Posts Tagged ‘NM’

Cool Things From The Air, DFW-SAT-PHX-SLC-DFW

28 May 2016

Note:  I found this draft post from April 2015 on my blog, and decided I ought to finish it.  I seem to remember I was trying to pin down the exact location of one of the photos.  Oh well.


I was on travel the past week [note, actually 13-17 April 2015], and saw some interesting things from the window seat.

The photos are on my Google+ site here.

I saw the very pretty Lake Belton in central Texas, followed shortly by downtown Austin.

I was astounded at the amount of mining going on between Austin and San Antonio.  I went hiking at a park west of San Antonio a couple years ago, and passed several mining operations, and saw more from the air flying in and out.

One facility right outside one of these mines caught my eye.  The Bexar Concrete facility had a lot of what looked like tubes outside it, but on closer Google Maps examination, I think the “tubes” are highway overpass beams.

On Wednesday I flew from SAT to PHX.  I was astounded by the number of oil facilities along the way.  I’ve seen some of those when flying from DFW to SAN, but the sheer number are amazing.

I also saw the very dense King Mountain Wind Farm.  King Mountain looks to me more like a mesa.

We continued north of PHX towards SLC.  Over Williams, I saw a sun reflection off a track track, it was very cool.

I had high expectations of seeing Grand Canyon shortly thereafter.  It was clear, and the network of canyons to the south of Grand Canyon  (Havasu Creek) was clearly visible.

[This, BTW, is what led me to not completing this post.  I was trying to identify this odd structure that I thought was right on the Canyon rim.]


Right after the picture of Havasu Creek, we ran over clouds that blanketed Grand Canyon.  Very annoying.  I thought the structure above was right on the north rim, but today, I did a little dead reckoning using time instead of airspeed, and that analysis placed that structure near Jacob Lake.

Next I started looking for some structures that I thought to be near Bryce Canyon, but again I had no luck finding the exact location.

For the return from SLC to OKC (via DFW), I was lucky enough to get a great shot of Philmonts Baldy Mountain, and a canyon between there and DFW.

I’ll keep looking for the stuff near Grand Canyon, I really want to find it.


The Pantry Restaurant, Santa Fe, NM

6 January 2015

Pantry Restaurant on Urbanspoon

This was a wonderful find, thanks to Urbanspoon!

We needed dinner Saturday evening as we drove through Santa Fe on the way to OKC. This place was perfect.

I started out with a cup of green chili stew – pork chili verde with cubed potatoes and other stuff. Not spicy, just an excellent tang, and wonderful flavor.

Raegan and Erin got excellent chicken enchiladas. Ian got excellent beef enchiladas. I know they were excellent because I had a couple bites of each. I had carne adovada, perfect flavor and spice level. All of this was perfectly edible, wonderful stuff!

We finished the meal off with a couple pieces of tres leches cake that was sweet goodness.

The iced tea was excellent, and service was perfect. Our check was $64.32.

Altogether a superior eating experience. As much as I like to try new places to eat, I may have just locked into The Pantry when I’m in Santa Fe.

Sunrise Family Restaurant, Santa Fe, NM

4 January 2014

Sunrise Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

We got into Santa Fe in the early afternoon on the way back home from Pagosa Springs, and chose Sunrise as we drove by. What a lucky find!

The chips and salsa was excellent. The salsa was a little warmer than we get, but I liked it.

Erin got a frito chili pie that looked really good. Ian got pork chops; I tried a piece and it was great. Raegan got chicken fajitas, they were perfect. The chicken was plump and perfectly grilled, with no charring. I started out with pork chili verde soup. Oh My Gosh. OH MY GOSH. It was wonderful! That stuff was great! It was a bit spicier than I usually eat, but the flavor was intense. The pork chunks were fall-apart tender. I also got carne adovado, that was very tasty and less spicy. The only problem is that there was so much I could not eat all of it. The pork soup in a bowl, instead of the cup I got, was a meal in itself. So this was a wonderful meal.

