Driving down out of the mountains from Davis Mountains State Park we gradually left the juniper covered hills and reached the desert east Texas that epitomizes most people's idea of what that part of Texas encompasses. We rejoined I-10 at the ghost town of Kent and began the westward trek towards El Paso and out of Texas. It always interesting to see the immense sprawling city of Juarez on the Mexican side of the concrete-channeled Rio Grande and the fences running along the river north and west of the city. Quickly you leave the sprawl behind as the road turns north and you cross into New Mexico under the big welcome sign spanning the interstate noting that New Mexico is “The Land of Enchantment”.
|Mistletoe in a dormant oak|
|Feral boar crossing the road|
|New Mexico highway|
|Beware of rattlesnakes at rest areas!|
|The receding Elephant Butte Lake|
Besides being a good place for a longer stop, we wanted to visit the two wildlife refuges further north of Elephant Butte Lake on I-25 up the Rio Grande to check on for possible volunteering next winter. On Sunday, as soon as we unhitched and got settled, we drove north to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Their ponds and marshes are a wintering-over area for many ducks and geese, but most notably sandhill cranes and snow geese. We were able to see thousands of them as we drove and stopped along the nature drive, among the ponds and fields where they plant grain crops to attract and feed the birds. We had a couple good conversations with volunteers about working there, but didn't get to talk to a ranger. With the shutdown over they are swamped with activities to catch up on refuge business.
|Bosque del Apache|
|Ravens ignoring the snow geese|
Wednesday, after enduring two straight days of ever increasing winds, that limited our outdoor activity, we decided to drive to another wildlife refuge instead of sitting in the trailer all day. That day the winds were 30-40 mph with gusts over 50 mph. We knew we wouldn't be hiking the trails, but drove up and went to the visitor center. Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge is the largest in New Mexico and the eighth largest in the country. Four distinct ecosystems come together there. They have a program to reintroduce Mexican wolves onto the refuge. We had a good talk with a few volunteers. Again, rangers were scarce. This refuge has many fewer volunteers than the other we visited and fewer visitors. It has a more remote feel and is farther north with a colder winter climate. Lots to think about! Both refuges have their advantages for volunteers.
After five nights we packed up and drove to the Monticello campground at the north end of the lake. Or what used to be the north end. The lake has receded so drastically since we started coming here six years ago that the big island in the middle is now a peninsula, there are lots of sand spits, new islands, and the water color is lighter due to the shallow sand bottom. It is impossible to boat some areas of the lake, and the lake view is now gone from this campground. If you look hard, there is a small trickle that is what is left of the river flowing through the dry lake bed.
|Our view to the south|
Today Greg left for a bike ride. He'll ride down the closed boat ramp and head north along the old lake shore and go as far as he can. The wind just kicked up again. His last ride at Lion's Beach brought him back early. He rode along the beach and got sandblasted on his bare legs from the strong wind! As he opened the tailgate of the truck today, which had been left open for a while yesterday evening, something came blasting out. It turned out to be a large roadrunner who had accidentally been closed in and spent the very cold night in the bed of the truck! Just when we get a bit jaded and think we've seen it all out here, something new surprises us!