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


  1. Ahhhh Charlene....You may have had a little taste of what keeps me there in TorC and area....
    Nicely said lady and I totally resonate with your words....thanks for the reminder....
    Good work,

    1. Yes, Brian... it is indeed a special place and one I will return to in the future. Good memories. Nice to see you this year, even if only briefly. Be safe.


Who is Swankie?

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Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
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? Maybe. Still healing from shoulder and trying to decide.