Organ Pipe National Park

Organ Pipe National Park

About Me

I purchased "Sadie''s House On Wheels "in late 2007 and loved traveling in a motor home so much that I went on the road full time in late 2008. I started writing this blog to help me remember all the wonder places I have been and it allows me to share those places with my family and friends. Summer of 2013 I decided to hang up the keys for a while and moved back into my stick house. After nearly two years, I am on the road again.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Colorado Springs, Part II, Pikes Peak Cog Train, April 26, 2016

A "must do" when is Colorado Springs is to take the Manitou Springs Pikes Peak  Cog Railway  to the top of Pikes Peak at an elevation of 14, 114.  While on assignment in Denver years ago, I took the trail to the top and also drove the road.  The weather was to be "iffy" but there appeared to be a clear window in the morning so we made reservations....which created a large dent in the pocket book.  The drive to the top would have been nice, but the last three miles of the road were not open yet.

A little history on the railroad per the internet and railway publication:

"The Broadmoor's Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway holds a unique distinction as the highest cog railway in the world. Wonder how this legendary Pikes Peak train came to take visitors to the top of America’s Mountain? One of the tourists who visited the Pikes Peak region in the late 1880s was Zalmon Simmons, inventor and founder of the Simmons Beautyrest Mattress Company. Mr. Simmons rode to the summit of Pikes Peak on a mule. The arduous, two day trip was the only way to reach the top in those days. Mr. Simmons was awed by the scenery but determined that the views should be experienced in a more civilized and comfortable manner. Thus, the railway was born. 
In 1889, the Manitou & Pike's Peak Railway Company was founded and track construction began. Top wages were 25 cents per hour. This was no easy feat as six workers died in blasting and construction accidents. On the afternoon of June 30th, 1891, the first passenger Pikes Peak train, carrying a church choir from Denver, made it to the summit for the first time. Spencer Penrose, owner of The Broadmoor Hotel, acquired the Railway in 1925."

We arrived 30 minutes early as required and settled into our seats which were near the front of the train.  Seats are are assigned. It was really cold outside, but the train was nice and toasty.  We were told temperatures at the top were 4 degrees with a wind chill factor of -13.  Yikes!

The train was full and it was a little challenging to take pictures.  The sky was clear which was a good sign.  

 There were lots of rock formations at the lower elevations

The engineer was only a few rows ahead of us.  Note the cog tracks.
 Four miles down and five more to go:
 View of Pikes Peak

 Yep, there is still a lot of snow.  The train is very close to the snow banks and some of them were almost to the top of the train.
Windy Point. At one time over 20 men stayed in the building while the railway was being built.
 The top.  The air was very thin and Joel didn't make it too much farther.  He retreated to the lodge and enjoyed the cider donuts. Ymmmm. They were light and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the out side.
 The cog train with Colorado Springs below.  It was windy and very, very cold on top.
 I walked around the summit. You can see part of the road in the foreground.
 If you look closely you can see the snow capped mountains just below the clouds.

There are several signs reminding you that you have made it to the top and altitude. Yes, I was a little out of breath, but I seemed to acclimate easily.  It wasn't as bad as when I was at the top of Mt. Whitney a few years ago.  

The ride down took just as long as the ride up (1 1/2 hours).  Going down, you get a different vantage point and the scenery was just as good, but the storm front was moving in and the clear skies disappeared. 

We returned to the Elks lodge and the trailer and Joel took the truck in for service while I enjoyed reading my kindle and looking out the window at the cold, rainy weather which seems to follow us.  The forecasts don't look too much better. 


Colorado Springs, Part I, Garden of the Gods, April 25, 2016

I had here there was is a ton of stuff to do in Colorado Springs, so one of the first stops after getting set up at the Elks Lodge #209 was to visit the welcome center.  After my visit to the center our itinerary was revised from one or two nights to three or four nights.  The Colorado Springs Elks club is nice and there are full hook ups but it they were full when we arrived so we dry camped.

We ran errands in the morning and then set out to explore the Garden of the Gods, a free local public park owned by the city of Colorado Springs.  Back in the mid-90's I spent nearly six months on assignment in Denver and I visited the Garden of the Gods on one of my days off.  It was totally different back then. I don't remember a visitor center at the Garden of the Gods or paved paths.  As I recall, I meandered through the rock formations on primitive dirt trials.  Now the park is a full blown tourist attraction, and even though it was mid-week and mid-afternoon it was very crowded. I don't remember Colorado Springs being as big and spread out as it is now.  Lots of changes.

