Where Is Datil And Why Go There?

Very Large Array, Datil, New Mexico, El Morro NM, elk

Panorama Of The Very Large Array

Just a quick entry before we get too far behind and fall off the blog wagon again. Datil, NM isn’t near anything you’d know. It is 60-70 miles west of Albuquerque on US 60. We came here to stay at the Datil Wells BLM CG for the amazing price (senior rate) of $2.50/night. Even full price is only $5. Now it is dry camping but most of the sites are large and private. There is water available and vault toilets. Because of the volume of RV use the stay limit is 7 days in 28 rather than the usual 14 days. There are no reservations. We used our generators early AM and in the evening but kept the residential refrigerator going with the new solar panel during the day.


Our reason for coming was to see The Very Large Array nearby and visit El Morro NM which was more of a drive than we expected. We would come back here again just to relax as there are some great trails to explore. The area was a major cattle drive route with wells placed every 10-15 miles to keep the animals watered, hence the name Datil Wells. The Spaniards were the first to call it Datil as they thought the fruit of the local yucca looked like dates. The second ocean to ocean highway came through here during the early days of auto touring. Interesting history kiosks and a small visitor center describe local history. This is ranch country however when the locals need to quench their thirst the local gas station also sells “white lightening” (apparently legal here) as Steve overheard a customer ask openly. Never know what you’ll find on the road!


Backside Of Telescope Dish

The Very Large Array is a set of 27 huge radio telescopes used for researching the galaxy and far beyond. The dishes are 92′ across (think 2 school buses wide) and dwarf a person standing alongside. Most pictures you see are of the dishes arranged close together in what is called the A position but they can be spread up to 13 miles apart in the D configuration. The closer they are the more general the information gathered and the further they are, the more detailed the information. When we visited the dishes were in a mid point formation. There are films in the visitor center detailing the array and the discoveries made, how the dishes are moved on rails and maintenance required. After our visit we put the movie “Contact” with Jodie Foster on our Netflix list as it was filmed here

Tracks Used To Move VLA Dishes

Tracks Used To Move VLA Dishes



El Morro As A Landmark

Another day we drove a backroads route to El Morro NM. This rock formation seems to arise out of no where and served as a landmark for travelers from native Americans, Spanish conquistadors and priests to pioneers. It also was a known source of safe water in this dry land. Many left their mark and the rock is covered with petroglyphs, drawings and names. We’d hoped to also visit El Malpais NM but time got away from us. On the way back we had a National Geographic moment as we came upon a herd of elk. To our left were about 20 elk and one bull. To our right were about 50 cows and one very handsome bull with a huge rack. He knew he was in his prime. He bugled and pranced. It was too dark for photos so we just parked by the side of the road and enjoyed the scene. Now that’s one busy guy!

Time to move along. Next stop Durango.

Cool Cool Water

Cool Cool Water

Shadow On The Rock Is It The Pause That Refreshes?

Shadow On The Rock Is It The Pause That Refreshes?

El Morro Petroglyph

El Morro Petroglyph

Military and Religious Carvings

Military and Religious Carvings

A Pioneer Makes His Mark

A Pioneer Makes His Mark

Where Next? #10

It’s hard to believe that our wonderful summer in northern Utah is coming to a close. So where will the four winds blow us next?

First we are headed over to Laramie, Wyoming to visit friends who are volunteering at the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historical Site. Then south to the Silverton/Durango area in Colorado. A brief stop at Petrified Forest NP to say hi to staff where we volunteered in 2014-2015. Lastly we turn south to try our hand at being camp hosts for the Coronado National Forest at Parker Canyon Lake about an hour south of Tucson, AZ. After 6 weeks there we make an almost straight through drive to Charlotte, NC. We know now that full timing is what we want so no use paying to store things for 15+ years. We’ll pare down to just a few memory pieces.

Then a much overdue trip to see Steve’s family in Chambersburg, PA for Thanksgiving. From there we meander for a month via Alabama, Florida and Louisiana to our next volunteer job at Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We’ll be there from January-March 2017.

Our path this time looks a lot like a ricocheting bullet, doesn’t it? Thanks for traveling with us!