They close at 1500 every day. Service was outstanding, the iced tea was great. Our check was $55.22. Recommended.

La Cocina, Espanola, NM

31 December 2013

La Cocina Restaurant on Urbanspoon

This place was outstanding. We picked it for a two reasons: it was on the road leading out of town, and it was New Mexican cuisine. UrbanSpoon had it listed as #2 for Espanola, and that is a well deserved ranking.

First, the salsa: it was great, not too spicy, and with a smoky flavor I am really starting to enjoy. After his disappointment at Josephs last night, Ian got the enchiladas supremas here, which were an order of magnitude better. Flat enchiladas (new for us gringos), shredded beef instead of ground, and great. Raegan got chicken enchiladas with green chili sauce, and they were excellent. Erin got sopapilla tacos, and she reports they were good; they were basically what we would call Indian Tacos in Oklahoma, with sopapillas used as the base instead of tortilla. I got another round of carne adovada, and this stuff was knock-your-socks-off good. The pork was larger chunks and falling-apart tender, with huge flavor, and not too spicy.

Service was outstanding, and the iced tea was great stuff. Our check was $62.69. Recommended!

Joseph’s Restaurant, Santa Rosa, NM

30 November 2011

Joseph's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

We have eaten at Joseph’s a number of times over the past five years. We’ve had burritos, enchiladas, cheeseburgers, chicken fried steak, and other things. This past visit, we had pretty much the same stuff. We stopped there last Saturday evening headed back home from Colorado.

So I am going to say that the food at Joseph’s was good this time, again. The salsa was excellent. The tea was a bit weak, but OK. The food is cooked quickly.

But one thing that is also consistent is the service. It’s not good. It’s slow, the servers disappear for long stretches, and your drinks are slow to get to the table and run dry often.

So the food is good and the service is not. If you go, just allow for that extra time. Our check for four this time was $35.58. Good value, just slow.

Chama Boxcar Cafe, Chama, NM

24 November 2011

Chama Boxcar Cafe on Urbanspoon

We typically take US 84 into Pagosa Springs, CO for our ski trips. This takes us through Chama, NM. It was lunchtime, so we cruised through town, and settled on the Boxcar Cafe.

We got there around 1300 and left around 1400. The place was uncrowded. Ian got a Boxcar Burger. The beef was cooked perfectly, and had lots of flavor. Erin got chicken fingers that were really good. I got the enchilada plate. This was different for me – the enchilada was flat (just as advertised on the menu), and came with posole, which I had not had before. Every scrap was eaten. The chilis and chili con carne were excellent. Raegan got a grilled ham and swiss, and it was one of the best I have had. The bread was very tasty, there was a good amount of excellent ham.

We ordered three bowls of soup – they were good. The only thing I would count them down on was the iced tea – it was Lipton, and was odd, like a concentrate.

Our check was $50.09. A bit of this was the soup. We would be happy to go back.

Sun & Sand Restaurant, Santa Rosa, NM

13 December 2010

Sun & Sand Restaurant on Urbanspoon

OK, I don’t know if Sun & Sand is the real name of this place. The sign on top says: Restaurant. [19 Dec update: I found the receipt in my bag, it is Sun and Sand Restaurant!] We stopped here around 2000 on a Saturday evening returning from Pagosa Springs on the way to Amarillo and Oklahoma City. The outside sign was off, and the hours on the door said they closed at 2100, but they let us in, so that was a good thing.

The menu has a lot of items on it. New Mexican, gringo, Italian. I got a pair of enchiladas, one beef and one chicken. GREAT stuff! I ate every scrap on the plate. Raegan got the soup of the day and liked it. Ian got chicken strips IIRC, and Erin got an appetizer only (not very hungry). We were out of there in about 45 minutes. The check was $35.48. I seem to remember thinking that the meal was a really good value.

I think that this place is as good as Josephs. Service is a lot better also.

