Monday, November 28, 2016

Hiking Is A Bit Like Life

We enjoyed a long holiday weekend in Las Cruces, New Mexico. A few of our fellow Care-a-vanners are avid hikers and told us about some spectacular trails in the area. (Check out one of Meghan's beautiful narratives here.) While the locals were lamenting the "cool" temps, we took advantage of some wonderful hiking conditions ... and discovered that ...

Hiking is a Bit Like Life
The journey only requires you to put one foot in front of the other ... again and again and again. And if you allow yourself the opportunity to be present throughout the entirety of the trek, you will witness beauty every step of the way, not just at the summit.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, located ten miles east of us, provides many hiking opportunities. Instead of joining the Black Friday craziness, we headed to the hills ... Aguirre Springs to be exact to hike the Pine Tree Trail that Meghan recommended.

This four mile loop took us around rocks,

and under towering pines.

Yes, we enjoyed views of the Organ Mountains,

but it was a side trip to a mountain waterfall that impressed me most. Unfortunately, Doug didn't realize that I took the side stop ... and he walked past me. It took two phone calls (thank God for cell phone coverage) and a few minutes to figure out which way to go, but we managed to meet back up. Yes, he is still stuck with me!

Saturday morning we took an urban hike to the Las Cruces Farmers Market. It's amazing to be in an area that still has homegrown tomatoes for sale. We enjoyed the variety of talented musicians along the way. 

When we got back, our neighbors told us that they had spotted quite a few tarantulas along the path at Dripping Springs. While Doug is deathly afraid of spiders, he is very intrigued with the thought of seeing a tarantula in the wild. 

So off we went to Dripping Springs in search of tarantulas. The spider hunt was unsuccessful, but we enjoyed the three mile loop around the park to La Cueva. And this time I managed to keep Doug with me as we discovered another beautiful mountain waterfall. 

Sunday was cool, overcast, and windy. Doug insisted that it was too cool for tarantulas to be hanging out, but perfect hiking conditions for us former "Minnesotans". So we headed to Soledad Canyon, another beautiful area in the shadow of the Organ Mountains. 

We enjoyed the tall ...

and the tiny ...

And another serene mountain waterfall.

And much to Doug's delight ...

Mr. Tarantula came out to greet us! (OK, just between you and us, we are not certain whether this is the real deal or just a brown wolf spider. What do you think??) Regardless, we are happy to witness ...


Every Step.

Of the way.

Until next time ... be present throughout the entirety of the trek ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

Friday, November 25, 2016

An Attitude of Gratitude

Our travels bring us to southern New Mexico this Thanksgiving week. The desert environment is not what we nor most of our "northern" friends are used to experiencing this time of year.  But this week, whether cold or hot, snow or sand, turkey or tortillas ... we try to keep an attitude of gratitude wherever RVentures take us.

Grateful for amazing parks "just down the road"

We visited White Sands National Monument which is located 50 miles east of Las Cruces. This incredible work of nature is a result of the forces of wind, rain, and erosion on the surrounding mountains of gypsum rock. The resulting gypsum sand is more solid than the sands found in Great Sand Dunes National Park. The sand also does not readily convert the sun's energy into heat ... making our two mile hike cool and easy in our bare feet.

Grateful for interesting plants and landscape

Before coming to this area, I had the perception that the desert southwest was a barren land with little more than rocks and dirt. Nothing could be further from the truth. Flowering cacti, desert grasses and Rio Grande Cottonwoods have adapted to the harsh environment ... benefitting both the environment and us humans.

Ancient Native American peoples used parts of the soaptree yucca, pictured below, to make sandals, mats, soap, shampoo, and even dental floss as they made White Sands their home.

Grateful for beautiful hikes and the friends we meet along the way

We hiked along the Organ Mountains to Dripping Springs and enjoyed breathtaking mountain views,

... as well as views of Las Cruces on the distant plain.

This natural area was the location of a mountain resort and sanitarium in the early 20th century. Remains of some of the buildings as well as the Dripping Springs (yes, it was just a drip of a spring) greeted us at the top of the trail.

Along the way, I struck up a conversation with Jean, a fellow hiker and retired Air Force nurse from Texas. We enjoyed sharing "nurse stories" as well as "travel adventures" as we hiked. In true "nurse" form, our hiking pace picked up as we talked leaving Doug far behind.  

Grateful for the "Young at Heart" friends we meet

One evening we went to St Clair Winery and Bistro for a wine release party to benefit the local Habitat for Humanity. It was so delightful to meet and visit with longtime Habitat volunteers, Mac and Donna. At 94 years young, Mac still serves as official photographer at special events as well as at the Habitat build sites.

