In my last post I promised a discussion of the GoPro, so let’s go ahead and get that out of the way. This last month, Mark’s office purchased a new GoPro camera, and it arrived just this past week, so Mark has checked it out to take it for a test run. It mounts to our windshield, like I mentioned, which he has had a lot of fun playing with. From the moment we left our driveway until the moment we stopped at night, he had the GoPro on the dash recording a time lapse video.

The videos last several hours until the battery dies, though the recording tends to run about 10 minutes when you play back the time lapse. Every time the battery died, Mark switched a new one he’d been charging on our console, and restart the video. We have plenty of cool time lapses of all of our driving on this trip. He took a few time lapses of us setting up camp and cooking as well, which was also fun. He’s a little obsessed, to be honest, which shouldn’t surprise anyone that knows him well. The obsession will die down eventually.

Our campsite at Black Mesa State Park

On the morning of day three, we awoke and started to pack up camp a bit. I went to shower while Mark made tea and coffee on our stove, then we switched and he went to get his sorry shower as well. At least the heater was on in the bathroom (though quite rarely) so we didn’t quite freeze to death, despite the still cool air outside. It wasn’t as miserably cold as the morning before, so we survived.

We were packed up and out of there by 10am, which felt like 9am to us with the time change, but since we were crossing into Mountain Time later that morning, the point was moot. We had cereal for breakfast, and even managed to eat it at the picnic table, unlike the previous morning when we had to eat in the truck to hide from the cold.

In case you were worried, showers

Day three was mostly about driving around in northeastern New Mexico, which is an area that Mark is really fond of. We’ve visited it before, but it’s a pretty sort of place, and its landscape makes for great photographs. Mark has conveniently provided me with a map of a part of the day, so I’ll link to it if you’re curious.

To begin, we drove north out of the park to Kenton, and I’ll like to point out that only today have I noticed that there are supposed to be dinosaur tracks in the area we hiked to on Sunday. I noticed on that map I linked you to. Apparently we should’ve taken another little road back to them while we were out and about that day.

Those look like cows, from a distance. They aren’t. Those are deer.

From Kenton, we crossed west into New Mexico and drove along NM 456, which is a pretty small road that meanders across north-eastern New Mexico over sometimes dirt roads. It’s very quiet in that area, with a few “farms” (what can they even grow?) and ranches along the way. We saw maybe one or two other cars during our trip down the dirt road, but we mostly saw deer.

You’re thinking, oh, a few deer, how sweet. No, we saw enough deer to be called “herds.” Herds of deer. Hundreds of them. They grazed in the pastures like cows. They slept in the treeline along the roadside without even flinching at the pickup. They stared at us with big, sweet brown eyes and wondered just what we could possibly be doing on their land. They also hung out with turkeys, which was the weirdest part. The wild turkeys were even more shocking than all of the deer. Again, they were just ambling around in the little trees near the road, totally unconcerned about our presence.

Deer and turkey line the fence row for a mile

The dirt along NM 456 is a dusky red, and our truck’s shiny clean tires quickly took on a bit of a rosy hue. The road eventually turns south and turns back into pavement. I wouldn’t want to travel it in the rain, but I don’t think it rains often enough to warrant concern about traveling it. It is essentially desert, after all.

NM 456 ends in Folsom, but we had a stop before we made it there. In trips past, Mark had come across a lone picnic table along the road, and he had envisioned us stopping there for lunch. Imagine his surprise when, despite the sign pointing to the picnic table, there was no longer a picnic table. It was there before. We have photographic evidence to prove it, along with Mark’s memories of the place.

Mark’s missing table’s location

That wasn’t great for our lunch plans, since we didn’t know where else we could stop. If you know the area, you’ll realize that we weren’t very far from Capulin Volcano National Monument, which we’ve visited before, although we hadn’t planned to go on this trip.

Luckily, if national parks and monuments and such are known for anything, it’s picnic areas, so we decided to drive to twenty or so minutes over to Capulin to have our lunch. Capulin is an extinct cinder cone volcano with a road that winds up to the top so that visitors can climb around in the crater. It has a lovely view of the surrounding area, including exactly where the lava from the volcano originally fell. You can actually see the ring where the lava stops. Even better, in the late summer, the place is covered in ladybugs. Mark got to the see the ladybugs when he was a kid, but I haven’t seen them yet, so I’m hoping to drive by in July some year or other.

Making lunch on our tailgate to stay out of the wind

It was chilly for our lunch. It wouldn’t have been, really, but the wind was blowing over 20 miles an hour, so it wasn’t the most pleasant lunch experience ever. We picked a table in the shade, thinking to protect ourselves from the sun, but we quickly realized that it was way too cold to actually sit in the shade. Instead, since we were already set up at that table and didn’t want to move, we put on our hats and stood in the sunshine for warmth.

We also learned from this experience just how convenient a truck’s tailgate really is. We made our lunch on the tailgate, tucked back inside the camper top just a bit to keep the plates and such from blowing away in the wind. Once our lunch was ready, everyone ate in the car, even Ripley, who’d been having fun tied to the truck, was glad to be out of the wind.

Eating in the Tacoma, also to stay out of the wind

The picnic tables were at the base of the volcano, but since we were already there, we decided to drive to the top. It doesn’t take long, and like I said, the view is really nice. We didn’t hike down into the crater, since Ripley couldn’t go and we’ve been before, but we took some photos and had fun on the ride up there.

