Patagonia Lake State Park is located south of Tucson, Arizona about fifteen miles north of the U.S. – Mexico border. The park is clean and well managed. The campsite was recently cleaned. There is WiFi signal but no connectivity to the Internet. Campfires are allowed in established fire rings. For RVers, water and electricity are available.
One day after the photo of the fishermen was taken Mother Nature blessed the State Park with three to five inches of snow.
This photograph was selected for my 2019 Christmas cards. Many positive responses were received. One appreciative recipient wrote back, “It isn’t Christmas without one of your cards.”
I built a three sided box out of black foam board, taped together with black gaffers tape. The box was lined with black felt to absorb as much reflective light as possible. Natural light was modified with reflectors, flags, scrims and diffusers. The images were captured with a Nikon D850 and a Nikor 1o5 mm f2.8 micro lens. The images were imported with Adobe Lightroom and processed with both Lightroom and Photoshop.
The 2,800 acre Fontainebleau State Park is on the northern shores of Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana. Remnants of a sugar mill built in 1829 by Bernard de Marigny de Mandeville are visible in the park. Nature has reclaimed much of the old plantation. A walk along the nature trails offer glimpses to swamps, southern forests, birds, alligators and even feral pigs.
The RV park offers electrical and water services. The RV spaces are convenient and will support almost any sized rig. We were set up under a live oak. During one of the several storms that rolled through the bang and rattle of falling acorns was startling to say the least.
There are 25 RV spaces with water and electrical services in the campground. Due to the popularity of the park reservations for a spot at the campground are almost a necessity year round. It was fortunate we had a reservation for our stay in early December – the campground was full. Some of the walk-in camping sites are subject to flooding and may be closed from time to time so it would be advisable to contact the state park for availability.
The inky black waters of a leaf covered slough in the state park reflects the blue sky and clouds. Depending on the weather some of the trails are soggy but not impassable. According to park staff some trails are closed during periods of heavy rains and high water.
A variety of well maintained trails provide easy walks through out the park. The greatest obstacle for me was the interest the two Australian Sheppard dogs found in the squirrels seen, the sound of unseen things and the smells only a dog could appreciate – it is hard to maintain a pace with the two leashed dogs finding something of interest in almost every plant, twig, leaf, bush, tree, pine needle and everything else.
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 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.
Just off the summit of Bobcat Pass, elevation 9,820 feet, I met a young lady from Kansas. That in and of itself is not too unusual, but what was unusual is that she was on a fully loaded cross country bicycle.
She told me she left Arroyo Hondo shortly after sunrise, about 30 miles distant, in route to Eagle’s Nest. Through deep breaths she asked how far was she from the summit. She was at least 2.5 to 3.0 miles from the top, which I took as a bit farther than she had hoped. During our brief conversation she admitted her legs were getting a little tired. She said she was looking to the ride from ride from the top of the pass to Eagle Nest as it was all down hill. I asked if she needed water but the determined young lady said she was good and pushed off. From Arroyo Hondo to the Bob Cat summit she climbed over 3,000 vertical feet.
Between Red River and Questa a herd of Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep were grazing with little concern for the traffic. No rams were among the ewes and kids. Traffic had to come to a complete stop waiting for two kids to decide which side of the highway they favored.
My enhanced Enchanted Circle road trip began early in the morning from the Pendaries RV Resort. The narrow roads toward Mora are certainly navigable I would be hesitant to pull my fifth wheel along the State Road, although I did pull to the side for trucks larger than my rig.
In Mora I took two side trips. The first was to locate small apartment where my parents and I lived. My father was the foreman and the ‘powder monkey’ in a local mica mine. (The powder monkey set, then initiated the explosive charges.) My mother told me the story that it was so cold one winter the water froze in the toilet.
The second side trip was to try to find the grist mills that I remember fascinating me as a child. The mills were operational; the smell of the grains, the sound and the feel of the vibrations of the stones, gears and water were bewitching. Although I can’t be sure I think I found one of the old abandoned mills.
