Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Trail Through the Centuries --- May 28, 2015

 Hello!  I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted….no internet…more on that as we move along.  (I’m posting this from a side trip I took today where there’s a good signal – the side trip will be another post.)  This will be long post as there isn’t much of a way to cut it in half....and no proofreading time!

After two months still roaming around Arizona after leaving my winter spot in Yuma, I’m finally in another state.  New Mexico!  The Land of Enchantment.

I left McHood Park in Winslow Monday, May 25th, heading to Gallup, NM….only a 2 hour drive.  I decided to stop in Gallup  (right on I-40) instead of going the back roads to the new site for a couple of reasons.  There were a few things I needed and Home Depot, WalMart and a Cracker Barrel are all next door to each other….very convenient for shopping and for a parking lot sleep over.  The only thing I couldn’t find was Wi-Fi.  It was down at McDonalds and my free wi-fi app didn’t pick up any other possibilities except in hotels, also nearby, but I couldn’t reach them from the parking lots.  Internet is my biggest (and most expensive) stress in life!  AND I dropped my cell phone and this is what I’m dealing with for another year until I’m eligible for a new phone (unless I want to pay $600 for a new one – that’s not going to happen!)  Needless to say, it’s very difficult to see anything on it.  It’s all a racket, if you ask me!

The drive from Winslow over to Gallup was uneventful and not too scenic, although some mesas started cropping up....through the windshield... 

Mostly, it is flat land with sign after sign advertising Native American wares.  The area is surrounded by reservations and the bulk of the population is Native American here. 

So, we get into Gallup, do those errands and end up spending the night behind Cracker Barrel.  Not optimal, but it’s what you have to do sometimes in this crazy RV life.  It serves the purpose.  Woke up early to the sound of food delivery trucks and decided to just get going to the new site after getting gas.  No point in sitting around the ol’ Cracker Barrel parking lot.  The new site was just an hour or so away and it was a pretty morning.  We’re at the higher elevations again (6000’), so low 70’s prevail during the day.  Perfect!

We’re on two different highways out of Gallup to get to the site.  Rt. 602 goes south and dead ends into Rt. 53 after about 35 miles.  We take a left (east) on 53 for another 25 miles.  A lot of this area is the Zuni Reservation.  There isn’t much to see until a few mesas pop up.  I had 5 bars of Verizon service part of the way but as we got closer to the site, it diminishes intermittent one bar. 

Now for the unveiling….where we ended up!

El Morro National Monument
Operated by the National Park Service

There is so much history surrounding El Morro!  I’ll get more into those details in a few minutes.  First, the campground.  Until 2013 there was a fee for camping in the nine available sites.  Now, it’s FREE for seven days.  Right up my alley!  We drive up the lane towards the campground and this is the view....

Not too shabby!  Like many campgrounds, it’s a loop with sites on each side.  The name of the loop is intriguing! is very appropriate!  I've seen a lot of "big sky" starry nights, but NOTHING has compared to this.  Millions and millions of stars....probably every constellation could be spotted if I knew more about astrology.

We went around the loop once to preview the sites.  Hmmmmmmm….just about every one is taken or won’t accommodate my size rig.  I had been holding my breath for days that it wouldn’t be full. Several tenters were taking up the spaces, along with some small campers.  There’s a 27’ limit….I’m about 29.5’ with the cargo rack on the back.  With no other viable choices, I finally had to pull into the last site - #9.  WAY not level!  Cab nose pointing down quite a bit.  Not so good.  But, we’ll try it for awhile.

We hopped out and surveyed our site in more detail.  It was actually really nice if it wasn’t for the bad slant. It was really suited for tenting….that area, behind the trees, was totally flat.   Decided to get some fresh air right off and take a walk back out toward the entrance before setting up camp…Nikko needed a walk and I needed to see if I could pick up a cell signal.  His walk was by far the more successful of the two objectives.

We could see the El Morro rock formation in the distance when we walked to the end of the loop…pretty cool!  And, we could see it through the pine trees, too.

