Sunday, May 03, 2009

New Mexico: Silver City to City of Rocks S.P.

After riding 1,050 miles in the last 3 days I felt I needed a break from riding. That’s the beauty of being unemployed and on a motorcycle trip. I didn’t really have a specific date that I needed to be back home by, although the sooner I got back the sooner I could resume my job search.

Before I left on this trip I had looked up on the net and read about most of the state parks in New Mexico. Now that I was on my own, my plan was to camp each night until I got home. I love to camp and it’s way cheaper and more enjoyable then a motel. There is such an abundance of amazing state parks in New Mexico, so I kind of decided that since I rode out here for the purpose of riding some awesome twisty roads like 152, 180, 191 and 78, now I would spend a few days exploring some of the state parks and recreational areas.

First on the list was the City of Rocks State Park. Unfortunately, this state park is located about 30 miles southeast of Silver City so if I decided to camp there tonight, there wouldn’t be a lot of riding today.

I took my time this morning since check out was at 11AM and I was only riding 30 miles. Becca got ready and left at around 9AM. Weeks ago when I asked her if I could crash in her room for the two days I totally expected to split the cost of the motel room with her. Today she told me that she didn’t want any money from me, since she had planed on doing the trip a while ago and was already planning on staying in this room anyway. I really appreciate that since I haven’t worked in 10 months. Having no income and still wanting to tour on a motorcycle I admit is not the most responsible thing to do, but for me it’s something I must do. The need to travel and see things is very strong and if I couldn’t, I would just get depressed. I’m glad that there are other riders out there that totally understand the “need” to ride no matter what.

I arrived at the City of Rocks State Park just before noon. I was bummed. The pavement ended at the parking lot of the visitor center, beyond that all the roads through City of Rocks State Park were gravel. At first I was like “Oh, well. I guess I won’t be camping here tonigh” since I don’t ride on gravel, especially when my bike is loaded to the gills, and especially when I am alone. I don’t flatfoot my bike and the ST3 is a heavy bike for me, and top heavy too.

I parked in front of the visitor center and took a walk. I at least wanted to see what I was going to miss. The park was really cool. The RV camping was further down, the RV’s were lined up close together next to one another, each camp site had a shaded area. The gravel road through there wasn’t all that bad, but I wouldn’t want to camp near these big metal beasts.

The City of Rocks State Park had so many unique and amazing campsites for tents, I walked and checked out a few of them. Camping among these huge monolithic rocks would be such an amazing experience. Darn. I really wanted to camp here tonight and spend the day checking out the park. On New Mexico website, it says that this type of rock formation only appear in 6 other places in the world. These huge amazing rocks came to exist some 30 million years. Made of volcanic ash and formed by wind and water, this is natures art.

My campsite is camp site #1 called "Bootes" ... the gravel road looks so nice and smooth in the picture, it wasn't so smooth in real life and the campsite is on a small hill, which the picture doesn't show either

Looking at my campsite from a distance, the white spec is my tent

My campsite was the closest site to the visitor center, my bike is parked behind that wall on the right

My ST3 sat lonly in the parking lot all day and night

Another shot of the wall and my bike

In this picture you can see my tent and the main road to the City of Rocks State Park

From my camsite you can also see the RV camping... that wind mill squeeked and bumped all day, since it was windy day and night

Looking at my campsie from behind the rocks

The campgrounds seemed like it went on forever, it was a huge place. I only checked out the 5 nearest campsites from the visitor center. The main gravel road through the campground wasn’t to bad, the problem was the roads to the each individual campsite. Those actually would be really fun on my dual sport, but they were too hilly, too rocky and too beat up to ride on my loaded down ST3. And it wasn’t the riding I was concerned with, I could ride on those roads if needed be. But there was no way I could turn the bike around once I got it up to the camp site, since those were very sandy.

