Flagstaff KOA – Resupply and Laundry,  May 17 & 18, 2016

Prior to going to Overland Expo West, we spend a couple of nights at the Flagstaff KOA. It is a great place to do laundry, dump and fill tanks and get online. We usually buy gas, groceries, and pick up whatever odds and ends we might need for Overland Expo. We spend some time fixing anything that might need it and reorganize.

We were in our favorite spot which is close to the laundry and showers. The KOA is an older one with mature trees and plantings. The irises have been in bloom every year. 

The trees provide shade and gives it a sense of park rather than parking lot. There is also access to hiking trails from the back of the campground. 
Usually there are lots of other people doing the same thing, making it a great opportunity to socialize. 

There weren’t as many people going to Overland Expo as we had seen in previous years. The forecast for rain on Tuesday and Wednesday may have contributed to that. This year, it seemed to be the place for Mitsubishi Fusos. A couple from Canada were camped behind us.

A couple from Alabama were a few rows over. 

By Thursday morning, we were ready for Overland Expo. A last stop at the groceries and gas station and we were on our way.

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El Morro National Monument – May 16, 2016

We drove to El Morro National Monument where we planned on camping. With all the work on the hot water heater, we needed to refill our water tank. We picked out a campsite and filled up with water. We reached the El Morro Visitor Center at around 3:00 pm. The main attraction at El Morro is Inscription Rock where Native Americans, early Spanish explorers and US travelers through the mid-1800’s wrote on a sandstone cliff face. 

There is a fresh water pool at the base of the cliffs which drew people traveling through the area. 

While there, they drew petroglyphs and stone inscriptions into the relatively soft rock. The park has a half mile loop trail which follows the base of the Inscription Rock.

The park also includes the ruins of two Ancient Puebloan towns at the top of the cliffs. 

There is a two mile loop trail the visits all three sites. The Visitor Center closes at 5:00 and all visitors should be off the trails by 4:45. We decided to hike the two mile trail backwards so that we climbed up to the top of the cliffs first and finished with the Inscriptions. That way we could do the uphill early and know how much time we had to examine the petroglyphs and carvings.

Plus, there were dark storm clouds nearby and we wanted to get off the cliffs sooner rather than later. 

By the time we talked with a ranger, went to the bathroom and got our gear together, it was 3:30. So up the cliff we went. It was about a 250 foot climb almost entirely up.  It was good to get the climb done and at least much of it was up stairs rather than a series of switchbacks. 
The view from the top of the cliffs was wonderful, but the storm clouds loomed. 

We kept a good pace. Going backwards, we visited the partially excavated site of Atsinna, meaning “Place of writings on the rock”. It was built in the late 1200’s and occupied for about 75 years.

The trail follows the top of the cliffs from one leg to the next. It is not a trail for those afraid of heights. It gave us a very nice view, but because of the storm clouds, it was hard to photograph well. 

The second set of ruins are unexcavated and we had passed by it without noticing. The trail down at this point is a long series of switchbacks. I prefer climbing up stairs and going down a slope. 

Once we reached the bottom, the trail follows the base of the cliffs to Inscription rock. There are petroglyphs made by the Native Americans either passing through the area or living nearby. 

The oldest European inscriptions are made by the Spanish starting in 1605. Beginning in 1849, US citizens began to pass by this area during the Western expansion after the Mexican-American War. 

First Spanish inscription by Don Juan de Oñate dated on April 16, 1605

The most interesting story behind the inscriptions is the one referred to Beal’s Trail. Lt. Edward F. Beale and P. Gilmer Breckenridge lead an experimental Army project using 25 camels for transportation. 


We made it back to the Visitors Center by 4:30. We made a quick trip through the museum before heading out.
We drove back to the campground. In the process of pulling in, a deceptively close pine branch broke off and put a hole into the back of the camper. 

It is good that there is so much insulation in the Big Foot camper. There was a good sized hole, but it didn’t penetrate into the interior of the camper. Jon cleaned up the area around the hole and put a patch over the hole. 