On the way back, the camper that was parked in site #8, somewhat across from us but not directly, was heading out.  I stopped them and YAY! they were departing for good!  Their site was a nice one AND level!  We quickly made our way back to the RV and relocated!  Good thing I hadn’t set up camp yet!  We backed in and it’s perfect!  And HUGE!  Two picnic tables, a really large ground grill and no one on either side.  In fact, there’s a big field on one side.  There’s a potable water spigot right across the lane and rest rooms behind us just up a little hill, and bear proof trash receptacles.  Yes, there are black bears around here!  And deer and elk and several other indigenous animals. 

Now some info about El Morro. If you are not into history, just look at the pictures!  And what I’m writing is a very, very brief historical overview of the area.  On a main east-west trail, dating from antiquity, rises this great sandstone promontory with a pool of water at its base.  The Zuni Indians, whose Puebloan ancestors lived here, call it Atsinna – “place of writings on the rock”.  The Spaniards called it El Morro – “The Headland”.  Anglo-Americans called it “Inscription Rock”.  Over the centuries those who traveled this trail stopped to camp at the shaded oasis beneath these cliffs.   They left the carved evidence of their passage – symbols, names, dates, and fragments of their stories that register the cultures and history intermingled on the rock. 

So, first we have The Puebloans, the ancient villagers, who first inhabited El Morro.  The Atsinna Ruins are atop El Morro and date to the late 1200’s….but they were abandoned after only about 75 years.  Atsinna and other nearby sites continue to be sacred places for the Zunis. 

Next, The Spaniards enter the area.  Explorers Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, Antonio de Espejo and Don Juan de Onate are known to have passed through El Morro.  On March 11, 1583, Espejo recorded his stop at a place he called El Estanque de Penol or “the pool at the great rock”.  In 1598, Onate officially colonized New Mexico.  However, his efforts proved fruitless after bringing 400 colonists, 10 Franciscans and 7000 head of stock north out of Mexico due to hard winters, lack of food and the great distance from their homeland.  However, during one of his expeditions looking for better settlements, Onate inscribed his name at El Morro on April 16, 1605 – the first known European inscription on the rock.  Over scores of years, there followed many, many more Spanish inscriptions by governors, soldiers, and priests as they took the El Morro route to Zuni and other western pueblos. 

Finally, The Americans, as they were expanding westward, also used this main trail….primarily emigrants to California.  One group, escorted by a company of dragoons, passed through in 1849.  Another party that same year robbed the hospitable people of Zuni, who traditionally welcomed and fed all travelers.  A later party left 26 names on the rock.  Army exploration and railroad survey expeditions stopped at El Morro in 1851 and 1853.  In 1857 the Army experimented with camels for desert transportation….a caravan more Arabic than American.  Ultimately, however, mule trains won out.

Eventually railroads took over and the El Morro trail became a thing of the past.   

El Morro was proclaimed a National Monument by FDR in 1937 (I think…using memory here).  

The gigantic rock formation is sandstone…which was very conducive to carving the inscriptions of those who traveled the route for centuries.  But, sandstone is also very susceptible to erosion from weather, blowing sand, etc.  Many different types of preservation techniques have been used over the years to try to preserve the inscriptions, but nothing was really feasible.  Therefore, the inscriptions will one day be gone forever.  Even at this point in time, they were difficult to photograph.  Those left by the Spaniards seemed to be the most visible....and the fanciest!  With close inspection, however, there are to be about 2000 name carvings.  I might go back another day to look a lot more closely.  

There is a wonderful Visitors’ Center at El Morro.  There are two self-guided trails (1/2 mile and 2 miles) that take visitors in and around El Morro.  There are NO fees at all for visiting El Morro or to stay at the campground for 7 days. 

I opted for the 2 mile trek.  This is definitely NOT for non-hikers or anyone who is afraid of heights or cannot endure a strenuous walk.  We’re headed to the TOP of El Morro!  I had the entire trail to myself.  Let’s start the hike!  Most of these photos are self-explanatory.  The trail leads around the “front” of El Morro to the top.

Interesting rock erosions and formations on the way up....

Switchback after switchback....onward and upward!

Whew!  It's quite a climb!  Once at the top, the trail makes a large elongated oval around a canyon in the center.  Here is an aerial view (I took this picture from the video I watched before starting the hike -- hope you can see it.)  Start at the upper right and come around to the front of the photo...destination is the rectangular area.  The darkest part is the center canyon.  

