Saturday, October 15, 2011

40th State: New Mexico - Lake Caballo near Truth or Consequences (Oct. 15, 2011)

Be gentle with yourself, you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars.  In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.
   Max Ehrmann
Today I kayaked New Mexico. 
Truth or Consequences, N.M. used to be named Hot Springs, NM until Ralph Edwards made them some offer to change their town name to Truth or Consequences, after the title of a popular NBC radio program. In 1950, Ralph Edwards, the host of the radio quiz show Truth or Consequences, announced that he would air the program from the first town that renamed itself after the show. Hot Springs won the honor.
Sue Soaring Sun (and John) with Guppy and me
and John Rogers and his old VW Camper.
I met two vandwellers in town earlier for coffee… Sue Soaring Sun and John Rogers, neighbors of AstroBri. Then I pampered poor ol’ SwankieWheels who needs an oil change and a drink of water.  After that I drove out to Caballo Lake State Park on the Rio Grande River and immediately pulled the kayak out to set sail.  Very nice place.
The size of the lake varies by season, but when the lake is full, it is over 11,500 acres (47 km2) in area, and 18 miles (29 km) long, making it New Mexico's third largest lake.  The water level was very low and I did kayak almost end to end, even getting stuck on the mud flats at the north end… for a total of about seven miles or so. Photos are unremarkable… so I’m just putting a slide show at the end.  Except these:
I finally realized what these wooden things were.. they were roots of trees with their large tap root doing down… uncovered by the low water level.  It made for a surreal landscape.  And the bird life there… so many species… I’m not a birder, but this would be a paradise for them.
Tonight I sat outside my van overlooking the lake, having my dinner salad while watching the setting sun and then sat there and watched the stars coming out.  I did not take photos.  They would pale in comparison to reality.  I don’t even have words to describe what I was feeling tonight… “freedom” even fails to express it.  Just peace and warmth and something…... ? 

There are no mosquitos trying to make my life miserable.  It’s not too hot nor too cold… I have the doors of the van open and the air is fresh and comfortable.  There is no noise (other then that constant roar off in the distance of traffic on the highway) and there is no traffic around me… the lake on one side, a ravine on the other side and bushes and the van give me total privacy… and they are no voices… no one walking by my van.  I believe this is the first peace I have felt since camping with Bob Wells and Steve Ballee’ at Q-Camp #3. 

Not a cloud in the sky and the stars are getting brighter by the moment.
If I have not died and gone to heaven… then this is a close second.  I am going back out to enjoy the stars awhile longer and then hope to get a great night’s sleep although I could get rousted since I am in the boat ramp parking lot… and have not paid to camp in the park tonight.  But, it’s off season… and I think I will be left alone.  My LCD screen is attracting some bugs, but not skeeters… so I’ll shut down for tonight.

Next morning: I thought life was good when I wrote that but then…
I stepped outside to see that I parked in line with the Milky Way.. which was not visible earlier.  I walked around a bit, then got a foam mat and laid down next to the trailer with my binoculars.  I watched the stars, the satellites, the planes… and listened.  You can hear the sky at night.  I thought the sounds I was hearing were just road traffic, but some is coming from the sky and the sky was really loud.  I laid on the ground looking up at the Universe as if I have never seen it before.  Everything was upside down, the trailer, the bike, the van… yet somehow it seemed all RIGHT that way… as it should be… and that it might really be civilization that is all upside down.

I laid my head down on the binoculars and went to sleep, no blanket, no pillow, just the ground and me… and one of the rare moments when I wished I was sky clad… that it would take that to feel one with it all.  Finally, I got cold and retreated to the warmth of the van, but left the rear door open all night with my head right there looking out at the stars.  I fell asleep again, only to be awakened by the yipping coyote going past the van.  Perfect… just perfect.  Then I laid there for a long time listening to the chorus of birds… what a wondrous thing to hear… I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before either.

Somehow my aching bones were eased into a peaceful slumber.  It truly can’t get any better than this (until tomorrow?).

Feelings of freedom and peace, yes, but it’s more than that… and I didn’t really fully get it until I read the quote at the beginning of this post, the next morning…to find a way in “the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.”  That’s what I was feeling… that’s what I didn’t have words to express.

There is no way for me to adequately describe the experience, but here are the photos of the paddle.  I wish everyone to experience a day and night like I had yesterday and last night, at least ONE time during their life.

It deserves repeating:
Be gentle with yourself, you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars.  In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.   Max Ehrmann
That’s what I’ve been searching for in life, without knowing what to call it… a way to “keep peace with my soul” and I can’t do it in the noisy confusion of civilization.

And now… on to the Hot Springs… and another strange story.

Next State: Kansas

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

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Thank you,


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

39th State: Colorado - Jackson Lake (Oct. 11, 2011)

(Happy 20th Birthday to my beautiful granddaughter, Tori Bailey.)

