Chesapeake Bay

The last couple of months were spent in the Chesapeake Bay. We had some great and some not so great times. The not so good times were all tied to surprise maintenance on our boat but, yet again, but the good times outweighed the frustration of the bad ones.

Jamestown and Williamsburg

We arrived into Norfolk, VA area on July 10th about 11pm. Crossing into such a busy shipping channel in the middle of the night was interesting. We passed a couple of ships that were well over 700-800 feet long. Even barely moving their wakes were huge. We were happy to drop anchor at 1am. Our adventures began the next day.

One of our first trips led us to Jamestown. We loved it there. The only thing about the trip was that we had to motor almost the whole way. It’s a bit up the James River  (20+ miles) and the depth is not so great outside of the channel. That may have been reason why we were the only boat out there. Visiting Jamestown and next day Williamsburg counted as a history lesson for our kids. This is where some of the very first European Settlements in North America existed.

Kids were all happy (I was not as excited) to go stomp their feet in the mud that was getting cured for the brick maker to make bricks. We had some muddy kids.

On the way back South we passed Newport News, Portsmouth, and Hampton. These are the areas known for building all the aircraft carriers and big navy ships for the US Military. They seemed to go on and on.

Crabbing in the Chesapeake

We have not done much fishing but kids did do some crabbing. It seems the thing to do in the Chesapeake. We used turkey necks on hand lines and it worked like magic. We couldn’t believe how fast we were getting crabs on the line. Kids were running back and forth screaming “I got one”.  Brent and I were having a hard time keeping up pulling them out of water.  That said it is a lot of work to prepare a meal out of them. It took Brent a while to kill them all (no we didn’t boil them alive), then they were cooked, peeled and we made crab cakes out of them. They all love them, me not so much. I still see those crab eyes staring at me.

 

Tangier Island

Brent and I both fell in love with Tangier Island. It is located in Virginia in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. It is a sleepy old waterman’s island that is disappearing rapidly. Every year the island looses acres of land due to ice melting and other environmental causes. The island will be mostly gone and unliveable within next 100 years unless there is some huge intervention. I can’t help to feel sad that it will not survive. The island seems like it got stuck in the last century but in a good way. Kids were playing on the streets, which were shared by walkers, bikers and people on golf carts. We saw very little cars as only a couple dozen are on the island. You can get everywhere with a ten minute bike ride. The island is only accessible by water. There are no stop lights and only a single place to eat dinner.   We bought some oysters from local farmer although most of the watermen live from crabbing. His oyster house (like most of the watermen houses) was a shack on the pilings in the middle of the bay with electricity run to it. Again accesible only by boat.

We stayed in Parks Marina which is run by Mr. Parks. He built the marina with his own hands over fifty years ago and has runs it since. He is in his 80’s now and still going. There will be probably nobody to run this place once he is gone, but then there might be no Tangier Island much longer past that.

The kids didn’t like this place much. The only good time they had when they met a friend who had followed us on our boat and played with them all over the boat. Otherwise they had declared the island boring. They prefer being on the anchor where they can jump of the boat instead in a marina with no pool or fun stuff.

 

Salomon Island

Our next stop was Salomon Island off the coast of Maryland. We found a great anchorage with a small beach nearby. The kids loved it here as they could swim whenever they wanted and had a private small beach to explore. It did get very hot so the water was great to cool off in. We liked it so much we hit it again on our way back south a few weeks later and visited a great museum there. Here is how we get around in our dinghy.

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Rock Hall

We spent more time here than any other anchorage. We dropped our anchor in Swan Creek which was a 10 minute dinghy ride to the marina area. It took a few tries to get good holding but it was worth it. Again the kids loved the ability to swim whenever they wanted. Also the town was really cute. There was a main street with a few good restaurants and a small grocery store. We then moved to a marina and met GeeGee and Grand-Daddy (Brent’s parents). They drove their camper all the way from Georgia to see us and the kids. They camped a short drive away and drove back to the marina each day. It was great to have them there and the kids were excited. We walked the city, went out to eat, relaxed and visited a National Marine Sanctuary. We miss you Gee Gee and Grand-Daddy. After they left we spent another day at the Swan Creek Anchorage and then headed south for a week in Annapolis.