The offending tree is the one on the left.

While setting up, a couple came by to visit. They were from NC and noticed that our license plate was also from NC. It turns out that they live about 2 miles from our home in Cary, NC. An amazing coincidence. We had an early night.

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El Malpais – Chain of Craters National Back County Byway May 16, 2016

We decided to take the Chain of Craters National Scenic Byway through El Malpais National Conservation Area. 

This part of New Mexico had a series of volcanoes emerge as recently as 1,000 years ago. They created a chain of volcanic craters and sometimes vast fields of lava. You can see the series of volcanic mounds along the horizon.

Much of the first part of the drive was rolling hills and occasional small piles of volcanic rocks. We followed the main Byway through pasturelands and increasingly bigger hills and more trees. 

We passed by a fenced in old homestead and decided to stop. 

We passed an prescribed burn area where some of the brush had been burned. This was followed by some relatively recent volcanic lava beds. We stopped briefly to take a look.

We didn’t visit the main part of the park since we saw similar lava beds at Craters of the Moon National Park in Idaho and Valley of Fires National Recreation Area near Carrizozo, New Mexico relatively recently and wanted to visit El Morro National Monument this afternoon.

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Home Depot in Albuquerque and Late Night Camping – May 15, 2016

We decided to stop in Albuquerque to go to the Home Depot for parts. We needed to repair the hot water heater and decided enough was enough with the grill. 

It was next door to a Costco which made everything mighty convenient. Repairs were made to the hot water heater after quite a bit of water was spilled. We bought a new grill from Costco and Jon worked on installing it in the outside nook. 

After several hours, Jon decided that the grill would require much more time than we had at the moment. So we headed out. It was around 7:15.

Our route took us down classic Route 66. The Home Depot part was not nice. I’m assuming that the Pussycat Video stores are X rated. Lots of empty storefronts. The section near the University of New Mexico was very well preserved/updated.

We hoped that camping would be pretty easy since it was Sunday night. There aren’t any parks or national lands offering campsites nearby, as expected. We planned on camping at Joe Skeen in El Malpais National Conservation Area. There are 10 campsites there. We pulled in around 9:00 which is well after dark. All of the sites were taken.

There aren’t any other federal campgrounds anywhere close. We headed south since there is Dispersed camping available off of the National Scenic Byway 20 miles south of us. Since it was already about 9:15 and dark, we weren’t thrilled about the distance or the lack of light.

It gave us an opportunity to try out the Fuso’s lighting array. They work very well. We turned off at a side road and turned off onto another side road where we found a place to pull over and boondock. 

We pulled in at around 10:00. We were both very tired and hungry. So it was an omelet for dinner. We finally crawled into bed at about 11:30.

Woke to the sound of barking Prairie Dogs. There were mounds all around the vehicle. Their barking sounded a little like chihuahua puppy barks. Until we disturbed them, they were barking almost continuously. 

Since we had an omelet last night, we had ham steak for breakfast. It gave us an opportunity to try out the new grill. It worked just great.

The photos of our campsite, etc are from the morning of May 16th. 

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Texas to New Mexico – May 14, 2016

Cibola National Forest

Near Gallinas Peak (8815′)
West of Corona, NM
We didn’t wake up all that early, but did go into Amarillo for breakfast. 

We stopped at a Texas Welcome Center that had an interesting building with iron cow sculptures outside. Texas seemed to have a number newly built rest stops along the highway.

After driving around quite a long time, breakfast wound up being a burrito from a gas station. 

After looking at maps, we decided on camping at Red Cloud Campground in Cibola National Forest. We passed by the campground which seemed adequate but not inspiring to check out the sights. We passed by several dispersed campsites, so we felt like we would be able to find other campsites further along. 

The weather report indicated that there would probably be rain and/or thunderstorms later. The roads seemed like they would be fine even when really wet.
We found a wonderful campsite near the top of a peak. It seemed like a great choice. It had great views and we could continue along the route for a hike. We didn’t mind that it was very exposed to the elements since the Fuso and Big Foot camper deal well with winds. 

