This blog was reposted to include photos. Due to lack of WIFI and cellular, I wasn’t able to download any pictures while at City of Rocks.
Sunday, December 19 – We woke to a beautiful morning and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast while watching the sun rise. On our way to the Visitor’s Center, we stopped to chat with Brad, sleeping in a van, and his friend Bart (and his wife), traveling in their RV, from Wisconsin. They have been coming to City of Rocks for many years and never tire of it. They gave us some good advice on where to hike and also some tips on other parks and campgrounds to visit in Arizona and California during our winter travels.
We enjoyed a full day of exploring City of Rocks State Park. The more we saw, the more amazed we were with the creative way the park incorporated the unique rock formations into private campsites. As we were checking out other campsites, we made mental notes of which ones we would request the next time we ventured this way (and we definitely want to return). The day was sunny with no clouds to speak of, and a cool 53 degrees and minimal wind. We climbed in an around boulders most of the day, enjoying the paths along the formations, leading from one rock cropping to the next. Sometimes it felt like we were on another planet. We would definitely return to this park, as we have only touched the surface – there are many more places to hike (and bike). We hope to see an amazing night sky tonight, if we can stay awake long enough.
Saturday, December 18 – We had nice, scenic drive from Caballo State Park to City of Rocks State Park. We passed several “wind farms” with wind turbines lined up in rows, like soldiers. This reminded us of hiking the PCT and passing thru Tehachapi, California where we walked under the turbines, with the “whop, whop” noise almost deafening. We also passed some “solar farms” with giant size solar panels lined up to face the sun. It is no wonder the resources are being used to harness the power of the sun – there is plenty of it. Driving through the quaint town of Hatch, we couldn’t believe the abundance of bags (some quite large) of dry red pepper chile for sale…at every store, shop and corner. We would have stopped to buy some if we weren’t in Zephyr, towing the Jeep (trying to park on the narrow streets would have been nuts).
We were awe struck as we made our way down the to the City of Rock’s Visitor’s Center, admiring the incredible rock structures which were formed of volcanic ash 30 million years ago and sculpted by wind and water into rows of monolithic blocks. Our campsite (#14 Gemini) was awesome, set in front of two magnificent boulders with two small boulders wedged in between them and a young tree determined to thrive in the alter-like space. This is our first real “boondocking” experience, in that we are without electric, water or sewer hook-ups. With the overcast sky, we may not be able to rely on our solar panels for electricity. This will give us a nice taste of things to come, as we plan to do a lot of boondocking in the Arizona desert to take advantage of free Bureau of Land Management (BLM) camping space. Sadly, it was cloudy and overcast today, and windy to boot. It would have made an excellent star gazing opportunity due to the darkness, except for the clouds.
Friday, December 17 – We left the coach at 9am, headed for Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway and didn’t return until after dark. The trail took us through Gila National Forest with curvy roads climbing up to elevations of 8,000 feet. The views of the ever-changing landscape were breathtaking. We were looking for Forest Road 150, which was an off-road route thru the forest. When we arrived at the start of 150, Fester turned to me and said, “okay – you drive”. Mind you, this was a gravel, sometimes dirt road with many hair-pin turns that dropped off into steep valleys.
Almost as soon as we started climbing, we saw a single roadrunner dart across the road in front of us. It turns out that the roadrunner is New Mexico’s state bird. From the driver’s seat window, I heard some “gobbles” and then we saw a flock of wild turkeys foraging along the hillside. According the the state’s wildlife management group, this was the Merriam’s turkey, which is predominantly a mountain and coniferous forest species, with the widest distribution and is the most numerous turkey subspecies in the state. We also saw, what we initially thought were three young feral hogs (boar). Upon further investigation, I discovered they were javelina, which are only distantly related to pigs and much smaller that boar. This is the most wildlife we’ve seen since we started our trip… all in a matter of hours.
The road was very narrow in spots, with many washboards that had us bouncing and skidding across the road. It was a blast at the wheel, and I could feel my confidence grow the further we drove. Fortunately, we didn’t meet any oncoming traffic or it would have been a difficult situation because there was only room for one vehicle. This off-road adventure took us three hours and by the end, I was exhausted from concentrating so much and Fester was tired of holding on (LOL). Thursday, December 16 was covered in the last blog.
Wednesday, December 15 – We took a ride to visit the Caballo State Park campground, which is just down the road from us. The campground seemed smaller than ours, but there were a few RVs and campers parked at sites close to the lake. While we liked the idea of being close to the lake, we are happy to be at our campground because there are more places to walk and/or ride our bikes. As we were leaving that campground, we slowed down for a cat that ran across the road. Fester called out to the woman walking down the road, asking if it were her cat. With a big grin on her face, she replied “she sure is, my cat likes to bring me her treasures (mice)”. The woman, named Susan, is the first real “nomad” we’ve met so far. In her mid-70’s, her face aged by years in the sun, Susan wasn’t wearing her dentures, but that didn’t stop her from giving us an endearing, toothless smile as she told us about herself. She’s originally from the area and now lives in her camper van with her cat, travelling among local state parks. She’s indeed a happy camper and very proud that she purchased an annual state park membership, so even if she doesn’t overnight at a campground (costs $), she still has access to all the facilities at these parks, including restrooms, and showers. Susan was happy to give us advise on campgrounds and sites in the area that we should look into. Her advice led us to make reservations at the nearby City of Rocks State Park campground, which is known for its incredible volcanic rock formations and sculptured rock columns. Susan even threw in some trivia. She told us the origins of the name of the nearby town, “Truth or Consequences” which was originally named Hot Spring. The change of name is credited to Ralph Edwards who hosted a radio quiz program on NBC Radio named “Truth or Consequences.” In March 1950, Ralph promised to air this show from a town that would change its name to match the name of the program. There you have it.