Tortilla Flats, Santa Fe, NM

24 November 2010

Tortilla Flats on Urbanspoon

We picked this place pretty much at random. We had just been at the Wal-Mart down the road to buy some ski stuff. We were hungry, and wanted some local flavor, so we turned into Tortilla Flats.

We got there around 1200 and were seated immediately. We didn’t get a drink order taken for about 5 min, and didn’t get a visit from a server for about another 10 minutes. Recurring theme warning: service here was not very timely. Nothing was messed up, it just took a while to get stuff. The restaurant was about 50% full when we got there.

We got some chips and salsa to start. Chips were a bit thick but were tasty. The salsa – that stuff was stout! We got two decent sized cups of the stuff. I ate one by myself, both with chips and on my burrito. I was sweating in short order. It was some of the hottest salsa I have had.

When we finally got to order, I got a ground beef burrito. It came with some lettuce on the side, and two (2) cubes of tomato. I asked for a side order of pinto beans, and dumped them on. This came with red and green chili on the side. I tried the red – it was smooth and tasty and wasn’t very spicy (nothing at all like the salsa), but the green was another thing altogether. You could have powered the space shuttle with that stuff. It was so hot that a little staying on the tongue burning for a couple minutes. Tea didn’t help, but some food did (I suppose it scraped the oils away). That burrito was excellent.

Raegan got a pair of chicken enchiladas. They were really good. They came with stuff like beans and rice. Why the the burrito didn’t come with beans and rice, I don’t know.

Erin got a beef taco plate that came with three tacos. She got two of them down, and I ate the last.

Ian got chicken fajitas. They were OK. The chicken had a slight citrus/lime taste that I think can be very good with fajitas.

We were given some huge sopapillas for dessert. We ate three of them and brought two with us.

Every single thing we asked for resulted in a charge – the pintos (understandable), but some extra jack cheese, some sour cream, and something else.

The tea was good, but mine ran out three times. It took about 10 min to get our check, then another 10 min to get the credit card receipt back. Slow.

We left about 1330. The place was only about 10% full. Our check was $54.36. The food was good, but the service was slooooow overall.

Cool Things From The Air, SMF-DFW-OKC

28 August 2010

When I was coming back home from Sacramento week before last, I saw some neat things from the air.

Just after taking off, we flew a bit farther south than usual out of SMF. We flew south of Mather Field, and I saw this, and it looked interesting.

Well, after I got home, I went back to Google Maps and started looking, and that interesting thing is… (drum roll…) a landfill. Yes, a trash dump. Big woo.

Later there were some more interesting things. I am always interested in seeing mining operations. They leave such holes and scars on the ground. This one is the Round Mountain Gold Mine in Nevada.

I’m always up for geologic stuff. This looks clearly like an old volcanic flow. It’s in Nevada just north of US 6.

The pilot announced we would be flying over Cedar City, UT. That got my interest, since Cedar City is the turnoff for a very scenic drive through the Utah mountains over to Bryce Canyon. I think I caught a flew glimpses of hoodoos, but it was through clouds, so none of the photos really turned out.

After overflying the Lake Powell region, we got into mountains, and I saw this nice little lake and town.

I did a lot of Google Maps searching, and the closest I came up with was Farmington Lake outside of Flora Vista, NM. It’s about 35 miles away from the next thing I took a photo of, which is about three minutes flying time. But the problem is that it does not look just right. I’ll keep after it.

Speaking of that next thing, we flew over the dam for Navajo Lake. The dam is in New Mexico, but the lake runs up into Colorado.

Soon we got to the area of Taos NM, and the deep canyon where the Rio Grande flows just to the west of Taos.

Just past Taos is the group of mountains that include Wheeler Peak, the tallest in New Mexico.

This flight took us to the south of the valley that Angel Fire lies in, and just to the south of Philmont.

Now, I have an obsession with Philmont Scout Ranch, the backpacking camp for the Boy Scouts. The following batch is a group I took of Philmont as we flew WNW to ESE just south of there.

