While we were at Brian’s house, I hatched the idea that we could still go camping. I spent three years in high school attending Jemez Valley High, and so the Jemez Mountains hold a sentimental appeal. Far up, in the high timber, is Fenton Lake. I figured I could give Mother her camping trip if we took the road from Cuba, NM across the mountains to Fenton Lake. I even reserved a camping spot ahead of time through the NM State Park web page.
Not for nothing, but that site is really useful, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is planning a camping trip in or near one of the NM State Parks. For one thing, most of the parks have photo images of the camp grounds and DETAILED descriptions of everything in the park. Just to be sure, I called the Fenton Park people to find out which spot would be best for Mother and me. Mom decided she was game, and so after three days with Heather and Brian we headed out. We figured we would stay at the park one night and then drive back to Roswell, as we were expected for the JOY Writers’ weekly meeting at the JOY Center on North Montana.
The road across the mountains turned our to have over twenty miles that were unimproved. Yep. But, twenty-eight miles through the high mountains across passes that are only open for eight months a year was still better than the road to Chaco Canyon. Seriously, whoever is in charge of that road needs a beating. Here’s what the road looked like through the Jemez.
Tents today really work well. It took me twenty minutes to set up two small tents.
Next to our spot was NOT Fenton Lake but a beaver pond. Before this experience, if I read that someone in New Mexico parked next to a beaver pond and watched the beaver work into the late hours, I would think it was a vulgar joke. But, no, it is not. I’m not joking. We watched ducks, and some rare black water birds, and a beaver. The evening was fun and we ate well. I had insect repellent and new warm jackets. The area was quiet and well maintained and the potties were just a few yards behind our truck.
It seemed I had done it, given camping back to Mother, and then the sun set. Night in May in the high mountains is C-O-L-D. My tent was too little to hold a cot, so I was sleeping(read trying to sleep) on the ground. Every little bit I would call (soto voce) in the pitch blackness, “Mom, are you okay?”
“Are you sure?”
(With a tone of utter discomfort), “I’m fine.”
At about 12:30 a.m., Mother called out, “Eva, are you awake?”
Shaking off a just achieved sleep, I said, “Yes.”
“I can’t take it anymore. I have to get in the truck. I’m freezing.”
So, there it was. In the dark I loaded us back into the truck. We were camped in a “quiet” area, which meant no loud noises after 10:00 p.m. I started up the truck in order to heat the cab, and it began SQUEALING! (Imagine the legendary banshee!) It was one of those sounds made by a really dusty belt that is objecting to being used after midnight. I’m sitting in the truck muttering, “Shut-up, shut-up, shut-up!”
For a few more hours I started the truck and let it run until the cab was toasty and then cut the engine. Eventually mother and I both got to sleep, but only after the wee hours, “Oh, yeah, and I have to pee.”
When dawn came, with its rosy, icy fingers, we struggled to gain consciousness, so I put on the camp coffee pot, but I didn’t think it was getting hot quickly enough so a built this huge, accelerated fire, which caused the little glass thingy in the lid to break. Lovely, but at least the coffee was really hot.
We took the road down the other side of the mountain, by Bandelier and Los Alamos. We cut straight south then and ran like mad to make the afternoon meeting. As it was, we were thirty minutes late.
When I got ready to come north again to try camping by Eagle Nest Lake, I asked mother if she wanted to go. She declined. Sigh. At least she won’t feel like she misses going camping anymore.