Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Three Rivers Petroglyph Photo Gallery

Here are additional photos from Three Rivers Petroglyph Site from April 18, 2013.

Read the earlier post for a description of my visit and to learn a little about petroglyphs and the site. There are links in that post for further information.

In a number of cases I've photographed the petroglyph(s) at a wide enough angle that you can get a sense of place, not just a disconnected image.

If you click on a photo you will see larger versions in a "lightbox," but then you won't see the captions, apparently.

This "abstract" design is one of my favorites. There are similar designs in several places in the site. I haven't read any theories about what it may represent, but I have a theory... see the next photo.
This rather "busy" design really got me thinking. The abstract pattern in the middle is similar to other abstracts in the site, though some of its interior patterns are shaded full. It suddenly struck me that there could be smoke rising from the central pattern, perhaps the "abstract" represents a lava flow and the other symbols are animals and people fleeing from the eruption. The Valley of Fires (see recent posts) was only 1500 - 2000 years ago, the people who created these petroglyphs might well have been living in the area at that time.

This image of what appears to be a Big Horn Sheep pierced with spears or arrows is one of the most photographed at the site according to the brochure.

Is this mighty hunter celebrating his catch?
An eagle head, bird tracks, a quadruped, and a strange device - perhaps an animal trap?
Are those earrings?
The previous head is on the backside of this group. Note here an interesting face, almost cartoon-like, and one of the site's famous cross & dots symbols.
A figure looking quite like a Hopi Kachina.
Is that a fish in the foreground? Perhaps cooking on a fire?
Note: the hand and snake in the back left and another cross & dots in the back right.

Another of my favorites. For a long time I thought this represented a human torso, but I'm no longer quite so sure.
Is that an animal attacking that person? Yikes!
One of the circle motifs.

Not sure what critter that is with an arrow stuck in him. That looks like a bear claw on the left.

An abstract pattern in the foreground. Those are the Godfrey Hills mid-distance left; the dark strip near the top is a volcanic basalt, I believe. In the distance is Sierra Blanca.
A reprise of a photo from the original post for those who may have skipped reading that. I call this the Thunderbird group because of the two images in the upper left. I also like the hand and the lizard.
The figure in the upper left looks like a butterfly to me and to the lower right a Bighorn Sheep.
Now just what kind of critter is this? The symbol on its side could represent mountains or clouds, but that face is bizarre.
Here is another 4-legged critter with a symbolic side and circles. Note the snake slithering down from the right.
Looks like a human figure dancing, a hand reaching for a spear, and a bear claw.
I initially thought this was a Mountain Lion leaping out at the artist due to the face and claws. Then I saw a human face rendered with that same filled-in pattern from nose to the top of the head, so I'm not so sure.
A lizard and various other figures.
A spear symbol of some sort.
I'll stop now. I think most readers have already wandered away and I don't blame them. Seeing photos is not nearly as interesting as seeing the actual petroglyphs. This is a wonderful place and I encourage you to visit for yourself.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Valley of Fires Photos Gallery

Here are additional photos from the Valley of Fires Recreation Area from April 19, 2013

Read the previous post for a description of my visit and to view a panorama photo of the Nature Trail from which the following photos were taken.

If you click on a photo you will see larger versions in a "lightbox," but then you won't see the captions, apparently.

Looking east across the flow and seeing a lava pressure ridge.

The Hedgehog Cacti were blooming all over the area.
Close-up photo of the Hedgehog Cactus flower.
Many flowers were in bloom, such as Fendler's Bladderpod,  to the delight of this bee.
A cluster of yellow and purple blossoms on one Feather Dalea bush.
A Bearded Penstemon growing in a lava crack.
Purple Verbena were also common in the area.

Very difficult terrain to try to traverse.

There were a number of ground squirrels living amongst the lava.

I love the stark beauty of this dead juniper against the skyline.

Rock Wren. There were Canyon Wrens in the lava, but they refused to pose for photos. 
Look carefully: this Rock Wren has nesting material in its bill.

Sotol, a type of yucca, is iconic in the area.
Thanks for viewing my photos.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Three Rivers and the Valley of Fires

This will actually be part one of a three part post... sort of. This post will be the trip report text and a few illustrative photos. I will post photo galleries of Three Rivers Petroglyphs and Valley of Fires very soon after I publish this report. Of course if you stumble across this later, you may have actually seen the two photo galleries first due to the way blog posts are organized with the latest at the top.

