Travel Planning for a New Year

Proper planning is important in many things, including vacations.

It’s that time of year again for me to put some thought and effort into travel planning for the coming vacation year that begins again for us on March 1.  As always, I feel so blessed that Hubby has four weeks of paid vacation each year, and that we are both healthy enough to travel regularly.

In years past, prior to the time we purchased our first RV five years ago, I must confess that travel planning was not something we focused on in our lives to a large extent.  We have always been blessed to take at least one lovely vacation each year for the most part, but we mostly planned our time away more at the last minute and certainly never considered trying to plan on a larger scale… a full year at a time.  Our lack of planning caused us to actually lose some vacation days each year because we did not find a way to take them in the twelve month period when Hubby was permitted to use them… a sad situation, to be sure.

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This is so very true, including planning our personal times together!

We planned for so many things in our lives… retirement planning, meal planning, budget planning and health planning (doctor appointments, etc.).  So, why didn’t we put a little more emphasis on our special time away together?  I have a feeling we were/are not the only ones that have come to this realization at the empty nest stage of life, but I’m grateful we realized how this could change for the better before too many years went by.

At this stage of life as we approach our 60th birthdays, I consider travel planning to be one of my jobs, but it is a labor of love to be sure.  Hubby works (and travels) hard throughout the year to earn his time away from work, and he does not have time to spend on travel planning.  He even has a travel agent that books his work travels, so my job is to plan our vacation days to use them all and use them in ways we would like to do within our budget.  And if I say so, I think I do a pretty good job now.

I’m also challenged to be creative in our travel plans each year.  Five years ago, I would have never dreamed that my little family would spend Christmas in our RV, but we just loved it!  I enjoy the challenge of creative RV camping a lot, something that might be a good topic for another post sometime.

These days, it is necessary for us to plan our personal trips ahead of time so Hubby will know when he can travel for work without any conflicts.  A few years ago, we had to find a way to “be on the same page” as far as overall travel planning, so I created a shared Google calendar for travel planning purposes.  I take care of updating the shared calendar in a timely manner so Hubby can see both his own business travel dates and our personal vacation dates and a few other events all in one place.

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Before we had this shared online calendar as a reference, we encountered some issues with date conflicts.  The shared calendar has helped to largely alleviate those issues, as long as he sends me his business travel dates in a timely manner.  I highly recommend this shared calendar solution if this is an issue for anyone else.  How to share a Google Calendar

Purchasing our first RV five years ago was our first deliberate effort to try to change the status quo and to keep from losing vacation days each year, which happened all too regularly because we did not actually plan our time away like we do now.  We stepped out of our comfort zone just a bit, mostly with our RV financial investment, but we both knew RV travel might actually be something we would love, making it an investment in ourselves and our time together.  We always enjoyed camping in the early years of our marriage, and we were ready to start camping again.

Our desire to travel more conveniently and affordably was another reason for our RV purchase, and yet another reason was Hubby’s desire to not travel by plane for some of our vacations, since he has to do so regularly on business.  Our reasons all proved to be good reasons to make the change, and we are most definitely happy with our decision and plan to continue traveling by RV for years to come.  We both enjoy a nice trip by plane now, too, since we have another great option to do something different.  Those trips are now a little more special for us.

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Just one of our fun and memorable RV trips in 2016 with friends

I ran the numbers last week, and we actually spent 60 days away from home in our RV in 2016, something we certainly couldn’t reasonably afford to do without the RV.  We did not take any non-RV trips last year, which was a little unusual for us but something we chose to do since we upgraded to a newer and larger RV back in May.  We didn’t even miss a non-RV trip either.

Hubby was quite surprised to learn that we spent 60 days out in the RV last year… pleasantly surprised… just as I was after running the numbers.  We had some great times alone and with family and friends, and we are once again grateful for the freedom the RV has given us to get away more often in such a comfortable and convenient way.  We love having our sweet pups along for the fun, and it almost feels at times like we are semi-retired and enjoying life in ways some retired folks do on a regular basis, even though Hubby is still very much employed full-time.

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Getting out-of-town once a month continues to be one of our travel goals, even if it is just for a quick weekend away nearby, and we also strive to have two full-week vacations each year.  Getting away regularly to some beautiful state parks has helped both of us to “recharge our batteries” regularly and has also helped to keep us healthier, since we do a lot of walking and hiking when we are out.  We have always loved camping together, and having a few nice amenities now just makes it all the more enjoyable for us, especially sleeping on our custom mattress that is so comfy!