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Annapolis

Annapolis is known as the sailing capital of the U.S. There are sailboats everywhere. It is also neat to visit to see the history and be so close to the downtown area. The mooring area (where you can tie up to a submerged chunk of concrete) is only a couple hundred yards from the shops and restaurants. We all went out to eat at Pusser’s and looked at some of the historic buildings. On our last day there we spent most of our time at the U.S. Naval Academy. We were all very impressed by the campus and there is a great museum with a large number of miniature models of ships. Some of these date back to the 17th century and have amazing detail. Since Annapolis is mostly old stuff (that is what the kid’s said) we decided to head back to Rock Hall for the annual Pirates and Wenches Weekend.

Back to Rock Hall

We went back to Rock Hall and anchored at Swan Creek again to go to the Pirate Festival. It was great fun. Things started off Saturday morning with a treasure dig for the kids on the beach. We also saw pirate plays, pirate cannons, did a pirate scavenger hunt and learned some pirate talk. On Sunday Marco and Brent did a 5K while Mei and Makai did a fun run. All in all it was a great weekend of fun. Brent even got to rescue a boat in the anchorage when we had a big storm Saturday night and a 50′ boat with no one on board pulled it’s anchor!

Herrington Bay North

We knew that we had a lot of items that needed to be repaired and it is tough getting everything fixed while “on the hook” so we decided to spend a few weeks at a marina. Herrington North is about 25 miles south of Annapolis and it has almost everything you could ask for in a marina. We spent three weeks there and it was nice to have constant air conditioning and power. We were able to get some engine work done, some new lines run up the mast and all new rivets on our trampoline. The work was great but the family also enjoyed the activities. The marina had a pool where they had a breakfast buffet one morning and a Labor Day Party a couple of weeks later. They even had some movie nights for the kids and a shuttle that ran us to the grocery store. We met some other great cruising families and hope to hook up with them again. Eva also had a big birthday surprise when Tammy Deraney (our old neighbor) flew in to visit for a few nights. Eva had no idea. It was fun to have another person on board and Tammy was our first overnight guest. After a few weeks we knew we had to get south so we could get the boat laid up for the rest of Hurricane season.

All the fun the kids had on the top of our boat. They especially like to be pulled up the mast. It was not that comfortable; I tried.

 

Here I got to celebrate my birthday with my surprise visitor Tammy.  I loved it! The best surprise of all

Back South and Cape Charles

Upon leaving Herrington we made a beeline to Cape Charles, VA about 120 miles south. We stopped at Salomon Island and aother small marina before getting to Cape Charles. Upon getting there we started to get Walden ready to be lifted. We knew that we had to get some paint work done (the one from June did not adhere correctly) so we decided to have the boat hauled while we went to visit family in Europe for six weeks. Cape Charles is a sleepy little village that we used a borrowed golf cart to explore. Everyone was nice and we got the boat prepped for dry land and a possible hurricane in our absence. For the next few weeks we will be on dry land!

 

 

Our first voyage

The repairs/upgrades on Walden were finally done on Wednesday June 27th. We were supposed to leave the day before, but once we filled up our fuel tanks, we found out that they were leaking. All the gaskets on top of the tanks at the inspection ports were compromised and had to be replaced. So back to the marina. The guys from Just Cats guys replaced them on Wednesday and Thursday. We could have probably done it ourselves, but we had captain Blain with us and were already behind schedule. I think there were over 200 bolts that need to be carefully unscrewed to release the old gaskets and then put them back on with new gaskets. The trick was to not strip any of them in process. If that happened the fix would become much longer. Just Cats guys worked hard and carefully and it all got fixed by Thursday afternoon. It took us a couple of days to get rid of the diesel smell and any remains of the leaks in bilges and crannies of our boat.

We left Thursday afternoon around 4ish. Our plan was to make it as far as we could. Possibly to Chesapeake Bay. Our winds were not that good for us to sail, but we were taking the Gulf-stream up and that gave us extra speed. The plan was motor sail whenever the wind would cooperate. Now keep in mind we only had our captain for a certain time, so we could not wait for the wind to pick up.

