With the arrival of much cooler weather, I am once more immersing myself in landscape and enjoying the textures and subtle colour palette of the northern Chihuahuan desert by walking the West Lakeshore Trail in Elephant Butte Lake State Park.
This 11 mile trail is punctuated by mile marker stones. Some of you might remember these from last cool season's field reports.
These painted stones are maintained (or not) by a non profit fundraising group called Friends of Elephant Butte Lake State Park, whose main mission seems to be to raise money for explosives for an annual eardrum shattering, wildlife terrifying, environmentally destructive pyrotechnic spectacle each July. The stones mark off the trail miles from north to south and vice versa and no, the trail is not exact so mile marker 1 isn't in the same place as mile marker 11 from the opposite direction. Last cool season I didn't manage to find all of them before heat halted my wanderings.
This 11 mile marker (north start) was my prize when I started at the southernmost point for my first little new season walk in the park one sunset in latish November. Hello family, how you doing?
A few miles south of where I live is Lake Caballo State Park, a favourite of mine for little walks, paddling and bird watching.
The water in Lake Caballo, an irrigation reservoir which, like it's much bigger sibling Elephant Butte lake a few miles north, dams the Rio Grande, has been seriously reduced this winter to allow for repairs to the dam wall infrastructure, first constructed in the 1930s.
The low water level makes for very hazardous, rocky canoe launches in places.
Launch challenges aside, there's still plenty of water for my canoe and the birds, some permanent residents and others migratory snow birds who choose to overwinter here.
A raucous background sound track of splashy quacking from these avian family gatherings carries across the basin of the lake.
We mostly have the water all to ourselves, the birds and I, as motorized water vessels and fishermen don't seem to like the shallows and exposed hazards. The well developed, electrified campsites in this park are reasonably well used by human snow birds in their gargantuan homes on wheels interspersed with the occasional maverick van lifer or vintage wanderer. I seldom encounter the inhabitants of those vehicles parked in the campsites up on the hill. Curiously, they don't seem to venture much down to the shoreline in winter. Why camp at a lake in a park, and pass the time inside a heated metal box watching tv? Human behaviour is mysterious.
This makes Lake Caballo a very peaceful and restorative if somewhat chilly experience for me.
Spending quality time at shorelines and bodies of water is a thing to do with a life. These lakes and their surrounding state parks are important wild and precious places which truly show their worth to me in the winter months. They are one of the reasons I inhabit the space I currently do on the world map.
I don't like being cold. However, getting outside in sunshine to these places of solitude and beauty helps to get me through the short, cold days of the winter months here in the desert.
That and a million outdoor house and garden projects lined up for me by a needy and somewhat derelict old 1940s stone and adobe house to whom my fortune is irrevocably bound in servitude.