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Boondocking Near Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Currently, we are in the Denver, Colorado area and will be for most of the summer. Now that we are here, life has intervened in the form of RV and truck repairs, appointments, and, most importantly, time with our grandson and helping his mothers through their recent move and his brief illness. Not all of life on the road can be a permanent vacation, as we are finding out! The internet where we’ve been staying has been slow and spotty, not exactly conducive to loading up a raft of pictures. But we had two weeks on the road between Austin and Denver, and they were event-filled, so that will be what the next few blogs will be about.

In previous travels, I always loved that feeling when I finally arrived “out West”. On this day, it happened in west Texas as we swung off the I-10 and headed north on to a narrow but well-maintained and quiet road to the New Mexico border. We stayed just inside the border for several days.

If you do a Google search on the least-visited US national parks, Guadalupe National Park comes up as number fifteen. And in front of it are nine Alaskan and American Samoa national parks. That sounded good to me! Although it covers about 47,000 acres, much of it is wilderness. We parked Sam in New Mexico, but had to backtrack into Texas to see it. There is a small campground, but the main thing to do and see here is hike. There are numerous trails. El Capitan, shown in the picture above, greeted us at the southern end of this mountain range as we were driving through. If you were to hike up to it, it would be about 11 miles round trip. The rock has been a landmark for centuries for the Nde people and later for US Army troops, explorers, pioneers, and the Butterfield stage coach.

The El Capitan trail was a bit much, so we chose instead Devil’s Hall trail, which was 4.2 miles round trip and was rated to be “moderate”. It started out innocently enough as the Chihuahuan Desert gave way to the Guadalupe foothills.

Pretty soon, the trail went into a wash and it was hard to pick out where we were to go as we clambered up, down and around huge rocks and boulders, using hands, knees, and elbows. It was as if the devil himself had thrown them down.

II

I’m not certain how I got myself into that spot! We worked at the trail for a couple of hours and I think we were near the devil’s “hall” but the day was getting on so we had to reluctantly turn around and go the same distance back.

The title of this blog, besides the part about Guadalupe, includes the word “boondocking”. To the uninitated, “boondocking” means to settle in a spot without any utility hookups. You bring in your own water and provide your own power, or don’t use any at all. Campers and RV’ers like this idea because they can go off and camp anywhere by themselves-versus a crowded RV park- mostly on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. This is “dispersed” RVing; you can stay on the land for free and, if you know what you’re doing, you can be all alone with no neighbors. There are also many campgrounds, run by BLM or the Forest Service, with no hookups, often with no camp fees. It sounded interesting and fun to us, so before leaving home we purchased a generator to be able to do this. I was hopeful that our 5th wheel could run for a night just on its own battery power, but we really didn’t know how long the batteries would run without using the generator.

For our first time boondocking, we thought we’d make it easier on ourselves and found Chosa, a free BLM campground out in the desert, on the northern end of the Guadalupes. There were no conveniences, just a big, rectangular fenced lot.

I desert and

I loved the open, windswept desert and the luminous clouds, especially at sunrise and sunset. At sunrise, it was as if a bright lamp had suddenly been turned on each mountainside in turn. And how is it that flowers can bloom in the middle of dry, sandy rocks?

This little fellow was the only critter we saw at Chosa, besides the birds, and his home was very close to ours. For the first couple of days, we had Chosa almost to ourselves, but as the week progressed it got busier. “Nomadland” had just won the 2021 Academy award and on our last night, I felt like I had been dropped into the movie set. There were more people and the mood was positively celebratory. Our new neighbors from North Carolina had their own happy hour going. People were out visiting and some kids were playing Frisbee. Not entirely my idea of boondocking, really!

What we learned about boondocking with Frodo and Sam is that Sam can only survive 5 hours on the battery. We have a residential refrigerator that needs power, plus a lot of other little things that are constantly running. Cal didn’t want to leave the generator out and running while we were at Guadalupe NP, so we were watching the time while there. When out hiking, we were worried about the batteries draining below 25%, so that is why we cut the hike short. We need to run the generator all night, and I worry about anyone parking too close to us being annoyed by the noise. We’d probably have to invest a lot more cash into an upgraded power system such as lithium batteries or solar energy, not something we’d like to do at this point. In the end, we do feel that we have an array of different types of parks we can go to that have power wherever we go, some where we don’t even have to be close to our neighbors, so boondocking might not be something we do often or at all.

Next time – Another national park!

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