Let me also apologize for how my writing changes unpredictably between past and present tense. As I sit to write each day's log, some part is reflection, some relates current events. I'll try to iron this out as I gain more experience blogging.

Wednesday, April 17, 2012

On The Highway

Wind, wind, wind! The weather forecasters said it would die down by Wednesday, but were they ever wrong. The plan had been to drive down to the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site in south-central New Mexico. I'd take photos of the ancient rock art and stay in the BLM campground there tonight. Tomorrow I'd go a bit farther up the road to the Three Rivers campground run by the forest service and hike the trail up the mountain. But as they say, "the best laid plans..."

Fighting the headwinds down to Socorro on the Interstate was slow going, but not that bad. I stopped for a Buckhorn Burger at the tavern in San Antonio. But then on the trek east on US-380 it was truly awful and only got worse. I could see towering clouds of white sand off to the south... yes, those White Sands. I knew if I kept to my plan then at Carrizzo I would need to turn south right into the dust and wind, so I thought I'd pull off the highway to evaluate the situation. 

Valley of Fires BLM Recreation Area

The air is full of dust blown up the Tularosa Basin by strong southerly winds.
I stopped at the Valley of Fires BLM Recreation Area just a few miles west of Carrizozo. I'd never stopped before. It is quite nice, situated on a ridge overlooking the lava flow. They have a full campground with RV hook ups; ramadas; showers; very cool, secluded tent camping area; visitor center & bookstore; and an interesting looking interpretive trail. I didn't avail myself of any of those amenities (other than the restroom) due to the ferocious winds, but it looks ripe for a return visit. High summer would not be the time to do that, however. (Spoiler: I returned later on this very trip.)

My buddy Mark had mentioned in a phone call how beautiful Lake Bonita near Ruidoso had been when he'd camped there many years ago, so I thought that would be a good alternative to fighting the wind. It is located within the Sierra Blanca mountains, so might have less wind and blowing dust than the petroglyphs which are right on the plains. 

Sierra Blanca Mountains - Lincoln National Forest

Driving into the Lincoln National Forest I was quickly and harshly reminded of the large forest fire they suffered only last year. I hadn't paid it as much attention as it deserved, as I was preoccupied with the large forest fire closer to home in the Jemez Mountains. The "Little Bear" fire north of Ruidoso was enormous and although it apparently didn't burn directly at Lake Bonita, according to the map I got later at the ranger station, the subsequent floods devastated the lake and surrounding area. [update: the fire burned 44,300 acres and 254 buildings, making it the most destructive wildfire of human structures in the state's history.]

To make a long story (and many miles up and down mountain roads) short, I ended up camping along FS 127A in a dispersed camping area. It was quiet, with pines and firs, but not totally unscathed by the fires and flooding. There was a small herd of wild horses that paid no mind to me as I stopped to take a few photos. Nonetheless, the winds were strong, gusting well into the night even down in the canyon, so no exploring, just cowering in the camper. I hope they were right at the ranger station that the winds will not be as bad on Thursday when I hope to loop around and get to Three Rivers at last. 

I took this photo out my truck window. The horses could have cared less, especially the hungry little one.

Thursday, April 18, 2012

Lincoln National Forest - Forest Road 127A

It was extremely windy for most of the night. Many of the gusts shook the camper violently; some were incredibly powerful. The camper held up very well, I'm happy to report. I thought some animal had carried away my door mat during the night, but discovered it had only been blown about 15 feet way.

Dry camping in a dry canyon north of Ruidoso.

I had been warned that it was going to get down to 25 degrees this morning in the Ruidoso area. Up here in the canyon it got down to 20 according to my thermometer.

It is now 8am and the sun is shining, though not directly on the camper, yet it is still freezing - 28 degrees.  Looks like the winds have come way down. I'll pack up and get on the road so I can hopefully get to the petroglyph area before the afternoon winds, if they indeed come back up. 

On the Road

Driving back into the Ruidoso valley. Wow! The area sure looks lovely when the atmosphere is not filled with dust... like a whole other place. I worry about Ruidoso though, what with the low amount of snow the last few winters and now with the Little Bear fire closing so many of the summer recreation areas, too. Nice drive to Mescalero, where the elevation drops and the forest ends. I can see White Sands to the west. 

There seems to be some wind, but it is not kicking up the dust like yesterday, which is encouraging. I can see some dust in the plains, not the towers like yesterday. Turn north at Tularosa on highway 54. Turn right at Three Rivers Road. It is a paved road to the site.

