What a day.

A good day. From start to finish and all kinds of full in between, it was a non stop day that just seemed to flow from one great event to the next. Last night was a first of sorts, I slept outside of the car on the ground with just the sleeping pad and mummy bag, it was just a touch warm, yet I slept great and it was nice not to have to pack a tent this morning. I woke up, stood up, opened the car door, sat down, then proceeded to roll up and put away the two items. Ten minutes tops and I was fully mobile again.

No rush to use the restroom (thank God,) yet I still figured I should head that way sooner rather than later. I plugged Walmart into the GPS and set off- only about ten minutes on the other side of town. Though, I didn’t make it there. I rounded a corner or rose over a hill some where in Ruidoso and saw a set of Golden Arches. Yeah, there’s a bathroom there too I thought (as well as a delicious breakfast.) I sat in my car for a while when I got there, just surfing my phone, checking the things I check each morning.

After a while, I brushed my teeth then went in bringing my laptop and phones with me, as I had a few things to take care of. Restroom first, then I went to order.  Very good service, more than I expected from fast food. My meal was ordered and I was given a receipt and a numbered table tent- my food would be brought out to me, very nice.

It was nice to sit at a table with a padded seat, inside a room of a comfortable temperature, and work on my laptop in an ergonomic position. It was nice, and oh so rare when I get those chances anymore. Today was the day to sell my stocks. I’m not much of an investor, yet in March of Twenty Twenty I put one thousand dollars into Robinhood, spread over a dozen different stocks, mutual funds, and cryptocurrencies. Today, when I needed it, I was able to reap the rewards.  I now had about eight hundred and fifty dollars.

I tried to sell and transfer it out the other day, yet I didn’t have my old phone on my for a text, as I thought just logging onto their website would be enough- nope.  Today I was ready and had the old phone with me. Click, click, read the help, look up a few topics and.. disappointment. I had looked the other day and saw I could link my debit card for instant transfers.. yet the sales don’t clear that fast. Looks like I’ll be waiting two or three days.  Then, I looked at the instant transfer again, it comes with a one and half percent fee. Yet else, I’d be waiting another two or three days for the normal transfer. We’ll see how it goes, yet it looks like I’m here for a few more days.

Next, I had to finish up some stuff from last night. I’d gotten into a good religious discussion with my friend Nikki on Facebook, yet right towards the end I had to get off Facebook to go write my post for the night. Going back to find the thread today, I completed my response. Some other web surfing I’m sure, yet soon enough I was on my phone mapping the directions to the Smokey Bear Ranger District office. I’ve now been to all three district offices of the Lincoln National Forest. Somehow I like this place the most- I am in Lincoln County after all.

It’s easy enough to ask for a MVUM (motor vehicle use map) and walk out- yet that would be such a disservice to yourself. When presented with a ranger, ask for a map and a recommendation. Thanks to the ranger there, I am currently at the Monjeau Peak Watchtower, nine thousand six hundred and nineteen feet above sea level. As step as the roads were, I’m very happy the Mustang made it all the way up here! Yet lets wait a second- I got the map and the recommendation, yet I didn’t come straight here.

The ranger station is just down the street from where I stayed last night at the Cedar Creek trailhead area, so I headed right back up the street.  This time the picnic area was still open, so I drove in there before I could get down the street to exactly where I was last night. This was nice road side picnic area and had some restrooms too.  They lock the gates at four pm, yet I saw one other camper van in there after hours when I walked through last night. Other than the restrooms, there weren’t any other facilities. To me at least, it didn’t seem worth being locked in all night.

While I sat there at the Cedar Creek picnic area I noticed one older gentleman walking around with a metal detector. Curious, yet not enough to walk across the way, I went back to my work at hand- reading my new maps.  Comparing those maps with my online maps and plotting my course for the day. I was exciting about coming to see this watchtower (and the view did not disappoint,) I also didn’t want to skip what I had already planned for the day- a big walk up to the crest of the mountain. I wanted to walk up and look and see over it.

It took me long enough, yet I finally mentally confirmed my plans: up the street to the Cedar Creek, a good long walk on the trail there, then a drive to the Monjeau Peak.  I backed out of my parking spot and put it in drive. And made it about fifty feet. I hadn’t seen him move, yet now that elderly man was walking along the asphalt, looking to get into a late model pickup.  I pulled off to the side and said hello.

Cliff has a lot of stories. We probably talked for close to two hours- we each dismissed ourselves several times, him to go get his lunch, me to go get to my walk. Yet each time we said goodbye, the conversation just kept going.

Cliffs great grandfather fought in the Confederate Army and most his family was well engrained in the Confederate life, yet there were a few cousins from the same County that joined the Union Army. His father fought in World War II and Korea, and several other conflicts (a lifetime of service with a full retirement,) and even served on Okinawa Island in the Pacific Theater. Cliff himself enlisted in the Navy when he was seventeen yet only served four years active and two inactive after that.