Having planned travels for a full year in advance for five years now, we have found a basic travel schedule that works well for us.  Planning our travels each year now actually requires a little less effort on my part, since I have a basic template to use as a starting point.

We tend to travel in the non-summer months to avoid the extreme heat of summer, even though we still venture out a bit in those months at times, too.  We’ve also learned how far in advance we need to reserve most of the places we like to visit because without a site reservation for our RV these days, chances are we won’t be able to secure one closer to our date of travel because more people are traveling by RV, even more than what we saw five years ago.  I continue to be amazed at how many of our friends have hopped on the RV bandwagon now, too.

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If we can travel to certain locations at non-peak times, we can benefit by enjoying less crowded conditions.  Such was the case in northern New Mexico in early September.

This year, we are adding one non-RV trip… a special one indeed!

Over the next three years, we have three big celebrations that are worthy of commemorating in a memorable way….

…Hubby’s 60th birthday later this year,

…my 60th birthday next year, and

…our 40th wedding anniversary in 2019.

I hope we can make each of these occasions special and memorable, so I spent some time last week planning Hubby’s big bad birthday celebration… a non-RV trip that we will take in October.  How blessed we are to have airline miles and hotel points to use for a special trip such as this, putting the total cost of the airfare and hotel with a full breakfast each morning at only $260 for six days and five nights.

I’m excited to finally take Hubby to a special place that I have visited three times in my lifetime but one that he has never visited.  We may also be joined by some long-time friends, if they can arrange their work schedules to do so.   In fact, this trip should be so special and so much fun that I may be fine calling it my 60th birthday celebration, too, allowing us to save up a bit for a special anniversary trip in mid-2019.

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Our last trip by plane was in May 2015, when we traveled west to beautiful Maui.  This year, our special trip by plane will take us east, not west, to celebrate Hubby’s 60th birthday.

If our present travel plans hold for 2017, we will spend about 65 days away from home, with most of those days spent in our RV.  Hubby has ten paid holidays this year, a few more paid days off than in previous years, bringing his total paid days off each year to 30 days.  We certainly plan to schedule those new paid days off into our trips, too.

I’m ready to get this show on the road again… literally!  😀  Hopefully our advance planning will once again help to make this yet another memorable and fun travel year.

 

Enjoying Autumn

My favorite season of the year

Autumn is flying by for me, and it’s been a most enjoyable season at home and for traveling in the RV.  The leaves are just beginning to turn, nighttime temperatures are flirting with the freezing mark but not yet giving in, regular fall activities returned, and my favorite farmer’s market vendor has closed for the season after another good run this year.  This is by far my favorite season of the year, and we now consider it to be our “summer,” since it is our preferred season for travel and outdoor fun now.

Since returning from our week-long vacation to the Enchanted Circle area in early September, we’ve made three more shorter trips in the RV, all to state parks closer to home.  We’ve also enjoyed some nice times right here at home, including our annual visit to the fair and enjoying the great food there on opening night, none of which was on my diet, but hey, it’s a tradition… right?

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We always enjoy our yearly visit to the fair

At the fair, we once again dined at the same place I used to take my mom for lunch each year, a charitable organization’s restaurant that I’ve always enjoyed supporting and one that also serves reliably good food.  I guess I will always have my mom on my mind every time I go to the fair now, remembering how much she enjoying it, and that’s ok.  Those are good memories, but it still gets to me each time I go now.

In late September, Hubby and I returned to Lake Brownwood State Park with another couple who also joined us in their RV for four days and three nights, the same couple we met at Caprock Canyons State Park in August on a weekend that was cooler than normal.  It was our first time to visit Lake Brownwood in September, and we managed to get adjacent sites with awesome lake views in the Council Bluff campground.

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View of Lake Brownwood from Texas Oak hiking trail… one of favorite trails

We enjoyed acquainting our friends with the park, and we also had fun hiking and geocaching together, dining outside in the evenings, watching college football on Saturday evening outside on their RV television and driving into Brownwood to dine at one of our all time favorite places to eat, Underwood’s BBQ.

We also celebrated Hubby’s birthday with our traditional family birthday cake, a Texas chocolate sheet cake that I made, and we even made him blow out candles.  Once again, I ate that yummy cake, even though it wasn’t on my diet, a most familiar tale this fall.

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View from our campsite at Lake Brownwood State Park. We enjoyed a nice campfire here on Friday night with our friends.

