch of her miniSUV and opened containers of sliced, quartered, fresh, watery, bright pink watermelon.  We feasted.  My mouth appreciated the melon water as much as the sweet melon meat. gave the elevation gain from parking lot to end of hike as 357 feet.  Whereas, on its web site, Arizona Highways gave the elevation change as going from 6,745 feet to 7,200, an elevation gain of 455 feet.  AZ Highways also stated that the hike was 2.5 miles round-trip.  The higher elevations must have been the points to which hikers had climbed on the cemented cinder formations.

At the parking lot Dave and Neil left and returned homeward.  The remaining six of us took in the second feature of the day’s outing.  I and two others rode with Debi.  Joan carried one passenger in her huge pickup.  We returned to pavement for about four miles, then turned onto another dirt Forest Service Road and drove to the parking area for the Slate Mountain Trail.

This dirt road had more water holes, and they were closer together, than had the road to Red Mountain.  Debi said that Wednesday of last week the two roads had been dry.  The drivers dodged the water-filled depressions as much as possible, but there came a spot that could not be avoided.  Debi’s driver-side wheels went thru a small pond.  I watched as cinnamon-colored waves of water swooshed and curved outward, away from the vehicle.  I hoped Debi and Joan had favorite car washes in town.

N. Mt. Hike, Slate Mountain, sign, Aa, 25july2019

At the parking area we found a set of logs to sit on, dug in our packs, and ate a few bites of snacks.

N. Mt. Hike, Slate Mountain, sign, Ab, 25july2019

I told Debi, while the group was close by and could hear, that I would walk uphill at my own pace until I met them coming down.  At which time, I would turn around and hike back down with them. Debi trusted me and set off at a pace of perhaps three-and-a-half miles an hour even tho the trail was steep and gained around 450 feet in each mile.

Thunder rolled briefly, then quit bothering us.  As I walked along, the blue pieces of sky became larger and larger and the sun became hotter.

I wasn’t lonely.  Flowers, plant identification signs, and text messages from my daughter kept me company.  The signs had been put out years ago.  They were funny.  For instance, the sign “Douglas Fir” was in front of a tall tree that was dead and was devoid of needles and life.  How could the hiker identify other Douglas Firs without seeing the needles of the tree behind the sign?  Some signs had lost their plants.  I thought the most humorous was the sign “Pinyon Pine” that was sitting in the midst of a young juniper tree.

N. Mt. Hike, Slate Mountain Trail, Misinformed sign, Aa, 25july2019

The flowers were eye-catching, especially the brilliant scarlet bugler penstemon and the pink-blue-purple milk vetch astragalus flowers.  The flowers of the cliff rose were producing feathery seed strings.

N. Mt. Hike, Slate Mountain Trail, Cliff Rose, Aa, 25july2019

They were identifiable because cliff roses make far fewer feathery seed banners than Apache plume flowers.

When I met the other five coming back downhill I had been walking for one-and-a-half hours uphill.  The hikers told me I was perhaps only three-fourths mile from the top of Slate Mountain.

N. Mt. Hike, Slate Mountain Trail, view of Mt. Humphries, Aa, 25july2019

Mount Humphreys, the tallest mountain in Arizona, as seen from the trail.

We walked rapidly back to the vehicles and once again Debi opened the containers of watermelon slices.

I would love to take friends on these two hikes.  Please contact me if you are interested.


Munds Park Hike

July 13, 2019

I had contacted the hike leader Dave about spending Friday night at his house in Munds Park.  Altho he had not met me he invited me up to join other Trailblazers who were arriving the day before the hike.  He told me all beds were reserved but I could put my bedroll on the living room floor or the porch.

As I turned the last corner in Munds Park and started down the block to his address I stared at the houses along the street and thought, “I am way out of my league.”  I parked on the gravel loop drive for the house.  Dave was sitting on the porch waiting for hikers to arrive.  He came down the steps and greeted me, then gave me a tour of his house.  It was large and beautiful.

The porch had a large enuf overhang that I would be shielded from almost any rainstorm.  I prefer to sleep outdoors so I selected an area on the porch where I would set my bedding later.

Michelle and Mark arrived, the only married couple going on the hike.  Dave led the three of us on a walk to Mud Tank, about a mile by Forest Service trail from his door.  We began to see an occasional lone cow or two.  The closer we got to the man-made watering hole the more cattle we saw.  While M&M and I sat down on the roots of a huge old oak tree Dave went searching for a trail he had been told about.  The cattle backed away from Dave but essentially stood their ground.  Dave ignored the animals and forged on.  He did not find the trail.

Mud Tank A1, Coconino NF, July 12, 2019

I took a picture of Mud Tank and cattle, then of the root-bench tree and another huge oak nearby.

Mud Tank C1, Coconino NF, old oak tree whose roots we sat on, July 12, 2019

Surprisingly, these were Gambel Oak trees, Quercus gambelii.  Francis H. Elmore writes in the book Shrubs and Trees of the Southwest Upland, “Size is variable ―from matted shrubs to low, shrubby trees.”  The high water table around the watering tank must have induced these “shrubby trees” to go unusually tall and large.

Mud Tank C1, Coconino NF, Dave beside old oak tree, Mark walking, July 12, 2019

Dave is standing beside the tree.  Mark is walking in the background.

By the time we motored to Agee’s for supper our group had grown to a total of twelve.  Later, we gathered around a campfire pit in Dave’s front yard and enjoyed the flames and scent of burning pine.  Dave told us that the short version of tomorrow’s hike was seven miles but we could add a loop and hike around 9 miles.  At 9 PM we began scattering to our assigned beds.

The next morning more hikers joined us.  We started the hike with 23 hikers and ended with 24.  We drove five vehicles plus an extra one to Janice Place, the end point of the hike.  The extra car brought us drivers back to Dave’s House.

There was only one row of houses between Dave’s House and Odell Lake.  We wandered to the west edge of the lake for a group picture.

Then, at 8:10 AM, we began the walk along Pinewood Drive in order to get to the north side of the Lake.  There were houses lining the lake side of the street.  We heard goose voices.  Looking between the houses and shrubs we could see some half dozen geese flailing their wings and moving around and around, pretty much in the same circle.  One could come up with lots of stories to explain the noise and behavior.  My story was that a pet dog had jumped into the lake to harass the geese and the geese were harassing the dog.  But we couldn’t see the scene well enuf to actually decipher the cause.