He did get to go to Okinawa himself though- twenty years after his father. For that he received a stern warning from his father – if Cliff brought home a Japanese wife, his father would kill her.  As Cliff told me, he thought maybe his father was joking or less than fully serious, yet all the same, for his time in Japan, Cliff did not date.

He lost his son several years ago, which weighed heavy on him still, yet he rejoiced when speaking of his daughters, which both still live in the area and visit him often.  Their visits are part of his log.  (A topic that came up after the photo, as I mentioned it would be a part of my ‘blog’ online.) Not familiar with the internet at all (he produced a flip phone to prove this,) I explained a ‘blog’ as just my journal of the daily events that are important to me.

In Cliff’s log, he tracks his blood pressure every day (a heart attack and stroke several years ago has him on his toes,) as well as doctor appointments of course, then.. after a bit of conversation, he got back to the important parts he tracks: when his kids visit and whatever he finds with he metal detecting equipment each day.  Looking for treasure is his full time retirement job. By now I’d mentioned meeting Kent in Corpus Christi and my new interest in gold detecting.

Trading tips and filling me with all kinds of local lore about the area, at some point he asked about the treasures I’ve found.  Well, just a few pennies (one that got turned into a million dollar trinket.) Yet mostly I told him, I try to capture conversations- memories of individual people that live on in my mind and in my posts. Opportunities to meet a random stranger, and to hear how their day has been, to hear how their life has been… that is gold.

From current events, identity politics, water rights, gun rights, covid mandates, cannabis, we could have talked for hours, or days, or years. About the third time I excused myself, I was serious, I had some walking to do. We managed to part ways. Yet, I had given him my card and made sure he wrote the date on in.  The next time one of his daughters come to visit him, they can look up this post for him, and tell him how much I enjoyed my day getting to know their dad.

Back in my car, I drove up a few hundred more yards to the unlocked pull off where I had spent last night. Backpack was already ready, I grabbed my trek poles and headed to the trail.  I was feeling good. These Cedar Creek trails are the best yet, seriously. They are slopped enough to make it a good workout, yet plenty of flat spots too, and declines as well. The trails are mostly two or three feet wide at least, though there are some narrow spots too. Plenty of trees and shade, enough to make the sunlight a pleasure when you walk into it.

I started on the beginner trail, yet soon enough I made it to a sign that pointed out difficult trail.  I wondered what that looked like.. so I went that way.  It was difficult, yet possible. I climbed to a top of the mountain, eager to crest over and see the valley on the other side.  The last part was steepest, one one foot in front of the other and I made it to the top. Right onto an asphalt street in a little residential neighborhood. Okay, so now I’ve walked all the way into the Lincoln National Forest (at Oliver Lee State Park,) and now I’ve walked all the way out of the forest too.

I turned around and found seat on the ground at the top. I’d already gone a mile and half and my legs needed a break. The view was amazing, good temperature, some shade, some sun- it was perfect. I sat, stretched, relaxed and enjoyed a smoke from my new pipe. The way back down was slow, each step has to be carefully placed. By the end I walked just under three miles, yet it didn’t feel monotonous at all. With all the trees, you can’t see what is coming next- you have to go walk and see. Each bend in the trail kept me excited for what might be ahead. Exhausted by time I returned to my car, yet no pain, so that is good.

It was starting to get late and I was started to get worried about my drive to the peak.  The ranger warned me to go slow the last mile, saying the road got rough, though I should be able to make it up just fine (this is something I often double check, with the low clearance of the Mustang GT, and my inability to walk for help if I needed it.  Gladly, Cliff had confirmed I’d be just fine, so with that confidence I headed out.  On twelve miles away, yet a thirty four minute drive.

Forest road one seventeen was great. So beautiful, yet also scarred. A fire came through these parts ten years ago, the ranger had told me. It was sad to see the damage caused and still remaining.  Did I mention that this forest is where the original Smokey the Bear came from?

Slow and steady I (the mustang) made it to the top of the mountain.  It is cold up here. There is snow on the ground up here.  The watchtower is up here- so amazing. Built from stone right on the peak, it almost appears as if it emerges from the mountain itself. The steps worried me at first sight, these are the first steps I’ve walked up in months. I am so glad I came up here, so glad I climbed those steps. The view up here is beyond amazing.

As cold as it is, I’m staying on the mountain tonight. It’s also well past dark now and I have no tent setup.  So choices.. I could sleep in the car or I could do the same as last night and just sleep in the bag on the pad next to my car. Yet.. I’m on top of a mountain. It is cold and windy out there. I thought of this earlier, yet I just didn’t want to drive down the mountain at dusk (mountain roads, steep cliffs.) And I definitely wanted to be here tomorrow- I need more time up in the tower to look and see.  Check out the last picture of the mountain in the perfect golden rays of sunset. That picture belongs on a puzzle or something.

Such an amazing day.

Time to rest.


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