In late October, we made a quick weekend trip to Lake Colorado City State Park to just get away and relax.  Hubby’s nephew surprised us and met us there in his big, new pop-up camper on Saturday afternoon.  The guys had fun checking everything out on it a little more, and we all enjoyed a great visit around the campfire together on Saturday night and even made Nutella s’mores.  (Yes, we used Nutella instead of chocolate bars!)  We had the campground mostly to ourselves, which was so nice for a peaceful weekend away.

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View from our front door at our pull-thru site at Lake Colorado City State Park
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The site we scoped out for Hubby’s nephew. He wanted a site that was level and had a little shade, if possible, and he was quite happy with this one.
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Another view of his site – lots of room and green grass
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Big Red was waiting patiently on us in the RV as we were getting ready to leave on Sunday

Last week, Lake Colorado City finally received some significant rains, and the lake is now up at least eight feet since we were there.  We have never seen this lake with that much water in it because we started traveling by RV during the big drought in 2011.  This lake was hit hard and has been very slow in recovering.  Hopefully, it’s made some nice progress now, and I’m anxious to return soon to see it.

Our most recent long-weekend trip took us to Palo Duro Canyon State Park in early November for three days and nights.  We’ve visited this well-known state park off and on for most of our lives, but this particular trip was by far our best one to date.

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We enjoyed the gorgeous scenery at Palo Duro Canyon State Park once again, as well as some great weather and fog

I plan to write a separate post soon to share more about that trip and some of the pictures I took.  Palo Duro Canyon State Park just keeps getting better and better, especially since it was named the top state park in the nation a couple of years ago, and I’ll try to share more soon about the most recent improvements and expansions in the park, which are newsworthy, especially to campers!

The state park system has definitely spent some money on this great park in recent years to improve the roads and add campsites, both of which were sorely needed.  Now, if they could just figure out a way to make that 10% grade road going down into the canyon not so steep and narrow!  😉

Since our last trip, we have been cleaning and sprucing up the RV as we begin to transition it for colder weather camping.  Hubby wanted to do some exterior caulking, and I opted to rent a Rug Doctor and clean the carpet while the weather was nice.

Even though we began winterizing in late October at our campsites before heading home, we also started switching out some supplies to prepare for winter camping… loading our heated water hose, electric blankets for us and a guest, extra blankets for us and the dogs’ beds and our good space heater with a thermostat.  Right now, though, the weather is still very nice and looks to stay that way, at least for the near future.  We’re hoping it stays that way next week for Thanksgiving, too.

Visiting a Volcano

We finally paid this unique and scenic place a personal visit!

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Entrance to Capulin Volcano National Monument at Capulin, NM

Over the past five years, we have traveled regularly to northeast New Mexico in the summer to escape the heat at home a bit.  However, on our drives to and from the area, we have never had time to stop at a rather prominent national monument along the way.  We have always enjoyed seeing it as we drove by and always remarked that we needed to make the time for a quick visit in the future.  So, on our week-long trip to the area back in early September by ourselves, we finally decided to take a little time to make the short drive from our route to check it out in person.

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Our view of Capulin Volcano National Monument back in July while driving Highway 87 from Clayton to Raton.  After some recent rains, the area was beautifully green.  We couldn’t stop for a visit then, but two months later, we did!

Capulin Volcano National Monument is definitely worth a quick (or even longer) visit when driving on Highway 87 between Clayton and Raton.  Since we started visiting this area each summer a few years ago, I have truly loved the beautiful and unique scenery in this remote area that is comprised of extinct volcanoes and grasslands because is it so unique, unlike any other area we have visited.

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Highway 87 cuts across the Raton-Clayton volcano field, and Capulin Volcano is actually one of the youngest cones in this area, listed as *probably* extinct, which I find a little fascinating.  It last erupted 56,000 to 62,000 years ago, and there are about 125 cinder cones in this field.  If this area in northeast New Mexico has been blessed with good rains, this entire area is truly a spectacular sight to see, but I find it spectacular pretty much every time we make the trip, it seems.

Our side trip to the monument only took us a little over an hour, but it was an hour well-spent just to drive up the volcano to see the amazing views.