In another block or so we passed a fire hydrant that had a tall pole attached and a flag at the top of the pole.  One knowledgeable hiker mentioned that the height of the pole meant in the winter snow gathered up to a height several feet above the hydrant.  The flag would alert snow plow drivers to the existence of the fire hydrant so they would not plow it down.

Crystal Point Hike, Ab, Coconino NF, fire hydrant with tall flag, July 13, 2019

Dave led us along a path thru the ponderosa pine trees, then suddenly walked off trail a ways, stopped, and pointed upwards.  There was a large bird’s nest in the top of a tall, dead tree.  Dave opined that it was an osprey nest.

Crystal Point Hike, Ba2, bird nest, probably osprey, July 13, 2019

Dave led us back to the Crystal Point trail and after about a mile we began working our way uphill.  I began going slower and slower.  I could not even keep up with Joe who, I had been told, was a slow hiker and usually ended up in the rear.  Jim was having difficulty because of his pacemaker but he got to the top before I did.  Gabe (a gentle female named Gabriel, and not Gabriella or some such) slowed her pace and kept me in sight altho there were no side trails for me to accidentally wander off onto.  As I neared the top of the little hill there were two views looking out over miles of scenery, out to the edge of the Mogollon Rim and beyond.

Crystal Point Hike, Bb2, view near top of Crystal Point, July 13, 2019

I took a couple of pictures.

Crystal Point Hike, Bc, view near top of Crystal Point, July 13, 2019

I must have been at least 20 minutes behind the main group when I finally joined them at Crystal Point.  I was not happy with my slow speed which keeps getting slower each year.  I apologized to the group for my slowness, but they politely exclaimed that waiting for me had been no problem.  Dave said we had just made an elevation gain of 600 feet.

I suggested a group picture below a sign stating the next trailhead for Crystal Point was 1.3 miles away.

Crystal Point Hike, Bd, taking group foto at Crystal Point, July 13, 2019

I took a picture of Li setting up for a group foto.

After several cameras had been utilized, Dave shouldered his pack and began the next phase of our morning’s trek.  He said the trails would now be somewhat up and down, but the uphill pieces would be shorter than going up Crystal Point.  I had noticed that I walked faster than Joe on downhill areas of the trails so I made sure I joined the hiking line with Joe behind me.  Joe was with Jim.  Once we got well underway I never saw Jim or Joe.

The downhill phases were so gradual they were almost unrecognizable.  Some of the uphill sections were very gradual and others were noticeable, especially a short piece near the end of the hike.

A mile from a parking lot where we were going to switch to another trail the group sat for a rest break.  I asked about Joe and Jim.  Some people said the two were near the head of the line.  The faster hikers said they were not.

Gabe, Mark, and Debbie set out back down/up the trail to check on the two men.  They soon returned and said the two were all right but were moving slowly.  My impression was that Joe had recognized that someone should accompany Jim and had taken on that task.

Gabe, who helped set up hikes for the club, said the decision had been made to bring a car over from Janice Place and pick up Jim and Joe at the parking lot a mile away.  Gabe said she was going back to walk with Jim and Joe and that they would meet the rest of us at the parking lot.

Someone looked at their GPS and saw that we had already walked 7 miles.  We had a mile to the parking lot and intersection.  Several yards beyond where Gabe turned back we came to a trail intersection.  Michelle waited there to make sure the slow group of three made the proper connection.

Crystal Point Hike, Be, ideal ponderosa pine forest, July 13, 2019

The way ponderosa pine forests used to look before 20th century fire suppression.

After we arrived at the parking area, a total hiking distance of 8 miles at that point, Mark and Michelle offered to hike to Janice Place and bring their car around.  They set off at a rapid pace.  We had yet another approximately 1.5 miles to hike to Janice Place where we had cars parked.  That meant that the shorter version of the day’s hike was 9.5 miles.  Everyone decided they wanted to walk this “shorter version” and forget the added loop.  So everyone put their packs back on and headed down the trail.  As I was putting on my pack Mimi said she was going to wait and hitch a ride back with Mark, Michelle, Gabe, Jim, and Joe.

Dave was as surprised as I at this turn of events and he and I were the last two hikers to saddle up and begin moving.  Just ahead of me was Marilyn, who had joined us during our “descent” from Crystal Point.  She, too, had expected a rest stop at this parking area while we waited for Jim, Joe, and Gabe to arrive.  I passed on to Dave the news about Mimi.

In a few yards the hikers at the front of the group began yelling.  M&M had gone left at an intersection when they should have gone right.  The group called them to come back.  Which they did, then hurried on to complete their mission.

The first mile of this trail had a lot of offshoot, well-used, footpaths.  They were unmarked.  The trail itself was marked by a small sign on a ponderosa pine tree a few yards before each intersection.  Each sign had an arrow pointing straight ahead.  I was glad Marilyn and Dave were well-acquainted with the trail because I had not noticed the first couple small signs.  I would not have known which trails to take, and I might well have guessed wrong.

I arrived at Janice Place and my SUV at 1:20.  Temperature 87 degrees.  Five hours ten minutes to hike 9½ miles.  For me, an average pace of 2 mph was good these days, but I think many of the rest of the hikers were accustomed to walking up to 3½ mph on hikes.  The estimated time for the hike had been “4-6 hours.”  It only took me 5¼ hours.

Dave’s stats for the hike were 9.5 miles hiked in 5:16 minutes, 895 total elevation gain, 1,010 total elevation loss, elevation range 6,643 (Dave’s house) to 7,213 (top of Crystal Point).  There are various methods for describing total elevation gain and loss on a hike.  I remember one member of the Mountain Club in Albuquerque who always swore there was no total gain or loss because a hiker went up as much as down, or vice-versa.

Crystal Point Hike, Aa1, Coconino NF, map of hike, July 12, 2019, hike started at Odell Lake and ended at Janicc Place

Note Janice Place red sign upper left and Odell Lake in center, end and starting points for our hike.

Dave directed four hikers onto the seats of his car and suggested a fifth one maneuver herself into the backend behind the back seats of his mini-SUV.  There was only one rider left to get in my car with me.  Dave kept talking about my taking more of the rest of the hikers, then kept looking around and not seeing any.  He shrugged.  Many of the hikers who had arrived before we did had disappeared.

I followed Dave back to the road along the country club.  From there I knew how to get to his house.  Which was lucky because about a block before we reached the country club we spotted one of our hikers.  I stopped and we picked her up.  By the time she got settled Dave was out of sight.  Beside the country club we encountered four more hikers.  Two climbed into my SUV but the other two said they were able to walk the rest of the way to Dave’s house (about .7 miles at that point.  Janice Point was close to two miles from Dave’s house).  When I parked in front of Dave’s house he was getting back in his car.  He said he was going back for the last of the hikers.

