March 25, 2019
by Jenny Hohner
I vacuumed the sheets this morning. I vacuumed the sheets this morning before I got out of bed. Then I vacuumed the floor. On clean van day, our living quarters are not only dirt-free, but appear spacious. Clean van day happens every seven to ten days. Today is not clean van day.
We are camped on a rocky ledge above the shores of Clayton Lake, a body of water created by damming Seneca Creek. Wind is rippling the lake’s surface and sunlight is shimmering on the cove in front of our campground. In more than one spot, sun bleached tree tops are poking up out of the water reminding visitors that this was once dry land. We can hear birds chirping in the trees as if they are asking us to move on. On the far edge of eastern New Mexico’s high grassland plain, a lake is an unexpected find.
We arrived here last night just after a spring shower and an hour before sunset. I insisted that we walk to the other side of the lake to view the dinosaur tracks. A walk that coated our shoes in a thick, gooey mud. Not really a surprise, as we could hear the thwat-thwat-wat sound of our tires spitting mud onto the van as we drove through the park looking for the perfect campsite.
To reach the dinosaur tracks, a series of footprints pressed into sand when New Mexico was the shoreline of an ancient sea, we followed the trail signs across the park’s earthen dam. As the sun set to the west, the eastern skyline was painted a rosy red.
Trying to catch the last of the day’s light and actually see the tracks, Molly and I sped ahead of Joe. A boardwalk around the sandstone bed provides a path for visitors to view the footprints. Small signs are posted in front of each set of tracks. Last night all the tracks were filled with water and rock chips. Without the signage I would have missed most of the tracks.
As we walked back across the dam, we saw seven deer grazing. We stopped to watch the animals. Joe took hold of my Molly’s leash. When she sees deer, she wants to play chase. A game Molly never wins. The deer stared at us with interest and without fear. The herd wasn’t in a hurry, so we stepped forward a few paces and eventually they ambled down the other side of the dam.
The light left the day before we made it back to our campsite. Joe used his iPhone to pick out the least muddy track. Before entering the van, we doused our shoes and Molly’s paws with water but still managed to track dirt inside.
Quiet campsites with beautiful sunsets are tucked into unexpected corners all across this country. This is one. Today’s warm sunshine is drying the mud. We might just stay one more day, take a second look at the dinosaur tracks and maybe find a place to charge my Dyson.