Mount Baldy, tallest on the ranch at 12Kft+, is to the left.

This is Cimarron Canyon, home to the Cimarron River, which is roughly the north-south dividing line for the Ranch.

This is Tooth Of Time Ridge, which runs west of Base Camp. It is dominated by the Tooth of Time.

This is the base camp area. We were too far away to see buildings.

This is the south end of the Ranch.

And finally, Black Mesa of Anasazi legend.

Soon we flew out into the Texas Panhandle and saw Amarillo.

This was just southeast of Amarillo. The black smudge is, I believe tornado damage (from vegetation being stripped from the ground). These tracks don’t last more than a growing season. I saw similar tracks from the air after the May 3 1999 Moore tornado.

As we continued into north Texas, we saw Wichita Falls, home of Sheppard AFB.

As we descended into DFW, we passed the through the temperature inversion layer. In this case, it is characterized by dust and smoke trapped underneath the layer, and clear air on top of it. Hence, brown underneath, blue above.

Finally, as we came into OKC, we passed west of the Museum of the American Indian just southeast of downtown Oklahoma City. It’s make progress.

That’s it!

Hiking A Lava Tube, El Malpais National Monument, NM

15 June 2010

Driving from Albuquerque to Phoenix, we stopped at El Malpais NM. We drove out to the lava tubes area for a short hike.

The road out there was dusty! Our car got quite dirty.

The trail is not overly marked. It’s marked with rock cairns every once in a while, so you have to be looking ahead for the rock piles while you are watching your footing.

There are huge piles of lava rock everywhere.

There are cactus everywhere. They were flowering while we were there.

There was a pine tree across the trail at one point, so we took a group picture.

After a bit, you get to the lava tubes. Some of the tops are collapsed. There is one bridge as well.

We walked back, again on the piles of lava rock.

Unfortunately, I left the GPS in the car, so I don’t have any track information.

The nearest water is back at the visitor center. You should wear boots or good shoes, you are walking on volcanic rock a lot, it’s sharp.

The roundtrip we took was 0.8 miles. You can go a lot farther, including climbing down into the lava tubes. If we’d had some more time, I think we would have. Our total time for the hike was about 1.25 hours.

3 Days, 3 Hikes: Capulin Volcano National Monument, Capulin, NM

14 June 2010

As we drove from Colorado Springs to Oklahoma City 07 June, our route took us past Capulin Volcano National Monument. We stopped to visit it and do some hiking.

Raegan and I last visited Capulin around 1991 or so. We had been at Red River skiing, and were headed home being chased by a winter storm. Out in New Mexico, we passed the NPS sign for the National Monument, said “what the heck is that?”, and drove over to to visit. The staff was shutting the place down, so we had a short tour of the visitors center, and then we headed out, putting it on the list for a more detailed visit. in the intervening years, we either have come back via different direction, or it was early or late, or we were with people. So we waited more then fifteen years for a visit.

We arrived at the Monument about 1330, after lunch in Raton. We looked through the Visitor Center again, with kids this time. You need to fill your water bottles in the visitor center. There isn’t any water on the rim, although there is a potty.

Then we drove up and around the volcano to a parking lot at the lowest point of the caldera rim. Capulin has a trail around the rim, and another down to the bottom of the caldera. After a bit of looking around, Raegan and Erin headed down into the crater while Ian and I headed up the rim.

We went counter-clockwise on the rim. The trail starts out going UP in both directions. The trail is generally hard cement, but it’s rough in areas.

This is a view to the top of the rim from just starting on the trail. It’s a bit of a climb. That’s a nice thunderstorm that was east of Capulin.

This is looking out to the west of Capulin. The darker areas are old volcanic lava flows.

We climbed a bit more, and were on the south rim. This is looking across the caldera.

From the southeast part of the rim, this is looking down into the caldera. The dark rocks are old lava flow from the volcano vent. The white square is an interpretive sign.

A little farther on, we looked down and saw R2 and Erin at the sign! The next shot is a wide angle for perspective.

