Sugarite Canyon, NM

When we moved to Denver, we drove through Raton, NM, the home of Sugarite (sugarEET) Canyon State Park. We were aiming for a deadline both times, so we didn’t check it out. We had the chance to visit it through a camping Meetup.

We had an easy drive down and took a lunch break in Walsenburg (where there is a whole village of Tiny Homes). That ended when we got to our camping loop of the park; it was a washboard road and a big incline. The visitors center is at 6900′ and our camping loop was at about 8000′.

This was our first trip of the season after some work on the motorhome. We had her de-winterized* and also got solar panels and a couple of new batteries. We want to be able to run self contained without too much generator use, but we have a residential fridge, so we needed some oomph in power. This camping loop had no hookups, so we were testing it all.

Our host, C, is super nice. The group is split between hookup and off-grid campers. C plans the off-grid ones. He also has an amazing Casita-like fiberglass trailer.

There were only two drawbacks to our trip: zero cell signal from either of our carriers, and an insane amount of strong winds. But, even as much as I hate wind, I’ll take it for the rest of the fun we had.

  • Even with smoke from all the fires in New Mexico and Colorado, our views of the canyon were grand.
    the view from our motorhome at Sugarite Canyon State Parksame view, but from our host's camp spot
  • A group of deer–with a fawn–visited our camping loop a couple of times. I love deer, so this was nice.
  • The park was celebrating Worldwide Migratory Bird Day.
    World Migratory Bird Day
  • There was a pair of mountain bluebirds living in our picnic shelter. Neither of us had ever seen bluebirds. (We both grew up with asshole bluejays, which are probably mean and angry from a lack of bird esteem because they aren’t pretty enough.)
    bluebird pair at our campsite
  • We attended a Birds of Prey talk and “met” (from about 6 feet; much closer than a show at any Ren Faire) some rescued/educational birds: a red-tailed hawk, a great horned owl, and a turkey vulture. Also: humming birds were active and not at all scared of humans. One came right up to me as if to say, “Hello, pretty lady.” (As always, bonus points to you if you know that movie quote.)
    red tailed hawkgreat horned owlturkey vulture
  • Our bluebird friends were great until they were pecking at our windows with anger at their own reflections. We finally figured out to raise the MCD shades to change the reflection so they couldn’t see themselves.
  • We were also guests of a pair of small, yellow and black birds. They were in a book that our host brought, but I can’t remember their funny name. This might be them.

Saturday night, we went on a guided hike in the light of the full moon, where we learned that the purple flowers we’d seen were in fact wild irises. The Ranger also showed us the yellow flowers we hadn’t yet seen.
wild irises, blurry from the windthe yellow wildflowers looked like small delphiniums

The talk was interesting, and we learned a lot about birds that migrate at night. There were even problems with the 911 memorial lights and now they have to be turned off for periods of time so the birds can find their way. The entire thing was a special treat since the park closes at dusk.

The little town of Raton sucks. I gave myself a steam burn and couldn’t get the specific first aid supplies I needed. There is not even a CVS or Walgreens, and every local pharmacy was closed on Sunday. Thanks Jesus, for ruining half of every weekend. But the liquor store was open. Priorities, I guess. The town does have their own “Hollywood” sign like nearby Trinidad does. And I have added those supplies to our shopping list to upgrade our kit.
Raton's "Hollywood" Sign - like the one just north of there in Trinidad, COwith the "Hollywood" sign, Raton has a green star

We also learned of a study. I have some of the details (and couldn’t look it up while C was telling us because we had zero signal), but I haven’t yet found it online. Here’s what I remember correctly or not: An Arizona professor ran a study on National Parks and access for minority populations. It is no surprise that white people have all the advantages (like time to vulture for the best spots at the exact time they open up and the ability to reserve 3-5 spots for one family). Basically, white people are ruining it for everyone else, including other white people. So when you are at a National Park and wonder where all the people of color are, it’s because they couldn’t get a reservation. This is not only sad, it’s a bit cruel.

Sunday night, we sat with our host, C, and watched the super flower blood moon eclipse. It was lovely. Like most here, pics did not do this justice.
lunar eclipselunar eclipselunar eclipselunar eclipselunar eclipse

Monday, we went “Jeepin’ Around” to the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge (where we saw no animals) and the little town, where we had a picnic lunch.

We were outside chatting with C, when, as if to say, “Dumb humans! Go inside!” the black and yellow birds came quite close to us and were immediately followed by a huge gust of wind and a little rain. After the storm passed, we were all treated with a thick, bright, double, full rainbow. (Again, these things don’t photograph well with a phone.)
double, full rainbow

Our drive home was mostly uneventful, but we did make it home in time to watch the Avalanche win their first playoff game. They now lead the series 2-1.

*and as I worked on this post, we got snow and freezing temps. One nearby town got 24″ of snow! This is a bit late for here. But Denver has 12 seasons, so it was “Surprise! final winter!” or something like that.

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