Goodbye to the Forest, Hello New Mexico

Currently at Bluewater Lake State Park near Prewitt, New Mexico:

The time finally came to say goodbye to our summertime forest home in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, Arizona. Altogether, we spent sixty-six days in that location, and we were both rather sad to leave it behind. But some things had changed since we first got there that made us a little more anxious to move on.

When we first arrived there in May, there was still snow on the peaks above us, and the temperatures were very mild during the day, even cold at night. There had been plenty of rain and snow over the winter and spring, so everything was green and lush. On our very first hike up the road we saw a whole herd of deer cross the road ahead of us. We loved it immediately!

Found the perfect camping spot on FR 151, with a view of Humphrey’s Peak

As the weeks went on, it got warmer during the daytime, so we repositioned the rig between some pine trees so that it got shade in the afternoon. The sun began to dry out the soil around us, and it soon became extremely dusty. Since we were parked fairly close to the road (gravel), we got a LOT of dust from traffic going by, especially on the weekends when people riding four-wheelers and dirt bikes zoomed by.

I grew to love hiking in the forest, and almost every time I did I would see at least one deer, and usually more than one. Some may have been elk, it was hard to tell from a distance. We saw a coyote, a skunk, lots of squirrels and chipmunks, and a few rabbits. The flowers that bloomed throughout the spring and early summer were stunning, blanketing the meadows and forest floor with the colors of the rainbow.

Springtime blossoms in the Coconino National Forest

As August rolled in, it was getting warmer and more dusty, as the usual monsoon rains failed to materialize. The temperatures were still tolerable to where it was even cool enough in the morning to run the furnace for a little bit to warm up the rig. About the second week in August, the local ranchers released a herd of cattle into the forest for summer grazing. They didn’t bother us too much around the rig, in fact we were very entertained by them. But often times I would encounter groups of them standing on the trail that I was hiking, and it was somewhat intimidating to have to walk past those mama cows who were determined to protect their calves standing beside them. They would snort loudly and stare at me as if daring me to come any closer. I would just try to walk quietly without making any sudden moves, all the while looking for the nearest tree in case I needed to put something substantial between me and a cow.

Our friendly neighborhood cows, as long as you don’t get too close to the little ones

So the cows kind of disturbed the peacefulness of my hikes, but nothing like what happened on August 13. Unknown to me, deer hunting season (archery) opened that morning. While on my hike, I noticed there were a lot more tent campers in the woods, as well as four-wheelers. But when I came across some people actually butchering a deer beside the trail, that just ruined any hiking for me from that point forward. For the next few weeks there was so much activity around us between the hunters and the cows, and with all the dust being stirred up, we just decided it was time to move on.

We absolutely loved most of our time this summer, and are already planning to return to that area, but next year we’ll know to anticipate the cows and the hunters, so we can move on a little earlier. And we will miss Flagstaff–I’ve always said that I’d like to live there someday, and this summer just reinforced that. It’s a wonderful small city with a great vibe.

So we decided to start moving east and return to New Mexico, where we still have a couple months left on our annual pass for the State Parks. I did some research to find a park at about the same altitude as Flagstaff that had the amenities that we wanted, namely electric hookups and a dump station. I came across Bluewater Lake State Park, about 40 miles east of Gallup off I-40. We were only able to reserve a site for three nights since all the reservable sites are booked for the weekends, but we were fine with that since we were unfamiliar with the park and didn’t want to lock ourselves in to a long reservation at a place that we might not like.

On Tuesday morning we loaded up the solar panels and the patio mat, double-checked the fluids and tire pressure, and then hit the road. We stopped in Flagstaff to top off the propane, fuel up the vehicles and take the Tacoma through the car wash (it was filthy!). Then we got on I-40 and headed east.

Travel Day! Loading up the solar panels in the truck.

It was a beautiful day for a drive, and the scenery through the Painted Desert was amazing. We stopped for lunch near Holbrook, Arizona, pulling in to a TA truck stop where we fired up the generator and turned on the air conditioner. We enjoyed Andy’s famous chopped salad for lunch, and let the kitties have a little break from the ride. After about an hour we got back on the road. We ran into a few little sprinkles after crossing into New Mexico, but nothing major.