Near Orchard, CO
Today is my first granddaughter’s 20th birthday, no more a teenager.
Tori and my son (her Dad) in Paris – September 2011.
Happy Birthday, Tori, this State Paddle is for you.
Sometimes a day starts out rotten and you think there is no way it will turn around, but today it did.  I had one of the most rewarding kayaking paddles yet.  Only 9 states of the lower 48 left to paddle.  Wow, I’ve done 39 states.
I had wanted to kayak North Sterling Park Reservoir but it was closed to boating.  I called to make sure it also meant kayaks, not just motorized boats.  All boats, in fact the Park was closed.  They suggested I try Jackson Lake near Orchard, CO.  Well, Sterling was dark, drizzly and windy… it looked like in the direction of Jackson, there was a blue hole in the sky and there was.
Once known primarily for the hunting around it’s banks, Jackson Lake State Park has become one of Colorado’s finest outdoor recreation and water sports sites.  The area is known for its shoreline camping and its large, warm-water reservoir with sandy bottom and beaches.  For fun in the sun and unlimited recreational opportunities, Jackson Lake is the place.  From Colorado State Parks brochure.
… 2,700 surface-acre reservoir and the park of a total of 440 acres
… 260 campsites near or on the water, with showers, toilets, laundry, electric hookups and drinking water – can you imagine the craziness of all that in season?
… Shoreline Marina provides food and drink, boat rentals, boat storage, gas and boating, fishing and camping supplies.
… lake has trout, walleye, catfish, perch, crapple and wipers (whatever that is?)  (and one of those was jumping crazy)
… winter months… camping, wildlife observation, photography, ice fishing and ice skating
This is a very nice place off season… and so quiet and serene.  I loved it.
These large birds greeted me at the entrance, but what are they?  Cost $7 for daily.
Yes, I’m in my glory… and I love it like this.  Calm, partly cloudy, and NO people.  It just doesn’t get any better than this.  There was one boat trailer in the parking lot but he must have been at the Dam end of the lake as I never saw him until I headed in.
I saw many very large fish jump straight up out of the water… about a foot or more, but darned if I could catch it with the camera.  No matter which way I was looking the fish would be on the opposite side of me.  These were as close as I could get… and they were really big fish.
You’ll find beauty everywhere… you just have to be open to it.  Last good shot I got like the above was when I paddled Port Angeles Harbor, WA with GG.
Then I spotted this ol’ feller (Great Blue Heron?) and began trying to get the best shot of him that I could, when large shadows came across my boat.  What the heck?  Something was above me???  I turned the camera UP and began aimlessly clicking. Good thing I had the camera running, or I wouldn’t have caught these.
This might be the best photo of the day.  So I followed the Pelicans.  A whole flock was coming in for a landing or rest on their migration I would suspect.  You just enjoy the following photos of them… hopefully as much as I enjoyed the afternoon watching the Pelicans.  Boy, Tori, I wish you could have been here with me today.



The crane and I were both watching them all come in.
IMGA0951 IMGA0957

And then this old guy made a spectacular landing right beside my kayak… of course, the camera was off.  I’m thinking he was an old geezer who just has more fun watching another old geezer watch the youngling's in the flock, then being a part of the flock himself… just like ME!  Very interesting.  At least he thought I was interesting, or maybe he just thought I had food.  I wish I could have caught his landing… it was awesome.
And they just kept coming in.

Once in a while a few would take flight and buzz the flock… like they were showing off to get attention… maybe they were young males doing just that.  As I was leaving the very quiet lake, they had spread out along the shoreline where I was when they first came in… and suddenly I heard this noise that sound like the roar of a semi-truck in the near distance.  But, it was a whole group of the pelicans taking flight at a low level and feet hitting the water as they buzzed about in a tight circle… and the feet and wings made this low rumbling sound.  Never heard anything like it before.  My camera battery was dead so I could not get that shot… but it was breathtaking.
Misc. other photos…
A Rock?   Looks like a Buoy to me.
Looks to me like it was time to head in with that cloud coming in over my head.  Crazy thing… the cloud was going West, but the winds were coming from the West.  What the heck?
Now for a drive around the park.  Then time to leave, thinking, I can’t top this… there’s nothing else to see.  HA!
As I’m leaving the park, I see something cross the road ahead.  Quick, scramble in the back and find the camera I just plugged in to recharge.  What is it?  Then pulling closer…
… and closer, a flock of wild turkeys…  WOW and GEE WHIZ!  How can the day end any better?   Wait…  something else crossing the road.  A stray wild turkey, odd for one to get separated from the flock???
Darn… it just got better, a male pheasant.  These birds (the turkeys and the pheasant) were within feet of each other.  Amazing.
Enjoyed the last little bit of the area before hitting the highway.  On the right, don’t you just love those cloud formations.  Black spots in the sky are blackbirds, landing in the corn field.
On the distant horizon are the Rocky Mountains… and Denver. I always love this view… when you first see the Rockies.  I feel more at home with mountains in view than anywhere else on earth.
Whoops… sun in my eyes and still fighting the eye infection,  I have missed the turnoff to avoid downtown Denver, ugghhh, and there it is.  Here I thought the day couldn’t get better… and now it just got worse for me.  After one of the most quiet and serene days I’ve had in awhile… I’m heading into downtown Denver.
Then mother nature sends a full moon out from behind the clouds as if to reassure me I could get through this challenge (Denver) and come out the other end o.k.  But, oh my gosh, how do people live like this?  Do they know what they are missing out there?  And what’s all that talk about no funds being used for our “infrastructure?”  That’s all I’ve see all the way through SD, NE, and CO.  Road construction, must be millions of dollars worth as it just went on and on for miles.
But then there it was again, hiding behind the trees, as if to say, “Don’t worry, Swankie, I’ll still be around when you get out of that mess down there.  You can do it.  It will be O.K.“
So sometimes the day starts off rotten and even ends that way, but the middle was grand.  I was very tired by the time I got through Denver, but drove until about 8:30pm… just to get clear of the craziness know as a civilization… the CITY.  I was glad this day was over and will only remember the GRAND part of the day… nature and the birds.

Who is Swankie?

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Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
Visit me on In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles in Spring 2017. In training now for the hike.