Monday, May 6, 2013

"Spring" in Southeastern New Mexico

The plan was to take a week for some early dragonfly hunting (with my camera) in southeast New Mexico. My resident expert said the last two weeks in April and first two weeks in May should be ideal and not too hot. Sign me up!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Got a good 7am start, filled up at $3.08/gal, drove east on I-40 to Clines Corners, then south on US-285 to Roswell. Nice drive, mild winds, unlike last trip! Antelope are frequently seen along here, but not today.


Topped off the tank at $3.04/gal. in Roswell! The gas station attendant came out of his armored booth to say, "I just realized. Does the roof of your camper lift up? How high does it go?" "High enough for me to stand easily inside," I replied. He asked a couple other questions, then as he headed back to his duties, he said, "That's the coolest thing I've ever seen!" I agreed, but just said, "Thanks."

Found a good parking spot in the shade next to the civic center, as it was now approaching 90F. Walked down to and back along the Spring River, which is one of the good dragonfly spots in the area, but not today. 

Had a great lunch at Martíns on 4th Street, just west of Main. Carne Adabo enchiladas made with blue corn tortillas and covered with both red and green chile. Yummy! Super to have a fridge in the camper for the go box. 

Color on the pond at the bird sanctuary 
Next I tried the two ponds at the J. Kenneth Smith Bird Sanctuary on the west side of town for odes, again no dragonflies. Though I did see a few damselflies, including a Double-striped Bluet, which was a new species for me. 
Double-striped Bluet damselflies mating in the "wheel" position. The male is bright blue.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Drove about eight miles east of town to the wildlife refuge. They had water in many of their pond areas, which was good to see as this is an important stop for migrants, especially shorebirds. Saw a bunch of very cool Wilson's Phalaropes in breeding plumage feeding in dizzying circles like they do, but no odes. 
One of many Wilson's Phalaropes. Also seen were a good number of Black-necked Stilts & American Avocets.

This is a great place for migrating birds, such as Sandhill Cranes in winter. They also host a Dragonfly Festival in early September.

On the Road

It was earlier than I'd planned to camp, the wind was kicking up and there was construction on the highway to Bottomless Lakes State Park, so time to innovate. Thought I'd head to Sitting Bull Falls in the Lincoln National Forest, which was recommended both for its beauty and the possibility for finding dragonflies. However, when I turned off the main highway between Artesia and Carlsbad, there was a sign by the road advising me of the recreation area's hours. I stopped and called the forest district office to confirm, and sure enough out of luck. It is only open Friday through Monday from noon to 6pm. 

Lincoln National Forest

After much driving found a plain dispersed camp spot in the national forest just west of the tiny village of Queen. Not a real exciting spot in the sparse juniper forest, but the nicer looking areas seemed to already be hosting range cattle.
Camp site among the juniper - at least it was level.
The cacti were blooming in the area.
I'd heard that Saturn was close to earth and easy to see this week, so had brought my spotting scope. I used the SkySafari app on my phone to locate the planet and, sure enough, I could see the rings around the planet and, I think, one of its moons. Very cool! I tried to use my digiscoping camera, but had no success taking a photo. I then turned the scope to Jupiter and found it and three of its moons all in a diagonal row. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rattlesnake Springs

Drove to Carlsbad to refuel, $3.29, then checked out Rattlesnake Springs which is part of Carlsbad Caverns NP, though the turn-off is 5.4 miles south of the main entrance. No odes, but a few camera shy birds. Backtracked the short distance to the caverns. I'd only been there twice in my life; once when I was maybe 6 years old and again in high school.
The Ocotillo were blooming all through the desert in SE New Mexico.
This is just outside the Carlsbad Caverns Visitor Center with the eastern plains visible on the right.

Carlsbad Caverns

I decided to do the self-guided tours. First I walked down the natural entrance. Wow! Sure a long way down. That route is not as scenic as the Big Room, that I walked next, but puts the whole cavern in context. The Big Room is amazing! I'm going to have to return and take tours of some of the other areas you can only see with a ranger. Tried various techniques to photograph the interior, some of which seemed to at least produce an image. It is impossible to discern the scale of the objects in the photos, however, due to that natural fractal thing.

Rechecked Rattlesnake Springs Picnic Area before I left the area. It was still hot and the picnic area did have many large trees for shade where I could while away a little time. There were a few more birds, but no odes. 

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Drove south to the Guadalupe Mountains NP. Didn't time it as well as I'd hoped. I guess I spent too much time in the shade at Rattlesnake Springs. I'd intended to arrive before dusk, but got to the Pine Springs Campground just at dark. Pine Springs is the only campground in the park unless you are a dedicated backpacker. I was amazed at all the campers. Lots of tent campers and the RV lot was almost full, and most of it is just that, a parking lot. 

I was lucky as I found a spot at the very end of the lot which had a buffer between me and the van next door, plus no neighbor at all on the far side - with great views. I guess it is a cheap night for many with those enormous fifth-wheels as most of them rolled out early in the morning. 
Pine Springs RV Campsites with the fabulous view which greeted me in the morning.

It was warm and breezy, but not too bad. 