A little history on the Garden of the Gods. Two segments of land (about 470 acres) were purchased by Mr Perkins and Mr. Palmer in 1879. Upon their deaths, their families donated the land to Colorado Springs in 1909 with the stipulation that it remain open to the public and free.    In 1995 the visitor and nature center opened. (I don't remember it ).  The park appeared well maintained and it is dog friendly.

The day was cloudy, so not the best light for photos. Overview from the visitor observation deck:

 Three Graces
 Balanced rock
 Cathedral Valley
Rock climbers are allowed with a permit and proper climbing gear.  They are not allowed when it is raining or when the rock are wet.
 Kissing Camels
Sentinel Spires
In addition to the paved pathways there are other numerous dirt trail throughout the park to explore.  The day was getting late and it was time for another "brew tour" so we headed over to Colorado Mountain Brewery for a  beer sampling and dinner.

Alamosa, April 23, 2016

From the Great Sand Dunes we headed back to Alamosa to find some water to fill the fresh water tank  and a place to dump our very full  grey and black water tanks.  The only option appeared to be the only RV park which was open.  At Economy RV  we could "dump & fill" for $10.00 or spend the night for $30.00.  We decided to bite the bullet and pay the $30 to dump and fill and enjoy some electric hook ups.  With the winds howling and temperature predicted to drop, power sounded good.  However, I'm not sure how Economy RV justifies their name  "Economy" with dirt parking within 50 ft of the highway, the water was brown, and no showers. or rest rooms.  Pretty bare bones.  
Once we got set up Joel wanted to check out the Three Barrel Brewery in Del Norte and the San Luis  Valley Brewery in Alamosa, so off we went....on" Joel's brewery tour."  The brew was good at the Three Barrel Brewery and not too bad at the San Luis Valley Brewery.

I did try the Black Yak, since my son raises Yaks on his ranch.

Alamosa reminds me of a typical farming community one might find in the mid-west but instead of vistas of fields of rolling crop the vistas are the surrounding San Cristibal mountains.

Next stop Colorado Springs.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, April 21-23, 2016

It's our national parks 100 birthday and now that we are not traveling in Joel's 40' Beaver and  have a smaller RV that is "hill" friendly and fits within most National Park sites with 30' limit I am ready to roll.   Every time I have visited my son's ranch near Tierra Amarilla I have wanted to continue north to Alamosa to see the Great Sand Dunes.  In fact, one time I did make it to Alamosa with my daughter-in-law  to go shopping but we didn't have time to take in the Great Sand Dunes.  They are visible in the distance when you are in Alamosa.  This park is just a little off the beaten path.

We left the RV Park in Chama and headed north on Highway 17 and I drove  the trailer crossing over two passes: Combres and La Manga both over 10,000' with lots of snow.  The roads were clear and dry.  I feel so much more comfortable towing the trailer than I ever  did driving Joel's motor home towing the Honda, and it seems easier than the Born Free towing my jeep, which are long gone.   

We stopped to admire the snow which had fallen just a few days before and was still pristine.  It was definitely a "blue bird" day.  The area is very popular with snowmobilers, back country and cross country skiers and snowshoers.  Darn.  I left my snowshoes in Verdi!:)

 Living the dream! (Maybe I should send this one to Airstream :)

I drove through several small country farm/ranch towns and stopped at the Alamosa welcome center to try and get an idea where to park for the next few days. All the campgrounds I had researched were still closed and with night time temperatures still around the freezing marks I thought it best we try for hook ups. Even though the solar is working great, when the heater runs all night, the batteries do tend to run down below my comfort level.  The volunteer at the visitor center made several suggestions and I  followed up on them and found only one campground was  open,  but at $38 per night it was a little above my price point.  (I found out later, although it was open, the water had not been turned on because the nights were still in the low 30's. )

View of the Great Sand Dunes at the entrance to the park. 

We decided to continue on to Great Sand Dunes National Park and checked out the campground.   We liked what we saw. Much to our delight there were several sites with "front row views", so we decided to endure the night time cold temperatures and stay.   The views from the trailer were panoramic with clear views of the sand dunes  and views of the snow capped mountains behind us. There was a short path to the river and dunes.

As we were setting up a young couple stopped by to ask us about the Airstream.  They were traveling for the next three months in an Airstream provided by Airstream, gathering stories from Airstream travelers/owners which they hoped to put together an  a travel blog. The next morning they came back with their video and camera equipment and spent about an hour interviewing us.  

The sand dunes are continuously changing due to the winds, clouds, and time of day.  I walked down to the river but didn't hike the dunes. I was perfectly happy to just sit and take it all in. So was Joel and Tara.

   The dunes seemed to take on a life of their own depending on what time of day.  I was mesmerized to say the least. 