On our second day heading up the coast the winds were finally cooperating and we were happy to put out our sails. We were still using motors also, but on smaller RPM and were able to our top speed up to 11 knots. All was great until a squall caught up to us. To decrease the windage Brent was pulling the jib (the front sail on our boat) down . Here we ran in a problem that our brand new fuller got jammed. This was happening in the middle of the squall and in the dark evening hour. Scary, right? For first trip and not much experience especially. Luckily we had captain Blain with us, who helped us reel it in after few tacks back and forth. Hoping this is it for our night of adventure, but it wasn’t. We always read and heard that bad things do happen at night mostly. Brent was on the watch when loud crack happens and the main sheet (line holding the mainsail) went loose and there was a lot of violent flapping. Main sheet ripped and was all over the place. He had to wake up Captain Blaine to help fix this problem. We established the rule that while on watch at night nobody is allowed to leave the help/cockpit area for deck without second person at helm. Plus Brent had no idea how to fix the problem. Together with captain Blain they jerry rigged the main sheet which was now two lines instead of one. They also found out that one of the blocks had ripped apart. It must have had sun damage from the inside and the damage was not visible outside. So the riggers couldn’t tell there was a problem with it. And that was the time we gave up on sailing and motor rest of the way. During the next day we also found out that our engines are not charging the batteries. Later on we learned our solenoids are bad. Engines were putting out power but the solenoids were not sending it in.

Not really what we wanted on our first trip. The delays in repairs and circumstances like hurricane season made us leave Ft. Lauderdale right after the repairs were done. I would definitely recommend to not do that unless really needed. For us as inexperienced sailors we felt like that safe trip away with captain we trust was worth the risk. Why?

A) Our experience with open ocean is not that great. Brent had done some longer delivery, but I haven’t done much of big open ocean at all. We also have 3 little kids o worry about.

B) Not all captains are good captains for us. We wanted to be safe and learn. We wanted someone we feel comfortable with, who can handle us newbies, kids and still can teach us. Captain Blain is it. Brent already knew him from his delivery and he was right bout him being the perfect fit. We had hired other captains before and not all were good at lol.

So this all said we chose to get to Wrightsville Beach North Carolina and spend our last day with captain there. We learned some docking (I had to dock our boat!!!), anchoring and worked on some troubleshooting before he left us for his next delivery.

What happened to the Troncalli’s?

After leaving Canada we headed down to Georgia to unpack and repack. This was our final packing to bring all of our stuff on the boat. We said goodbyes to our family and friends, which was tougher than I thought it would be. The thing is we will be back at some point at least for visit.

We left for Ft. Lauderdale area about 3 weeks ago thinking 2 weeks, max 3 weeks and we will be moving on our boat. We are over the 3 weeks and it had not happen yet. It just seems like that nothing goes per schedule in marine repairs world. And nothing runs on budget either. I have read a lot about marine repairs from other owners and just hoped we will get lucky and in the end we may have, just not the standard I would hope for. We are only 2 months past our original estimates and about a week later for our recent estimates to be done with all repairs. Our boat has received a new rigging, new barrier coat and bottom paint, new solar, all the engines got maintenance done, rails replaced, repaired, windows, hatches replaced………and lots of other things that can’t even be listed. Brent had spent almost every day on the boat, which was very difficult. Our boat is out of the water in boat yard for repairs. Boat yards are not that great environment especially in sunny hot Florida. He wasn’t able to run the A/C because it requires raw water intake. So working in hulls of hot catamaran in Florida heat was strenuous. He was coming home completely exhausted, but the experience of being there and learning about the our boat was priceless. Lots of times it was quite stressful and depressing as it seemed where ever we turned or flip a switch, something new had to be fixed or tended to. We know there will be more to tend to and fix/replace and it is never ending story on a boat. I have recently listened to a podcast of family from Sweden that sailed around the world in 4 years. They have talked about that we can expect every single equipment on the boat to cause us some problems and needing fixing/ replacement if we are out there for couple of years. Year ago I would thought that this might be exaggerated, but I think I changed my mind. A lot of boat owners claim to spend 10% of the boat cost on yearly maintenance and I think they might be right. All depends how much of it we will do and how much we hire contractors to do for us. I just hope this major overhaul will keep the maintenance cost at lower rate for at least year or two. That said we are nearing the end of the repairs and I can see glimpses of the beauty our Walden is.