Since Capulin really was out of our way, we had to retrace our steps back up to Folsom and a little ways past it to get back up to the spot where 551 splits off from 456 and goes up into Colorado. Mark wanted to drive through Branson, which is just on the other side of the border.

The sun shines on her Royal Majesty, signifying her divine right to rule

In Colorado, the road turns into 389, which we took north until it ran into 160. From there, we followed it west to Trinidad, where we were staying for the night. We didn’t take many photos after we left Capulin, which makes me a little sad, but I suppose we didn’t see that much.

We were a little early, since we were trying to see my cousin as he drove through on his way home to Colorado from Dallas, but he was too tired by the time he made it to stop, so the visit didn’t work out. Luckily we’d seen him just before we left, so we didn’t really miss out on much.

The crater in Capulin Volcano National Monument

With some time to kill now in Trinidad, we stopped at the local library’s bookstore, where they sell older books and donated copies, and purchased our next Tony Hillerman novel. We weren’t prepared with enough books for the trip, which isn’t like us. The real problem was that I owned all of the Tony Hillerman books but the very next one (even the ones after it), so we didn’t really have the right book to bring along in the first place. Luckily, we made it in before the bookstore closed and they had a single copy of it in stock. It cost less than $2. I told Mark as we were leaving that we paid way more for used books at home and I almost wanted to run back into the store and give the nice woman that worked there a $5 bill for the library. I don’t know if she could’ve accepted it, though.

We also drove over to Trinidad Lake State Park, which is the home of just what you’d expect- a little local lake. The water was pretty low, but it was a delightful shade of blue, and though you can’t tell it from the photograph, when the sun peeked over it from behind the clouds you could see the bottom along the shores.

Blue water in Trinidad Lake State Park

Our exploration of downtown Trinidad left us with little desire to eat at any of their restaurants, really, so we had a picnic-type dinner in the room. Our La Quinta was right next to the local Walmart, and so we bought some yogurt and a few other things that we didn’t have in our borrowed cooler.

I don’t think I mentioned, but we borrowed my parents’ big cooler for this trip. We usually take our own small one, but we’ve decided that now that we have a truck, a bigger one is in order, since we have the room. We borrowed one for a test run, and it worked out great. We’ll be in the market for our own soon.

Making dinner in the hotel room like savages

We went to bed that night pretty early. I don’t know if you know this, but camping can be exhausting. We were planning to go and run around the little lake the next morning, but we discovered that Ripley had some sores from her backpack under her little arms, so we didn’t want to risk aggravating them by running. I think they were caused by the harness, not the backpack, but it’s hard to say. Wool padding will be in order the next time we do this, or perhaps a different harness.

The truth is, I was so worried about her boots giving her blisters that I didn’t even think of the harness or backpack causing any trouble. We’d used them before without an issue. Unfortunately, this lack of foresight canceled our plans for running and left some little pink spots under the baby’s legs. I wish sometimes that she could tell me when something was bothering her, because at the time, she didn’t seem fazed at all. Oh well. All we can do is do better next time.

“No, come back, friend squirrel.”

As you might expect, we didn’t do as much on Tuesday, which was our last day. We were headed home. Our route took us down to Raton and then through Folsom again (and I was getting bored with the place, honestly). The weather was a little nicer, so we were wearing shorts, even though it was cool-ish when we left our hotel in the morning.

From Folsom we drove over to Clayton, where we stopped for giant ginger beers again. Mark also had some green chile poppers from the little grocery store there, which he’d admired on the previous visit. They turned out to be tater tots with green chiles in them and not the alternate version of jalapeno poppers that we’d expected. He still liked them, though.

Abandoned building in Folsom

We took a slightly altered route into Amarillo to change things up a little, but it wasn’t a lot. It’s hard to make that area look new, since we’ve visited so much. We did a lot of playing around with the GoPro on the way in, including in the photo below where we are changing batteries on the Texas border. Mark wanted to be able to post the footage to the Portal to Texas History when he’s done with it.

We had our lunch in Amarillo, which consisted of mediocre burritos with what I must laughingly refer to as “hot” salsa. They only had two salsa options, and when I asked for the spicier one, I was sorely disappointed. Mark thinks I’m building up a tolerance and soon won’t think anything is spicy. We’ll see about that.

Stopped at the Texas sign for GoPro antics

Past Amarillo, we stopped at the Caprock Canyon Trailhead. It starts in Estelline and ends over in New Mexico in South Plains. It’s roughly 64 miles, from what the map tells me, and it passes through Caprock Canyon State Park. Well, just past it, I suppose. I think Mark wants to hike it, but I’m not as sure. It looks pretty desolate, though I hear it is very easy to hike. It certainly looks it from the photograph. It’s mostly flat.

Our drive back to Denton after that was pretty uneventful. If you’ve read any of our posts before, you’ll know that we make this drive several times a year, for the most part. I did a lot of reading.

Caprock Canyon Trailhead

Our big trip this summer is Hawaii, so I think I’ll try to have a big post about planning that later in the spring or maybe early summer. I’m sure we will go somewhere before then, though I can’t promise it will be interesting enough to blog about. Only time will tell. I’ve also got the Tacoma post to do, so be on the lookout for that as well.

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