RV Travels From Flaming Gorge NRA, UT to Hot Springs NP, AR

RV Travels From Flaming Gorge NRA, UT to Hot Springs NP, AR

Where Next #9

Laguna Atascosa NWR, Flaming Gorge NRA, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado

From LANWR To Flaming Gorge NRA

It’s been a long time since we’ve posted on the blog. Guess we needed a vacation from having so much fun! Before we get too much further behind here are our travel plans when we leave Laguna Atascosa NWR and head for our summer volunteer position at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.

When we head out we will go north to the piney woods of northeastern Texas to see Big Thicket National Preserve, Cane River Creole National Historic Park in Louisiana and the area should be in bloom with azaleas and dogwoods. Now add local BBQ joints and fried catfish to the mix. We’ll be staying at Alley Creek Camp, a USACE campground on a lake with water and electric hookups. We bought fishing licenses but haven’t been able to use them. Maybe we will here.

Then we drop back south a bit where we’ll be 75 miles NW of Houston. Lots of small towns, Spring blossoms, the Texas Painted Church tour and hopefully getting to Galveston and sightseeing in Houston too. We’ll stay at Cagle Recreation Area, a USFS campground with full hookups.

On to the Hill Country where there is so much to do I know we won’t scatch the surface. We’ll be staying at Cranes Mill CG on Canyon Lake, a  USACE campground with electric and water hookups. We plan to visit Fredricksburg,  New Braunfels and San Antonio. There will be many drives through the famous blue bonnets and we’ll meet up with friends volunteering at the LBJ NHP.

On to west Texas via Amistead NRA (a reservoir on the Rio Grande), Guadalupe Mountains NP and El Paso. From there we turn north to New Mexico and hope to stay at Elephant Butte Lake SP. Using this as a base we will visit White Sands NP, Gila Cliff Dwellings, Salinas Pueblo Missions and Pecos NHP. If there is time we will stop to see fellow volunteers at Sevilleta NWR.

Hoping to make up for our missed visit last Fall, we will drive north to see friends in Los Alamos, NM. Other points of interest will be Santa Fe and possibly 5 more NPS sites. We haven’t camped that much in Colorado so we look forward to staying at Cheyenne Mountain SP near Colorado Springs. Our last leg will turn west toward Dinosaur NM and Fossil Butte NM. If we see all 17 planned NPS sites we will have seen 42% of all the parks.

We’ll put down roots (or as close as we come to it these days) for 3.5 months in NE Utah. Home is where you park it.

Where Next? #8

San Juan Island, Mt. Young

From The Top Of Mt. Young On San juan Island

It looks as if Lady Luck has smiled on us again. We were to have left San Juan Island right after Labor Day. Now we will be staying until the end of September. Usually the park closes the English Camp Visitors Center at that time. Over the past few years however visitation to the park has remained high through September and keeping the site open is viable. We are thrilled!

This will mean our trip from Washington to Texas will be over a five week period. That’s quick for us and long for most everyone else. We need to stop for RV maintenance (so what’s new?), wanted to see relatives/friends and a few more national park sites along the way. Top on the RV work list is replacing our stove. The last repair only lasted 6 months so we are buying a better quality unit. Just like buying a home with builder grade appliances and replacing them after a few years.

Our route goes from Washington through central Oregon to the Mt. Shasta area of California and on to Mono Lake. Then comes Great Basin National Park, Los Alamos to say hi to a friend from North Carolina and down to El Paso and Guadalupe National Park. The third and final leg will bring us to the Dallas area for a visit with relatives and friends, Waco Petroglyph National Monument and Austin and lastly the Texas gulf coast for a 41/2 months stay at Laguna Atascosa NWR.

We hope you’ll continue to travel with us.

San Juan Island, Laguna Atascosa, Washington, Texas, RV, travel

Our Route From San Juan Island To Laguna Atascosa NWR

Our Top Ten Campgrounds For July 2014- July 2015

Now that we are spending about 50% of our time volunteering we didn’t know if we’d have enough great places to recommend for another Top Ten post. Fortunately that was no problem. So here are our choices as we moved from Montana, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington. Again, this list in no particular rating order and is for folks like ourselves who travel via large RV. If dry camping was involved it is noted. Otherwise there was at least water and electric hookups. Some of the other campgrounds we used would be suitable for smaller units but proved challenging for us. We started with a list of 16 campgrounds we really enjoyed. After listing our 10 favorites we mention the runners up.