The center canyon...
It’s a trail, but not what I was thinking it would be.  For the most part, you just follow the etched lines in the stone and the cairns (stacked rocks).  That’s it!  No rails and not much room for error.  It got slightly windy at the top and that was a little disconcerting.  Luckily, it didn’t last!  Here and there some steps have been carved out, but for the most part, it is totally natural.  I doubt I will ever be anywhere else like this! 

See the etched path....

Another view of the center canyon....

The “trail” loops 3/4 of the way around the canyon and then back to that flat, rectangular area you saw from the aerial view.  I can finally see where the Atsinna ruins area is….thought I'd never make it!

A few more steps and I’m up on the plateau of the ruins!  Wow!  At one time there were up to 350 “rooms” here.  But, we should be grateful that we can see what remains.  So well preserved…thank you FDR! 

I spent quite a bit of time up there just perusing the ruins, looking at the expansive views and trying unsuccessfully to truly envision those who inhabited this area. 

Finally, time to go.  The trip down ended the 2 mile loop and it was only about ½ mile from the ruins back down to the Visitors Center….then another .60 mile walk back to the campground.  


I was pretty much exhausted by the time I got back!

So, this is where Nikko and I have been hanging out.  I HIGHLY recommend visiting El Morro National Monument if you are ever in this area.  There is so much more to know about the history of El Morro than I could ever describe here….plus, my photos do not do it justice. 

I’ll be here until the first part of next week.  Then back up to Grants, NM to head to the next stop.  Hopefully I can find a place to connect to the outside world and fill you in on today’s interesting side trip IF I have any data time left.  This post probably consumed 4Gs and I only had 7Gs left when I started.  Hope you enjoyed this trip to El Morro!

Til then, Happy Trails and thank you for placing your Amazon orders through my blog!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A City’s Offering: Take It Easy! – May 16, 2015

I’m not sure how I heard about this boondocking site - but I’m glad I did!   It wasn’t on my original list of stopping spots…it’s only about 45 miles east of our Flagstaff snow site.  On Monday, we followed the given coordinates to McHood City Park -- about 5 miles south of Winslow, AZ – yes, as in the song!  I was thinking, how can there be a “city” park out here?  I guess five miles isn’t that far, but normally you think of a city park as being right in the town.  Oh well.  All I was looking for was 14 days and free – you know my parameters by now!

Out Rt. 99 we came to the turn off for the City Park….pretty much out in the middle of nowhere….which was actually more to our liking than being right in town…especially if we stay two weeks.  We crossed a bridge and took the right turn into the park area.  Boy!  Did Winslow provide locals and visitors a nice place to take it easy!  Right on Clear Creek.  Water!

There’s a big pavilion for large get togethers….cabana areas…fishing…what else could you ask for from a city park? And it’s clean and well kept.  Well more than I expected! 

We make our way on down the lane looking for the camping/parking spots. I turned into the first area we saw and yes, there were some very defined sites - some paved - each with its own pedestal grill, picnic table and trash can…and restrooms nearby.  That’s all good!  There was only one other RV there…so we didn’t have to be close to anyone.  I backed into our spot and we jumped out to take a look around.  It’s nothing fancy, but it’s fine.  We walked over to a ledge a bit in front of us and SURPRISE!  There’s another section of sites, with the same amenities, just below where we parked.  Clear Creek meanders around and turns into a lake!  We’re moving to park right on the lake!  I turned the key and quickly reparked! 

This is better than good!  And only one other RV positioned in front of the marsh area.  I maneuvered into a spot that easily accommodated being parallel to the lake and was very level.  And it’s on the outer most part of the “curve” of the area so my sitting area isn’t lined up with any of the other sites, if more campers come along. 

The City of Winslow really takes care of this park.  Very often there are crews (city employees plus some inmates from a nearby prison) out here cleaning the restrooms, emptying the trash cans, picking up paper, etc. that has blown around.  And, the lake was just restocked with trout!  There have been a few fishermen coming and going and they leave with a catch!  Too bad I don’t have a fishin' pole. 