 

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Visitor center and gift shop

 

 

 

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Wildflowers were in abundance

 

The visitor center sits at the base of the volcano and has a small gift shop where we bought our traditional souvenirs when visiting state and national parks, a magnet for me and a hiking stick medallion for Hubby.  His wooden hiking stick, made from an old broom handle that his father had, is really an impressive thing now.  He did such a great job staining it and adding some thin green rope accents, and it is displays his many medallions in a most impressive way.  He used to use it as his regular hiking stick, but now, it is primarily a display piece in our RV.  My magnets just sit on our refrigerator at home, not nearly as impressive, but I enjoy seeing them everyday and letting them remind me of so many beautiful places and fond memories.

 

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View of the visitor center (and our RV) from the parking area at the top

 

After parking the RV in the visitor center parking lot, we loaded up in the car with the dogs for the drive up the volcano.  The drive to the upper lot was not a long one, but it was pretty curvy in parts while also offering some great views, at least for the passengers.  😉

 

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Starting our drive up the volcano
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Curvy road on the drive up

 

Even though the park allows some folks to drive their RVs to the top, after stopping two-way traffic on both ends to allow the RV sufficient room to make the drive up and back down, there is absolutely no way we could recommend anyone doing that!  The parking lot at the top has very little room for cars, much less RVs.  Just leave the RV in the lot at the bottom and drive the car to the top… and save some aggravation to others by not inconveniencing them on their own drives up and down the volcano.

 

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Small parking area at the top

 

We were slightly disappointed that the parking lot at the top wasn’t actually very close to the top of the volcano, as we hoped it would be.  It was still a pretty steep hike on a long sidewalk to the top of the volcano, and we couldn’t take the dogs along on any trails up there.  I walked up the very steep sidewalk just a bit to grab a few photos, but it wasn’t a good plan to go too far, since I was wearing my flip flops.

Nevertheless, the views of the extinct volcanoes in every direction from this vantage point were fabulous!  Taking in the views of the area while driving on Highway 87 is great, but taking a little time to see these ancient volcanoes from on high was even better.

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I’m glad we finally made this little side trip to see Capulin Volcano, and I certainly encourage others to do the same when in this area.  (Just leave the RV at the visitor center.)  The views are spectacular, especially on a clear day.

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There is also a small, privately-owned RV park (Good Sam rated) nearby in Capulin just a few miles away, that would probably be nice for a night or two.

Also, be sure to check the park hours of operation before planning your visit, as they shorten their operating hours at the park in the off season.

More information on the magnificent ancient volcanoes of northeast New Mexico

More great views, including aerial views, of Capulin Volcano

We certainly enjoyed our nice vacation week in northern New Mexico and the Enchanted Circle, but it’s always good to come home again, too.  After all, there’s no place like home and our always magnificent sunsets.

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Home Sweet Home on the plains

Our own personal “summer” of RV travel was finally beginning after our long, hot actual summer months at home, and little did we know how much fun we would have on our shorter trips in the coming weeks with a family member, with some friends and also on our own.  More to come.

Around Angel Fire

So much fun, so little time!

In my previous posts, I’ve shared some of our adventures in the Enchanted Circle area of New Mexico.  Most of these were places that we visited on day trips away from our RV base camp at Angel Fire, but today, I want to share about our fun time in Angel Fire.  I previously shared about our visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which is located just outside Angel Fire, too.

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New Mexico’s Famous Enchanted Circle

We stayed six days and five nights at Angel Fire RV Resort, which is part of Angel Fire Resort properties.  This year-round RV park opened in May 2015, and it sits a few miles away from town, just off Highway 64.  We were referred to this park by another RV friend who was quite impressed by it on a previous trip, and we opted to stay here because it was also centrally located for day trips to Taos, Eagle Nest and Red River.

The best option for us to drive to the area was Highway 64 from Cimarron, and the pass between Cimarron and Eagle Nest was very do-able in the RV, although *very* crowded with traffic on Labor Day with many people leaving the Enchanted Circle area to go home.

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Angel Fire RV Resort – one of the pretty paths in the park

Angel Fire RV Resort guests are granted full access to all resort amenities, no matter where they are located in the area.

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Angel Fire Resort Hotel at the ski area. RV Resort guests are permitted to use all resort facilities, even at the hotel.

Hubby played golf at the resort on our first day in the area and received a discount, and we were also given two free passes to ride the chairlift to the top of the ski mountain, compliments of the resort, worth $24.  It’s definitely worth taking these free and discounted items into account when deciding where to park the RV in this area.

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Gorgeous flowers were all around the RV park, and we felt that we were camping in a flower garden.