When I found a seat around Dave’s good-smelling campfire ashes I learned I was the day’s “celebrity.”  The first woman to accost me said she had just heard that a) I drove up from Phoenix alone, b) I slept outside on Dave’s porch, c) I successfully made the hike, d) I was driving back home alone to Phoenix.  Somehow she thought those things were unusual, maybe because of the age lines on my face.  Another woman called me “cute.”  I said, “I’ve never thought of myself as cute.”  The several other people who spoke to me said they had not expected me to be able to finish the hike.

I think that because I was so slow going uphill to Crystal Point they underestimated my total stamina.  My frustrating slowness when going uphill is due to inflammation of my capillaries by environmental chemicals that I regularly come in contact with, mostly by breathing them in the air around me and in buildings other than my condo.  The inflammation prevents most of the oxygen in my blood veins from getting across the capillary walls to my muscles.  I cannot push myself beyond a certain point because the heart muscle, too, is not getting sufficient oxygen.  Altho many of my problems with environmental chemicals have been resolving across the years since I found a doctor (board-certified M.D. in environmental medicine) who dealt with chemical sensitivities, the capillary inflammation seems to have continued getting worse.  I am not so very, very slow going downhill or walking on flat land because not as much oxygen is required by muscles.

I enjoyed the outing.  The scenery, the pine forest, the (few) flowers, the companionship, the mild weather.  Maybe others will add items they enjoyed.




Addenda to 2019 Pagosa Springs trip

Did anyone notice that I had left out July 16, and that my narrative had somehow suddenly leapt from being about the West Dolores Campground to the Williams Creek Campground?  I have included here the missing day plus missing parts of the following day.

July 16, Sunday

Temperature was 46 at 4:30, then dropped to a low of 41 degrees.  The SUV car fob-clicker still would not work and I had to open his door with the old-fashioned key.

The temperature was 54 at 8:02 when I drove away from West Dolores Campground.  The sky was completely overcast; clouds had moved in from the east.

I paused along the Dunton road to take a picture of the female face that was carved a few years ago in the trunk of a ponderosa tree.  She has aged.

Bf, Dunton Road, face carved in tree trunk, 16june2019

The artist has not been back to touch her up.  Perhaps the artist never returns, but leaves a bit of artistry here and there across the country.  Where might this person have left more bits of artistry?  There were sprinkles on the windshield when I got back in the SUV.  The droplets persuaded me to have a late, warm breakfast at the Ponderosa Café in Dolores, instead of snacking on finger food while I drove (peanuts and roasted pumpkin seeds)

The odor of skunk which wafted into my vehicle at one spot on state 145 did not diminish my appetite.  The Ponderosa had a breakfast buffet of which I partook.  For $11.75 (includes tip) I had about 3 eggs’ worth of scrambled eggs, about 5 links of breakfast sausage, and around a dozen pieces of bacon.  No carbs.

While cruising along highway 184 to Mancos I saw a small group of bison grazing in a pasture.  I didn’t remember seeing bison anywhere in this area before.

At Pagosa Springs I turned north at the first street light, turning onto N. Pagosa Drive.  After winding about five miles around large houses sitting on large lots of lawn and trees the road divided around a median.  One-way on each side of median.  Now I knew for certain I was on the wrong road.  Soon after I turned around and headed back for US 160 a deer leapt across the road so close to the SUV that I barely had time to hit the brakes and miss the animal. It had such beautiful, graceful action.

At the fourth stop light I turned north on the correct road, Piedra Road.  Rainstorms floated all around above me.  As I entered the foothills I could see that a very recent rain had soaked the sometimes-graveled dirt road.  A good, wide, two-lane road.  Pretty soon, the stretches without gravel became longer and the dirt became muddier.  In fact, 4titude got a good mud bath.  The mud was only about two inches deep but some small vehicle not far ahead of me had had wandering difficulties.  4titude never noticed the layer of mud over the firmer (clay?) base below.  I wondered if the mud would help his paint shine with health the way it supposedly helps human faces.  I caught up with the rain less than a half mile from the entrance to the Williams Creek Campground.  Not just a moderate rain, but lots of small hailstones clattered on 4titude’s metal.

When I arrived at site 36 around 2 PM a very light rain was still falling.  It soon diminished to sprinkles and I got out of the SUV and began setting up camp.  I took time to admire the views from this campsite.  To the southwest and the southeast I had views of two different sets of high mountain peaks and the heavy snow remaining on their tops.

Cc, Williams Cr CG, View from or at site 36, A2, 16june2019


The high mountain peaks to the southwest can barely be seen in this picture of site 36.

While the camp host was welcoming me a hummingbird flew past us.  It seemed to have a light green back.

I decided I did not need another meal today, so I brushed my teeth.  A mostly grey little bird with cinnamon cap perched on an aspen sapling and watched me.

Walking around in this campground, such as when nature called, was difficult.  The altitude was 8,100 feet.  The campground was set in a ponderosa pine and aspen forest that contained a few spruce trees, also.

The clouds had some blue spots and did not look particularly threatening so I set up table and laptop next to 4titude and his battery and caught up on typing my notes.  Just as I finished and got things put in shelter a few sprinkles fell.  And that was all.

I chatted with an RV couple.  They were natives of Colorado.  They said the Governor of Colorado named the remaining boulder (near the Dunton turnoff north of Dolores) “Memorial Rock” because it fell on Memorial Day weekend.


July 17, Monday

Temperature 48 degrees at 4:30 AM.  I could hear Williams Creek roaring away.  I had not noticed the sound yesterday; probably thought it was wind in the trees, but there was no wind til an hour or so after sunrise today.  I had to use the key to open 4titude’s door again.  Sun hit my hot-cocoa-drinking back at 6 AM.  Low temp 43.  Along with sun came a light breeze.

My main interest today was to check out the half-mile-long Piedra Falls Trail.  The eight-mile drive on a one-and-a-half-lane mostly dirt road was interesting.  The road went over a low ridge that separated Williams Creek and Piedra River.

I parked at the trailhead and picked my way over fist-sized boulders and strands of creek on the flood plain before I found the trailhead.  I took some pictures.  Grey-bottomed clouds were gathering overhead so I decided to negotiate the eight miles of dirt while it was still dry.  It was a one to one-and-a-half-lane wide road in a Ponderosa pine forest.  Later, I found a statement in some Forest Service info about the falls which said that the road was not to be driven when rainy and wet.  My feelings, exactly.