 1) Bullards Beach State Park near Bandon-by-the-Sea, OR

 2) Le Page USCAE Park on the John Day River/ Columbia River, near Rufus, Oregon

 3) Lake Havasu State Park, Lake Havasu, AZ

 4) Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cottonwood, AZ

 5) Farragut State Park, north of Coeur d’Alene, ID

 6) Hells Gate State Park, Lewiston, ID

 7) Riana USACE Campground, Abiquiu, New Mexico

 8) Curecanti National Recreation Area, Elk Creek CG Loop D, near Gunnison, CO

 9) McDowell Mountain Regional Park, near Fort McDowell, AZ

10) Angostura Lake State Recreation Area, Hat Creek CG,  near Hot Springs, SD

Sometimes it was very difficult to choose so here are the wonderful runners up:

Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, WA

Lake Cochiti USACE, Cochiti Lake, NM

East Canyon State Park, Morgan, UT

Big Creek Flathead National Forest CG, Columbia Falls, MT *** dry camping***

Langhor CG in Hyalite Canyon, Gallatin USNF, Bozeman, MT *** dry camping ***

Boulder Beach, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Boulder City, NV *** dry camping ***

Furnace Creek CG, Death Valley NP, CA *** dry camping ***

Codorniz USACE Recreation Area, east of Merced, CA




A Visit To Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary

Google Earth

Location of Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary

With four days off each week we have plenty of time to explore northeastern Arizona and western New Mexico.  Located about forty miles south between Gallup and Grants, NM in the small town of Candy Kitchen is Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. We went there for one of the four regularly scheduled tours given Tuesday-Sunday. On this particular Sunday we were the only people on the tour which was great and made it very personal. Just know that the area is very muddy so boots are recommended.

Before continuing about our visit at Wild Spirit we’ll mention a bit of how the town of Candy Kitchen got it’s name. During Prohibition the government kept a close eye on anyone buying sugar in large quantities. To provide a cover for his bootlegging operation, a local resident started making piñon nut candy. People came to buy candy and often also something to wash it down. The area became known as the Candy Kitchen and the name stuck.

The Sanctuary began in the early 90s when artist Jacque Evans bought a ranch in Candy Kitchen. Hearing about mistreatment of wolves and wolf dogs she decided to turn the property into a rescue facility supported by selling her artwork. Gradually the facility grew and became a non-profit organization. Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary is operated solely on donations and the efforts of a very dedicated staff. They care for wolves, wolf-dogs, coyotes, dingos and foxes. Some were trapped in the wild but most were rescued from inappropriate owners or illegal breeding situations. If you read about the wolf that was found recently at the Grand Canyon, he is at Wild Spirit as well. Had they not been able to take him, he would have been euthanized. Whenever possible they keep male/female pairs together because they are very social animals. All of the animals are neutered and no breeding occurs here. The only time they have pups is if a pregnant female is rescued. Why people think they can take a wild animal and turn it into a pet is beyond us. The illegal breeding of wolves with dogs goes on despite law enforcement attempts to prevent such cruelty. The story that got to me the most was about a coyote kept on a chain in the backyard and the collar and chain cut into his skin and became imbedded. When the animal was rescued the chain had to be removed surgically.

All of the animals appeared to be well cared for by their personal caretakers. Our guide talked about the behavioral differences between wolves and dogs. The percentage of wolf to dog determines whether an animal is called a high content wolf dog or a medium content wolf dog. They usually can classify them by behavior. We stopped by one cage with a medium content animal who would alternately howl and bark. We also saw coyotes, dingos and a fox. Ever hear of a New Guinea Singing Dog? Neither had we. They look like small dingos and have a high pitched howl. At one point every animal started to howl or bark. Hearing a pack of wolves and wolf dogs is enchanting. We only wish they could be free and wild.

Taking pictures through single and double wire cages leaves a bit to be desired. The Sanctuary does offer photo tours for one or two people at a time either inside the cages of their “ambassador” animals for $50/hour/pp or in an acre size enclosure for $150/pp. We hope to return sometime for one of these opportunities. Until then here are some pictures from our visit. For more information go to their website at http://www.wildspiritwolfsanctuary.org.

wolf, Wild Spirit Sanctuary, New Mexico

Arctic Wolf

wolf dog

High Content Wolf Dog













Coyote Pair

New Guinea Singing Dog

New Guinea Singing Dog











red fox

Photogenic Red Fox

Food And Fun From Albuquerque To Phoenix

Following the cancellation of the farewell mass ascension due to high winds we headed to a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives restaurant called Cecilia’s Cafe in the historic district of Albuquerque. We’d recently seen this aired on the show and had planned to eat breakfast there. The burritos are HUGE! Steve had his with red chile while I chose green. The red chile was too hot for him to finish the whole thing. So be forewarned. The green chile was great and just right for me. 