RVs older than ten years must be pre-approved to stay at Angel Fire RV Resort.  Since ours is more than ten years old, I sent a few photos to the RV resort office by email, and we were immediately approved for our stay.  I will also share that this is definitely the most expensive RV park we have ever stayed in at about $70 per night, but after our awesome experience there, we would do it again in a heartbeat for a special vacation week such as this.  If we took a nice vacation, stayed in a hotel and boarded the dogs, we would spend almost $60 per night just on boarding, so being able to bring them along on a nice vacation helped to justify this nightly rate.  Plus, we had them along for the fun!  After all, we are dog people.

We truly loved the spectacular views from the park, especially on the surreal foggy mornings we enjoyed our first few days there.

All the RV park amenities can be found on their website.  What we enjoyed the most was the pad site itself (long and level), nice views of the area, gated security (since it is just off a busy road), outdoor hot tub, gorgeous landscaping everywhere in the park and the big, grassy “Bark Park” to let our dogs run off-leash a few times each day, which was a lot of fun for all of us.

While this is already a beautiful RV park with amazing landscaping and flowers, it’s going to be even more beautiful in a few years as the trees grow taller.  There are a lot of trees in the park, and it should be a stunning place, for sure.

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View of Angel Fire Ski Area from our RV site, slightly zoomed in
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Evenings were just beautiful as the sun set with a mostly unobstructed view of the brilliant colors

The large conference center on property is really nice.  It also houses another camper restroom/shower facility with an outside entrance.  This was the closest restroom/shower facility for us, and we opted to shower there on two days, just because it was so very nice!  Just outside the center, we also enjoyed simply rocking in the nice wooden rockers in the evening after the campfire was lit.

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Conference center in the RV park for gatherings and concerts

To say the pups were happy at the “Bark Park” is an understatement!  Next time, I will bring their Frisbee along.  Having this nice dog park made us realize how much we wish other RV parks would consider adding one, too.

On the food front, there is a nice, well-stocked grocery store in Angel Fire, which is good to know since we discovered that there are only a few restaurants in the area.  On the morning we departed for home, we also filled the RV with gas at a pump at the grocery store, too.

We dined out twice in Angel Fire and certainly enjoyed our food both times.  We enjoyed a good pizza at Angel Fired Pizza for lunch.  This restaurant is located on the second floor of a shopping center next to the grocery store, and we had a great view of the ski mountain as we dined.  We also ate breakfast at The Bakery and Café at Angel Fire on our last full day in the area, and it was so good!  I had a huge breakfast burrito, and it was almost more than I could eat, but somehow, I managed to eat the whole thing.  They are not open for dinner, just breakfast and lunch.

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My huge breakfast burrito at Angel Fire Bakery and Café with green chile gravy and salsa on the side.  I. Ate. Every. Bite!

Trails in the Angel Fire area allow dogs, something that is actually a bit rare for many areas in New Mexico.

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Deer Trail in Angel Fire
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Trailhead in Angel Fire

We really enjoyed hiking one of the resort trails with the dogs one cool morning, and this trailhead is located just behind the Angel Fire Visitor’s Center in town.

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Hiking on a clear, cool morning with the dogs

The resort golf course is very pretty and is located just outside town.  Hubby enjoyed playing the course, even though some brief rain showers interrupted play for a bit.

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Angel Fire Country Club
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Driving range

The resort lake, which is just past the golf course, is also a pretty place to visit, picnic, fish or rent a paddle boat.

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Monte Verde Lake – Angel Fire Resort

One of the highlights of our trip was using our complimentary tickets from the resort and riding the chair lift to the top of the ski area.  In years gone by, we brought our kids skiing here on a few occasions with other families from our church, so it was a bit surreal to ride the chairlift with no snow on the ground below us.  It was even more awesome to ride it back down with the fabulous views of Angel Fire below us, growing closer and closer as we approached the base of the lift.  Truly, the views riding back down were just fabulous!

In the warmer months, Angel Fire Ski Resort transitions to Angel Fire Bike Park, offering a large selection of downhill bike trails.

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Big map at the top of the mountain

On the Friday we visited, there were several cyclists riding the chair lift up with their special bikes to ride the trails back to the bottom, and I admit that it looked like a lot of fun, too.  The trails are rated by difficulty, just like the ski trails in winter.  We could probably ride the green trails and may have to give this a try before we get much older.  If we opt to do that, we will rent our bikes and other gear at one of the local shops nearby.