Up on the rim, there are an amazing number of ladybugs and small black flies. The flies don’t bite, but they like to land on you. Ian and I were constantly brushing the darn things off of our shirts – there were times where we had 20 of the darn thing on us. Ladybugs were everywhere also – they landed on my glasses several times. And my head, and my face and arms and back. Cute, but annoying in quantity.

There are benches to sit on every once in a while. Ian and I sat on one from the east edge of the rim. The thunderstorm I was keeping an eye on was beautiful off in the distance. When we left Capulin and drove to Clayton, we drove around this storm, it had really nice and frequent cloud-to-ground lightning.

One interesting thing about this storm. It didn’t show up on any radar I tried. The WSR-88Ds in range are Dodge City, Albuquerque, and Pueblo. So this part of New Mexico is in a radar dead zone.

Looking back to the west, you get a good view of the trail down into the caldera.

There are two “summits”, one that is on the east rim, and the other, taller one on the northeast rim. This is where the steepest part of the trail is.

Looking out to the northeast, there is a mining operation. It looks from the dark color that they are mining pumice/lava rock, or “ash” as it’s called. I learned that at the Arizona Mineral and Mining Museum in Phoenix!

This is Sierra Grande off to the southeast. That’s US 64 running in front. Sierra Grande is an extinct shield volcano. There is another shot of it from the air.

We finished the hike back at the parking area. Then we headed down into the caldera.

This is looking back up to the rim from the bottom of the caldera, looking to the southeast, and then to the northeast. All of the dark stuff is lava rock.

Finally, here is a closeup of the lava rock from the vent at the bottom of the caldera.

We headed back up out of the caldera, rested a minute, helped Erin check out a tree for her Junior Ranger activity, and then drove back down the Visitor Center, and headed for home.

This is a Google Maps overlay of the hike path:

Here is an altitude plot of the hike:

This was a really fun hike, short but stimulating. The GPS showed the total mileage as 1.4 miles. It was hot and dry on the hike, so make sure you take water. Capulin is also pretty isolated, so I imagine it attracts lightning on stormy days.

Some Cool Things From The Air, DFW-SLC

1 April 2010

I flew from DFW to SLC yesterday morning. I was in 3F on the Super 80, and saw some pretty cool things from the air.

As we departed DFW, we overflew the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. It’s HUGE.

Right west of the DFW Metroplex is a large mine. I rooted around on the net, and found that it is Texas Industries. They dig up sand, gravel, and crushed limestone. From some of the relief (the shadows) there are some really tall walls in that mine.

There was a lot of cloud cover as we went NW, but it started clearing a bit out over the Texas Panhandle.

We flew over this mountain. I really enjoyed the way that the snow was on the elevation but not on the plain below. I was also excited since I thought this was Capulin Volcano National Monument. After some Google Mapping, turns out that this is Sierra Grande; more than 9K altitude, 2200 ft above terrain. Sierra Grande is an extinct shield volcano. The Capulin volcano is off to the northwest, behind the clouds.

This is Trinidad, CO.

The only bad part of this trip was that we flew just north of Philmont Scout Ranch. I needed to be on the other side of the airplane to see that.

These two peaks were just stunning; Spanish Peak, and East Spanish Peak. Off in the distance it Pike’s Peak.

This was a really nice ridge running north from Culebra Peak, CO.

This is Fort Garland, CO. The reason I thought this was interesting was what looks like an airstring up in the mountain behind the town.

This was really neat once I realized what it was. This is Great Sand Dunes National Park.

This park is really amazing. The sand comes from the rivers that flow through the basin west of the park; the wind picks up the sand deposited on the ground as the rivers move around, and gets blown east and piled up at the foot of the mountains. The dunes are as high as 750 ft (yes, seven hundred and fifty).

A bit farther west, this is areas of clear cutting.

This was just a really nice view. The mesa just south of picture center, with pure snow on it.