County highway on the way to Three Rivers with the Sierra Blanca in the background.

Three Rivers Petroglyph Site

The Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, operated by the BLM has a very nice, but somewhat barren, picnic area with shaded tables and a full-time host manning an information booth. Camping is available here, too. He provided me with a trail map, information brochure and suggestion to explore off the trail, as there is more rock art off the path than along it. Over 21,000 petroglyphs have been catalogued at the site. Fortified with an avocado and swiss sandwich I set off with my camera to explore. 

The petroglyph I personally call The Three Rivers with the BLM picnic/campground below.

For those unfamiliar with our petroglyphs in the southwestern US, ancient peoples created figures and symbols on the rocks by scraping or pecking (using one rock as a chisel and a second as a hammer.) They chose rocks, usually volcanic in origin, where the outer layer of the rock had oxidized over the years to form a patina (outer coloration) that is darker than the interior of the rock. This allowed the art to stand out and be seen. This also means that over a long period of time their creations will slowly lose contrast and ultimately disappear.

Some of the petroglyphs are obviously birds, beasts and insects the artists encountered in their daily lives. Cloud and mountain symbols were also created. Other figures appear human; some may represent gods. There are other symbols that we in the modern world can only speculate about, as no one really knows the intent of the ancient artists.

I could wax eloquent for pages on just how amazing and wonderful this place is. As you climb these unassuming rocky hills you begin to see the figures and symbols pecked into the rocks. The number and density is unprecedented in the southwest US. These "hills" are apparently the cores of volcanic vents. The remains of fissures can be seen in the surrounding area. And flows, such as cap the nearby Godfrey Hills. 

The vista from the trail is magnificent. To the east the grasslands and scrub give way to the piñon and juniper of the foothills of the Sierra Blanca, with the eponymous peak as their crown. To the west, across the Tularosa Valley, lie the San Andres Mountains and between here and there the White Sands Missile Range, whose white sands can be seen in the distance to the SW. Lucky for me the skies are clear and the winds moderate. The temps are cool, but my little secret is that I am comfortable as I never took off my long underwear this morning!

Looking southwest from the petroglyph trail. The white strip at the base of the mountains is White Sands. There is a dust devil in the middle distance. The trees shield a ranch house and you can also see a cattle pond. The county highway is also visible in the near distance.

I first heard of the Three Rivers site via the Gambler's House blog. The author, a student and volunteer at Chaco Canyon when he started the blog, has for many years written about the ancient people in the southwestern US and especially Chaco Canyon. When he got a job in Alaska the SW coverage has dropped off, but there is a wealth of information in his blog. 

The petroglyphs are unusual here, sure there are the standard symbols and animal icons, but the style of the depictions seems much fuller and fluid to me. There are cross & dots patterns that are unique to here and some abstract designs that are intriguingly mysterious. I strongly recommend a visit to Three Rivers, though it is, admittedly, out of the way. It took me several years (and a camper acquisition) to make it and I live only about three hours away.

I will post a photo gallery from the site very soon. Depending upon when you read this, it may already be published!

Lincoln National Forest - Three Rivers Campground

Leaving the petroglyph site I drive 8 miles farther east to the Three Rivers Campground. It is nestled right at the boundary of the designated White Mountain Wilderness where the eco-zone transitions to pine and fir forest. Most of the sites are screened from the others by large Alligator Junipers. There is a very small stream along the north edge of the campground which babbles most delightfully as I walk alongside.

My site, #4 at the upper end of the campground.

It is forecast to be clear and cold tonight. I take a few photos of the cloudless sunset. 

Sunset from my campsite. There were lots of stars out later. It was so clear I could see a couple of the moons of Jupiter through my binoculars, but it was so cold I didn't stay outside for long.

Friday, April 19, 2012

And it is indeed cold. The outside temp read 24 when I woke at six this morning. As I sit all cosy with the furnace running and with my coffee, my iPad in my lap writing this, it is all the way up to 25 degrees at 7:30 am. It's a beautiful morning outside, but I think I'll linger in the camper a while longer! Thirty minutes later it is 10 degrees warmer. I should be able get out and enjoy the scenery after breakfast. 

This is the view from my camper this beautiful New Mexico morning.

OK, it warmed up for a nice walk along the creek. There were only a few birds out and about, but the few warblers I heard didn't even show themselves enough for me to get my binocs upon, much less to get a photo. Time to pack up and head to the Valley of Fires before the winds pickup.