Driving north through the rural New Mexico mountains on State Road 434 I stopped in Guadalupita, a small rural community, for a few photographs.
These small communities in the Sangre de Cristo mountains are the part of the trinity of peoples that are soul of the New Mexico culture. Some of the local residents in hills and canyons can trace their heritage Spain’s expeditions and exploration in the 1500’s and 1600’s.
The Southwest is an enchanted place regardless of the season. Fall is for many denizens of the region the most favored time of the year. The summer heat tempers, the crops mature, the air is crisper, the monsoons have refreshed the earth and the high country puts on a colorful display.
One of the more popular road trips is the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway in New Mexico is a loop through Angel Fire,Eagle Nest, Elizabethtown an old mining community, cross Bobcat Pass at 9,820 feet above sea level, Red River, Questa, Arroyo Hondo, Taos then back to the beginning. Of course it matters not the starting point.
The New Mexico Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park in Angle Fire sits on a hill along the Enchanted Circleover looking the Moreno Valley and the Sangre de Christo Mountains.
Dr. Westphall began construction of the chapel to honor the memory of their son and the fifteen men that died with him near Con Thien, South Vietnam on May 22, 1968.
During the building phase of the chapel at Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Dr. Victor Westphall, from force of habit, locked the entrance door to the Chapel each evening. One morning he found a message written on a piece of scrap plywood that asked, “Why did you lock me out, when I needed to come in?” Since that time, the Chapel doors have never been locked.
Chapel at the New Mexico Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park. [Nikon D3X]
They are large, they hiss, groan and belch. Somewhere deep within are pounding hammering beats. They are big, black and covered with soot and dust. They seem alive.
They are the steam locomotives of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad in Chama, NM.
Before the morning run the high mountain air is a mélange of smells with wafts of hot oils, pockets of warm humid steam and coal smoke. As strange as it may seem in this age of hyper-safety, almost everyone can experience these sounds, smells and sights when strolling through the railroad yards. Self-guided walking tour brochures are available at the depots in both Chama and Antonito. The yard in Chama houses one of the most physically complete yards of the steam era.
It is a walk back in time. The smell of the coal smoke and the gritty feel of the fine cinders are the same as the riders felt when the first train arrived in Chama on December 31, 1880.
The railroad has five fully restored steam engines and a variety of rolling stock in what may be the best preserved steam railroads in the nation. A sixth locomotive, D&RGW #168, has been moved from Colorado Springs to Antonito where it is being restored to service. When the restoration is complete #168 will be the oldest and most authentic steam locomotive operating in the country. The locomotive was built in 1883 for the Denver & Rio Grande Western line.
The narrow gauge track is built over some of the most scenic country in the Southwest. The trains travel through the remarkable and beautiful San Juan Mountains. The locomotives are working hardest to pull the train to the highest mountain pass reached by rail in the United States, the 10,015 foot (3,053 meter) high Cumbres Pass. It takes about two and a half tons of coal and 4,000 gallons of water to climb the 4% grade out of Chama to Cumbres Pass.
On a typical roundtrip the fireman will shovel about five to seven tons of coal into the locomotive’s firebox. The amount depends on the fireman’s skill and the differences in the locomotives. The train crosses between New Mexico and Colorado 11 times between Chama and Antonito.
The C&TSRR operates the 64-mile passenger line between Chama and Antonito, Colorado generally between the end of May and the middle of October. Depending on the weather a special Christmas train is operated in December.
One train each day leaves Chama and Antonito with stops at Osier for lunch. A full round trip on the train is a two-day excursion, taking about six and a half hours each day, spending the night in either Chama or Antonito.
Perhaps the most popular day trips are the one-way and half-way trips. A bus ride back to the starting point usually takes a little over an hour.
Another popular rides are the Dinner Trains. The round trip runs between Chama and Cumbres leaving about 5:00 PM and returning around 9:00 PM.