There is plenty of walking area here, which Nikko has enjoyed. You can walk around the lake and up the creek back towards the entrance if you want to go that far.  One day we went out and just as we got to the other side of the lake, a horse trotted out of nowhere….we weren’t expecting that!  There is private property around here…they must just let him wander around.  I didn’t see any fencing that lined up with where he came from.  I don’t think he was a wild desert horse…too big…just didn’t have the right characteristics. 

On our walk back, he was still grazing in the same area and off in the distance were two others.  They were behind fencing and looked much better groomed.  Oddly, Nikko didn’t react to the first one or these two at all.  Maybe because he had already seen the cowboys’ horses down at Sacred Mountain.  We were able to get pretty close to them for some good shots.  We've only seen them the one day.

A few other campers have come and gone during the week…each just staying over one night.  One really nice couple was from nearby Prescott, AZ.  It was their first camping outing since the husband had triple-bypass surgery (twice! the first time didn’t work) in November, so they were staying relatively close to home and just out for a week.  With as many boondocking/camping spots as is around here, they don’t have to travel far to “get away”.  Another couple was from The Netherlands.  Really interesting and friendly.  Their son lives in Idaho and they use his truck camper to travel around the west for 6-7 weeks each year. We exchanged nuances of some of the differences between their country and the U.S….taxes, laws, etc.   I had made extra (really yummy) brunch-time burritos a little while before they were leaving, so I shared the extras with them. They were pleased and said they were better than going to a restaurant J.   In turn, they gave me some really delicious Dutch pastries called "stroopwafels"   Soooo good! You can get the real thing on Amazon, but, unfortunately, they are too pricey for my budget.

Another couple came in and plan to stay til the end of the month.  Also, really nice folks – from Sun City, AZ.  We’ve traded paperbacks, fruit, potato salad and fun conversation.  The guy in the end space who was here when I arrived is a full time RVer for years.  He looks kind of like a disheveled Jerry Garcia.  He offered to drive Nikko and I across the main road and back by the big red rocks to hike around a little….he had been over there before. He has a Jeep. Why not?

I found some old Native American scrapers…that was fun!  A city worker had told me earlier if I had a boat or kayak, petroglyphs could be seen from another part of the creek…and he had pointed across the main road toward the area we were exploring.  So finding the scrapers was in keeping with the knowledge that this area had been an Indian settlement at some time. 

The red rocks offer different scenery/terrain than the lake, so it was fun to walk around over there.  I don’t often take photos which include people but “Jerry Garcia”, aka Bobby, found his way into one photo.  He looks like an old prospector, I think….

Nikko enjoyed running around out there.  He chased a rabbit for awhile.  I didn’t have to watch over him at all.  Jumping up out of the surface rocks were some pretty desert flowers…but only two small clumps were around where we were.  

I’m not sure how long we will stay here at McHood Park…we have another 9 days before the time limit expires (eventho’ they don’t really seem to be checking it).  I have to wait for some mail to be delivered to the Winslow post office (via General Delivery) and filter in the Memorial Day weekend.  I’m slightly off my original “plan” so I’m researching (now that I have some replenished internet data time!) the next few sites as we get closer to New Mexico.  At least one more stop will be here in Arizona.  No rush to get anywhere!  There probably won’t be any more posts from here unless something unusual takes place.  The weather has been good…not hot at all… but no snow!  Several very windy days  -- mostly sun/clouds.  But, no matter, you can’t beat being “on the water”!

I rained pretty hard last night, but we could see it coming!  Clearing off nicely this morning, tho'.

We’ve had some nice sunsets and sunrises…

I made some herb beer bread this morning….

Here’s the recipe if you want to try it.  It’s fast – doesn’t need “rise time” and you just mix it by hand.

Herb Beer Bread
(1 loaf)

3 cups sifted flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
¼ cup sugar
2 heaping Tbls. each dried oregano and basil (or your preference)
12 oz. beer – good or cheap –either works the same
½ cup melted butter (or a little less – it doesn’t matter)

Mix dry ingredients – add beer
Place dough in greased loaf pan – spread to edges
Pour butter over top (sounds crazy but it works!)
Bake 60 min @ 375*
Cool at least 15 min before removing from loaf pan

So long for now!  Have a great weekend….and Take It Easy!  (click for the 1977 memory!)

As always, thank you for shopping via my Amazon link!  You pay the same -- I make a small commission to offset the costs of publishing this blog.