The temperature was 62 at 9:30 AM.  As I started 4titude a deer in the road briefly stared me down then stepped into the foliage.  A little farther on I saw a bluejay.  The lower part of its body was a brilliant blue; wings and upper torso were black.

Back on Piedra Road a marmot ran across the road.  It stopped at the edge of the road and looked at 4titude.  The animals had a brown body and a black face.  As I approached the edge of Pagosa Springs I aw a half-grown fawn cross the road.  It had white spots on its back.  No mother was visible.

I set off to run a couple errands in Pagosa Springs.  While driving I met with some local residents.  The first were two yearling Black Angus males that were standing beside Piedra Road.  One of them decided to cross right in front of me.  Hardly gave me room to stop, even tho I was going very slowly.  A short distance farther there was a group of a half dozen Black Angus males in the edge of the trees.  All had bright red-orange tags hanging in their ears.  Farther down, in the meadows, were white-faced red and white-faced dark brown to black mommas and babies.  In several meadows.  All wore bright ear tags.  In another forest-lined part of the road three deer were grazing beside the road.  They gracefully leapt the fence and stood in the edge of the forest and watched 4titude and me as we slowly ambled by.

The road was dry today but the clouds looked very wet.  I stopped and took a number of pictures of the gorgeous mountain scenery.

I bought water and lip balm at the City Market and headed back for camp.  Made more frequent stops to take pictures.

A strong wind came brrring around right at 2 PM, lunch time.  I retreated into the tent and closed the door.  The temperature dropped.  I had been sitting in shirt sleeves but I began adding layers.  Winds stopped after an hour.  I went outside and ate my 2 PM meal at 4 PM.

Cc, Williams Cr CG, View from or at site 36, A1, 16june2019

View from tent vestibule.

I took a murder mystery by Turo that I had finished to Mary, a neighbor camper.  She told me she was/is a lawyer and that she enjoyed reading books by Scott Turo because he is the only murder mystery writer who writes courtroom scenes correctly.

When variety Is Harmful

Ca, Williams Cr CG, 4titude and first mud bath, A1, 16june2019

After I returned from my June 2019 camping trip in which my Toyota 4Runner took a mud bath I removed everything that was loose from the SUV and drove the vehicle to a self car wash that I had located on the Internet.  It was the closest one to my home.  I am not mechanically nor computerly oriented but I had used a self car wash a couple years ago and learned the basics.  The one I had used asked for one dollar bills to get water running and quarters to feed the vacuum machine.

At this day’s self car wash I confidently studied the machine that took the money.  It was set up to receive only quarters.  The info on the machine suggested beginning with two dollars’ worth, so I entered eight quarters.  Then I grabbed the hose that would emit the water and pressed the handle.  Nothing happened.  I put it on its holder and chose a hose with a brush on the end.  No water came out.  I tried both hoses a couple of times, then, frustrated, got inside the SUV to drive away.

Just at that moment a young man drove into another of the cubicles.  I walked over to his car and asked him how to make the car wash work.  He was reluctant to talk to me and his body language moved around in a furtive manner.  He said he had not used this car wash before but after looking around (he was still seated in his car) he suggested that the row of “buttons” on the front of the coin-accepting machine were what operated the water emission.  There was a large board on the wall of each cubicle that explained each of the choices listed on the coin machine and I had studied the large wall board.  The same choices were simply painted onto the coin machine’s face and I had not thought of them as computer “buttons.”  There was no instruction saying to push the button for the operation you wanted (pre-soak, rinse, etc.).

I walked back into the cubicle where my SUV waited, pressed a button for “pre-wash,” grabbed the hose, pressed the handle, and nothing came out.  I walked back over to the coin machine and looked it over.  The digital readout that had added up the quarters I deposited now said that my time was up and the field read 0 (zero).  The machine and its owner had stolen my money!

The young man drove away.  Either he had stopped in the cubicle to do something shady where no one could see him or he had decided he did not want to waste time and money trying to figure out how to operate this self car wash.

I wasn’t interested in possibly losing more money while trying to figure out how to get water from that self car wash set-up and I drove to the second choice on my list.  As I drove onto the property I noticed that it was not self-wash but that a wash job cost only seven dollars and the vacuum was free.  I had figured on spending six dollars plus cost of vacuum cleaner at a self car wash to get all the mud and other stuff off the vehicle, so seven dollars and “free vacuum” plus not having to figure out how to operate things sounded like a good deal to me.

I paid my money to an attendant and was surprised when the second attendant, the one standing at the opening to the car washing building, did not ask me to get out of the SUV.  He did ask me to get my left-hand wheels on a track, put the car in neutral, take my foot off the brake, and stay put.  When I realized I was going thru the car wash along with the SUV my brain started to panic but it was too late to do anything except go thru the terrifying experience.

I managed to calm my brain down (but not all the way down) and I watched what was very slowly going by.  The sprays of water and the brushes of rollers at the beginning of the process were not too upsetting.  But when soapy foam obstructed my views out all of the vehicle’s windows the panic in my mind began to rise again.  I told my mind to think of this as a ride at Disney World and my mind reminded me that I do not go on such rides because they are too terrifying.

Every once in a while the SUV stopped completely.  My mind kept telling me the machinery was broken and maybe I should get out and walk out of the building til things were working again.  Luckily, I didn’t.  Hours later I realized the track had stopped moving each time a new car got on behind me.

Finally, sprays of water began removing the obstructing soapy foam.  I could see again and could see that all was going well.

When my SUV began to leave the building a green light came on.  I figured that meant I was off the track and I should step on the gas (lightly), make a sharp right turn, and park at a vacuum machine.  When parked, I stepped out of the SUV with a rag in hand to remove any remaining water drops from the windows.  I noticed that there was still a light film of dirt on the vehicle.  The young man who took my money had told me that if the vehicle did not come out clean they would allow me one free ride thru the building.

So I went thru the unpleasant experience again.  The loss of vision due to soapy foam was just as frightening.

This time there was not much dirt film left on the SUV after the experience, except for clods hanging off the bottom of the narrow “running board” and the entire hatch-back rear end.  I wiped down the glass and metal, then vacuumed the inside.  The SUV had been on several camping trips in the couple years since its last vacuuming and there was a lot of gravel, pine needles, pieces of dead grass and other forbs, and dirt on the inside.  Vacuuming took me at least a half an hour, maybe longer.

