Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dog Lake

We are at a roadside picnic area and historical marker
overlooking Laguna del Perro, just east of Willard, NM (map). While there appears to be a thin film of water right in the middle today, mostly the lake is a dry salt bed, and people have mined salt here since ancient times.

We got an early (for us) start yesterday from Clovis. We had been pounded overnight by thunderstorms and some good sized hail, and as we had our morning coffee, it began to rain lightly again. A quick check of the radar revealed that we were on the edge of a spinning storm system, and we were in for another drenching. It looked like we could escape by driving west, and so we packed up and headed out.

We've been on a regimen of driving roughly two hours per day, and so we've generally been leaving in the early afternoon and arriving at our next spot in the late afternoon. Having left mid-morning yesterday, we found ourselves in the neighborhood of Vaughn, our two-hour milepost, at only lunch time. After a quick consultation of the maps, we decided to continue west on US60, rather than diverting northwest on 285 (a more direct route to Albuquerque), in order to take the scenic Salt Mission Byway from Mountainair north. We set our sights on the Manzano Mountains State Park, which our guide said had 37 dry spaces and 8 with electric hookups.

Given that this was a rather small state park, and it had just reopened for the season on May 1, coupled with the fact that it was somewhat out of our way to reach it, Louise called ahead to make sure they still had a 40' space available. We're glad we called -- they told us they were closed due to an active forest fire in the region.

We reasoned that if the state park was closed due to forest fire, then our backup plan involving the nearby Cibola National Forest was probably also out. Our map showed no picnic or rest areas along this stretch, and we were actually eying some of the dirt service road along the adjacent BNSF two-track main as a possible overnight camp. We decided to hold out until at least Willard, to see if anything better cropped up, and this historic monument, describing the ancient lake and the salt trail, came up at the perfect stopping point.

It was a great stop -- we are perched perhaps 100' or so above the lake bed, with a great view of the lake in the distance. BNSF engineers have been waving at us (and blowing their chimes when we've motioned for them to do so -- a habit left over from being a train-brain back in junior high), and the road itself has been mostly quiet, with just the occasional semi.

We had the place all to ourselves from arrival, through dinner, and past bedtime, and we are alone again this morning. After midnight a semi pulled in and parked about 20' from us, and the driver retired to the sleeper for the night, leaving the truck to idle. We're used to truck stops, so it didn't really disturb us very much, although it seemed almost sacrilegious in this otherwise beautiful and quiet spot. It may be unpopular to say it, but I am eager for the day when escalating fuel prices finally force trucking companies to equip these rigs with alternate methods of heating and cooling for the crews overnight.

This morning I've been researching where in Albuquerque we might stay tonight with high-speed Internet access. It appears that, unless we want to go 20 miles out of our way to the far west of the city, we'll have to settle for the KOA. We're going to play it by ear and see what's available when we arrive this afternoon.

In the meantime, we are looking forward to the scenic and historic Salt Mission Trail byway, NM55 to NM337.

1 comment:

  1. Where are you heading (roughly) after ABQ? Can point you towards some less travelled and scenic areas on the Navajo reservation...



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