We dined at the outdoor grill at the top of the mountain for lunch.  On the day we were there is was not too crowded, so it was a pleasant experience for us with great views.

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View of Eagle Nest Lake and the town of Eagle Nest from the top of the ski mountain
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Lunch cooked outside at the top of the mountain made for a great dining experience

At the top of the mountain resides an 18-hole disc golf course.  We walked over to the first two holes after lunch, and it looks like a lot of fun.  Just be aware that the altitude might take a bit to get used to.  I started to feel pretty lightheaded while we were there, so we decided to forego any further exploration and head back down the mountain.

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Map of the 18 hole disc golf course at the top of the mountain
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Look at the rough on this Frisbee golf course!

The resort also offers a zip line at the top of the mountain for those inclined to even more adventure.  I’m not sure I’m ready for something like this, but I might could be talked into it, too.

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Zip Line at Angel Fire Ski Resort – It’s straight down the mountain from here!

We also made a quick afternoon drive to check out Coyote Creek State Park to the south of Angel Fire.  This state park is remote, very pretty and has some hookups, but I doubt we ever take our RV there, since RVs are not permitted on the road between the park and Angel Fire… and for good reason.  Vehicles over ten feet are not permitted on this road that is quite narrow in one stretch.  Visitors to this state park must drive their RVs in from the south instead.

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Entrance to Coyote Creek State Park, south of Angel Fire
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A few RV sites on the river at Coyote Creek State Park

The drive to and from the state park was beautiful on a narrow and winding road through the tall trees, and we even stopped at one pullout to let the dogs get in the creek.

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Old abandoned log cabins on our drive

Girly Girl jumped right in the water, but Big Red wanted none of it.  Fortunately, we brought along some old towels on the drive.  Carry old towels is something we actually do most of the time when on vacation, especially when bringing the dogs with us.

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Big Red wouldn’t get in the water
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Girly Girl has always loved playing in the water and jumped right in

We had a great time re-visiting this area after many years and look forward to returning again in the future.  Our experience with Angel Fire RV Resort was so good that I suspect we will continue to base camp there, even if we stop over at Cimarron Canyon State Park for a night or two and maybe a night at Eagle Nest Lake State Park on the way next time.  I also hope to spend a little more time in Taos and Red River next time, if possible, especially Taos.

We didn’t actually drive the Enchanted Circle highway between Taos and Questa, and that was our plan for this trip due to time constraints.  On a future trip, we hope to complete the circle and visit that area, too.

I have one more post to share to complete my posts on this great trip, sharing some sights we saw on our drive to this area, especially Capulin Volcano National Monument in northern New Mexico.  Look for that one soon!

For more good, detailed information on visiting the Enchanted Circle, please check out the article below.

Legends of America – Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway

Roaming in Red River

A fun and scenic day trip with the dogs

On our recent trip to the Enchanted Circle area in New Mexico, we opted to load up ourselves and the dogs for a day trip to Red River on Thursday.  The clouds had finally melted away, and the sun was shining, so it was a great day for a scenic drive to a beautiful area.

As we approached the base of Bobcat Pass, though, we encountered a long delay of twenty minutes due to road construction that resulted in only one lane of traffic across the entire pass. In fact, the wait was so long that several cars finally gave up and turned around toward Eagle Nest.  We considered doing the same, but I’m glad we waited it out.

Finally, the lead pickup escorted our very long line of cars across the steep pass (9820 ft.) and back down into Red River, taking it very slow the entire way.  We were certainly glad that we were not in our motor home for this drive on this day, and we smelled hot brakes from other cars as we arrived in town.  Fortunately, our brakes were fine.  Hubby did a good job to not ride the brake as we came down off the pass.

FYI – Bobcat Pass is the highest mountain pass in New Mexico.

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On the road to Red River for the day with the pups

The dogs dearly love to go anywhere at any time, whether on a walk, a car ride or a RV trip.  We only have to say “let’s go in the car” one time, and they are off to the car!  😀

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Following the lead truck through road construction down Bobcat Pass into Red River
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Red River ahead as we drove down from Bobcat Pass

As we approached Red River ahead of us, I remembered the words to the chorus of “Red River Valley” that I learned as a kid, and it made me smile.  I almost broke out in song… almost.  Hubby didn’t need any distractions on this particular drive, so I’ll just share it here.