It was still plenty early enough for us to go on a hike. We just headed further up the same path from where we camped. 

There were several fenced areas. One of them had an interesting water gathering/storage/water station set up. 

We walked further along.

There was a patch of lovely yellow flowers. 

Great views, but turned around due to oncoming storm clouds. 

A big thunderstorm came through. There was even hail at one point. It is so nice to be able to sit inside where it is nice and dry when the weather is really nasty outside. 

It got really cold due to the altitude (over 8,000 ft) and the storm. The heater didn’t want to turn on at first. It was warm enough inside for Jon to wait until after storm went through. Jon finally got it to go, but it required much poking from the outside. It was still sprinkling. 

We tried to grill outside, but between the wind and problems with the grill, It wouldn’t stay lit.  So I cooked dinner inside tonight.

We still had a really nice sunset.

It rained overnight. The roads were fine in the morning. We didn’t have any problems with mud.

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Oklahoma to Texas – May 13, 2016

We started out pretty late this morning. After a very long day in the truck yesterday, we needed a chance to recover. We got back on I-40 for a few exits before stopping for fuel. That took forever. Then back on the road for another couple of exits before stopping at a Wal-Mart for supplies. By the time we finished up, it was about noon. 
Not long after we crossed the Texas state line, we watched a line of thunderstorms pass us by with only a light rain. About a half hour longer, we noticed there was hail along the side of the road and then the traffic stopped.

 All the traffic was in the right hand lane and there were police lights ahead. We were passed by a couple of government plows and a pick up truck. Not long after that, the traffic started to move. As it turned out, there was so much hail that cars had skidded off the road and they had to bring in snow plows to clear the road. It was really surreal. After all, the hail had come down long enough for a number of cars to be recovered and snow plows brought out. 

The rest of our drive was ordinary. We decided to stay at McClellan Lake which is part of the Cibola National Forest & McClellan Creek National Grasslands. 

We arrived around 6:30 which was a perfect time to arrive. With it being a Friday, we were a little concerned that the campgrounds would be full.  Since we were pretty early, we had time to drive around picking out a campsite.

We found a great site with no electricity and a great view of the lake. 

After setting up, we took a stroll to pay for our site and get a little exercise. 

After talking with a long time, frequent camper, we found out where the dump station was. Always a good thing to know. We paid for our campsite and checked out the facilities. It was $5 since we were at a non-electric site.

 We found the dump station. We were glad to have directions, because the sign was very faded and we would have probably missed it. 

Dinner tonight was a rotisserie chicken we bought at Wal-Mart around lunch time. Yes, you can reheat a rotisserie chicken by wrapping it in aluminum foil and steaming it. It turned out well.
The campground was quiet and the weather was really pleasant. 

We were actually surprised that it was so quiet since the next campsite contained about 8 young women, two young men and an Australian Shepherd. No loud music and they weren’t rowdy. 
We planned on waking up early and eating breakfast in Amarillo.


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Tennessee to Oklahoma – A Very Long Day

We started our day in Sevierville, TN, not far into Tennessee on I-40. We stayed on 40 for most of the day, making detours to avoid much of Nashville and Memphis. We did hit rush hour in Little Rock, but it wasn’t too bad.

We were on the road for almost twelve hours with short breaks for lunch and the call of nature. We wanted to make it to Oklahoma before stopping for the night.  

We stayed at the Applegate Cove COE campground last night. We arrived around 9:00, just before dark. A good thing, too. Trying to find a campsite and set up in the dark can be a challenge. 

The campground had 27 sites and I would guess that about half of them were filled. Most of the sites were shaded among mature trees. Another good reason we arrived before dark. 

Dinner was simple. I prepared wild salmon and snow peas. We ate in the red night lights with LED candles. It gives the picture an odd appearance.

We were both exhausted from the drive and called it a night not long after. We woke up late this morning and are back on the road again. About another 1000 miles to go until we reach Flagstaff, AZ.

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