The trail that leads from the campground up the mountain.
An Alligator Juniper along the trail showing the bark pattern that gives the tree its common name.

Valley of Fires BLM Recreation Area

It was a little chilly and breezy to have a picnic table outside at the Valley of Fires, so ate my sandwich in the cab. It was certainly nice enough to take their nature trail with the sun shining as it was. I didn't take my binocs on the hike, though, and that was a mistake. Turns out there were many birds and squirrels and interesting things to look at; at least I did take my long lens.

Three wide-angle photos stitched together to create a panorama of the Nature Trail as seen from the trailhead.
Click here to see it in a larger size.
Actually the nature trail had far more to see than I had imagined - lots of plants and blooming flowers & cacti, lots of birds, and of course, the varied lava formations. It is a surprisingly diverse ecosystem. The nature trail is an easy walk on pavement and fairly level once you descend from the starting point. I recommend it to all even if you only have an hour and are passing by; well worth the small fee. For the more adventurous they allow you to explore off the trail on your own, but be prepared with excellent boots, water, and perhaps a stout walking stick.

The Hedgehog Cacti were blooming all through the area. Sotol yucca are also prevalent.

The last lava flows were formed only about 1500 to 2000 years ago. The lava spread southward 44 miles and covered 125 square miles. At it thickest point it is 160 feet thick. This may be the most recent lava flow in New Mexico, but it is not the largest. El Malpais National Monument near Grants in the western part of the state is larger.

I will post a gallery of photos from Valley of Fires very soon, just check back. Or depending upon when you read this, it may have already been published.

And the Journey Home

Fortunately, the winds were more favorable on my way home. Thanks for joining me for another adventure.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Inside Story

Welcome, come inside my new camper.

It is a 2013 Fleet model, manufactured by Four Wheel Campers of California specifically to fit small/mid-size pickups, such as my Toyota Tacoma. You will see many of the options I ordered in these photos. If you have questions, leave a comment here or on the forum where you found this link.
Please watch your step... or rather my new hitch-mounted steps.
There is a yellow "porch" light and hand grip to the right of the door. The door has the screen door option installed.
There is a window in the door, but I've let the curtain down here.

Now for interior views:

Front left (driver's side) showing the over-cab bed in its stowed position and black roof-lifting panel.
Optional red LED ceiling lights - a star photographer's dream and convenient at bed-time, too.
Front right of the camper. The 4 windows in the pop-up fabric were closed in these photos to control the light.

Let's look at the bed with the platform slide out and extra bed cushions in place: 

The wide-angle lens distorts the perspective. The bed is longer along the axis of the truck bed.
Compare this photo to the similar view, above, and you can see the difference.

Here is the Galley:

Stainless steel sink with running water and two-burner propane stove with splatter guard.
Cabinet: two full-depth drawers and doors to three storage areas. Positive latches on doors & drawers.
Controls (top down): furnace thermostat, 12vdc outlets, water & battery monitor, and 120vac outlets.
120vac is live only when camper is plugged into "shore" power.
Shore power circuit breakers & fuses behind lower left door; more storage behind right door.
Looking to the left side, you can see the forced-air propane furnace and side floodlights switch.
Compressor refrigerator runs from 12vdc or 120vac.
Below fridge are floor light switches and carbon monoxide detector.
Fridge interior showing shelves, storage, and even a freezing compartment.

Seating, more storage and another bed:

Door, mirror on panel that supports roof, and smoke detector on ceiling.
Also the ceiling vent and bi-directional fan.
Back passenger-side showing "roll over" couch with small storage cabinet above it.

Looking down at the roll over couch. There are four storage areas under the seat that I forgot to photograph.
Lifting the seat cushions: on the left (front) is the battery compartment with 2 sealed "house" batteries & the truck battery isolator, then two general purpose storage areas. (Please ignore my leg in upper left.)
The porta-potty slides out of the way under the right (back) end of the couch.
Here the couch backrest has been rolled over to form another bed which runs the full length of the camper.
View of  the side window (with emergency exit) and fire extinguisher. The table pedestal normally clamps where I've left my little broom. The table would be set up in the aisle, but I'll likely just use a tray when eating inside.
Another look to the rear, as we prepare to exit.

 Thanks for visiting. I hope you enjoyed the tour. 

Side view of the steel camper steps made by Brophy. I got them from eTrailer.com and they work great!