We are moving on Walden this week! It will probably be Friday and Saturday. If you read this post and it is well past Friday, it just means I was superstitious to post this in time of writing this blog post. I am excited, or not…. we got pretty comfortable living in campgrounds around America. And now we are moving on the boat. What were we thinking? Over last couple of weeks we learned that things will break on boat often. We will be fixing/ replacing items all the time. RV repairs are mostly fracture of the coast of the boat repairs. We know RVing and are comfortable. Sailing? Not so much. Yet we are excited and scarred in the same time. We will tackle it one step at the time.

The plan is to sail off on Wednesday June 27th if weather permits. We are hiring captain to help us for week or so to sail North towards Chesapeake Bay. We will go as far as we need to to escape from the upcoming hurricane danger. I expect our next longer stop to be somewhere in North Carolina like Charleston or Beaufort.

Niagara Falls Canada and US

We started this month by going to Niagara Falls.  We opted for a campground on the Canadian side of the border, but that cost us some surprises. I will get back to this later.

We visited both sides of the falls, Canadian and American. The first day we drove back to the US side and walked the park. The weather was beautiful as you can see on the pictures. I don’t really think that these pictures capture the magnificence of the falls, its beauty and power. Brent, as an experienced kayaker, said that the rapids prior to the falls made his heart stop with its powerful turbulence and hydraulics. Interesting Fact: Four of the five Great Lakes are drained by this one massive waterfall.

Below the pictures show the american falls that are called Bridal Veil and in the background the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. You can also see the Maid of the Mist below, which is the boat that takes you near the falls.

 

And yes, the crazy Troncalli’s went on the boat. We got pretty wet and cold, but it was a great experience. We saw the falls up close, were blown by powerful winds and drenched with water throughout. It was not cheap, but between all the things you can spend money here, this seems like the best. The Canadian side also has a boat, but they have not opened for the season yet.

Above are a few pictures from to the top of Bridal Veil (US side). On the picture you can see workers in the water that were building a platform. It seem pretty dangerous and they were doing everything without power tools.

The next day we explored the Canadian side. We found free parking (most parking close to the falls are $20+) at Dufferin Islands, which was about 3/4 of mile upstream from the Canadian falls. Our kids rode bikes and we ran. The wind was blowing about 25 miles per hour, but it was a fun run.We got to see the Horseshoe Falls under great visibility and were mesmerized by the beauty and magnificence of it. Interesting (scary) thing is that a little boy 9 year old survived the falls only wearing his life jacket. He was fishing with his grandpa on the upper river and fall out of the boat. The stream dragged him down the river and through the falls.  I can’t imagine what must have went through his mind falling down over hundred feet through the inferno of the falls and somehow by passing all the rocks. He was fished out by the crew of the Maid of the Mist.

 

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Maid of the Mist getting close to the Horseshoe Falls.

 

We stayed at Jelly Stone campground on Canadian side. That meant we had to cross the border back and forth couple of times and didn’t have any problems. Note that part. Our campground was pretty deserted and almost no attractions were open. It was not very expensive and that made the deal. The other campground that had pool or hot tubs open were over $100 per night.

Shopping at the local Canadian Wal-Mart was interesting. They had it organized a bit differently and their selection was adapted to Canadian customs. Certain things I could not find (soy yogurt) and others I didn’t understand as they were labeled in French.  One thing that stood out was the packaging of the milk. They had milk packaged in bags as the picture shows. This bag included 3 little bags that total 4 liters. I still remember milk being sold in plastic bags when I was little living in Czech. This brought back some memories.  Marco really loved the milk, so I had to test it. I haven’t had cows milk since August. This milk tasted so so good. Not sure what it is, maybe the cows grazing in cold climates or the way they take care of the milk or the bag, but it is really good tasting milk. I googled it and found out that Canadian rulles for milk are much stricter than in the US.

candian baged milk

On the last day we went to Fallsview Waterpark on the Canadian side. The kids loved it and we enjoyed it very much. All was good until we returned to our car parked nearby and found out that someone had cut through our lock and stole Brent’s bike. They left mine behind (thank you !). Well his bike was a good bike 10 years ago, but it was still a usable mountain bike, so that was bummer. And they managed to put a dent on the truck. Did we say truck is not ours? Yep and we are very sorry Dad. Brent actually debated where to park and decided to park on a very public visible spot on street. We filed a police report and went our way.