Grateful for bike rides to explore our current "home"

These bike rides brought us to beautiful sites like the Rio Grande river, Old Mesilla Plaza, and a few local breweries. Always happy when a Spotted Dog invites us in to try his IPA and Brown Ale! 

Grateful for walks that allow us to discover the local beauty.

We have found that one of the best ways to get a feel for a new city is to take a walk. Local beauty can be found in the unique homes, gardens, shops, and parks in the area.

Grateful for the local church communities 

They welcome us with open arms to share in their worship and culture. We enjoyed the Spanish influence in the art, song and worship at St Genevieve in Las Cruces. 

While we miss the monthly pancake breakfasts at our former church in Minnesota, St Genevieve's Gordita lunch introduced us to the tasty Mexican-style corn "pancake" filled with deliciousness. 

Grateful for our ever-growing "Habitat" family

I had the opportunity to work with future home-owners, Corina and Amorette last Saturday. Starting out, none of us claimed to have any "serious" construction skills, but by the end of the day, we were sawing, hammering and drilling divas! As we proudly showed off our nicely sheathed porch, we were grateful for the encouragement and support we gave each other. I look forward to joining them for a cup of coffee in their new homes when RVentures bring us back to the area. 

We are also grateful to be able to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with our fellow Care-a-vanners. I made my first whole turkey in our microwave/convection oven and am always grateful for my enthusiastic "man with the knife". Doug was thankful to see that I also made his favorite Pecan-Topped Yams ... think of pumpkin and pecan pies combining to create the ultimate Thanksgiving side dish.

We shared good food and lots of laughs with our new friends. The dedication, skill, and camaraderie of our Care-a-vanner community is what continues to draw us to these Habitat builds and will keep us here in Las Cruces for an extra week of building fun. 


Grateful for each other

Yes, even though we may have our moments (OK, me more than Doug), we still are grateful for the fun we continue to have together as we explore this beautiful country and share our skills with others.

An attitude of gratitude can do amazing things ... like helping us to raise houses as majestic as the surrounding mountains!

Until next time ... Happy Thanksgiving ... Thank you for all the ways you share your attitude of gratitude to make the world a better "home" for all!

Monday, November 14, 2016

The "Truth or Consequences" of New Mexico

We had three "free" days between Santa Fe and our current Habitat for Humanity build location of Las Cruces. The midpoint of our route was the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Just the name intrigued me. It turns out that this town was originally named Hot Springs due to the many mineral springs in the area. But, in 1950, the townspeople voted to change their name to Truth or Consequences so that the then popular program would broadcast a show from their town. For those of you too young to remember the show, here is a clip ... cigarette advertising and all! 

After watching just a few minutes of it, I was even more amazed that a town would change its name to be a part of this show! But, nonetheless, I started researching where to stay using my favorite campground search apps ... RVParkReviews.com. This app lists all the campgrounds in or near a particular town along with honest reviews from the people who have stayed there. I have found the site reviews to be fairly spot-on.

At $14/day, all New Mexico State Park campgrounds are a great bargain, so I happy that Elephant Butte Lake State Park got high marks from past RV travelers. It is the largest state park in New Mexico stretching more than 10 miles from the north to south end. It has a few different campground areas spread throughout the park. South Monticello Campground with its spacious sites and remote desert setting along the Rio Grande River and Fra Cristobal Mountains seemed the favorite among past visitors. 

I told Doug about my choice the next day, and that is where we had our own "Truth or Consequence" experience. I guess that I (the co-pilot) neglected to tell Doug (the pilot) the exact "truth" ... that the campground I was leading him to, while very nice, was more remote than the ones he had in mind by the main visitor center of the park. 

Following my directions and maneuvering the Wildebeest up and down some challenging roads, we came to South Monticello campground. And then the truth came out ... No, I had not led him to the main campground area ... No, there is not much around for many miles ... Yes, we are going to have to just enjoy this beautiful remote desert for the next three days ... No, there is not a store nearby ... 

And the most important realization ... No, I did not take into consideration that there was only one beer left in the frig!

After we settled in our large, level and quiet site, we took a walk along the trail to explore our new "home".

We both decided that the consequences were going to be happy ones. We enjoyed ....

spying road runner wanna-bees,

staying clear of "Pillsbury doughboy" cacti,

examining holes that housed elusive creatures,

studying the habits of big bugs ... but thankfully, no tarantulas,

enjoying amazing sunrises,

and equally beautiful sunsets,

along with the appearance of the (nearly) Supermoon.

Yes, my pilot had to admit that I did not lead him astray. We both enjoyed our few days in the desert of New Mexico.

We did end up venturing into Truth or Consequences ... had to check out a city named after a game show. The Walmart not only had a neat setup for solar panels in their parking lot,

But they also carried a local beer that was very appropriate for the situation!

Doug is one Happy Camper!

Until next time ... may all your consequences be happy ones ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!