Friday, July 10, 2009

Ahhh... boondocking in the cool forest

We are parked in a clearing off a dirt road in the Carson National Forest (map), half a mile or so from US-84, just south of Cebolla. Again, we are at the green arrow, not the red balloon -- I'm still annoyed with Google for changing their map format. Darned free services -- you can't complain to anyone about them.

Yesterday we had a nice scenic drive through the northwestern strip of the Carson, followed by the Jicarilla Apache Nation (at whose casino, down on 550 east of Counselors, we once stayed), across the continental divide, and into Chama, where we stopped at the visitor center.

Chama is the western terminus of the Cumbres & Toltec narrow-gauge, steam-powered scenic railroad, and we got some information about it at the visitor center. I'd heard about this trip before, and we decided to make the drive a mile north into town to check it out. We inquired about parlor car seats for today's trip, and, had they been available, we would likely have spent two nights at the RV park in town so we could enjoy a ride over to Antonito, Colorado (with return by bus). Unfortunately, the parlor car was sold out, and we did not relish a four hour ride in an open coach, so we decided to skip it. The train from Antonito pulled in just as we walked out of the historic station, so we at least got to see it. We high-tailed it out of the parking lot before the train unloaded -- the train was full, and we could see getting stuck there until the lot emptied out.

After driving through the touristy little downtown (the train is the only thing keeping Chama alive -- all the businesses we saw on the outskirts were boarded up), and stopping for supplies at the lone grocery store, we continued south through Tierra Amarilla to here. Our guides showed several stopping options further south, but this seemed to be our highest elevation opportunity, at 7,700'. Between the elevation and the partial tree cover, it has been relatively cool since we arrived, topping out in the mid-80s.

This is a great spot. Clearly well used, with three or four fire rings scattered around, and someone even built a privy of sorts a couple hundred feet from here. Yet there is only a modest amount of trash, and only a dozen or so vehicles have passed on the dirt road since we arrived. We are well back from the road, obscured by trees, so we have a great deal of privacy. It would make a great group site, as well, with room for maybe half a dozen rigs scattered around. To our north is a view out over the agricultural valley below.

There is an abundance of firewood here, and I grilled lamb last night and steak tonight over an open fire. Other than some lingering projects around the bus, we've had a relaxing day, and we will be here at least two nights. Tomorrow we will decide if we want to move on, or spend a third night in this lovely spot.

This morning we had a visit from reader Kate of Cholula Red fame. They are camp hosting at Ghost Ranch, about 20 miles south of here, and when she saw we were in the neighborhood, inquired about getting together. No pets allowed at Ghost Ranch, though, so I suggested she come up here. We had a nice visit.

From here, whenever we decide to leave, we will continue south toward Santa Fe. We might stop somewhere in between -- there is a Corps of Engineers site at Abiquiu Lake, and several more Forest Service opportunities on either side of it.

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