Friday, June 24, 2016

Altitude is good for the attitude

Goose Lake is a high lake near Red River, NM. The rocky, steep, Jeep trail starts at 8500' and runs to 11,500'. I've never been up and Derek's never ridden real off-road trails on his dirt bike, so we planned a trip. Leaving home at around 8 am, we stopped in Cimarron NM at the Cree-Me Drive Inn, which has the best soft-serve ice cream in the world. It was too early for ice cream and burger, so we "settled" for breakfast instead. Well... my breakfast burrito turned out to be one of the best I've ever had and Derek took 3 bites of his pancakes and said "These are really good!" He rarely says things like that. After stuffing ourselves, we continued on to Red River.

Our RV park (Roadrunner RV) ended up being right next to the Goose Lake trailhead which made things easy. We pulled in at 11 am and got camp set up. After some thinking, we decided to ride the Goose Lake Trail first, then go fishing a bit, and then ride the Greenie Peak (11,400', too) and Moonlight Meadow trails the next day.

Off we went! Now, remember, Derek just started riding a dirt bike in February. Goose Lake Trail started with a steep and loose shale ascent. I was about 100 yards up when I spotted a Polaris Razr coming down the trail. Turning quickly to find Derek, I promptly crashed, landing hard on my butt. Derek also crashed and couldn't pick his bike up on the slick surface. So, I parked mine, walked down, got him started, pointed out the line, and off he went. I took off, waved at the Polaris, and up we went. After that rocky start, things went well, although it seemed like we climbed forever. Finally, up near the lake we got some downhill time and in a fairly short time- it's only a 7 mile ride- we arrived at the lake. I, unfortunately, left the mount for my helmet cam at home, so I just have stills to show you.

In the parking lot at 11,500'.
Derek is glad to not be battling rocks.

Derek is growing

Goose Lake

The ring of rocks

The lake was surprisingly pretty- a crystal clear little thing surrounded by a ring of rock, snow still in place. It's a popular place and there were numerous ATV's, Polaris Rangers, and such in the parking lot. We were the only bikes, though. After some photos and observation, we headed back down, during which both Derek and I observed that we needed to adjust our rear brakes! On the ride down, my butt started hurting from the fall and it being only 1 pm, I thought maybe we should go ahead and tackle the other ride and save fishing for the 'morrow. So, we loaded up and off we went! Again!The other ride starts on the opposite end of town and winds thru some pretty fun trails. Uphill, downhill, level but with water washouts... it's a great ride up to Greenie Peak. From there, you can go back down and branch off one of two different ways to make a big loop. We rode that one and Derek proclaimed it as "much better" than the other ride. By this time, we were tired and hungry and stopped at "Anchovies Pizza" in town where we had a pepperoni- artichoke heart/olive/tomato mix. It was pretty good- not quite as good as Bruno's in Raton, but still pretty good. We'd definitely eat there again.

Sittin' on top of the world.

Derek with clouds

Wondering if we're gonna get wet (we didn't)

 After a nice night's sleep in our new Casita (3 Ibuprofen later, my butt quit hurting), we went fishing. I don't have much to report there except that there is a steep curve where fly fishing along brush choked little streams are concerned. After a rough start (I already used "rocky start"....) during which my BOA laced wading boots lace broke and I had to use a leader to shut, which necessitated rebuilding my leader/tippet, we caught nothing. The Red River was whipping and places where there's normally pools were raging rapids. We packed up and headed over to Eagle Nest to visit Eagle Nest Fly Shack and get my boots re-wired, and then grab some food. Got all that done, eating at Kaw-Lija's where we had a breakfast burrito and pancakes again. We agreed that the food was good, but not quite as good at the Cree-Me Drive Inn. Nevertheless, we'd eat there again, you betchya.

Bed-time in the Casita

Fueled with food and information, we headed for Cimarron Canyon to fish more. Amidst much line tangling and fly losing, Derek snagged 2 small brown while I had several strikes but nothing solid. Tired and grumpy, we headed home but not before stopping in Ute Park for real, 100% gasoline, no ethanol added and in Cimarron guessed it!... the Cree-Me Drive Inn for soft-serve ice cream.  And a few hours later, tired, we arrived home just in time for it to start pouring rain. As I write this, just over a 1" of badly needed moisture has fallen.  This is, literally, awesome.

All in all, an excellent adventure. Derek got to ride his dirt bike off-road for the first time, we both went to Goose Lake, we ate at 3 new places, we camped in the Casita... good stuff!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


(Mat 4:18-19 NKJV)  And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."

I figure that since more than one of Jesus' disciples were fishermen, it might behoove one to become a fisher of fish before becoming a fisher of men.  Because, like, if you can't fish for fish, then how are you going to fish for men's souls?  If you can't fish?  You know?  I mean, is this logic or what?!  So, to this end, a few years ago we set out to become fishermen. 

