Sunday, May 1, 2016

New Mexico

Destination: Taos, New Mexico

I have to say folks that Taos, New Mexico has captured my heart. As they say, first impressions are always the most important, when we drove into the Carson National Forest that surrounds the town I fell in love. Being from Michigan I always loved the snow, but have to admit that I did miss being outdoors when the temperatures got so low that it was unpleasant to even walk to your car. We have not seen snow since last winter, until we drove in to Taos. As we were getting closer to the town we could see that the mountains were snow capped, and as we gradually got deeper into the mountains what we came across was nothing less than a winter fairy tale land. Words nor pictures could do no justice to the sights we saw overlooking the deep caverns. It felt like we were in one big snow globe with mountains. That next morning we woke up to snow, which was a pleasant surprise. Our campground was in a huge mesa surrounded by mountains on every side.

 Taos is a small town that is almost 100 percent adobe. Even the Mcdonalds is adobe. It is small, but not too small, full of tucked away shops. It's a laid back sort of place where you can walk around without feeling judged. There is plenty of organic produce, and a lot of good small restaurants. 

  We stayed here for two weeks, more by my request. While I found the weather to be pleasant with warm days and cold nights (great sleeping weather for me), Hana will say it was too cold. I spent the first week exploring different fishing options in the area, but since the fish ran thin in the streams I found, most of the trout were in stocked areas. i was grateful to at least stock up the freezer a bit with some more trout since it is a good eating fish. I am starting to lose the heart to keep any large catfish or bass anymore, and mainly want to just catch bass for fun. However, should I catch a large lake trout or salmon, I will thank the Lord for the catch and the fish for his life before I put him on the grill.

 I did make one friend while fishing that was in pretty rough shape. He had lung cancer, and by the looks of his skin he wasn't doing well at all. He wasn't going for chemo, which was a plus, but he continued to smoke quite a bit and drink. I am not saying this to condemn him, but stating it only because while I believe we have a purpose in a lot of interactions with people, mine with him was not to tell him how to get well as much as it was to just be a friend to him. He was visiting from Texas, but he had spent many years in the area, and was visiting because the area brought him a lot of peace in his soul. For three days we had a good time fishing together before he went back.

Tired pups after a long mountain hike
The second week I didn't feel like chasing the fish around anymore, so I spent more time with the dogs hiking through the forest. The trails were mostly uphill, and on some there were a lot of streams to cross. Frankie and I hiked pretty deep into one, and as we got pretty high up I heard a mountain lion from behind the trees. It wasn't a very friendly growl either. We had less than a quarter mile to where we would get to see some falls, but I really did not feel like relying on the kindness of that lion's heart. Instinctively I knew not to move to fast as to put him in predator mode, nor did I want to send any fear signals. Frankie and I just turned around and moved back down at a steady pace. Frankie who usually tugs and stops you every few feet did not waste anymore time. I never saw the lion, but as we worked our way down the hill I did hear some movement and another growl, so I know we were stalked for a while. The only other wildlife I ran into with the dogs was a huge coyote who was 100 yards ahead of us on the mesa over looking the Rio Grande. At first I mistook him for a large wolf, but
my friend Buck informed me that it was just a fat
coyote who had been having his fill of rabbits. 

Maya loves the snow!
 I don't know what it was about Taos, but I will be leaving it with a bit of sadness in my heart. I can see why New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment. 

Rio Grande
Taos Earthship community, something we'd been looking forward to seeing for a while!
Six months into the trip and we have found that we are comfortable in the rv, but there are things we would modify. The kitchen sink is small, and it is hard not to splash water around since we installed a taller faucet. The counter space is also pretty tight, but we manage. The only other place that feels small to me is the bathroom sink. It is hard to brush your teeth without splashing water because you almost have to put your head right up against the mirror which is hovering over the sink. Hana probably has an easier time because she is not as big, nor as sloppy as me.  The hot water tank is only five gallons, and on a cold night when you want to warm up the shower, it can go by pretty fast. On warmer days it doesn't seem that bad. You just learn little tricks to get the tasks done that you need to. 

   The bed is small, but we seem to manage pretty good, even with the dogs in the bed.  We like to sleep close with the dogs anyway, but sometimes when Maya wants to stretch out I have to get creative with my sleeping position.

  The rv handles pretty good, but gets blown around easily on windy days. Also when we are going uphill, even if it is a steady incline, it is hard to get above 60 without pushing it too hard while towing the car. I usually don't want to push it too hard, and take it a bit slower anyway. 

  We have learned that you don't eat less on the road like we thought we would. I imagined the pounds would just melt off, but after all the uphill climbing we do I find that I went from having the appetite of two people to three or four. The pounds have not melted off as I expected. We also have to try new restaurants when we get into a town that looks promising. And then let's not talk about the bakeries. 

We learned that retirees make great neighbors. They are quiet, in early, and often like to help. 

  We have also been around a lot more wild animals than I imagined. Hiking in Michigan I never had to think about lions or bears. The only lions anybody talks about in Metro Detroit are the ones that consistently lose. I never thought I would see a pack of wild boar, come face to face with a copperhead, or be stalked by a mountain lion. I could not even get used to walking past an eight foot alligator in South Carolina.

   While state parks can be pretty, they are usually in small towns that have few options for groceries, especially if you like to get some things organic. A lot of the parks can also be small, so there aren't as many hiking options as when you are near a bigger forest. The seclusion during the week is nice, but state parks can also get busy on the weekends with families taking a two-day getaway.  It is always a trade off whatever you do. While rv parks have the full hookups, they can be expensive, and sometimes a bit hoaky with their Wally World type themes. They also don't have the seclusion that you can get at a state park, nor are you able to start many fires. This past one at Taos was small, and nice. We had a view from every angle you turn, the owners were nice, and  the grounds were kept up well without someone spraying chemicals all over the place all the time. I was even able to give a man from Texas a haircut. 

  We are learning as we go, and for now just enjoying the ride. There are a few bumps in the road, but overall it has been a great way to live. We have ideas, but we still have a lot of room for discovery.