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NRA Whittington Center Places

NRA Whittington Center

The last few nights of the road trip were spent at the NRA Whittington Center near Raton, NM. This was my first stay at the center and I am very impressed.

The facility offers 120 RV sites with water, electricity (30 and 50 amp) and sewer.  NRA membership is not required to reserve a space, but I am a proud member.  Other lodging options are available as well.  For more information navigate to; http://www.nrawc.org/wc-experience/lodging-cabins-camping/.

This year’s pinion crop is excellent and the tree just outside the trailer had dropped a bounty of the small nuts.  A good portion of one morning was spent gathering about a pound. I prefer to eat them raw but many lightly roast the nuts in the shell. I should have been out with the camera but I was tired and needed some down time. The wind was also a factor. By early afternoon the wind gusts were somewhere between 40 to 50 mph. The high winds continued throughout most of the night subsiding somewhere around 4:30 am.  The rocking of the RV made for a restless night.

There is a lot of wild animals on the Whittington Center grounds.  Within the campground I saw deer, wild turkey and a variety of other birds.  In some trees about 200 yards away were three nice looking bucks. Within yards of the entrance to the RV grounds were antelope.  Antelope are built to run.  One youngster was firmly planted in the middle of the road and I had to come to a complete stop.  The animal was directly in front of the truck.  I grabbed my camera and tried to ease out of the door to take a photograph.  My foot hadn’t reached the pavement before it bounded off to join the rest of the herd who was not the least bit bothered. No photo!

Late one day, after sunset, a herd of deer were slowly grazing along both sides of the road near the RV campsites.  One fawn was almost within touching distance. With it’s big eyes, long eye lashes it was fascinated with me and the GMC truck.  It’s fur was a beautiful mixture of dark gray and black.  For a long moment it stared at me and the truck.  I casually reached over and picked up my camera. For whatever reason the little guy spooked and ran up the embankment. Some of the other animals looked up at the commotion but most simply continued with their evening meal as if nothing happened.

One feature I truly enjoyed at the Whittington Center was the absence of outdoor lighting. The stars were amazing.  If you have never witnessed the night sky away from city lights you have missed an wonderful experience.

I sat outside for several hours sipping on a good bourbon enjoying the view and the wonderful peace and quite. My first memory of the Milky Way was with my grandfather.  We were laying on the ground under the Ponderosa pine trees at the ranch.  I asked, “How come there is always smoke right across there?”  He answered, “Sonny boy, that is the Milky Way.”  Years later while taking a class with Doctor Clyde Tombaugh he drove home the point of how insignificant this planet is in the grand scheme of the universe.

The night sky and Milky Way on night in the early fall at the NRA Whittington Center. [Nikon D3X}
The night sky and Milky Way on night in the early fall at the NRA Whittington Center. [Nikon D3X}

The Whittington Center’s ranges are well maintained and managed. I met a young lady from Virginia, an NRA staff member, who had just completed supporting the fall NRA Women’s Wilderness Escape.  She said the group had a great time and did a lot of shooting.  I’d urge everyone to explore and take advantage of the variety of programs offered at the center. More information is available at; http://www.nrawc.org/.

The center has a museum and a gift shop open to the public. In the museum is a knife made by Ben Lilly who give it to one of the Whittingtons. Ben Lilly was legendary in the Southwest and was a true mountain man. My grandmother, Ruth Desire Wield Carrington, told me she met the man.  It seemed to me she wasn’t particularly enamored by Mr. Lilly. I could never get the ‘story’ from her but it was clear to me something unsettling happened. I remember a photograph she had of Ben Lilly, his dogs and in the background were several mountain lions he had killed. Like so many other things the photograph has disappeared, lost in the affects of the departed.