Driving on I-40 east from Arizona to New Mexico

We stopped once more in Gallup to top off the tanks, and then rolled into the state park sometime around 4PM (we lost an hour when we left Arizona since they don’t observe daylight savings time). On the way into the park, Andy dumped the tanks at their dump station (VERY nice), and also filled up the fresh water tank. Then we located our campsite, #1 on the Upper Electric Loop, and got set up.

When I was doing my research to find our next campsite, one of the things that was mentioned in all the reviews of this park was that there are wild horses that roam through here. And sure enough, as soon as we got out of the rig, we spotted a group of four horses, three adults and a colt, grazing in the clearing near our rig. We’ve seen them several times, usually in the cooler parts of the day, and they are magnificent. They won’t let you touch them, but they’re not very spooked by people either.

Some of the wild horses that make their home in Bluewater Lake State Park

One of the reasons I wanted to be somewhere with electricity and water was so I could give the rig a good cleaning after all the dust we collected. I got started on that yesterday by totally emptying out our attic (the space over the cab) where we store our food, linens, supplies, photography equipment, fireproof safe, etc. There is a vent right over the attic for air flow, and over the summer lots of dust came in that way and coated everything, no matter how I tried to keep up with it. Yesterday, I pulled everything down, cleaned everything and then put it back, including the screen over the vent. Big task, but glad it’s done.

I took several walks yesterday to explore the area, and found that the lake is bigger than I thought. The water definitely looked blue from the reflection of the sky, and the surrounding mountains were a beautiful backdrop. I found the dam that is responsible for the creation of the lake, and saw where the overflow from the dam is released into the nearby canyon forming a small river that draws birds and wildlife. Here’s a small video that I put together from my hike that shows all of the above:

Nothing more fun than defrosting the freezer first thing in the morning

By this time we had decided that three nights here was not going to be enough. With all the cleaning chores, I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to explore the area. The park is very quiet (so far) and there are a lot of first come first serve sites available. We decided that if one of those with electricity opened up, we would grab it, even though we still have one more night on our reservation.

And lo and behold, this morning, several of the first come first serve sites opened up, including one that we had had our eyes on from the start. While I was busy with my chores, Andy was flapping his jaws with some of the other guys in the park, so he was down there when the site opened up. He came back home and drove the truck down there to hold it for us until we could move the rig, which took about fifteen minutes.

Our new site has a little more shade, which is nice. It’s a little closer to our neighbors, but that’s usually only an issue on the weekends. We’re close to the showers and the flush toilets (there are a lot of vault toilets throughout the park). We went ahead and paid for five nights in this spot, including tonight, which means we paid twice since we still had the first spot reserved. But we’re only paying $4 per night on our annual pass, which covers the electricity, so it’s no big deal. Unless something changes, we’ll probably wind up staying here the maximum time allowed, 14 days.

Our new site (#11) is first come first served with electricity and a little shade

There are some interesting-looking hiking trails here in the park that I want to explore, and there are several geocaches that I want to look for. The nearest town with a Walmart is Grants, which is about 25 miles away. That means we won’t be tempted to eat out or go shopping very much which should help offset some of the cost of fuel from driving this month. I’m sure we’ll do some sight-seeing outside the park while we’re in the area.

So that’s what we’re up to at the moment! We’re definitely enjoying having access to electricity, nice showers (so we don’t have to remove the litter box from the shower in our rig), and new scenery. Stay tuned for more adventures!

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2 thoughts on “Goodbye to the Forest, Hello New Mexico

  1. Pretty place! Thanks for the video. The lake is gorgeous. I don’t blame you for thinking about staying the max time, especially at that low cost. I reckon you’ll get another annual NM pass. —— BTW, we tried the Impossible Whopper. It’s okay. Kinda “heavy,” but I can see how it would pretty easily sub for the meat version. Take care!

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  2. Pingback: Hiking and Geocaching, Chaco Culture National Historic Park, How To Get Kicked Out of a State Park | Just Call Us Nomads

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