Now, I fished in my youth, but it was bass fishing on small prairie potholes. You cast a lure in the water and like as not a hungry largemouth bass smacked it right away.  If one didn't, then you moved to the next pond.  This is radically different from lake fishing. Small pond fishing is more like fishing for men at a "We Want To Know Jesus!" conference. There are limited choices and the fish there are hungry. It's easy. Lake fishing- where there is a lot of water and many more choices in food, shelter, and depth for our sought-after fish- is more like fishing for souls at a Rolling Stones concert. It's gonna be a tough one and um...Keef!!!!  Start me up, man!!!  Sorry... where was I?  Anyway, having found justification for my fishing ("seek, and you shall find...", right?), and, um... let's ignore the fact that I only found justification after I was well into fishing again, shall we?... here's where we're at, fishing-for-fish-wise.

We started fishing after David's death. Couple of reasons for that. First, none of the 3 kids could swim and I didn't want to worry about them falling in and drowning, esp David who was physically weak. I also didn't want to spend all my time untangling rods and such. There were other things we did- archery, traveling, museums- so we did those things. Afterward, Brianna was old enough to handle herself and I got Derek swimming a bit. They both wanted to fish, so off we went.  We hit nearby Clayton Lake once or twice and got skunked. Then we discovered Gravel Pits Lake in Cimarron Canyon, a kid-friendly little pond stocked with rainbows. That's where we started learning about treble hooks, weights, and Powerbait.  Prior to this, I was using a medium stiffness spinning reel loaded with 10-12 lb test line and big spinners and spoons- bass tackle, in other words. Trout are much more delicate and it wasn't long before I had an array of Light and Ultra-Light rods and small reels loaded with 4 lb test line. 

Derek's first fish, ever, at Gravel Pits- Sept 28, 2012
Still using heavy tackle here.

Our first real success came at Lake Maloya near Raton where we all caught a limit or close to it of trout. 

Derek and Brianna on our first Maloya trip- April 25, 2013

After that, I started going to different lakes around northern New Mexico, exploring and trying them out.  We've hit Morphy Lake twice.  First time was slow- D2 and I caught 4 fish between us. It's hard to get to and I don't think it'll be our favorite lake, although Teresa's Tamales is just down the hill and a worthy stop all by itself.

Morphy Lake

After Morphy, we went back to Lake Maloya and again caught some fish. We've been back to Maloya 6-8 times and have had good fishing every time. I think it might be our favorite lake on the whole.

Lake Maloya
Derek and I went to a 3D archery shoot back in July 2014 and just weren't having much fun so we bailed early to take in some fishing on the way home.  This was our first visit to Coyote Creek and we had a great time there. We didn't catch a lot of fish, but the scenery more than made up for it.

Beaver dam at Coyote Creek 

Clayton Lake is our "local" lake but it took us awhile to figure it out. Eventually, we started catching fish fairly regularly, but it's never a given.  In 2015, I got something new- an inflatable Intex Mariner 3 boat. I've never been a boat person, but it's fun and it's really opened a new door as far as fishing goes. Shortly after this, I bought an Intex Challenger K2 kayak. I like the kayak for its lightweight and maneuverability but it's not as comfortable with 2 people and is obviously much less stable than the boat, I really enjoy using both boats to explore the waters.

Trying the Intex for the first time

Before long, we had to try fly fishing, especially after visiting smaller waters like Coyote Creek and Gravel Pits (and the surrounding Cimarron).  Using points from my Cabela's card, I got us set up with rods and reels and we were off.  There is a steep learning curve with fly fishing and at first, we were not very successful. One thing I learned about fly-fishing is that, unlike normal fishing where bodies of water are referred to as "Lake _____" or "_______ River", you call the place only by its first name.  Thus, the Cimarron River is simply "the Cimarron" and the San Juan River is "the San Juan".  Doing it this way lets people know that you "know". So if you want to sound like you, too, "know", I suggest you start referring to bodies of water by their Christian name. 

Fly fishing the Cimarron

To help get over the Fly-Fishing Learning Mountain, we hired a guide from Eagle Nest Fly Shack.  Tim, the owner, was our guide and both D2 and I learned a lot. That fall, we picked up used waders and boots from them, and applied our lessons on our own.

Learning from our guide

As of this writing, I have yet to catch a brown trout and D2 has yet to catch a rainbow on a fly rod.  We're in competition to see who can be the first to get the other's fish.

A non-guided trout
At Winfield 2015, D2 learned to tie flies.  Several of the Winfield guys are fly-fishermen and D2 and no shortage of help. He's caught trout- brown trout, no rainbows, please note!- on his own hand-tied flies.

