Currently at Coyote Creek State Park near Guadalupita, New Mexico:
We thoroughly enjoyed our one-week stay at Storrie Lake State Park just outside of Las Vegas, New Mexico. If you remember from our last post, we had originally intended to only spend one night there, just to break up the drive from Bluewater Lake SP to Coyote Creek SP. But once we got there and wound up dry camping in the primitive section near the lake, we knew we wanted to stay at least a week.
The first few days were pretty laid back, just checking out the area and people-watching. There was no shade where we were parked; but even though the sun was pretty intense, there was always a good breeze blowing off the lake right through our RV. We even left a couple of windows open a bit at night, making ideal conditions for a good night’s sleep.
The only negative about the site were the swarms of little pale green flying insects that surrounded us whenever the wind wasn’t blowing. Somehow they would manage to get into the rig after dark, attracted by our interior lights, even though we have screens on all the openings. Fortunately they didn’t sting or bite, and they didn’t seem to be attracted to food. Once we turned off the lights to go to bed, they disappeared.
On Friday morning, several vehicles parked near the lakeshore, and the people in them began unpacking and setting up kite-surfing equipment. By lunchtime, there were four people outfitted in wetsuits, and they began hitting the water. The first two, a girl and a guy, seemed to be the least experienced, so they had some problems getting started. But the other two guys were obviously old hands at this sport, and we really enjoyed watching them zip across the water and take flight on the turns.
One of the group also brought out a sailboard and spent some time on the water zipping from one end of the lake to the other. They had picked a perfect day for it, as the winds were steady at about 16-17 MPH, gusting to 24-25 MPH.
I put together a few video clips of the show they provided that afternoon:
Most of the group wound up staying overnight on the beach, sleeping in their vehicles. The next day (Saturday) some more people joined them, and they spent another day on the water. We would have loved to watch some more, but we had different plans for the day–a day trip to see an old grinding mill.
I had checked TripAdvisor.com to find some things that we might want to see in the area, and they recommended the Cleveland Roller Mill Museum. The description sounded interesting so we made the 26-mile drive to the mill, just north of Mora, New Mexico. But when we got there we found out that they were closed for the season. We were still able to walk around the outside of the mill, and it was a beautiful, bucolic setting with the green grass, the blue sky, and the orange-red adobe of the mill building with its large water wheel. In the background we could hear the stream running behind the mill, and even though the water was not currently being directed to the water wheel, we could imagine what it must look like when the wheel is turning.
Since we couldn’t tour the museum we decided to drive back into Mora and visit a local diner we had passed on the way in. We love little local diners, and this one advertised ice cream, one of our shared weaknesses. So we drove to Rene’s 50’s Diner and Little Alaska Ice Cream Parlor for an afternoon snack. The inside was full of all sorts of 50’s memorabilia, and we found out that all of it was donated by their customers. They actually had one whole room totally devoted to Elvis. There was even a copy of the poster for the 2014 Elvis Festival in Tupelo, which matches the T-shirt that Andy received for volunteering at that very same festival. We each had an ice cream sundae, and thoroughly enjoyed meeting the locals who worked there.
As we were making our way back toward Storrie Lake, we decided to stop at another interesting-looking place we had passed by on our way to Cleveland. We had seen some large adobe structures at a curve in the road that was marked “La Cueva”, so we decided to check it out on the way back. Turned out it was another old mill with a water wheel (at one time a lot of wheat was produced in this area), and this one has been preserved as a sort of tourist attraction. While you cannot go inside the mill, they do have a cafe, some gardens and a store. The property is now a raspberry farm, so they sell fresh raspberries as well as things like raspberry salsa and preserves. We bought some of the salsa and can attest that it is delicious.
Even though we were really enjoying our stay at Storrie Lake–easy access to shopping in Las Vegas, beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the lake, hot showers and flush toilets–we still wanted to visit Coyote Creek. For one thing, the higher altitude would be cooler, but primarily we wanted to get closer to Taos and the Enchanted Circle so we could visit that area again.
So on Monday we spent a good portion of the day doing laundry at the Mills Plaza Laundromat, and then getting groceries and supplies at Walmart. Then yesterday morning, we made another visit to Charlie’s Spic and Span Bakery and Cafe, where we had a great breakfast and picked up a few pastries to bring home with us. Then we packed up the rig, drove it into town to get gas and top off the propane tank, and then we headed north to Coyote Creek State Park.
The drive north was so beautiful, passing through several small mountain communities that look like something from another time and place. There are tiny churches, abandoned adobe structures that are almost dissolved back into the earth, and pastures of cattle, horses and goats. The road twists and turns as it climbs higher into the mountains, and the scenery is just breathtaking.
We arrived at Coyote Creek State Park a little after lunchtime yesterday. We elected to forego parking in one of the electric hookup sites because it pretty much looks like a parking lot with RVs parked side-by-side with hoses and cords running everywhere. Instead we drove further back into the campground and found a first-come first-serve dry-camping spot where we could tuck the rig under some shade trees and hear the creek running at night. Since our annual pass is still active, we don’t have to pay anything for the spot, and we can stay here for up to 14 days.
The campground has vault toilets throughout the area, but they also have flush toilets, hot showers and free wi-fi at the Comfort Station near the entrance. The only downside to our spot is that it’s fairly close to the dump station, and when the wind shifts we sometimes get a faint whiff of the “facilities”. But the staff and crew at this Park are some of the hardest working we’ve seen anywhere–they are constantly coming around to clean, mow, weed-eat, and check on everything. Kudos to them!
Of course, we think one reason they’re keeping the place looking so spiffy right now is because this weekend they are celebrating the 50th anniversary of this park. They’re going to have live music, hot dogs and cake, ranger talks, speeches from local dignitaries, etc. They’re even stocking the creek with more trout for fishing. So they’re working hard to get things ready for the festivities. The real test will be next week after everyone leaves–will it still be as well-maintained? Stay tuned to find out!!
So far we’ve seen squirrels, chipmunks and a garter snake, as well as trout and crawfish in the creek. There are cougars and bears in the area, so all the trash receptacles in the park are heavy-duty with locking mechanisms, and there are bear boxes for food in the tent-camping area. They say there are also raccoon, deer and elk that come through the campground, so we’re hoping we see a lot of wildlife while we’re here (although I’d rather not encounter a cougar or bear on the trails).
This afternoon I went on a short hike on a trail that leads along the mountainside above the campground. Along the way, I picked up my 43rd geocache, which was a cool way to combine some exercise with my favorite hobby. The trail provided a beautiful overlook into the valley below, with the creek running through the middle of it.
I could definitely tell that I’ve lost some of my acclimitization to exercising in higher altitudes in the three weeks since we left Flagstaff. We’re currently at just under 7700′, not quite as high as we were in the Coconino National Forest, but closer than we were at our last two locations. So hopefully I can do this same trail several more times while we’re here and get some of my lung power back.
I remember when we last visited Taos back in 1996, we had flown into Albuquerque, rented a car, spent a night in a tent in a state park just northeast of Santa Fe, and then we took the “scenic route” to Taos because it was supposed to be so much prettier than the main highway. Of course, this was before the time of GPS navigation on cell phones–we were going strictly off of paper maps. Somehow we wound up getting lost on a dirt road that led us into a little mountain village where we had to stop and wait for a herd of sheep to cross the road.
I really think that we are somewhere in the same general area right now, but of course roads have been paved in the years since, and people are a little more connected and their lives have been modernized to some extent. But the scenery looks much the same, and I can’t wait to drive on into Taos, Angel Fire, Red River and other places along the Enchanted Circle in the next week or so while we’re here.
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