I had been gone an hour and a half when I arrived back home.  I used Windex window cleaner and a rag to induce a few small spots to let go of the glass windshield.  I soon realized they weren’t bug remains but were tree sap.  They were dry enuf that, between my fingernail and the Windex, I was able to remove them.

I Windexed the insides of all the windows then I took a clean rag and Windex and wiped down all non-cloth interior.  I have found that Windex is an excellent dust-deterrent liquid for plastic (as good as a spray can of End-Dust).  I use it to dust plasticized and painted things in my house, such as kitchen appliances, plastic-treated typing desk, and computer desk, painted bookcase, the railing to the stairs, etc.

The last chore was to remove the thin, but visible, layer of dust (which had now been converted to a thin layer of streaky mud) from the outside of the back hatch “door” and the rubber(?) top of the bumper.  Also, to remove some muddy streaks from the back window.

Finally, after two and one half hours the SUV sparkled inside and out.  I began returning the loose items to the vehicle.  The condo owner who has the spot two down from me under the carport had rolled into his spot with a crunching sound of front bumper.  He knew his car rode so low that the bumper could not clear the timber barrier but he had been distracted by a problem he was mulling over and did not stop in time.  He tried to back off but for some reason the front bumper began pulling loose from the car.

After getting his eye down to car and timber he was able to see that the fender had driven up onto a bolt and washer that held the timber to a concrete piece below.  The bolt was caught in the fender.  He drove the car forwards an inch to loosen the fender from the bolt, then he asked to borrow a jack.

I opened the door to the little cubicle where the jack was stored, pulled out a small bag of tools, and we looked inside.  There was a pneumatic jack jammed to the side.  Its top had been partly raised so the jack would not roll around in the little boxy area.

My neighbor began unscrewing the jack to bring its top down all the way.  After some frustrating minutes he realized the top was rising up higher.  He then turned the screw backwards, what is backwards in American culture, and the top of the jack lowered.  As he pulled the jack out of its compartment I explained to my neighbor that Toyota 4Runners are completely manufactured and assembled in Japan.  At least were in 2014 when I bought this one.  I suggested that perhaps the Japanese turn all their screws the opposite direction than Americans do.

While my neighbor was finding the best place to set the jack somewhere in front of the front wheel under his car, I finished reloading my SUV.  When the jack was in a place that did not bend the side of the “plastic” car (as my neighbor called his Volvo) the neighbor drove backwards a few inches.  He successfully got the bumper off the timber barrier and he had not injured my jack.

After we got the jack handle apart and all the tools back into the little tool compartment, it had been three hours since I had set off to give my 4Runner a good bath.

Ca, Williams Cr CG, 4titude cleaned up after first mud bath, A2, 16june2019

Why do self car washes  have to operate in a variety of ways?




Bird and Animal Adventures, the end of the trip


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.

Ch, Williams Cr CG, Aa, breakfast cooked by Leza, 19june2019 by Leza Mesiah

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.

Ch, Williams Cr CG, Ag, scenery along FS640 to Williams Creek Reservoir, 19june2019

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.

Ch, Williams Cr CG, Aj3, FS640 turnoff to Williams Creek Reservoir, 19june2019

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?”

Ch, Williams Cr CG, Ap, Angel and Leza Mesiah, entrance to Williams Creek CG, 19june2019

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.

Ch, Williams Cr CG, Ad, Leza cooking dinner, 19june2019 by Betty Chern-Hughes

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.

Cj, Williams Cr CG, Aa3, Williams Creek CG, Sylvia Lee, Leza Mesiah singing at site 36, 20june2019 by Chern-Hughes

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.

Ch, Williams Cr CG, Af, Sylvia Lee on FS640 to Williams Creek Reservoir, 19june2019 by Leza Mesiah

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.

Ck, Bc, toilet at Poison Peak Trailhead on spur road off FS640, 20june2019

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 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.

Cg, Williams Creek CG, site 36 Af, Lil Sis with vestibule, 18june2019

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.

Cl, West Dolores CG, Ab, 4titude and Small Boy at site 16, 21june2019

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,

Cm, C1c, Navajo Res., cliffs just west of Kayenta AZ, 22june2019

Cm, A5, Baby Rocks Navajo Res. east of Kayenta AZ, 22june2019

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.

Co, San Francisco Peaks, Aa2, from the north, 22june2019

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.


Friends Arrive

July 17, Monday

Temperature 48 degrees at 4:30 AM.  I could hear Williams Creek roaring away.  I had not noticed the sound yesterday; probably thought it was wind in the trees, but there was no wind til an hour or so after sunrise today.  I had to use the key to open 4titude’s door again.  Sun hit my hot-cocoa-drinking back at 6 AM.  Low temp 43.  Along with sun came a light breeze.

My main interest today was to check out the half-mile-long Piedra Falls Trail.  The eight-mile drive on a one-and-a-half-lane mostly dirt road was interesting.  The road went over a low ridge that separated Williams Creek and Piedra River.

Ce, Piedra Falls Trail, Aa, Trailhead Aa2, 17june2019

I parked at the trailhead and picked my way over fist-sized boulders and strands of creek on the flood plain before I found the trailhead.  I took some pictures.  In the picture above you can see the flooding, vicious, roaring Williams Creek.

Ce, Piedra Falls Trail, Aa, Trailhead Ab, 17june2019

Grey-bottomed clouds were gathering overhead so I decided to negotiate the eight miles of dirt while it was still dry.  Later, I found a statement in some Forest Service info about the falls which said that the road was not to be driven when rainy and wet.  My feelings, exactly.

I set off to run a couple errands in Pagosa Springs.  While driving I met with some local residents.  The first were two yearling Black Angus males that were standing beside Piedra Road.  One of them decided to cross right in front of me.  Hardly gave me room to stop, even tho I was going very slowly.  A short distance farther there was a group of a half dozen Black Angus males in the edge of the trees.  All had bright red-orange tags hanging in their ears.  Farther down, in the meadows, were white-faced red and white-faced dark brown to black mommas and babies.  In several meadows.  All wore bright ear tags.

Cf, Piedra Road, Ab, Scenery pastoral, 17june2019

In another forest-lined part of the road three deer were grazing beside the road.  They gracefully leapt the fence and stood in the edge of the forest and watched 4titude and me as we slowly ambled by.

Cf, Piedra Road, Am, Scenery, 17june2019

The road was dry today but the clouds looked very wet.  I stopped and took a number of pictures of the gorgeous mountain scenery.