Learning to tie flies at Winfield

Next on our list of fish to catch were walleye and bass.  Clayton Lake has them, but Ute Lake has more, so when Heather needed to zip down to Ute Lake to do a falcon exchange, D2 and I were all on board.  There, we met my ex-apprentice, Calvin, and another falconer, Mike, (that's four falconers fishing for fish, in case you lost track) and fished away.  D2 caught two keeper walleye and a couple of bass, plus Mike gave us his bass and we had a meal!  After trout, the walleye and bass were big fish.

First walleye and bass at Ute Lake
A few weeks later, we put our new Casita to use in an overnight stay at Clayton Lake where we caught several nice fish.

Casita Camping at Clayton Lake

The view from my kayak

D2 caught the big one
And then just a few weeks ago, we took the Casita back to Ute Lake where I caught several smallmouth bass, including a few keepers.  Derek didn't catch one until just before we were ready and then hooked one bigger than either of mine.

Ute Lake smallmouth

Well, that's fishing so far. Now that the weather's getting warmer, we're  moving back to the fly streams where I will catch a brown trout. We're both going to catch cuthroat, probably in the Valle Vidal, which is a place I've never been. Or maybe up in Santa Barbara creek, another place I've never been.  Later this year we have plans to head down south to combine fishing with hawking and javelina hunting. We've discussed moving to Logan (home of Ute Lake) in the winter. We can speak bilingually now, switching effortlessly from Spin-Cast to several dialects of Fly-Fishing. We have "A River Runs Through It" memorized- in my case, both the movie and the book. However, don't think that we are good fishermen, I think we still need a lot of practice. And we intended to practice. A lot.

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him all good things-trout as well as eternal salvation-come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.” 

“Well, until man is redeemed he will always take a fly rod too far back, just as natural man always overswings with an ax or golf club and loses all his power somewhere in the air; only with a rod it's worse, because the fly often comes so far back it gets caught behind in a bush or rock.” 

“As a Scot and a Presbyterian, my father believed that man by nature was a mess and had fallen from an original state of grace. Somehow, I early developed the notion that he had done this by falling from a tree. As for my father, I never knew whether he believed God was a mathematician but he certainly believed God could count and that only by picking up God's rhythms were we able to regain power and beauty. Unlike many Presbyterians, he often used the word "beautiful.”
― Norman MacleanA River Runs Through It and Other Stories

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hanging with Heather

It's been awhile since I updated my poor little blog.  And that's 'cause I've been pretty busy.  Let's catch up.... In Feb, I mostly worked on guitars and rode dirt bikes a bit.  The weather was decent and we got a fair amount of riding done. Then in early March, our friend Heather stopped by for a visit. Being that she has quite a bit of ranch and livestock experience, I put her to work and her visit turned into a 6-week stay.

First course of action was building fence. I have 2 miles of fence between two pastures that was in pretty bad shape and has been since I got to the ranch nearly 20 years ago (I need to let that sink in for a minute... nearly TWENTY years ago...). I wanted it fixed up.  To that end, I bought a Danuser T3 post driver for my Case skid steer. We worked about 2-3 days/week on the fence and got it all spiffied up with steel posts, re-stretched wire, and some new braces. After some initial hiccups, the Danuser worked beautifully. At one spot, I pounded posts by hand into a dry lake bed.  Later, I drove by with the skid steer and decided to see how much further I could get the very tall posts.  I drove them an additional 2' without even actuating the "pound" part of the driver!  That's when I got impressed.

Miles of fence ahead

Stripping wire, pulling posts, driving new ones

Since Heather has experience with livestock auctions and Derek had some money in the bank to invest, we went to town a couple of times to buy cattle for him. I met with a local rancher the first time and got both his and Heather's opinions on the cattle.  When a likely bunch came up, we bid and won and suddenly Derek was a cattleman!  Back home, we branded, vaccinated, and sprayed with insecticide, all firsts for us.  We ended up buying 6 yearling steers in all. We'll let these gain weight on grass all summer and sell them in the fall, making a (hopeful) profit on the gain. This is a test run to see if we want to buy 20-50-100 yearlings in upcoming years.

I'm holding the gate shut...

.....Heather applies the iron.  Derek and Georgia are go-fers.

In addition to the yearlings, Derek has a herd of 8 momma cows and they started calving this past month. With these, we'll likely keep the heifer calves to build the herd and sell the steers this fall to generate money with which we'll buy more cattle next spring. If all goes well, by the time Derek's ready for college, he'll have a good fund built up.