Cecilia's Cafe, Albuquerque

A Great Local Eatery In Albuquerque

Diners Drive-ins and Dives

Interior View













I Can’t Believe I Ate The Whole Thing!

Just outside of Albuquerque is Petroglyph National Monument so we enjoyed a clear if windy afternoon there walking one of several trails with beautiful petroglyphs from the Ancestral Puebloan era (formerly referred to as Anazasi). Little did we know at that time we’d see many more wonderful petroglyphs at Petrified Forest NP.

New Mexico, Albuquerque, petroglyph

An Old Version Of Kilroy Was Here?


Mouse Meets Dachshund?

Folk Art Ancestral Puebloan Style

Folk Art Ancestral Puebloan Style

Then on to a quick visit at Sandia Peak. I’d taken the tram to the top of the mountain and eaten at the restaurant on a previous visit. This was the first time I’d driven up to the Visitor Center. It was a bit windy and hazy but still a lovely view. On our way home we chose, of course, another bumpy dirt road instead of the smooth paved road we took up. Still it was not as bad as Utah!

Sandia Peak, national forest

Fall Color At Sandia Peak

New Mexico, Albuquerque

On A Clear (?) Day….



















Tent Rocks National Monument, BLM, Cochiti Pueblo

View From Scenic Drive At Tent Rocks NM

All to soon it was our last day in the Albuquerque area and we hadn’t visited Tent Rocks National Monument only five miles away. If like us you thought all national monuments are under the National Park Service, you are wrong. Since 2000 there have been several new national monuments created. Since these lands were already managed by other federal agencies (BLM, National Forest Service or even NOAA) they remained under their control. Tent Rocks NM is on the Cochiti Pueblo lands and managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The name is derived from the rock formations created by erosion of softer sandstone under a cap of harder rock. What else can they do with rock? You’ll see. There was also a short but beautiful slot canyon we hiked through.

The Tent Rocks

The Tent Rocks

Hiking Among The Tent Rocks And Tepees

Hiking Among The Tent Rocks And Tepees











slot canyon

Entering The Slot Canyon

Beautiful Sandstone Formations

Beautiful Sandstone Formations











Looks Good In Black And White Too!

Looks Good In Black And White Too!

Originally we’d planned to drive straight from Albuquerque to Phoenix but we changed plans to meet Steve’s nephew and wife who were on their way back from Sedona. We arranged to meet them in Las Cruces, NM where we stayed at Motel Walmart. This time we were the only RV there.

Our stop in Phoenix was primarily for errands, scheduled trailer maintenance and minor repairs. We stayed at McDowell Mountain County Park which was beautiful. We’d hoped to return after our volunteer job was finished in January. By the time we tried to make reservations everything near Phoenix was booked. Arizona is like Florida in the winter. Without reservations, you get what you get. So returning to Phoenix for a longer stay is on the “when we come back” list. We had gorgeous sunsets and a beautiful drive into the Superstition mountains and along the Apache Trail east of Phoenix. Phoenix is like Salt Lake City where east of the city is beautiful and west of the city is, well flat and not so pretty. However we did get to try two Diner, Drive-ins and Dives eateries. The first was a New York style deli called De Falco’s Italian Deli in Scottsdale. Steve found a sausage he loved and said he hadn’t had anything this good since leaving New York. We bought some to take home plus some gourmet goodies like jalepeno flavored avocado oil. The other place was Joe’s Farm Grill in Gilbert, Arizona. This is a working urban farm owned by the same family since the 1950s. Now it is an organic farm and the old homestead is the restaurant. It is a fast food type restaurant then you sit outside to eat. Both had great food.

With both the DreamChaser and ourselves cleaned up and stocked up we head northeast to Petrified Forest NP where we will stay until the end of January 2015.

rainbow, sunset

Arizona Rainbow

sunset, cactus, Phoenix

Sunset and Cactus












restaurant, Phoenix, Diners Drive-ins and Dives

Joe’s Farm Grill