The next day we headed across the border to camp south in Pennsylvania.

We got detained on the border. It was not fun. We were hoarded in the room with about 30 other people. Most of them left paying fines, so I was calculating quietly how much this would cost us. The reason for our detention was that we had firewood. Interesting thing is that we brought it from America and had it in the bed of the truck the whole time. We had crossed the border twice with it and nobody said anything. That was until today. Luckily it was still in packaging and they let us go with a warning. Yes we are never going to travel with firewood across the border in our truck ever again. We are probably not going to be crossing the US and Canadian border in an automobile any time soon. I am sure crossing borders on our sail boat will have its tricks also.

This concludes our route North. We are slowly heading south to Georgia, where we will unpack, pack and get ready to move on our boat.  I did get used to living in the trailer (moving out from class A RV month ago) and now another move. I am hoping this one will be for a while longer.

Washington, DC and Philadelphia

…. and all that in Chief Long Trailer.

April 23rd – 29th
We are back! Now it is me (Eva) writing, so we are back to funny English and grammar issues. I will do my best. I guess one good thing about homeschooling is, I do learn more of English grammar.

After spending some time (not enough) in the Asheville area, we headed towards Washington, DC. Here we stayed in Cherry Hill campground, which I would highly recommend. It was not the most economical campground, but it was convenient, and they really do a good job. Plus, it is located on public transportation. While here we visited the Museum of Natural History, Air and Space Museum and Museum of Native Americans. The kids and Brent really liked the Air and Space Museum, I could skip that one. We toured the Capitol and went to the Library of Congress, which I was really impressed with. We did get our tickets for the tour of the Capital by emailing our local representative, otherwise we would have to wait in line in the morning. That would not be so much fun with our three M’s.

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We also went to see Bernstein Tribute at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. This show was a combination of music, singing and tap dancing. It ended with a beautiful piece called “Tap and Rap”, which was tap dancing to Bernstein’s music. We were all very impressed and the kids loved it. The ride home on the subway was interesting as it was late, kids were over-tired, which made them hyperactive. They were tap dancig in their seats on the subway, well mostly in their seats. Luckily there were very few other passengers in our subway car and the one unlucky person who managed to walked into ours moved way up front.

The last day’s highlight was the ice cream on the lawn and then the brawl to get all their energy out. There is so much more to do in Washington, DC, but it is tough to do it all in three days and honestly it is a lot to absorb.

The next stop on our route was Philadelphia, where we did some history lessons on the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, but the highlight was the market. I loved the Reading Terminal Market, where we did some shopping and enjoyed a Cajun meal. The kids got their hand rolled donuts. They tasted so fresh and were melting in our mouths (yes we adults stole some bites from our children).

We swung by Chinatown, where some ladies tried to talk to our children in Mandarin. Chinatown gave us little taste of China, which brought some memories back. The buildings and the smells, yep the smells of sewer were there also just like in some of the parts of China. Even with the reminder of that, we do yearn to go and travel China. We may do a heritage tour in a couple of years, so Mei and Makai can experience their birth place. We did love Philadelphia for its history and culture.

We stayed in Philadelphia KOA South. The campground was ok, unfortunately they had so much rain that most of the grounds were pretty muddy. They were also doing a lot of work, which meant more mud. This KOA just seemed the be the closest campground, that was not a parking lot, to the Philadelphia downtown.

Our original plan was head to New York after Philly, but I think we all got tired of the big city. So, our next stop is Niagara Falls. The city there is not small, but we are to explore natural wonders, not manmade structures and history. We would love to also go to the Adirondacks, but the weather was not great there lately. Most of the campgrounds are closed and it snowed there a couple of days ago, so there was some leftover snow in places.