The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was originally constructed in 1880 as part of the San Juan Extension serving the silver mining operations in the San Juan Mountains and southwestern Colorado. The narrow gage term comes from distance between the rails, three feet. The more common distance, which became the standard in the United States is four feet, eight and a half inches (4’,8 ½ “).
In 1969 the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad filed for abandonment of the rail line. The most scenic part of its route, as well as the equipment and buildings, were saved when the states of Colorado and New Mexico joined together forming a bi-state agency to form the Cumbres & Tolec Scenic Railroad Commission.
The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad was designated a National Historical Landmark in 2012 by the National Park Service. Built in 1880 little has changed. It is the longest remaining portion of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad narrow gauge track in the nation.
The Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, Inc., is a non-profit, 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt organization with the goal of preserving and restoration of railroad. An important and rewarding activity is the volunteer labor to maintain components of the CT&SR. The Friends conduct work sessions each year in May, June and August. Hundreds of volunteers participate in the work sessions, many of whom sign up in more than one session.
The scope of the work includes the traditional Friends activities of car restoration and painting, the stabilization and restoration of virtually all of the historic structures along the line, general clean-up and aesthetic improvement of the property, and interpretation of the railroad through walking tours and docents for the passengers. If hands on experience is your goal contact the Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, Inc. at, 4421 McLeod NE, Suite F, Albuquerque, NM 87109, Fax – 505-856-7543, firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit https://www.cumbrestoltec.org/.
All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.
In 1964 the United States Congress declared bourbon to be a “distinctive product of the United States”. Certainly grain distillates consisting of at least 51% corn can be aged in new oak barrels anywhere in the world – and ne’er-do-wells can stoop so low to label their swill bourbon – but it isn’t bourbon. Bourbon is an American spirit and only an American spirit.
If you want to know how bourbon is made – go to Kentucky where 95% of all bourbon is bottled. Take the time to tour the distilleries, from the established to lesser known small craft distilleries. A true appreciation of the craft of making great bourbon begins to develop when the smells of the cooked grains, tasting the mash from a finger dipped in enormous vats, the mesmerizing sight of the flow of clear raw alcohol from the stills and the sight of barrel upon barrel of aging whiskey in the rick houses with the unique odor of the angles share.Without a doubt sampling of various bourbons is educational, important and frankly most enjoyable.
Tours of the distillery are complementary and include tasting of some of their labels. The tour guides are passionate about their products, the people and their employer, which makes the visit all the more enjoyable. With the exception of the Trace Tour all other tours require reservations. Five tours are offered:
The Trace Tour,
Hard Hat Tour
National Historic Landmark Tour
Bourbon Barrel Tour
The Hard Hat tour takes the visitor behind the scenes and into the heart of the industrial facility. The walking tour includes stairways along with the sights and sounds of a hard working factory environment. One stop is at the E.H. Taylor, Jr., Microstill where unique and award-winning experimental collection whiskeys are produced.
By federal law;
• Bourbon must be made of a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn
• Aged in new, charred oak barrels
• Distilled to no more than 160 proof
• Barreled for aging at no more than 125 proof
• Straight bourbon the distillate must be aged a minimum of two years
• Bourbon must be bottled at no less than 80 proof
Over 1.4 million barrels are in production and the current Kentucky bourbon inventory is over 5.8 million barrels. The 2014 tax-assessed value of all barrels aging in Kentucky is $1.9 billion.
The Buffalo Trace Distillery is not listed as a member of the Kentucky Distillers Association – Bourbon Trail and the distillery does not show up on the various maps and promotions by the KDA. None-the-less a visit to this distillery is highly recommended. Forbes listed Buffilo Trace as 2012Top 10 American Whiskey Distilleries To Tour
The Buffalo Trace Distillery is located in Frankfort, Kentucky. The distillery is a component of the Sazerac Company, Inc., an independent, family-owned, private company. (Click here for a map to Buffalo Trace.)