This is the Medano river which drastically changes with the season.  Apparently it has surge like waves similar to ocean action which is due to the anti dunes. Water backs up against the anti dunes and eventually the water pressure breaks through causing a wave like action.  I really didn't see this phenomena, but maybe the water wasn't running fast or deep enough.

By Saturday, the park was filling up, so it was time to hitch up continue on down the road.  Also the winds were really kicking up and the trailer rocked and rolled all night.  

This is looking west towards San Luis Valley at sunset. 
 Sunset over the dunes.

 My biggest challenge was to sort through the hundreds of photos I took over the past few days and determine which ones I wanted to include in the blog this blog. 

Whats this? Tara explaining to Joel she really is a lap dog? 
I headed over to the dump station to dump and fill but it was closed for maintenance.  I checked with the ranger and he told me that the water had not been turned on for the season due to the cold temperatures.  Darn!  Wished the ranger had mentioned that when we came in.  I would have been more careful with the water! Next stop will be somewhere in Alamosa or wherever "dump and fill. " 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sage Coyote Farms, Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico, April 19-20,2016

As many of you know my son and daughter-in-law are eking out a living on about 360 acres of land in Northern New Mexico near Tierra Amarilla.  The "farm ", as Gayle, my daughter-in-law calls it, is located about 12 miles from the  New Mexico Highway  84 turnoff to New Mexico 112 and about 3 miles from El Vado Dam and Lake.  The nearest grocery store is 12 miles out to the main road (84) and another 15 miles to Chama, New Mexico.  Still, to me, it is a little slice of heaven and I love visiting the farm.  It is so quiet and and you can see for miles and miles.

We had a great dinner at the High Country, with Conlan and Gayle  which is one of the hot spots in Chama.  As always the food, especially the Mexican food, was very good.  The next day we headed over to the farm.

Since I last visited last October, the farm has grown slightly and there have been some good changes. The farm is growing.  All but three of the pigs have grown up and have ended up on dinner plates (down from about 20) ; the Devon cows have thrown a few calves, and the Yak herd has grown  from three to nearly 20 and there are several new calves which are so much fun to watch.

Mom and new calf.
 The moms are still protective of the new borns, so I couldn't get much closer.  These photos are taken with my telephoto lens.
This is Mr. Seven.  He is the main bull (daddy) of the Yak calves. Pavi, the black and white yak at the top of the photo is still too young to breed.  He is not quite two years old. I first met him when he was only a few months old.

The organic gardening has been very successful with garlic and special potatoes, carrots, and beets as the main crops.  The potatoes, beets, carrots are stored in the root cellar  during the winter.

The garlic was planted last fall and thrived during the winter and will be ready for the early farmers markets is Los Alamos near Santa Fe come May. Demand for out exceed production.  

My visit this time was all too short.  The weather was not cooperating and we had to stay in an RV park in Charma because the farm was really muddy ("greasy" as my son calls it) and I was afraid we would get stuck. The day before we arrived they had almost 12' of snow and lost power.  Their power was out for over 2 1/2 days.  Fortunately, they do have a generator to keep the freezers of meat cold which  they sell at the markets.

Today, the weather was perfect. Clear skies with a few puffy clouds rolling by and an occasional breeze.  Gayle fixed a supper of elk, farm raised pork, roasted carrots, and new potato salad, with a scrumptious desert of home made chocolate cake.  Ymm.  After supper we lounged around watching the Yaks as they meandered down from the ridge to the pond.

Gayle, Conlan, and Joel watching the Yaks meander down to the pond. You can part of the garlic crop towards the bottom of the photo.

I wandered around checking out the chickens and pigs and yaks.  (I did snag a dozen of fresh eggs.  Nothing taste better than fresh eggs!)

 There is always, always, work to do. Conlan and Gayle are fixing the electric fence to keep the pigs in.
These are a special breed of pigs.  They only get about 150 ponds at the most.  They are grazers unlike most pigs.  But these are the last of them. Gayle and Conlan have decided they take too much pasture for the amount of meat they produce.

 This time I didn't hike down to the lower pastures to find the Devon cows.  It was just too muddy and I was really enjoying watching the new Yak calves which were only two weeks old.    I missed the horses and donkeys this time.  They were out with the cows doing their  thing I guess.  So, next time .
Next, we head towards Alamosa, Colorado and the Great Sands Dunes National Park  as we  continue heading north.  One thing we have learned, is that April is still "iffy" for traveling in some of the high country and unlike California, Arizona , Nevada,  and Oregon there are still a lot  of campgrounds that do not open until May 1.  The RV park we stayed at in Chama (Twin Rivers) opened April 15 but it is the only one opened  out of about four  parks in Chama.