 

Carlsbad Caverns

After a great day of hiking we took a short drive and stayed on some BLM land about 15 miles from Carlsbad. For those that don’t know BLM is Bureau of Land Management. This is all government land that comprises lots of the West. Much of it is used for grazing. You can camp for free. We found a great spot on a hill overlooking the desert. The kids found a small abandoned fort made of stone and worked on improving it by moving rocks to expand the walls. We all saw some great stars and headed to bed early.  Here is a shot from the beautiful sunrise.

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After the sunrise we drove down the dirt road from our BLM campsite. We thought all was good until Brent heard a “whallup” sound. We pulled over and found a baseball sized rock wedged in between our dually tires. After 3o minutes of trying to knock it out with a hammer, axe, drill , chisel, etc, etc we drove slowly into Carlsbad National Park. We decided to walk down the natural entrance.

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Here is our happy Mei on our way into the cave.

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We saw some beautiful structures inside the cave including some huge columns, delicate soda straws and mightly stalagtites. The kids were amazed by the size of some of the rooms.

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Once we got as far as possible into the cave our smallest boy, Makai, uttered the famous words “I gotta poop”. Brent grabbed him and they hustled back to the main part of the cave to the restroom. Eva, Marco and Mei enjoyed a leisurely walk and enjoyed some sibling love.

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After the end of the cave all three kids finished their second Junior Ranges badges of the week and we headed back East.

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We needed to get East as fast as possible for a doctor appt on Jan 12 in Atlanta but had to make sure we found a campsite that had cable. This was so Brent and Marco could watch the BCS National Football Championship game between Georgia and Alabama. Notice Marco’s sweatshirt.

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San Antonio and Guadeloupe Mountains

San Antonio and Alamo, Texas

We drove from Louisiana to San Antonio, Texas, which was one of our planned destinations. We went to see the Alamo and to use it as a lesson on American history. We took the paid tour of the Alamo and were a little disappointed as most of the tour was outside of the walls of Alamo and we could have read most of that ourselves. There was good movie about the history of the Alamo inside of the fort that the kids enjoyed.

 

We also walked River street which was nice, but we ended up at Schillo’s for lunch. It was a cold day and Eva did not want to sit outside for lunch. Most of the restaurants on River street had only outside seating. Schillo’s is a place known for their root beer, so we had to try a pitcher, which was huge. The kids are always happy to eat somewhere other than the camper.

Somewhere in Texas overlooking the desert:

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Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

The next day we drove to Guadalupe mountains, which turned out to take 3 hours longer then expected. We hit road construction, tons of oil trucks on the roads and some not so nice roads. Eva drove on most of the ugly roads while Brent was teaching the kids. The terrible long drive was worth it. We loved it here. We stayed in the little campground in the National park (no hook ups, no reservations) and it was pretty quiet and isolated. After a quick stop at the visitor center we attempted a late afternoon hike to The Devils Den. We never made it as it got late but he kids wanted to get of the trail after they heard there might be Mountain Lions around. Before we went to sleep we all went outside for a quick look at the stars. Without any light pollution they were amazing. That night was fairly noisy from the 60 mph wind gusts that shook the camper but we all slept OK.

The Next morning the kids all earned their first junior ranger badge. Kids can earn these in all the National parks around America learning about nature, hiking etc. They all got officially sworn in and had to recite the oath.

Later we drove couple of miles to McKittrick canyon for a hike and it was great. We all hiked 4.8 miles, which is the longest hike they have ever done. It was a pretty impressive distance especially for our youngest, Makai. We crossed some steams, looked for fossils and walked through beautiful canyon where all the sedimentary layers in rock were visible as it was carved over millions years. The scenery and views were unbelievable and we saw only a couple of people on the trail. We would have loved to stay longer but we have to head back east and get closer to home to take care of some medical issues. Off to Carlsbad Caverns tomorrow.

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IMG_6119Once done with hiking we couldn’t resist and went camping on BML land a couple miles outside of Carlsbad Caverns National park. We drove up a windy rocky path onto higher ground overlooking the desert. Again we got a view! I am going to miss that. Our best campsites are usually in state parks or out in the middle of nowhere, just like this spot. Don’t take me wrong, beeing hooked up with electricity, water & sewer is nice, but rarely is it so peaceful and offering the vistas as parks or wilderness do.

The view out of our camper overlooking the desert in New Mexico:

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