I made an executive decision. I wanted to camp here tonight, I wasn’t going to leave just because I couldn’t ride my bike up to the campsites. I was going to leave my bike at the visitor center and I would setup camp at the nearest campsite from the visitor center. Campsite #1, also called “Bootes”.

Unfortunately, there was no one to talk to at the visitor center so I went back to my bike, got my tent out and walked over to campsite #1 and started to set it up. I had to put the tent up since I couldn’t park my vehicle to mark this site as taken.

The sandy campsite, had some harder stuff underneath and I had to pound my tent stakes in with a rock to get them in just enough to set my tent up. My Sierra Design light year one person tent is not a stand aloe tent. In a way that was good, it was a bit breezy today and even if it was a stand alone it would still need to be staked down.

Climbing these boulders is so much fun

Taking pictures of myself climbing boulders is hard work

It was $10 to camp here and with so many unique boulders to explore, I couldn’t wait to get the camp site set up so I could start exploring. I just love rocks! Honestly, when I first decided to camp here I was like, dang, I’d have to carry all my stuff from the bike to the campsite. But actually it was less of a distance then when I had to carry my stuff from the parking lot of the Super 8 inside the motel room. Plus, no doors to open. My campsite was set up in no time and by the time I started to get ready to start exploring I realized that in all this frenzy to set up my camp, I had not put on any sun screen. I’ve only been out in the sun for an hour and half and my shoulders and neck were already burning. Yikes! The sun is very strong here, even in early May.

I noticed the ranger entering the state park so I walked over to the visitor center. I asked him if it was OK to leave my bike in the paved parking lot, realizing that the paved parking lot only had about 6 parking spots but at least it was Sunday today - less busy then a Friday or a Saturday. Although the place was pretty busy today. He asked me if I could at least park the bike in the back of the visitor center where there was a huge gravel parking lot. I told him I couldn’t, the gravel parking lot had deep large gravel, it was actual a lot worst then the gravel road through the park or the small gravel roads to the individual campsites. I’m sure he doesn’t get that request a lot, he seemed confused by it, but said it would be OK if I leave the bike up front.

The trail at City of Rocks State Park, I hiked the whole thing - all 3.25 miles of it

Looking at the camp site from the Hydra trail

Hydra hiking and biking trail

The park was great, there were many pit toilets around the park and the visitor center had a regular bathroom with flushing toilets, running water and showers - 2 free showers to be exact. The only bummer was, there was a sign hanging on the bathroom door at the visitor center stating that for water conservation reasons the bathrooms would close at 4:30PM and re-open again at 7:30AM the next morning. Seems like a big inconvenience if you ask me. To have the facilities but not be able to use them for so many hours.

I filled up my two water bottles with water from the sink, the water fountain outside the visitor center was out of order and so where all the other drinking water fountains at the state park. The knobs were missing, as if the park didn’t want you to use their water, but bring your own water to drink. Probably part of the water conservation thing as well. I ended up refilling my bottles a few times, since it was ho, it was nice to be located so close to the bathroom.

After exploring the boulders for a couple of hours, which was really amazing, I decided to hike the park’s 3.25 mile hiking and bicycling Hydra trail. The trail was OK, not nearly as exciting as climbing and hiking through the boulders around the campground. And the hiking and bicycling trail was mostly deep gravel. I have a MTB bike but I don’t think I’d enjoy riding on deep gravel like that. The 3.25 mile hike ended up being just good exercise, nothing special to see. Or maybe I’m just so spoiled with all this amazing hiking in the Colorado mountains that a hike through the flat desert is not that exciting to me.

I wanted to hit the bathroom at the visitor center before they locked it for the night and fill up my water bottles again but the 3.25 miles took longer then I anticipated and by the time I made it to the visitor center it was already 5PM and the bathroom was closed for the night. Traveling with two 24oz water bottles wasn’t going to cut it. I’m glad I even brought them as a back up, since my 2 liter Platypus fell off the bike and was lost forever, I would have to get additional water containers to use on this trip. I’m just so glad that this state park had a vending machine next to the visitor center, other wise I would have dehydrated and shriveled up in this heat with no other water source out here. The vending machine had a variety of drinks and they weren’t charging an arm and a leg for them. either A 20 oz bottle of Powerade was just a $1. I bought two of those, for the drink and to use the bottles for water.