This next series of of a really cool feature. It is Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The first picture is Blue Mesa Reservoir, near Gunnison. From there, the next couple shots are of the rest of the canyon. It’s really impressive from the air.

As we flew across Colorado, there was a pretty good view up the canyon. This is the frozen Gunnison River.

This is a closeup of the Chasm View area of the park.

The next thing was a stretch of the Colorado River just over the UT border. I really liked all the oxbows. Maybe they are not oxbows, but they are clearly places where the water is more powerful than the rock.

This was a little farther along, north of Arches National Park and I-70. The photo really does not do the actual view full justice, but the crenelated surface was amazing.

This last set was as we were approaching SLC. There was a plume over the SLC area. The wind that day was really strong 35-50mph at the surface) out of the SSW, and it was picking up dust from the desert of central Utah, and lofting it over the Salt Lake area. Even though the plume was fairly distinct, I could not get a good shot of it as we turned from the downwind leg onto the base leg.

There was a lot of stuff to see on this trip. I love flying over the American West, it’s always beautiful.

A Most Excellent Scout Outing: Tres Ritos, NM

25 January 2010

Ian is a Boy Scout (as I was), and I am a Committee Member of his Troop ( The Troop sent a contingent of boys and adults to a winter camp at Tres Ritos Scout Camp in the mountains of New Mexico. Tres Ritos is owned by the Council in Lubbock, Texas. That Council has been putting on a Winter Camp for a couple years, and Troop 15 has been to that camp for summer camp for a number of years, and so decided that Winter Camp would be fun. BTW, in answer to the question “Why drive so far for Summer Camp when there are really nice camps in Oklahoma?” (like Slippery Falls, and Tom Hale), the answer was “Why camp out in the heat and humidity when the mountains are so much nicer?”. I like that attitude!

The Winter Camp is over the long MLK weekend. We headed out that chilly Friday afternoon from Oklahoma City in a couple vans. Our first destination was Tucumcari, NM. After stops for dinner, gas, and snacks, we were approaching Tucumcari. We got in there around 2330 local time. We were supposed to sleep inside the local National Guard Armory, but the guy that was supposed to show up and let us in FORGOT we were coming, had left town, and could not apparently find anyone else in Tucumcari that had a key to the building! Not a very good showing for the local Guard unit – I wonder what would have happened if the Governor of the state had needed them?

So being Scouts, we are supposed to be able to camp, so we did, right on the lawn and parking lot of the Armory. Curious – not a single law enforcement guy even gave us a second look. We had some tents, and they got set up, but we had a lot of tarps, so these were pressed into service as dual ground cover and top cover.

Ian got creative with a shovel to make a single-person tent.

I woke up at some point overnight and saw Canis Major through the sleeping bag. Very cool. I woke up around 0700 and had frost on the outside of my sleeping bag where the tarp didn’t cover it up. The temp overnight had dropped to around 20F, but I was warm all night, until I crawled out of the bag.

The guy in the ski mask is Ian.

After we shook everyone out, we got the gear into what feeble Sun there was available to the ice crystals off, then we had a standup breakfast and took off again.

After passing though Santa Rosa, we headed towards Las Vegas, NM. We got a good view of the Sangre de Cristos on the way in.

We stopped in Las Vegas at the local Wal Mart for final supplies, including lunch for the day, which was sandwiches, chips, and milk. North of Las Vegas, we stopped at a roadside marker and pullout to eat the lunch. The mountains were drawing very near!

About 30 miles out of Las Vegas, we got to the turn in for Tres Ritos. At this point, we started seeing serious snow.

We got the gear out of the vans and found our campsite. It was just inside the treeline on the south side of a nice meadow.

That’s my tentmate Dave in back of the tent. We shared a tent the last time on a trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in 1993.

