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  • J.F. Rowan

Albuquerque Side Step

We left Oliver Lee State Park, our first New Mexican State park visit, and headed north to Albuquerque for a house sitting gig. Usually, we plan to overnight the night before somewhere near the house sit in the event that the homeowner wants to meet us and/or review the required chores with us the day before the actual sit is scheduled. We found a good camp spot using another one of our applications, our “Harvest Host” website. The overnight spot we chose was an animal wildlife rescue and rehab center located just 12 miles away from the house sitting gig. We drove from Oliver Lee State Park to the wildlife rehab center, checked in, then headed out to meet with the homeowner and then returned to overnight at the rehab center. The next morning, we had a quick breakfast, then drove straight to the house sit.

"Wildlife West"A wildlife rehab center. For us, a place to park for the night. Quiet and secure, but windy!

We spent a total of 15 days at the house sit for two cute dogs. Comfortable home, but not exactly what we would rate as a “5-Star” experience. Let us just say that had we known of the worst of it (which by rights should have been divulged in the initial listing) we would have not even considered this particular sitting opportunity. In my opinion, a house sitting is a two-way street. They help us by giving us a place to catch up on things such as writing, catching up on our media, receiving mail etc. In return, the homeowners get someone responsible to watch over their home, do some household chores and take care of their animals. Let me clear the air and say up front that we do NOT receive any monetary compensation for house sitting with this particular house sitting service (or any other for that matter) that we belong to, Trusted House Sitters. As house sitters, we have to comply with a number of steps in order to be “cleared” including in-depth background checks and even reference letters from hometown police officials. It is our opinion that there is no need to have us surveilled while inside the home. In some ways, being at that house sit felt like it set us back a bit. Our moods were a bit sour for most of the experience.I suppose the upside of our stay was that we did get a number of tasks accomplished. Over ten VLOG videos were uploaded, an equal number of blog posts were uploaded and new ones were written. A few minor repairs were done on the coach including an oil change and the tires rotated. As with each of our other house sits, we continue to plan out the next legs of our journey. Cooler weather helped make our decision to head south and east and return to Texas. We would be back in warmer weather and click off a couple of “Must-See” state parks, Palo Duro State Park and Cap Rock Canyon State Park. Due to the strange hour in which the homeowners would return home, for the sake of the dogs an early morning departure was out of the question, we would need to depart at 8 PM instead. We entertained staying in a nearby Walmart parking lot overnight and heading off first thing the next morning but I voted against it. Instead, we left at 8 PM and headed for our first stop, Sumner Lake State Park, New Mexico. We pulled into Sumner Lake State Park (New Mexico) at around 11 PM. Finding a parking spot in any state park at night is not an ideal situation and it can be even more difficult when the park is fairly full. We found one spot and instead of backing in, to minimize noise at that hour we pulled straight in. When I woke up the next morning, my plan was to fill the fresh water tank in the trailer while we made breakfast. Unfortunately, we picked a bad spot during the night. The spot right next to us was pretty congested to the extent of having a few bass boats, fifth wheel and tow vehicles parked right up next our rig.They evidently had been cleaning fish the day before and left their filthy cleaning table, gut bag, and un-cleaned knives right next to a “shared” fresh water spigot. When I saw this, coupled with the fact that the park itself looked like nothing more than a large gravel pit (actually I can think of some gravel pits I would’ve rather camped in…) I just wanted to leave. I could hear my father’s voice in my head go on about how to keep a “clean camp”. I’m not squeamish about cleaning fish, or the entrails or any of it for that matter. I was primarily pissed because of the lack of respect someone had for both themselves and the park as a whole. The positive side? We were out of there in 15 minutes, a possible “Bandit” exit record.

Sumner Lake State Park, NM

We set off and drove another 150 miles toward our destination, Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge. It looked like it had some great dry camping opportunities. Our only problem was we would be going in VERY dry, with no water in either the Turtle or the Tiger. We stopped in a small town just outside of the wildlife refuge and did some shopping for provisions including a few gallons of water, a very small price to pay for an early morning departure from Sumner Lake. We were happy to be back in Texas once again.

Muleshoe NWR, TX, Upper Lake (dry)

It was another 17 miles from the town of Muleshoe, to Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge. Very little in the way of signage and as such, a very quiet camping opportunity. We noted a small campground as we approached, maybe 6 spots total situated in a large oblong loop. Being the sole occupants, we had our pick of the litter and chose a spot on the backside with a nice view of the prairie looking west. Before we parked and settled in, we continued to drive around the refuge to see what they had to offer in terms of trails, information kiosks etc.. Muleshoe NWR is known for their salt lakes and ponds where thousands of birds, including cranes which come to feed during their migration period. Nothing was happening while we were here as the ponds and lakes were all but dried up. There has been very little rain this year and as such, there has been little Crane activity. Still, it was a great place to view some of the other birds, and mammals. Like the Mexican ground squirrel, Northern harrier and abundance of Eastern and Western Meadowlarks. We even spied a burrowing owl that we were able to record on our dash cam! The nights were pleasant, coyotes sang every night just after dusk and owls did their thing throughout parts of the night. There were also a few sings around the refuge stating that the “Plaque” had infected a few of the ground squirrels and prairie dogs here. Yes, you read that correctly, The Plague. Warnings about sitting on the ground, getting to close to borrows and wearing insecticide were everywhere. The hiking opportunities were definitely there even when the winds kicked up.

Dry lake bed at Muleshoe NWR. Hundreds of cranes will feed next year after this is filled with seasonal rains.

Yes, it was windy. For five straight days (the third being the worst) the winds averaged around 20 miles an hour with gusts that seemed to be about 40. The wind gusts would wake you from a sound sleep both from the howling and the shaking. Fortunately, it seemed to let up at some hour at night. But right around dawn, the winds would start slowly and by the end of breakfast, were up to their usual top speed for the rest of the day.

Dealing with all the issues, we really didn’t seem to unwind until the second day at Muleshoe, but we were thankful when the feeling finally returned. Tomorrow, we pull up stakes and head off to Cap Rock Canyons State Park in Quitaque (pronounced “Kitty-kay”), Texas.

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