May, 1, 2013

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

I met a couple of folks in the campground in the morning on my way to the flush toilets. They were advising their fellow campers of big changes in the weather ahead. Extremely strong northerly winds that evening and a large drop in temperatures. They decided they'd stay at Pine Springs and batten down, but were going to day hike McKittrick Canyon. I said I was hiking there, too, and maybe I'd see them on the trail.

McKittrick Canyon

After packing up, drove to the McKittrick Canyon trailhead. I didn't get the chance to explore here on my previous visit. Clear skies and it was already getting quite warm. The first part of the trail is desert, but after you get up canyon a ways the vegitatation changes and then the stream appears (then disappears and reappears and disappears.) But the areas of water must persist through the seasons as they are full of life, including beautiful little Rainbow Trout. Scrub gives way to juniper to piñon to pine and Madrone. It is dramatically scenic and I recommend the hike, though be aware about half of it is essentially on natural gravel and is a chore to walk through.

I made it up to the 2.4 miles to the old Pratt Lodge where the folks I'd met from the campground caught up with me. We shared a few stories and they shared a bit of their lunch with me... very nice people. Pretty hot walking out - take lots of water if you go. Saw only the same damselflies I'd been seeing all week, plus a Flame Skimmer and another very dark red dragonfly I cannot identify. 

I was very glad to get back to the (unmanned) visitor center at the trailhead. I wet a kerchief and draped it over my head to cool down.

Lincoln National Forest

On my drive back north I took a detour to check below Sitting Bull Falls in the trickle of water there for odes, but nothing. On my way north to Roswell I could literally see the cold front coming from the northeast. I looked for eats in Artesia. Stumbled upon Henry's BBQ on Main west of downtown. Good food and the chopped, green chile brisket was delicious. 

Bottomless Lakes State Park

Pulled into the Lea Lake campground at Bottomless Lakes right at sunset after fighting the winds since just before Artesia. Forecast for dangerously high winds and plummeting temperatures was coming true and I became quite chilly in my shorts and t-shirt as I set up camp. I'd found a site with a little shelter downwind of a Salt Cedar. The camper got thrown around pretty good all night by the winds, but held up well. 
Campsite at Lea Lake with a scraggly tamarisk as a wind break.

May 2, 1013

Bottomless Lakes State Park

It got down to 39 according to my thermometer. Still windy. At least they have electric hookups and WiFi here. If I left today I'd fight very strong headwinds home. If I leave tomorrow I'm supposed to have good tailwinds and have a chance to look for dragonflies if the weather does improve. 

I was able to download from the library website Nevada Barr's first novel, Track of the Cat, which is set in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. I will lay up here reading, listening to satellite radio and let my feet and legs recover from my hikes. I don't recall how I first found her murder mystery series, but the accounts of a fictional law enforcement ranger for the park service, written by an actual law enforcement ranger are compelling. Her love and respect for the stark, unforgiving, yet beautiful land of Guadalupe Mountains NP was the cause for my first visit to this park in far, far west Texas. My visit yesterday made me want to revisit the novel. (She has written many more excellent mysteries featuring the fictitious Ranger Anna Pigeon as she is transferred to other National Parks. Recommended!)

My first propane bottle became empty late this morning. The furnace turned on then off again after only a minute, but that didn't really register. However, when I went to heat up some lunch and the stove would not light I finally figured out what had happened. The camper has two 10 pound propane bottles and it is very easy to move the hose from the empty to the full bottle. I just need to remember to fill the empty before my next trip.

The weather improved some, though it stayed windy all day, and was able to take a couple of short walks. Took some photos of Lea Lake and found a few damselflies including a Variable Dancer. 

A can of soup filled my belly for dinner, but I really should put more effort into it and get creative since I have a refrigerator for fresh food. 

May 3, 2013

Bottomless Lakes State Park

It was 25 degrees when I finally climbed out of the sleeping bag at 6:40am. That must be the magic number, as every trip I've taken so far, it has dropped that low at least one night. Fortunately, this cannot go on much longer!

It took a while to warm up, so I stayed inside either on the Internet or reading my novel, which I finished before lunch (combination of being a fast reader, a quick read, and the time to put those to aspects together.)

The wind had dropped to almost nothing, even though still cool, and I was able to walk around to check the dragonfly areas. Lots of those Variable Dancer damselflies, but only a couple of glimpses of a dragonfly too fleeting to really count.

Roswell, then on the Road to Home

I packed up in the early afternoon, checked the Spring River in Roswell one more time without success. I was really looking forward to filling my tank at the station with $3.04/gal. gas, but it had gone up by 15 cents/gal. Darn! Oh, well that was no higher than anywhere else in town. I then set off for home. Luckily as forecast, I did indeed have tailwinds most of the way home.


  1. Bill, thanks so much for a look at your part of the West. Very well done, a very enjoyable trip report!

  2. What a great trip report! All the good stuff, in chronological order, with just enough sidebars!! And the photos are lovely as always. I LOVED the little Wilsons Phalarope! they are so cute.
    This blog-thing is really set up well. I like the links to the places you've been, like the BBQ place.. "the internet is your friend".... and I agree on the Nevada Barr books, I've enjoyed many of them myself!
    Keep on Truckin'!

    1. Thanks, Claudie. I do love watching phalaropes spin around! Glad you like the links.

      I changed the text about posting the photo galleries to actual links to those photo galleries. Do you think those links are obvious enough? Should I add something like, "Click to view"?


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