There was a LOT of snow out there, at least to us. We found out later that this year has seen the least amount of snow at Tres Ritos in some time. We were able to drive up to the parking area near the camp headquarters, and in most previous years the snow prevented that. Groups had to haul their stuff up from the lower parking lot near the highway. Most of the boys and the adults had come prepared to essentially backpack from the lower parking area up to the campsite – that would have been about a mile slogging through the deep snow. As it was, we had to haul our stuff about 200 yards from the parking lot to the campsite.

Tres Ritos is at just under 9200 feet altitude. You noticed this as you slogged through the snow with about 30 pounds on your back.

We didn’t have a lot of directed activities. One of the “things” about Winter Camp is building snow caves to sleep in. The idea here is that you pile up a heck of a lot of snow, let it “harden” or “bake” for about six hours to get a crust of ice on the outside, then dig into it, hollow it out, hope it doesn’t collapse, then line the floor inside with a tarp or two to sleep on. I know this sounds crazy, but think on this: ice gets to pretty much no lower than 32F, and is a pretty good insulator. Once you get a couple bodies in the small space in the snow cave, body heat helps to warm it up somewhat. We got two snow caves started for the guys that wanted this.

Ian decided that maybe the work involved with shoveling the driveway at home wasn’t as bad as he thought…

It involves moving a lot of snow. A good way to do this is shovel snow onto a tarp, then drag it to the snow cave location and dump it out.

The camp buildings were where we ate and socialized.

Speaking of eating… the food there was excellent and copious. We had a hamburger beef stew the first night, and either/both chili and beans the second night. Breakfast Sunday morning was pancakes and biscuits and gravy. All tasted excellent. The stew and chili and beans were made in 10-gallon pots, and food was left over every night, surprisingly enough. The chili was especially good; I essentially had three bowls of the stuff, and a bowl of beans. It was spicy enough to leave my lips slightly burning. I said to myself “well, it’s really cold, and I’m burning the calories…”. The adults pretty much stuffed themselves, the boys, not so much. I guess that when I was a Scout, whatever didn’t kill me made me stronger, but kids today are a bit more picky. Even Ian didn’t finish his bowl of beans or stew.

The staff had snacks all over the place free for the scarfing. They also had big jugs of water and bug juice out, hot water for tea and hot chocolate, and coffee pots with both caf and decaf, and kept a fire burning in one building from 0430 – 0100 each day. The whole support structure was really well organized. I was impressed.

I just cannot get enough of the night sky, especially in the mountains. Saturday night after dinner, I walked out to the middle of the meadow and just… stood… there… with my headed looking up, my neck hurting a bit, for a solid hour. It was stunning. I could see the Milky Way, Saturn came up, and the Orion Nebula was visible. I also saw one polar-orbiting satellite, and no less than five meteors, tons of stars, and the occasional airplane. An owl hooted off in the distance. It was just beautiful.

Sunday morning was really pretty. The temp overnight had dropped to around 8F. I was perfectly warm overnight. Ian and I both had a mummy bag rated at 0F. I bought them at Cabella’s in Omaha, for $40 apiece on sale, great value. Both bags were supplemented with a fleece liner. I ended up losing a layer of clothing and leaving the fleece liner unzipped the second night, when it got to 12F.

One thing I was surprised about. I was NOT looking forward to changing clothes in the morning (it’s a good idea to put a dry layer on next to your skin every day). I stuffed the clothes I was going to change into into my sleeping bag so they would not be completely cold, and then stood outside the tent the next morning, stripped down to skin, and changed. I was not terribly cold during this process. It was 8F and was I standing outside on snow, but wasn’t shivering at all. Now, I didn’t spend 15 minutes doing that, more like three, but still, it was not unpleasant at all. I guess you can really get used to the cold.

After breakfast Sunday, we took the day to ski at Sipapu Ski Area, about 10 miles from Tres Ritos.

Some of the guys got skis, some snowboards, but pretty much everybody had a lot of fun. Two of the adults rented snowshoes and went for a backcountry hike. That really sounded fun, and I will be torn in the future on which to do. I love skiing, but snowshoe hiking sounds like a lot of fun also. Several other troops also went to Sipapu. I actually got a coordinate a mini-rescue while there, one new skier had gone right over the edge of a run about 20 feet, and we used one of his buddies and a pair of ski poles to pull him back up onto the piste.