Cf, Piedra Road, Ai, Scenery, 17june2019

I bought water and lip balm at the City Market and headed back for camp.  Made more frequent stops to take pictures.

Cf, Piedra Road, Af, Scenery, 17june2019

June 18, Tuesday

46 degrees at 4:30 AM.  Low went down to 42.    Once again, the clicker would not open 4titude’s door and I had to use the key.  Possibly the almost-near-freezing temperatures were too cold for the clicker and at the time I first tried to open a car door I had not been wearing pants and pocket long enuf for the key fob to warm up.  Also, the pencils did not want to give up their pseudo-graphite and it was hard to see what I wrote on crossword puzzles, so I gave up on pencil puzzles and I read books during breakfast.

While I was preparing the first cup of hot cocoa a hummingbird flew in my face.  It could see the edges of red sweatshirt peeking up from under the layers of clothing over the sweatshirt.  The bird’s neck was an iridescent purple.  A robin settled on a lower, leafless branch of a ponderosa pine tree near my hot cocoa table and took a good look at me.  It saw no potential bird food and flew away.  A little wren-sized bird hopped past the front of the tent.  These wild birds are domesticated enuf to know humans leave food scraps around.

Dew continued “falling” during pre-sunrise time and things got damp — outer jacket, open book and magazine pages, table surfaces, pot and cup surfaces, diary writing paper, and the outer blanket I was wrapped in.

Cg, Williams Creek CG, site 36 Aa, hot cocoa set-up during pre-sunrise hours, 18june2019

Foto of my pre-sunrise hot cocoa set-up.  The two blankets on my chair are heavy and warm.  When sitting still I put on the brown jacket.

After things dried and my fingers warmed somewhat I caught up on my typing.  Very few clouds in the sky.

Now I am going to try to attach her vestibule to Little Sister.  This whole set-up is new and I have never used a vestibule that was attached separately to the rainfly.  Wish me luck.

Cg, Williams Creek CG, site 36 Ac, Lil Sis without vestibule, 18june2019

Little Sister without vestibule.  Half of muddy 4titude is visible.

I got the vestibule attached to the door area of the tent but getting the short above-door pole in place was going to be necessary to prevent rain from falling between tent and vestibule.  The short pole was part of the tent and held the narrow canopy straight out.  I was not strong enuf to affix this pole.

Cg, Williams Creek CG, site 36 Ae, Lil Sis with vestibule, 18june2019

There is one doorway on each side of the vestibule.  The end (you can see a small bit of the white end) does not have a door.

At 9:30 AM, just as I finished hammering the last stake for the vestibule, the two camp hostesses motored up in their “golf” cart.  Sue (the one who seemed to do most of the PR work) and Jan were short and the same size in girth.  They were quite q bit overweight but appeared to be healthy and Sue, at least, was very strong.  She was able to convince the nylon of the front of the tent to stretch enuf so she could get the short pole in place.  I hoped that the nylon would stretch permanently over the next few days so that I would be able to push the pole into place myself after this trip.

Small grey-bottomed clouds were now floating overhead.  Sun was hot; shade was cold.  I put back on a couple of layers and opted for the shade of the vestibule.  In a short while I heard a few wet drops hit tent and vestibule tops.  But only a few.  Blue sky came around, also briefly.

I tried to erect the dining canopy I had bought during a trip last summer.  It was supposed to snap into place but apparently needed at least two people to encourage it to do so.  In fact, the directions said to grab the leg joints just above the knees to put them into place for snapping themselves.  Notice that the instruction was to grab more than one pole at the same time.  I danced around and around, working on first this one pole or two poles at the same time, but the canopy would not snap into shape.  It began sprinkling again so I dropped the apparatus onto the ground, retreated under the vestibule, and watched the sprinkles turn into small hail stones.

During another very brief lull at 10 AM I set up the folding table I had bought for the dining canopy and arranged it against the one non-door wall of the vestibule.  It fit perfectly.  At times when it will be too windy or rainy I can heat water for a hot drink, even tho I would not be able to cook meals in the vestibule because the odor of the food would sink into the nylon and the vestibule would become ripe enuf that it would attract animals, including bears.

Thunder was getting closer and closer.  The vestibule did not feel as confining as the tent.  It was pleasant to sit under its protection and hear the drops of light rain on the nylon.

At 12 noon there was still gentle rain and the temperature was only 62 degrees. A gleam of lightning danced across my crossword puzzle.  I felt sorry for the pickup pulling a pop-up-tent camper that arrived just as the rain was picking up volume.

At 12:45 the temperature had dropped to 58 degrees.  There was a brief let-up in the rain, then I just made it back from the toilet when it began raining a little harder for a brief period.

Betty and Leza arrived about 1 PM.  Under no rain and light sprinkles they got their tent set up in site 37, directly across from me in site 36.

Cc, Williams Cr CG, View of site 37 from site 36, A3, 16june2019

Site 37, empty.  Picnic table on far left.  Parking space looks kind of rugged.  Leza erected the tent on the grass at the end of the parking space, on an incline so that if it rained the rainwater would drain away and not pool under her tent.  The good-looking somewhat graveled dirt road is the campground road.

The temperature was now 57 degrees.

Then they helped me set up my cooking canopy.  They said they had a friend with a similar contraption and she could not set it up alone.  It was an impossible task.

I learned that Leza loved to cook.  That was why they had shopped at WalMart this morning in Pagosa Springs.  Betty, Leza, I, and black poodle Angel ate lunch at their picnic table, sandwiches they had bought at a deli.  As we were finishing eating off-and-on showers began.  We enjoyed the falling droplets from the inside of my vestibule.

Cg, Williams Creek CG, sites 10-11, A5, Sylvia Lee, Williams Creek, 18june2019

Me beside over-the-banks, roaring Williams “Creek” behind sites 10 and 11.

The weather moderated and we walked down to sites 10 and 11 that sat right beside Williams Creek which was roaring over its banks.

Cg, Williams Creek CG, sites 10-11, A1, Williams Creek, 18june2019

Angel, Leza, and Betty beside Williams “Creek.”

On our walk back up to camp, blue sky and sun began to come out.  We walked a total of about one-and-a-half miles, walking very slowly.  It was difficult to move, especially upwards, at the altitude.

Around her neck Angel wore a collar with shining rhinestones and covering most of it, a couple of kerchiefs, one of which was orange.  While Betty and I and Angel were sitting at my campsite (Angel was standing) the purple-necked green hummingbird flew to less than a foot from Angel’s neck to see if the orange was a flower.