I ate my dinner, tuna and crackers and an avocado. Earlier for lunch I had some crackers and peanut butter, an energy bar and my last apple. The Super 8 had a decent assortment of complimentary foods, too bad I didn’t take some of them to eat later. I don’t eat a lot and I don’t really think about food too much. I sure could have used some toast or English muffins. I brought two avocadoes on this trip, one didn’t make the trip, the other was badly damaged. Also, I ended up throwing out my 6 slices of organic bread this morning, which was already moldy. I like to travel with food - healthy food - instead of having to stop and buy food each day. Although there are not too many foods you can carry on a bike in hot weather.

I watched the sunset, continued to check out the many monolithic rocks and took way too many pictures. The wind was blowing harder and harder, toward the end of the day. It was pretty windy in the park and especially at my camp site, since the rocks didn’t seem to protect very much from the direction where the wind was blowing. There was a bit of super fine sand coming in thought the mesh of my tent so I had to put the rain fly on. Even thought it was really hot earlier, now the temperatures were dropping and I had to put on my long pants and fleece pullover. I was really amazed how busy this park was, after all, we were in the middle of no where. Although just before the closing of the gate to the park, there was a line of cars exiting. Seems like a lot of people come here to spend the day, not to camp.

Near sun set the rocks start to glow orange

On the brochure I picked up form the park, it said that this place is very popular for star gazing, since the sky is especially dark here at night. At 8:30PM the sun had already set, I had no fire wood to make a fire, not that it really mattered, it was too windy for a fire. Having nothing else to do I decided to watch a movie on my laptop inside my tent. Maybe around 10-10:30 I could check out the sky and the stars, it would be completely dark then.

The sun setting on the Chihuahuan grassland

Amazing colors in the sky

Pink sun set and boulders

I don’t use the laptop battery too much so I didn’t know how long it would last, I was hoping to make it though a 2 hour movie but the battery didn’t last that long. I had been pretty lucky, no was camping next to me, but the few empty campsites near by did fill up throughout the day. It seemed like people wanted to be near the visitor center.

Then at 9:30PM in the middle of my movie, just when I was getting in to it and thinking how great my little Toshiba laptop speakers sounded inside my tent, two cars drove up my campsite road and started to unpack their stuff next campsite over. For at least an hour I heard talking and walking. Even when the battery died from my laptop and I decided to just go to sleep, I could still hear them. The rocks look so cool, and do provide a lot of privacy, but unfortunately they amplify voices and sounds. I did take a peak at the sky before going to sleep. It was dark and there were many stars out but I didn’t feel like going outside to gaze at the sky, I was already too comfortable inside my tent. My Sierra Design one person tent has a dense white mesh, my other tent, the larger Eureka XT two person tent, has looser black mesh. I never really thought about it but the looser black mesh is way nicer for star gazing. The sky looks much clearer though the black mesh. It’s almost like sleeping outside. The white mesh, not so much.

ST3 at sunset

The temperatures didn’t drop that much over night. I never even zipped up inside my +15 degree sleeping bag, and all I had on was t-shirt, a thin fleece and my long pants and the sleeping bag liner. The moon was almost full tonight and so bright. It traveled across the night sky and even through my tent’s rain fly, it seemed more like I was sleeping under a street light, then a moon.

My 30 mile ride today from Silver City to the City of Rocks State Park


FATTKAW said...

that ST3 at sunset rocks!!!!

The Gasper's said...

This is honestly a beautiful description and photoblog describing The City of Rocks. I just went yesterday and I was very impressed with it. I live near by and I can't wait to go back. Gorgeous photos!