Then come sit by my side if you love me
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
Just remember the Red River Valley
And the cowboy that’s loved you so true

Once we approached the edge of town, we were finally free from the long line of cars and were ready to do some exploring!

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Entering Red River, New Mexico (8671 ft.)

This is a truly beautiful area with lots of tall trees, and quaint little Red River is a cute, touristy town with an Alpine theme.  It offers year-round fun with snow skiing in the winter and outdoor fun in the warmer months, especially in summer when so many people are looking for a cool area to escape the heat at home.  The ski lifts are located in the middle of town and are easily accessed by walking from several lodges nearby and just a short drive from all the other lodges in town.

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Ski lift in Red River
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Lift house at Red River ski area

 

Throwback:  Hubby and I skied the slopes in Red River many years ago with a group of friends before any of us had children, and we have some great memories of that particular trip.  Our group rented a large cabin for two nights, and the heater struggled to keep us warm.  It also sounded something like a 747 taking off, too.  It wasn’t too much fun at the time, but we certainly laugh about now.  Good times, fun memories!

We carried a picnic lunch with us on this day trip, since we had the dogs along for the ride, and we found a perfect picnic spot right in the middle of town at a pretty park in front of the Red River Conference Center.  It was just a short walk over to the river just behind the conference center, and we enjoyed a quick walk there after lunch with the dogs.

I wish we would have had more time to just walk around town and along the river, but we were also on a little mission to check out RV campgrounds in the area.  We certainly enjoyed the hour or so we spent eating our picnic lunch and walking along the scenic river, though.

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Pretty park in Red River
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Our picnic spot
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Toni Woerndle Memorial River Park on the Red River behind the conference center
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A nice walk along the river
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A ray of sunshine as we crossed the bridge
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Crystal-clear water in the Red River
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Lodges along the river would provide a nice, scenic stay in the area
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Another secluded picnic spot on the river
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Such a nice walk along the river
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Red River Conference Center on the Red River

 

After our picnic and walk along the river, we got back in the car and proceeded to check out the RV parks and national forest campgrounds in this area.  Well, I should say we tried to check out the national forest campgrounds, but just like the ones at Cloudcroft, most of them were already closed for the year, even though it was only the week after Labor Day.  It looked like there might be some nice ones, but once again, they are not made available to the public as they should be, a continuing gripe of ours concerning the national forest campgrounds in New Mexico.

There are some decent options in the private RV parks in or near town, so if we ever opt to take the RV over steep Bobcat Pass into Red River, we will likely stay at one of them if we can actually secure a reservation.  For the record, our first choice of the private RV parks would be Road Runner RV Resort, and our second choice would be River Ranch RV Park.  We were especially impressed by the staff and facilities at Road Runner RV Resort, too.  I honestly don’t think we would consider any other RV parks in this area, but summer time visitors would certainly want to check out the national forest options, too.  I wish we could have seen them.

Based on our experience on this day, though, we will likely base camp elsewhere in the RV and make a day trip to Red River instead.  It is such a popular tourist town, especially in the summer months, so it is generally not easy to secure reservations due to the many RVers who reserve far ahead of time and stay in this area for the entire season to escape the summer heat.

We might also consider reserving a pet-friendly room in Red River overnight if we want to have a bit more time there on future trips while leaving the RV elsewhere in the area.  Several motels and lodges there are pet-friendly and can be found at the link below.  Most are also in town within walking distance to most everything we would want to see, which is not the case with the RV parks.

Red River Pet-Friendly Lodging

Red River is such a beautiful, delightful area in the Enchanted Circle, and it most definitely worth a visit.  I’m ready to go back again!

Wordless Wednesday – Found in a Geocache

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Making Memories

“Life is all about making memories”

Five years ago this month, shortly after we purchased our first motorhome, I found this “making memories” canvas at a local home store and knew it would be a perfect addition to our new cabin on wheels.  It has hung in the bedrooms of our two RVs ever since, and I suspect that no matter what RV we have in the future, we will always have this picture hanging somewhere inside to commemorate the spirit of our RV adventures.

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However, “making memories” is a phrase we used in our travels decades before we ever purchased our first RV.  In fact, we have a very long history of referring to “making memories” when we travel.  For that reason, I immediately knew this canvas would be a great fit as we began our RV travels.

“Today’s moments are tomorrow’s memories.”
— Unknown

My earliest recollection of hearing the “making memories” phrase when traveling dates back to a week-long vacation with some good friends and all five of our combined very young children for a week of vacation at a lake in East Texas one summer in the late 1980s.  To say that this trip was laden with unexpected events would be an understatement.