Leza  joined us briefly then we all went to bed.  Dog and owners were exhausted.



Lovely Scenery, Beginning of southern Colorado Trip

June 14, Friday, Flag Day

In this essay I will be stating the time in Arizona’s Mountain Standard Time (MST).  Colorado is also on MST but is on daylight savings time during the warm seasons; Arizona is not.  I will be keeping my bed and eating times close to my usual habit, following Arizona’s time.

It was 3:32 AM when I drove away from my condo in Phoenix.  4titude’s readings were odometer 77,164,  temperature 82 degrees.  A couple days earlier the high temperature had been 112.  Mornings were running in the mid-70s.  It was going to be good to get away for a few days.

I stopped at the McDonald’s on US 89 in Flagstaff to have breakfast.  Temperature was 61 degrees and the air was windy.  I hastily pulled on a sweatshirt.

The drive so far had been noteworthy.  When the sun came up it hit straight in our eyes.  All traffic immediately slowed from 75 mph to 45 mph til the road veered slightly and moved the sun.  On I-17 I had smelled two skunks.  Apparently the small, mostly-black animals were not good at assessing and dodging vehicular traffic at dawn and dusk, much less during the night, and the traffic could not see their dark bodies.  I stopped at Sunset Point to stretch my legs, etc.  Shortly after leaving that rest stop I saw a totally burned up semi and trailer on the southbound outer lane, or maybe off on the shoulder.  In a few minutes the Phoenix radio station KTAR said the trailer had been full of eggs.  Nothing said about why the truck caught on fire.  A mystery of current history.  There were still fire trucks and police vehicles lined up behind the carcass.  One lane of traffic was being allowed thru on the inside lane.  There was no backed up traffic.  When I checked 4titude’s behind I noticed my gear had settled in the rear and I now had a larger viewing area out the back window.

For breakfast I ordered a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese McGriddle.  The cost was $5.52 for something about the size of half a breakfast.  I pulled out a five dollar bill and counted out some change.  The clerk did not know how to count the change to check for accuracy. Seven pennies, one quarter, 2 nickels and a dime.  He started by counting the 7 pennies, then he did not know how to add the other coins to the 7 cents.  I showed him how to arrange the change into piles of ten cents, five pennies to go with the quarter, and count the other two pennies separately.

Later I had some peanuts to cover the rest of breakfast calories.

No long after leaving Flagstaff I was on the Navajo Reservation.  At Cameron I stopped and took pictures of the new and old bridges side-by-side across the dry Little Colorado River.

Aa, Cameron AZ, Bridges over Little Colorado River Aa, 14june2019

The temperature was now 75 degrees.  I took the sweatshirt off. When I was a kid we drove across the old bridge.  It was very narrow, high above the river (which was running), and was scary.  We drove similar bridges over the Mississippi River and other large rivers on trips in late 1940s and early 1950s.  Today’s wider bridges are not so scary.  While reminiscing I remembered that dad had stopped somewhere on US 89 and had taken pictures of two cute Navajo children in native dress.  He gave them a quarter.  Their parents had left the children along the roadside to earn money for the family, and the parents had moved out of sight.

After passing thru Cameron I soon left US 60 and turned onto US 160 east.  All of a sudden the countryside changed color from dry light-brown grass to being mostly filled with green shrubs and forbs.  Much more cheerful.

At Tuba City I stopped at the Tuvi Travel Center to stretch my legs, etc.  The café portion was still closed off by a steel grate.  It looked as tho the café had never been used.  Maybe because there was a Denny’s Restaurant across the street.  The convenience store, which took up a smaller area, was full and thriving.  It looked more prosperous than last year.

Back on the highway I soon came upon a small SUV going very slowly.  Its warning lights were flashing.  The shoulder was narrow and the small SUV had part of its body on the shoulder and part in the driving lane.  I turned on my warning lights and followed the SUV until I could pass.  As I gunned past the vehicle and started to return to the right lane I jerked the steering wheel back to the left to miss running over a bicyclist.  The rider was dressed in skin-tight bicycling togs and had a number pinned on the shirt.  I passed eleven more such combinations of SUV or van and bicyclist.  I made a note to go on the Internet when I got home in a week and a half and see what the “Bicyclists on US 160 Navajo Reservation June 14, 2019” was all about.

Later:  I found the information at  It is an annual bicycle event held in honor of Lori Piestewa, a Hopi Indian who was the first Native American woman killed in combat.

I passed Elephant Legs without stopping.  They were on the other side of the highway and I already had pictures.

AZ Elephant Feet, A1b, 1july2013

(Foto from a previous year)

While negotiating traffic on US 160 I got a glimpse of an interesting Navajo family compound.  I saw houses, a Navajo hogan, and a white Plains Indian tent.

I stopped at my favorite bathroom in Kayenta but luckily for me it was closed for cleaning.  It was the last one in Kayenta so I continued driving.

I passed Baby Rocks.  They were on my side of the highway but I also had pictures of them.  Not far past Baby Rocks I had the good luck to see a brand-new Shell station and convenience store, restrooms, and laundry which opened about 4 months ago, the Dennehotso Market.  I parked in front of the convenience store.  Temperature was 85 degrees.  I took a 10-minute nap then went inside for leg-stretching, etc.  A young man, maybe 19 or 20 years old, asked me if I would give him a dollar for gas.  I shrugged him off.  There was a lovely mural of Baby Rocks on a wall.

Ab, Dennehotso mural Aa, 14june2019

The toilets flushed themselves!  When I came out of the restroom I said to the kid, “I come from the big city where panhandlers are wanting money for drugs and alcohol.  But I think you are honest.” and I handed him two dollars.  He gave the money to the clerk and told her which pump his car was parked beside.

Ac, Dennehotso T-shirt, A, 14june2019

I bought a decorated T-shirt and an ice-cream sandwich then sat on a bench outside and ate the ice cream treat.  When the young man finished pumping gas he walked over to me and thanked me again.  I asked him if he now had enuf gas to get him to his family’s home.  He indicated the place was quite close by.  I felt guilty for not giving him more money, but maybe he and his family did not need more than enuf to get him home.

From a short ways west of Kayenta all the way to Dennehotso the landscape had been fascinating.  Now the flat countryside widened out and was bounded by mesas.  Somewhat pretty but not awe-invoking.  Now the Chuska (Washington Pass) and Lukachukai Mountain ranges showed up as bumpy, blue, thick lines to the east.  On the horizon to the left the upper bits of the spires of Shiprock peeked over the horizon, then soon disappeared for good.  When the road angled to the northeast Sleeping Ute Mountain in Colorado became visible on the left, as well as the La Salle Mountains in southern Utah.

