6 degrees on the road plus new friends.

 

Hotchkiss farmsPer Wikipedia: “Six degrees of separation is the idea that all living things and everything else in the world are six or fewer steps away from each other so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.”

Six degrees works on the road.  Even more surprisingly, we found 2 degrees of separation in Gunnison, Dolores and Mancos, Colorado and in Mavreeso campground in the San Juan National Forest.

We asked the barista at The Bean Coffeehouse in Gunnison if we could hang out for awhile, taking advantage of their internet, since we were by that time totally bereft of decent signal.  Which led to the question where we were from, which led in turn to her exclaiming that her sister lived in Gila, NM, right up the road from us here in Silver City.  Well, she lived there in the past for several years, but had now moved on to some small community in Utah.

Chatting with our neighbors in an RV park in Chama, we learned that their son and his boy scout troop had biked from points west, through Silver City, across the Black Range at Emory Pass and on through TorC to Alamogordo NM. Quite a ride for a bunch of kids; parents rolled along comfortably on 4 wheels.

The camp hosts in Mavreeso came through Silver City a few years ago to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  They tried to find the old downtown, but missed the signage — a common problem, as our Main Street organization tells us — and left unimpressed with the commercial strip that is Rt 180.  They were, however, impressed with how “big a town” is Silver.  That is, big compared to their small Texas home town of around 800.  Goes to show, it’s all in your perspective; I came from the sprawling DC metro area so by contrast, Silver City is small.  There were others in other campgrounds who have been to Silver City or know someone who has lived here.  This is all fascinating: you have to come to Silver City on purpose; you don’t just stumble upon our corner of the world, tucked up next to the Gila National Forest.

And then, in Dolores and in Mancos, CO, we dropped the name of a friend of ours here, and made instant new friends of our friend from the years he lived in Mancos.  One of my biggest regrets of the trip was not accepting the invitation of the old guy, a Korean War Vet, to come to his house for a cup of coffee.  After a month of taking the slow roads through Colorado, I still had not slowed down enough to see friendship when it stood on the sidewalk.

Sometimes, there are no degrees between you and the folks you encounter.  We were sitting in our rv in Thirty Mile Campground, Rio Grande National Forest when I saw two familiar figures walking past our campsite.  A couple of fellow camper/travelers were making a similar trek through the San Juan Mountains and happened to pull into the same campground.  We got together a pot luck supper and shared stories of the roads past and roads to come.

irrigating_ While in Heron Lake State Park, NM, I learned from the folks in the next campsite that there was an Osprey nest on a platform nearby, where the parents had one chick.  We chatted about ospreys, state parks and national forests and generally the state of the world of public lands.  Later I took some pictures of the osprey mom (the chick was too small to see over the rim of the nest) and the neighbor gave me her card and asked that I send her a copy of my photo.  When I did, I received in return an invitation to visit them if we were in that area.  As it turned out, we were passing very nearby on our way to Grand Junction CO, so accepted her invitation.  This couple opened their home to us, fed us, and gave us a tour; we talked for hours about water and wild fires, travel, hiking and biking.  They live on 35 acres where they grow alfalfa.  We learned a lot about irrigation by pipes, water brought down from the reservoirs on top of the mesa; we walked out that afternoon to see how the pipe vents are opened and closed to “move” the water from one area of the field to another.  I would not have guessed that much of that area of Colorado is high desert, and what was lush and green was only so thanks to irrigation (the picture at the head of this story is an example of this rich farmland).  Reminded me of the Rio Grande valley down our way. We headed out for Grand Junction the next day, leaving behind a heart-felt invitation to come down to see us, and let us show off our National Forest and local highlights.

There’s a memoir, Blue Highways, by William Least HeatMoon, that we both read in the last year or so.  Our hope as we planned our meanderings through Colorado campgrounds, small towns and public lands was that we would experience something of our own blue highways.  In six degrees and less, we succeeded.

 

State Parks deserve love — and protection –too

stormy sunset from Island View.Heron Lake St Pk

From our campsite lakeside at Heron Lake State Park, near Chama NM.

So much of our attention today rides with the 27 National Monuments under review by the Dept of Interior.  And budgetary woes threaten to yank the supports from under our National Parks; indeed that is already happening.  Some Parks have considered selling branding to monied corporations in order to keep bathrooms operating.

We’re at Heron Lake State Park on our way up to Colorado.  The park encompasses the Heron Lake Reservoir, with 200+ campsites, boat ramps and kayaks for rent.  It’s well kept and quiet.  These last days we have been one of 4 occupied campsites on our entire loop.  I’m sure it’s not always this empty.  The park  has erected a number of osprey platforms around the lake, one within sight of our loop, others along the trail that wanders between campgrounds.  “Our” nest has a successful pair with one chick; another nest has parents with two.  It’s said there are Bald Eagles here; my birdwalks scored Western Grebes, Green Tail Towees, Canada Geese, Killdeer, a flock of Black Headed Grosbeaks and a family of Flycatchers.  Those were just the ones I got close enough to identify.  There are elk and deer in abundance and where there’s prey, there’s predators: the camp host told me that a mountain lion completes the wild picture around the lake.

Our state parks, like Heron Lake State Park here in northern NM are just as vulnerable to misappropriation by a greedy-few politicians who see an opportunity to enrich their patrons and curry favor. And vulnerable as well to a failing or slowing economy when opening a state park to oil, gas and other extractive industry is the obvious way to raise the money to keep the schools open.  Yet, the fate of state parks may fall under our collective radar at a time when we are worried about our national public lands. Come and visit.  Fill some of these campsites and put in on this wake-free lake.  Bring binoculars and cameras–the longer the lens the better–to check out the Ospreys.  Or go and visit your nearest state park to see what it has to offer!

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