Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Greatest Adventure of The Trip - Kingston NM

Before reading any further, you must visit: http://www.blackrangelodge.com/ It has a terrific picture of the region we are in and if you look off to the left, you will see part of the road that Taran and I rode down to get to Kingston. Also, if you read about the history of the area, you will believe that the room we are staying in was built in the 1880's and that we've walked on "Virtue Avenue" where the brothels used to be!!

After we got settled in our room, we came down to cook our dinner (as usual: spaghetti with Quinoa and sauce) and were given permission to use the stove. While we were waiting for the water to boil, Catherine says..."You know, we have some leftovers you might be interested in". Well, those are some of the best words I like to hear! She brought out a dish that I will call vegetable stew, but it was laced with chili peppers and was quite tasty. She also brought out some beef strips that had a special spice on them (New Mexico cooking maybe?). I loved it...It was not Taran's favorite unfortunately. It was at this time that we met Catherine's husband Pete. He sat down to join us while we were eating. We just started yakking and around 10pm he brought out his guitar and sang us a few songs...by Stan Rogers and Gordon Lightfoot. It was during our discussion with Pete that we learned that both Pete and Catherine are heavily involved in Alternative Building Methods...things like Straw Bale Construction, Cob, Bamboo and other environmentally friendly ways to create sustainable human habitats. Catherine actually published a book a few years ago called "The New Straw Bale Home". Both Pete and Catherine have consulted on the building of many, many construction projects around the United States and Canada. Catherine is working on her second book which is going to be about a broader range of building techniques and has traveled the world to view various projects.

Also while we were chatting with Pete, I learned that he had a few projects going on around the property. I casually mentioned that Taran and I could be put to work if he could use the help. He thought something could be "worked out", but no specifics were discussed. Also, Pete prepared his famous Chili Popcorn. He cuts up some chili peppers and fries these in the oil before adding the popcorn. He then adds a bit of secret seasonings to make a very great tasting popcorn creation.

The next morning Pete cooked us up a fabulous breakfast. Cereal, Toast, Waffles and Pete's eggs! He adds green chilis and other spices to the eggs and they are down right awesome. In fact, Pete's had 5 marriage proposals from people that loved his eggs so much...two of them from women. It was at this time that we met Tom who works on the property. He and Taran seemed to hit it off really well.

After Breakfast, Pete took us on a long hike around the area and gave us a thorough lesson on identifying the plants and animals in the region as well as a history lesson about Kingston. He pointed out a particular cactus that was surrounded by debris. He said that this is where a rat lives. The rat (called a pack rat) collects stuff and places it around the cactus to create a more secure 'home' for itself. Predators are less likely willing to poke around a cactus... The rats even pull off cactus spines and place them around the entrance to their 'homes' to ward of unwelcome guests. After lunch we got to work on the "water tank". Pete was in the middle of constructing a 12 foot high 8.5 foot diameter concrete rainwater holding tank. He had recently finished applying concrete on the reebar and wire frame and it was our job to apply the straw/clay/sand outer layer. The clay outer layer is meant to allow the concrete to cure slower (which will make it harder and leak resistant), keep the tank cooler and make it more aesthetically pleasing. There is plenty of clay in this region so we went out to a section of his property and loaded up the front end loader with clay. It was then that he got Taran to drive the vehicle back to the water tank. Taran was thrilled...Did I mention that Pete is a consumate funny person... He told Taran there were no brakes! Funny thing is that Pete has his foot on the brake the whole time!.

The process to prepare the "Mud Mixture" was to add clay water and sand in the cement mixer and when it's all mixed up add some straw. It was this mud mixture that we applied to the exterior of the water tank using our hands. It was a lot of fun. Taran didn't apply the mud mixture until a couple days later and was content to screen the clay and use the cement mixture to mix up the Mud. We worked until 8:30ish and then went in to get some dinner ready. During dinner, Pete told us about this great hike that we should go on. He suggested that Tom could take us to the top of Emory Pass 8,200 ft (the place where we rode our bikes through the mountain pass) and we would hike to the highest peak in the region - Hillsboro Peak at 10,000 feet - and then hike down the mountain to Kingston and back to the Lodge 5,800 ft. Both Taran and I were excited to give this a try. The hike from Emory Pass to Hillsboro Peak was very pleasant. We had a snowball fight with some snow we found. There is a Lookout Tower on top of Hillsboro Peak complete with a Lookout Ranger. We went up into the tower and were treated to a 360 view of the entire region. It was very cool! The trip down the mountain to Kingston was very hard on Taran. He is not used to that kind of hiking and was physically drained by the time we returned to the Lodge. His feet hurt quite a bit and I think the altitude may have played a role in his fatigue. Also, the trail was not well maintained and in places you could hardly tell that it existed. Not too many people used this particular route down the mountain. We were both happy to get onto the trail that we were familiar with and know that the Lodge was not too far away. We got back, had a bite to eat and watched a movie before going to bed.

We were both sore the next morning. We got up a bit late, had a bite to eat and then went out to apply mud on the water tank. A friend of Pete and Catherine's, Greg, came up to help apply mud. He is an author who wrote a book on the trails and day hikes available in the region. (We had used it when we went up to Emory Pass). We spent a few hours mixing and applying mud on the tank. Later in the afternoon Greg and I went on a hike up some trails behind the Lodge. Greg is a botanist and identified many of the flora.


More later...

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

Hi Ian
It's Kathleen. I didn't think of it when we were there, but we can buy you and Taran dinner when you're in las cruces. We have some books that Taran would probably like. Call me when you get to town 635-8131