Here are just a couple of “memories” from that fateful trip.

We took my father’s 1960s era red and white Larson Lapline outboard boat with us, and late one evening while taking a cruise on the lake with all nine of us on board, the motor shut down.  We never could get it started again and had to use the water skis and an oar on board to paddle back to the dock, which fortunately wasn’t too terribly far away but still far enough that it took a while to get there.

We adults were exhausted from paddling and there was some brief talk of a ruined vacation.  Then…

… my sweet friend, who remains one of my very best friends today and has a great sense of humor, reminded us all that we were just “making memories,” and from that point forward, that phrase stuck like glue to our vacation escapades.

On that same trip, we all dined out at a nearby seafood restaurant one evening.  As we arrived, a big summer thunderstorm blew up, and before we knew it, a tornado was headed our way.  The restaurant staff warned everyone to stay inside and take cover, and panic quickly set in among the guests.  All we could safely do was follow their advice to stay put and take cover, and fortunately, the small tornado veered off in a different direction and did very little damage.  As we resumed our meal and the talk at the table immediately went to the many unfortunate circumstances of our trip, my friend reminded us that we were just “making memories.” 

And she was so right.  To this day, we enjoy recounting that trip with those dear friends and the “series of unfortunate events” that we encountered.  Without all those memories, we might not remember that trip at all now.

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Ever since that memorable trip, we’ve continued to use the phrase “making memories” when unexpected things come up while traveling, both the good things and especially the challenging things.  We’ve had our fair share of “making memories” on vacations over time, for sure, including our RV vacations over the past five years.

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We’ve taken many friends and family members to far West Texas over the past five years to introduce them to the glorious scenery that is far West Texas at Davis Mountains State Park, and we look forward to showing it off to even more people in the future, including the small town of Fort Davis and the McDonald Observatory star parties.

 

Some of our fondest RV travel memories to date are the times we have traveled with family members and friends.  When we bought our first RV five years ago, we never anticipated that others we knew would soon follow our lead and buy their first RVs.  Now, it seems that we have found, quite unexpectedly, a great balance of traveling by ourselves with the dogs and occasionally traveling with others, and at this point, it is a perfect fit for us.  And what great memories we’ve made with all of these great people over the past five years, too.

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Caprock Canyons State Park continues to be a go-to RV park for us to share with family members and friends.  Once we take someone here and show them the park and its treasures, people always want to go back again.  We have so many fond memories with loved ones here and look forward to “making memories” with our favorite people and on our own over the coming years in our “home” park.

 

There is just something so special about traveling with those you love the most and getting away from everyday routines, even if only for a weekend, taking time to connect and enjoy each other’s company.  Young parents today would be wise to remember this, too, even if a staycation is more appropriate financially.

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Lake Brownwood State Park, with its rich CCC history, continues to be another favorite place to visit in our RV, especially in the spring when the bluebonnets are in bloom.

 

It’s really all about spending uninterrupted time together, and most of us have to plan our schedules carefully to actually achieve it these days.  It needs to be a priority in our lives on a regular basis.

“We didn’t realize we were making memories.  We just knew we were having fun.”
— Unknown

A group of guys on Hubby’s side of the family has decided to resume yearly tent camping trips together, something they used to do as a family group as they were all growing up when tent camping was all they could afford.  Now, they can bring along the next generation of sons with them, and their first trip is scheduled for late September.  Even though Hubby is a little spoiled to the RV, he is looking forward to resuming this fun tradition with our son for the first time… in a tent.

I can only imagine the memories those guys will make together, including a few I will probably never hear about.  They all have busy lives and careers now, but I’m so glad they are once again taking time to be together and continue a long time family tradition.  Good for them.the-best-thing-about-memories-is-making-them

We are looking forward to “making memories” in our new-to-us RV very soon as we are finally ready to resume travels this fall as the weather cools off.  Our long, hot summer is hopefully winding down, schools are back in session and our travel plans are mostly in place with our inaugural long trip scheduled to begin on Labor Day weekend.  I’m glad we had the summer to really put the RV through some paces here at home, as well as making a couple of quick test trips.

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Northern New Mexico is quickly becoming one of our favorite RV destinations in the summer months, especially when family and friends join us as they did over 4th of July this year.

 

Now, it’s finally time to get this RV show on the road once again… and start “making [even more] memories!”  😀