The first home-grown calf of the year

Another thing we did was go hawking.  Since I met Heather thru falconry and since she brought 3 Harris' hawks with her, flying them seemed the logical thing to do. We flew them mostly in my Cedar Creek canyon which is a pinyon/juniper lined canyon. Bunnies aren't plentiful, but we got 2-4 decent flights every time and caught 1 bunny and a jackrabbit. We also saw a Barbary sheep ewe with a very small lamb in the canyon, a first for everyone. And we got a lot of much needed exercise! I think we fired up to fly Harris's again and I've put an order in for 2 birds for myself for this fall.  So, hopefully, we'll have some news on that later this summer.

Jackrabbit down!

And then we went fishing.  Being originally from Minnesota, H has some fishing tricks up her sleeve including The Art of Filleting, something which we'd never done. We fished pretty much once a week and caught lots of trout.  Derek caught his first walleye, smallmouth, and largemouth bass all in one day at Ute Lake.

Derek with walleye and bass

The above fish, about to be 'et.

I left out a bunch of other fun things- "walking" up to the top of the local mountain (pretty sure I said "climb" but everyone thought they heard "walk"...), looking for prairie falcons, playing Scrabble, visiting Las Vegas NM, feeding cattle, sitting in front of the fire talking, listening to music, and more, but I think you get the idea. We all learned a lot of things from each other, had fun, and it was, in short, A Most Excellent Visit.

Sitting on top of the world....

Alas, all good things must come to end and, in no time at all, it was time for Heather to head home to Montana. After lunch one day we said our "see you in awhile"'s (no "goodbyes", nope!), sent her down the road, and started getting back into our normal routine. That, of course, was quickly punctuated by incoming cattle (going into the pasture which fence we'd just fixed) and just like that, another ranching season begins.

Until next time
First one off the truck

Feed us!

And that brings us up to speed. Every year is an adventure.  What will this one bring?

There is one more thing. We observed what would have been David's 15th birthday with a visit to his grave. Tears were shed, funny stories were told, and- as always- we try to look forward in hope.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Back in the saddle again!

Awhile back, I wrote this on my web site:

I started riding dirt bikes in Jr. High in 1973 with a Honda XR75 and continued to ride through High School (upgrading to a Honda XL125 which I immediately tricked out for dirt riding). I raced a Suzuki RM125 during my last two years of High School (79-80), but sold it to buy my 1st Martin guitar. I bought a very used Honda SL175 (for $175!) while in college and rode it for awhile, but then was bikeless (a sad state of affairs) until about 1987 when I got a 1984 Honda XR200R. Not long afterwards, I bought a 1984 Honda XL200R as a second bike for commuting and for my wife to ride. I sold both bikes about 2 years later, to buy falconry telemetry (these hobbies are all inter-twined!). A long, dry period lasted until March 21, 1998 when I bought a brand-new 1996 Honda XR250 with proceeds from various writing projects, including the Falconry Equipment book (see what I mean about being intertwined?? <g>). The first thing I did upon getting it home was go out and catch some air!  That got me going again and since then I have been bike-less for just a short period.
In Fall 2010 at age 48, I decided it was time to hang up the dirt bike boots while all my joints and bones are still intact.  It was a great ride!

Well, never say "never", I guess.  After a 5 year break, we're back in the game.  Derek, you see, had been making noise about wanting to ride dirt bikes. I think there's a lot to be learned from them besides the actual riding skills (which are useful in themselves). There's mechanic work, trouble-shooting, economics, time-management, and more. I freely credit my dirt biking with many of the skills I have today, a large chunk of which have enabled me to do guitar repair.

Talking about dirt bikes during Christmas, we did a little quick research and settled on a few candidates- the Honda CRF150F or Kawasaki KLX140 for him and a Yamaha TT-R 230 or Honda CRF230F for me. A quick look at Craigslist later and I found a single buyer selling both an '08 Honda CRF150F and a Yamaha TT-R 230, for an excellent combined price. The Santa Fe Yamaha dealer was open and we took a look at a new TT-R 230 and they even had a used CRF150F.(for too much money). That visit put the TT-R 125 LE on my radar, too.

 But I wanted to shop and think. The biggest issue in buying a used dirt bike is the title. Here in NM, you have to have a registration sticker to ride on public lands (.e.g. US Forest Service) and since nearby Red River, NM is a fun and popular are to ride, I sure don't want to exclude it. However, bikes in Colorado and TX don't have titles. Problem. But,the original pair that I saw on CL's did have titles and long story short, we drove down there one Thursday and bought them. Even better, the following Monday, we got them titled!  Some gear and jetting later, we're riding.

Fresh off the truck

Derek's never ridden a dirt bike but he does have bicycle and ATV experience. He's picked it up pretty quickly, learning to use a manual clutch and shift gears. His Honda is a great bike- I wish I'd had one of these to start on!  Likewise, I'm really happy with my Yamaha.  I'm not going to do much jumping or racing anymore- we just want to putt around and have fun.

Got gear?  Got dirt!

It's good to be back on the bike.