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  • J.F. Rowan

Itchin to get out of Fritch

We had just moved the rig to the top of the ridge. I’m guessing it was at least 400 feet higher than where we were when the bugs invaded. The breeze didn’t seem any stronger in this spot even though we were more exposed and at a somewhat higher elevation. I stood next to the truck with the engine running letting the “gears” turn, surveying the situation, weighing our options. I walked around the truck looking over the campsite. Good visibility, no one here, as good or better than our last spot. Then I saw the side of our truck, the leeward side. There they were, hundreds of them. Them? Well, take a mosquito, remove its stinger, give it a louder and sharper whine, and there you have it. They seem to think that ears, nostrils, and a head of hair are prime locations to hide and hang out or the side of the truck. That’s what we were dealing with. Yvette was walking through the area looking for a level spot. “How far is Clayton from here?” I said out loud. She paused and looked at me from across the site, “About 120 miles.” She said. I looked over the lake one last time. “What are you thinking?” She said even though she pretty much knew the answer. “Well, no sense wasting any more fuel,” I grabbed the drivers' door handle, “Let’s go see if Clayton Lake has a spot for us.” Without missing a beat, she hopped in the truck and started looking for the address. I knew the route was north and I knew there was only one main road from this side of the lake so off we went, to Clayton Lake State Park ajust outside of Clayton New Mexico.

Lake Meredith, Fritch Texas

Surveying higher ground at Lake Meredith. Still buggy, time to roll!

The drive to Clayton Lake was pretty straightforward. We pass through a few small towns and remark to each other at the number of boarded-up businesses and abandoned homes. It’s something we see more often than we’d like. The town of Clayton appears to be centered around a few large grain elevators with a small rail yard. it’s quiet here. We stop for a bathroom break and as I walk from the truck I honestly think I hear a pair of spurs jingle. It’s just a chain from an old sign swinging in the breeze. “I’m you’re huckleberry,” I mumble. I smile and turn slowly just in case there is a "Johnny Ringo."

Clayton Lake Route from Meredith Lake

Our route from Lake Meredith NRA to Clayton Lake State Park in New Mexico

We continue through town and find the access road to Clayton State Park. The last stretch of road is a two-lane, no-shoulder road that meanders 12 miles through the high prairie. We occasionally see groups of Pronghorn approximately 500 feet from the road. I make a note to keep my camera at the ready when we return to this area, for now, we press on.

Pronghorn sighting near Clayton Lake SP.

It’s after hours as we enter the park so we stop, take our self-service ticket and start scouting out the park for a spot. We’ve heard mixed reviews about this place so we take our time picking out our campsite. A camp host flags us down, “Hello there, welcome to Clayton Lake,” she begins. “Do you have a reservation?” “No”, my wife says. “That’s fine,” she says, “just pick any spot that doesn’t have a reserved sign on it.” We thank her and continue our search. we circle the lake and finally find a spot in the back and we have this area all to ourselves. It’s an interesting place, to say the least. The park itself has a few trails but its main attraction is the lake set in the middle of this high prairie. Our particular spot is situated on a high ledge overlooking the lake. As we walk around the area where we’re parked, an occasional splash can be heard of bass jumping for their early evening dinner. I inventory my fishing gear in my mind as we walk. Though small, and somewhat centered in this park, this seems to be a more natural looking lake than Meredith Lake.

Clayton Lake State Park, NM

Clayton Lake State Park, New Mexico

Clayton Lake Facing North

The north edge of Clayton Lake. High vantage point.

The night sky springs to life. Sharp pin-holes of light dot the sky. There is very little light pollution here and the Milky Way has no problem getting our attention. It occurs to me I need to start experimenting with night or astrophotography and I add it to the list of things to do in the back of my mind. We hear what we think are coyotes in the distance along with what we think are quail murmuring in the nearby grasses. I spot a satellite overhead and track it as it’s brightness changes as if to blink. I write a few minutes writing in the journal and we turn in for the night. As we drift off to sleep, we reflect on the last 24 hours, we were in a different state, a different spot. What will tomorrow bring?

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