Practice for Alaska


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April 18th 2016
Published: April 19th 2016
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Practice for Alaska


Day 3

Had a good morning with my parents and said my goodbyes. Alas, I didn't leaver Amarillo till around 1PM. Late start indeed. Essentially I headed up to Raton via Dalhart then Clayton. From Raton, I took state highway 64 which hugs the northern New Mexico border.

From Raton to Cimarron to Eagle Nest I hit my first Snow Storm going through the mountain pass. Not to bad as the temperature stayed just above freezing so I wasn't too worried. I was worried about it going below freezing but the travel gods where with me. Lucky me. It was very beautiful with the trees covered with snow and the ground covered with this layer of the purest white. I passed a couple cars coming from the other direction, but aside from that, almost total solitude. Nice.

Things cleared up after Eagle Nest to Angel Fire and I breathed a little easier thinking I was past the front dumping all the snow. Haha, silly me. The mountain pass between Angel Fire and Taos I hit my second much heavier snow storm. Snow was coming down thick and fast and this time the temperature went below 32 and stayed there. It never went below 30 though and the road only became half covered with snow. I started worrying at this point. I was worrying enough that I started looking for a camping spot thinking I would just hunker down and resume the journey in the morning (it was a good thing I didn't which I will get to). One thing I can tell you was that it was absolutely enchanting. It made me think of Lantern West in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (still love those stories).

I never did find a campground, mostly because I was already past it when I saw it and I WAS NOT turning around. So eventually I got to Taos with no issues and got gas. I was sorely tempted to use a Mulligan and stay at a cheap in but I shamed myself to insist I was going to camp (however I'd be lying if I didn't say it wasn't REALLY tempted).

The skies had stopped snowing and was mostly spitting rain so I decided to press onto Farmington or as close as made sense. After Taos the road opened up into a nice valley. I crossed over the Rio Grande Royal Gorge which was a fantastic site.

Driving was great to Tres Piedras. Between Tres Piedras and Chama I hit my third and final snow storm. Between Tres Piedras and Los Ojos I saw absolutely no one. I loved the solitude. I even loved the snow. I didn't love the numerous whiteout conditions, the road covered with snow so I can't tell where it is, temperatures in the mid 20s and steep inclines covered with ice. This was by far the longest stretch I drove of the three snow storm. I really started freaking myself at this point thinking if I should turn around, press on, pull over and wait or setup camp in some open area and hunker down. After a bit I realized it didn't matter and to just press on. If conditions got so bad that I got stranded I had all my serious foul weather gear and I could hunker down where ever without worrying about life or limb (well except that plunge over a mountain precipice). Oh did I mention that I was losing light fast? I had started so late that it was already after 6PM RMT when I started
Dodge the WildlifeDodge the WildlifeDodge the Wildlife

There was much much more but by the time I could slow down and stop they were long gone.
going through this stretch.

Needless to say I made it through and when I got through the area, I was overlooking a beautiful valley covered with snow and a lake at the base of whatever I was coming out of. The twilight skies and the deep shadows was almost unearthly. Very very lovely.

I got past Chama and it was already almost dark, there was no apparent campground and it was now raining hard with 34 degree rain. Me being somewhat of a wimp and like being dry decided to head to Navajo Lake which is right before Farmington.

Now the next phase of my trip started. I call this phase, Dodge the Wildlife. I am dead serious. The damn elk, white tail and mule deer where everywhere and sometimes in herds numbering 20 and more. Do you know that when a mule deer is straight on towards you looks like a tree? It wasn't till I was pass and saw the profile that I realized it was a big deer. I almost had a heart attack on that one since I wasn't ready for any emergency maneuvering. My speed on this stretch ranged from 20 to 40 MPH most of the way to Navajo Lake. I eventually made it to Navajo Lake and the campgrounds around 11:00.

I get a camp and I tried to stay away from everyone since I didn't want to disturb them in my setup. The temperature is around 35 but there was no wind (thank God!) so it actually wasn't too bad. Now I discovered two things. I did a really really really crappy job packing the car and that the setup of the tent and the rest of the gear never came close to the apparent fantasy I had in my head on how it was supposed to go. I felt really stupid at this point. Apparently you can forget how to camp.

After much grumbling and finding out that my cot doesn't fit in the tent, my head and feet touch both ends of the tent, that the two man tent was in reality a one man tent for little people, I finally got to bed around 1AM. I was cramped, had no pillow and I was getting aches from the weird contortions I needed to do while I was trying to find a comfortable position. I was warm so that's win there.

Mesa Verde in the morning/afternoon.

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