Then the San Juan Mountains, where I would spend the next two nights, appeared.  Their shoulders were covered with a lacy shawl of white draped perhaps as far down as the 10,000 foot elevation.

Just inside Cortez, Colorado I was disappointed to see that the Lotsa Pasta/Itsa Pizza restaurant was now a medical clinic.  Then pleasantly surprised to see that the restaurant had moved to new digs in mid town, diagonally across from the City Market grocery store.  They made their pizza dough from scratch.  Their food was delicious.

Filling 4titude’s stomach in Cortez made for good leg-stretching, etc.  Temperature was 84 degrees.

North of Dolores, shortly before the intersection with the West Dolores River road to Dunton, I was stopped by construction.  A huge boulder (maybe 20 feet on each side) had left a scar all the way down the hillside and had torn up a portion of state 145.

Be, State 145, Memorial Rock slide near Dunton turnoff Ad, 15june2019

One lane of traffic was being let thru when possible.

Both the Dolores and West Dolores Rivers were running over their banks.  They were strong, fast-moving muddy torrents.  Lots of late snow was melting each day.

At 2:08 PM I parked at Site 16 in the West Dolores Campground in the San Juan National Forest in Colorado.  Temperature 77 degrees.  Air breezy.

I learned from the camp host that five of the campground’s 18 camp sites had been closed yesterday by the Forest Service because they were too close to the river.

Ae, West Dolores CG site closed due to high water, Aa, 14june2019

Weather forecasts were for rain tomorrow and tomorrow night on the snow-covered peaks.  If that were to happen, a large amount of snow would melt immediately and come roaring down in a huge bulk.  Actually, the entire campground could end up under water.  I had no place to go until Sunday morning so I decided to stay at the campground.


June 15, Saturday

Birds chirped during the lengthy dawn and after.  There would have been more birds chirping if I’d had my hearing aids on.  I decided it was a wrong decision to have left them at home.  The temperature was 47 when I arose at 4:45 and went down to a low of 42.  It took the sun a long time to get down into this valley in which grew cold-altitude spruce and fir trees, plus an occasional ponderosa pine tree.  Altitude of the campground was only 7,800 feet.

Mr. Robin Redbreast, hopping on the ground, kept an eye on me as I took a morning leg-stretching walk around the campground.  Yesterday, I had been dizzy and stumbled the first few steps each time I got out of the car.  At camp I had been light-headed and sometimes dizzy while setting up the tent, probably due to the decreased oxygen pressure.  At first, I attributed all the symptoms to the fact that I no longer imbibed any caffeine to keep my brain awake, but I then decided these little problems were part of the aging process.  My body could no longer handle changes quickly.  I was now barely only 78 years old.  This morning I felt fine.

I spent the time while waiting for sunshine to reach my camp by drinking hot cocoa, reading a little, and watching the occasional bird and squirrel flit around the campground.  With gardening gloves on my hands, hot cocoa in my body, layers of shirts on my torso, and two heavy blankets encasing me in a chair I was completely warm, just barely.  All those things don’t work when the temperature falls below 40 degrees, and barely worked at 42.

My brand-new tent, Little Sister Agnes, was shorter and narrower, perhaps by a foot each direction, than Agnes had been, but I could stand up in the shorter tent, which was what mattered. Little Sister was rated as a 6-man tent as had her bigger sister.

I began today’s scenic driving at 9:48 AM.  The temperature was 68 degrees.

I drove about three miles south on the Dunton Road then turned west on FS 532.  FS 532 was much better graded and graveled than last year.  Probably because they’d had to funnel all traffic going from Dolores to Dunton, and points between, on this road for almost a week.  Immediately, an oak and aspen forest appeared on the south side of the road.  Would be very pretty in the fall.  I passed small meadows colored by masses of flowers:

Bb, FS Road 532 Ab, dandelion encrusted, 15june2019

bright yellow dandelion Taraxacum officinale,

Bc, FS532, Ac2, Dwarf Larkspur Delphinium Nuttallianum [D. Nelsoni], 15june2019

deep blue Dwarf Larkspur Delphinium Nuttallianum [D. Nelsoni],

Bc, FS532, Ac4, Dwarf Larkspur Delphinium Nuttallianum [D. Nelsoni] and Mule’s Ears Wyethia x. magma, 15june2019

and brilliant yellow Mule’s Ears Wyethia x. magma.  Gorgeous.  I stopped at each lovely bunch and took pictures.

At the end of FS 532 I turned right onto 526 to go see Groundhog Reservoir.  After leaving the national forest this road seemed to turn into Dolores County RD 31 or RD H.  At the next junction I took FS 533, AKA RD H or RD 31 (it was difficult to tell which way the signs were pointing).  At this junction was a sign saying that Groundhog Reservoir was 5 miles away.  It lied.  The distance was 8 or 9 miles.

Bd, Groundhog Reservoir Bc, toilet and dandelions and 4titude,15june2019

I arrived at the reservoir around 11 AM.  Temperature was 64 degrees.  Light rain was falling on high mountain peaks.  Could smell rain in the area; it smelled good.

I drove back south on FS 532 and had lunch at McDonald’s in Cortez.  Without thinking things thru I ordered two double quarter-pounder burgers because I knew one would not fill me up.  Only while I was stuffing the last few bites into my overly-stretched stomach did I realize I had just eaten a pound of beef (weighed when raw).

After passing the boulder and the road re-building area on state 145 I parked beside the road and walked back to take pictures.  Road crew not working on Saturday.  The large, square boulder was just downhill from the road.  The camp hosts (Nancy and Jim) had told me it was the smaller of two boulders that had cleared a path down the hillside and smashed up the highway.  The larger boulder had been blown to smithereens by the highway crew and was being used to create new road base.  Old road had been shored up enuf to provide one lane of traffic.

Be, State 145, Memorial Rock slide near Dunton turnoff Ac, 15june2019

Rubble under caterpillar was from larger boulder.  The boulders had fallen off a cliff near the top of the ridge.  Nancy said the boulders had fallen on Memorial Day, May 31st, two weeks after the camp hosts had arrived and set up their RV in the campground.  She was grey-haired enuf to remember when Memorial Day was always May 31st.  Memorial Day this year had been Monday, May 27th.

On the Dunton road I passed thru off-and-on showers.  Arrived back at camp around 3:10 PM.