We loaded up the old coach for one last short trip on a Wednesday afternoon. We were not exactly sure the destination following, but sure about Datil Well National Campground NM RV sites…. without ‘individual site’ water or elec.
Invited also to Conchas Lake NM with son and wife, to watch the water overflow the dam for the first time in twenty years, but distance is wrong way for this trip.
Datil NM National Forest Camp site costs are $5 a night, $2.50 for holders of Golden Age [was previously Golden Eagle, which I liked better]. The National Park pass [good for life] now costs $80. It was $10 for countless years ‘way back when old Hector was a pup’ 😊
150 miles from ABQ, Datil on edge of Gila National Wilderness near Arizona state line, is relatively short drive. Beautiful weather for camping and hiking. Nice scenic drive through altimeter 6,000′ rolling hills, box canyons, high desert, and surrounding mountain ranges.
Very quiet camp. Ground squirrels look like the tree variety, but primarily live in tunnel systems. Gathering the Pinon seeds is their ongoing project for winter survival. Always interesting camping remote, self sufficient, away from civilization, with birds and wildlife to observe on arrival.
Lots of Flickers, Finches, Crows, Hawks and other interesting birds migrating through on way to Mexico for winter. Navigator reads books while camped in remote areas. She finishes large books, historically based novels, or non-fiction, in 24 hours… with only minor disturbances.
The five camp ground water faucets are still working this trip in mid October, spaced among the 24 camp sites. The toilet systems spaced between camp sites, are in process of upgrades.
One faucet nearby our camp site was leaking a little bit, so I placed a plastic container to catch the drips for the birds before the water soaked into the ground. Fun to watch from the coach dinette windows.
Did the same for three more faucets. Birds with little black bibs, cling upside down to the faucet for their drink in spite of water drops falling onto their bodies. Others perch under the dripping valve spigot and catch the drops, about five to ten drops, before flying off. Many just hop around on the ground and drink from the puddles, or in this case, the little plastic trays I set into the ground. Bees also gather to drink the water. They pay no concern to humans.. if left alone.
The water gets shut off next week and the camp hosts, Carlos and Theresa will leave for their home in Arizona for the winter. They are already packed and ready. The gated campground stays open on honor system, but dry camp only.
They mentioned to the local Forest Service guys about the little items now on display in the visitor center locked case. Items that I and grandsons found just under the dirt surface on our camp site, with the metal detectors. The workers said that they “never heard them clearly, as that is illegal on Forest Service land”. 😉
Seems that exuberant bureaucrats writing the laws, forgot to discriminate between big mining claims, compared to hobbyists picking up small metal objects, many concealed below a couple of inches of dirt. Items left from previous humans traveling through.
In spite of the law, I did pick up a few coins dropped at our camp sites. One item of interest, .44 or .45 slug, fired from an old frontier style weapon, likely when the trail riders and cattle/sheep were herding on this Federally certified, CCC improved, ‘Hoof Highway’ from the mid 1800’s to the 1970’s. The older item of course went into the little display case in the visitor center cabin.
Fifteen wells, to water the cattle from long troughs, were constructed by Govt. One well and trough every ten miles, which was considered one day for cattle, two days for sheep. CCC Boys constructed fencing on over 150 miles of trail. Laying out one fence on each side to preserve the grazing for the trail herds.
Much of their original fencing remains to this day along side the camp sites. The last concrete trough at Datil Well, a 100′ long staged affair with two inch pipes, is still in place, though no longer functioning.
A nice steel bench is positioned for meditating how the scene appeared, as the trail riders arrived with their herds and set up for camp. The big water tank’s circular concrete surface base near the newer well, is still intact, minus it’s large steel walled tank of 8 to 10 foot height. The latest well is used only for the campground.
Some of the old 2″ pipes and structure for stabilizing the old tank, are still visible sticking from the ground and piled close to the site. I hiked to the site of what appears to have been the original well. Placed up on a hill to the west of camp, it was higher to catch the wind for the windmill of that time. Obviously electrified for a time [remnants of poles, wires and switch boxes], it is now barely discernible.
The later well, one that operates today supplying water for campers, was placed in the hollow near the camp ground, to make it easier for the electric pump to draw water for this last govt revision of equipment.
This Arizona-New Mexico herding trail rivaled the big Texas trails leading from ranches and range lands to rail heads, such as Chisholm and Loving-Goodnight Trail in importance, all through the 1800’s and early 1900’s, the New Mexico-Arizona trail was still in use, peaking in early 1900’s. I recall the last trail drives to Magdalena, as I worked the NM territory.
Rancher Dave Farr described the long trail rides as tedious hard, long hours, all night watches on horseback, served chow out of chuck wagon kettles, and back in the saddle before dawn. His note for holding onto your horse at all times, even while sleeping,…
“Well, without a horse, you’re worthless”.
The old Magdalena railroad has since been removed. The old roadbed and trestles across small arroyos, remains alongside our NM highway 60, as we drive to Datil past the Very Large Array of deep space antennas. Arrow straight for over 40 miles from horizon, to horizon on approach to datil, it is interesting. The first official highway to California, pioneered with a high clearance Pathfinder automobile in 1912.
The San Agustine Plain was once a very large lake surround by mountains. Climate Change [horrors of all horrors 😉 turned it into a high desert of western New Mexico ranch lands and open range, where cattle graze today among the VLA antennas.
The deep space antennas demand little to none, interference from outside radio waves. We could not obtain cell service, nor TV, nor radio.
After dark, ‘skip’ off of the ionosphere allowed us to listen to Nashville Tennessee and other distant stations
After darkness fell at the 7,000 foot altitude camp ground and ‘skip rolled’, due to low sunspot activity, my old single sideband 4 watt CB also picked up [illegal] multi thousand watts CB transmissions from the southern parts of the eastern states, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, all of the way to southern west coast, 29 Palms California.
Nothing of importance is ever said on those brief ‘skip’ transmissions. Only proudly announcing the wildly amplified wattage (7,000 from 29 Palms Marine Base) of their ‘Big Radio’s ‘Talking’ from wherever to wherever. Mostly in a deep southern drawl followed by key buzzwords and announcing who they were, in names like ‘Swamp Gator and Old Marine’.
Side note: Story of the Loving-Goodnight trail was told in ‘Lonesome Dove’ and ‘Comanche Moon’, by Larry McMurtry. Movies later followed the story lines.
Home now and likely drain the water system on the coach for winter storage….. if freeze appears eminent..