Scenic Byways and NPS

What defines a memorable place and time depends on many things—companion, weather, state of mind, etc. This strip has had many of those moments and sometimes it is hard to define what makes it different. Our night and morning in Rucker Canyon in the Coronado Forest is one of those memories. Great Peace. Silence. Beauty all Around. The Air. How we slept. It captured both of us and left us mesmorized. Yet too many people, it probably was too simple. Driving the dirt road back to the main road, we passed the ranch buildings that we thought were campground lights. Simple fences, barns, house that sank into the surroundings and three cowboys pausing for a chin wag as they leaned on the fences. It was all part of what made it special to Jim and me.

On we drove on Hwy 80, leaving the Coronado forest. We passed the town of Clifton that had seen better days. A mining town originally, the mine had stopped producing. The downtown with it’s tall late 1800’s buildings was crumbling. Still there were small signs: and independent book store named “The Book Worm” A funky advertised craft shop. Good wishes to those that keep trying.

We traveled on the Coronado Scenic Byway. We traveled by the Grand Canyon of copper mines, it’s huge open mining pits, giant trucks, buildings and ownership of the area made it clear by its massiveness. We continued on, changing to high chaparral country and ponderosa pine as we would around the 437 curves (honest). It was a beautiful warm day with a careful breeze.

We stopped on the H.L. Saddle and hiked over to a small path startling a 30+ man with a neatly trimmed lying on a picnic table with his backpack for a pillow. His Honda Element was the only other car in the lot. He sat up and apologized saying he was there most of the afternoon dozing in the peaceful sunlight and now awaited the champion of sunsets. We assured him he was fine and left him a bit wistfully.

We climbed higher and higher. Patches of snow appeared. We pulled off the winding hwy into the Stray Horse campground. Not much there but sufficient. It seemed popular with the bovine crowd according to the size and number of cow plops and the two mooing camp hosts. We went to sleep to a beautiful sunset and stars and awakened, as is our custom, to the sunrise. However, as it was chilly, we stayed cuddled and warm under the duvet until the sun poured into the Sprinter. Looking out the cow crowd was back. Two young calves bounced around playing and bumping each other until the head mooer gathered the group and went across the road. We had breakfast and headed off again.

Spring snow

Melting streams

Ponderosa pine inhaling


We pulled into the Blue Vista for a break. Two motorcyclists were taking a break as was a man and his dog in his RV. Alone, he took every chance to talk, perhaps a new widower? Jim stared at the bikes wistfully. He had sold his BMW to help fund the Sprinter. It was too big anyway he said. Maybe next year if the neuropathy is better and he is stronger he will get another one. I can tell that, even as he drives, he is imagining taking the highway curves on his motorcycle. We had talked about me riding with him. He was leery due to my head injuries. After my back surgery, not a chance!!

Craig’s list dog and RV

Driving the highways

Talking to remember and forget


Our next stop, another great NPS site—the Petrified Forest. Just outside of the park were two stores across from each other—The Crystal Forest Museum and Store and The Petrified Forest Museum and Store. We did not stop and drove into the Park stopping at the Visitor’s Center. We knew we would not be able to see much as it was late afternoon. Camping areas were negligible. We did a short hike and learned that the Crystal Forest Museum and Store provided free camping. The only other alternative was a costly KOA several miles away.


A bit leery we pulled into the flat campground next to t he building and selected a far away site. The picnic tables had weathered many years as the tumbleweed stuck in the corner. We set up for the night. There was only one other closed curtained RV in the lot. We walked up to the building as the setting sun glow surrounded us and noticed several cars out front even though the store was closed. A closer glance at the old Torino showed blocks behind the wheels and some flat tires. I guess a unique way to show their were lots of customers.

The next morning we wandered in for a few treasures and found many interesting items. Piles of geodes, petrified wood, Route 66 insulators from poles and artifacts—the amazing collection would fit in many museums. It seems the Park Service bought part of the land from long time owners. They still collected specimens outside the gates on their land. In fact the bartender turned salesperson said she and her daughter gather “rose” rocks for the store. The artifacts are the owner’s personal collection. The competing store across the road has the same owner.

We returned to the Park and toured many sites in the fascinating landscape. Finally I chose not to get out any more. Teacher/Boy Scout O’Neill was puzzled. I finally used the analogy of him not wanting to go into any more stores with me and waited outside. He got it.


Walk on Alberta

Scenic Byways and NPS

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