I’ve got to say I was pretty much deliriously happy at Sipapu (I had never even heard of the place before committing to Winter Camp). I never stood in a lift line. There wasn’t enough snow to get all the way to the top of the mountain, but just skiing off the main lift at the bottom got me to enough runs to keep me very happy. Up, down, up, down, I stopped counting at 15 runs, I think I had 20. It was great. A couple of the runs were a little thin on snow cover, but there were blue runs on the east side of the area that I never saw another person on; I had them all to myself time after time. The food there was not unreasonable, and they had free refills for iced tea and Coke! Almost unheard of at a ski area. I skied on a pair of 175s, the longest skies that were rented. I was amazed that most of the beginners (including the adults) were on what I would consider skies for four-year-olds. The boot bindings were darn near as long as the skies.

Back in camp, the non-ski/snowboard/snowshoers had a sled race and several other activities as well.

When we got back, we had dinner, and some of the guys went to the snowcaves that had been finished.

No stargazing Sunday evening, since it was cloudy.

The next (Monday) morning, we all got up, had breakfast, and broke camp. We got out around 1000, and arrived back in OKC at 2130. As always, I was really sad to leave the mountains behind. I’m not really a beach lover.

We had a couple small issues pertaining to sleeping arrangements with the Scouts, but overall we had a good time. A couple of the guys had headaches (we were up very high and doing some exerting), but nothing debilitating.

A couple observations on technology and gear. Ian and I had new sleeping bags rated at 0F, with fleece liners. They were wonderful! I’ve a goose down bag I’ve used for years, and been very cold in the bag in temps north of 30F. This time the temps were south of 10F and I was, if not overly hot, very comfortable.

Footwear. The only way that I was uncomfortable were my feet. I wore my standard boots that have served me well for years. The thing I had forgotten about was that waterproofing wears off. Walking in snow, and in and out of buildings, the snow that accumulates turns back into water and finds it’s way into the boot. I had wool and cotton socks, and they happily absorbed the water. A side effect was that the wet boots then froze overnight, leading to problems getting them back on. At the least, I should have had gaiters with boot covers. Even better, next time, I will go armed (or, footed) with rubberized boots. Most of the people there had them, and very few people had wet feet. I will be looking at Academy and at Cabela’s at Omaha.

Footwear 2: Ian had an older pair of my snow boots to wear. They served me well for many years. Too many years. At some point one of the boot soles completely failed, leaving the bottom of his foot exposed to the snow. Fortunately, one of the other leaders had mentioned he brought some duct tape, so I secured that and built, this…

Duct tape would not adhere to the boot material, but it would adhere to itself, so I went front to back and side to side and around, and it survived until we left Monday morning. The lesson – inspect the gear before departing, ALL of it.

When we struck camp, Dave and I noticed some interesting effects. The tent was on a ground cloth on top of snow. Our body weights and heat had pressed down where our sleeping pads were, leaving an ice dam about 4″ high between our sleeping areas. Also, right underneath his chest area, the snow had melted and refrozen. The area underneath my chest area showed a similar effect, but not as pronounced. I’m heavier than Dave, so I interpret the difference as being that Dave had a thinner closed-cell foam pad, while I had two thicker closed-cell pads, both of which are ridged, to allow a bit of air circulation, meaning less heat to melt the snow. It was pretty cool.

All in all, a wonderful way to spend a long weekend. The temps never got above 33F while we were up in the mountains, but the staff of the camp had the buildings to be in, and the gear kept us warm at night (which is the most important time), and that helped keep everyone’s spirits up. We had some crashed Scouts and Scouters on the way back, and I didn’t really like getting up at 0445 the next morning to head to the airport, but we all stayed safe, and that’s what was most important.

I think I’m already looking forward to next year! I know I’m looking forward to Summer Camp there!