Chaco Canyon & Angel Peak BLM Area - Fiberglass RV
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Old 05-01-2012, 09:43 PM   #1
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Adrian W's Avatar
Trailer: Scamp 16 ft Side Dinette
Posts: 1,185
Thumbs up Chaco Canyon & Angel Peak BLM Area

Chaco Canyon & Angel Peak BLM Area

Been wanting to get back to Chaco for a while now (last time was in '96), but didn't want to scramble the Egg doing it. Therefore, we only took the pickup & did our sleeping in the pickup's camper shell. It is molded fiberglass after all. Ha! We had to unload the supplies from the shell each night then reload it the next morning. Not as easy as having the self contained Scamp with a shower. Missed the shower. But we did OK, reminded us of camping back 40 years ago.

Left Las Cruces very late Saturday morning (28 April) which put us at the US 550 turn off just before 5 pm. The sign early on the drive announced the Campground as Closed. Called the park, but didn't get anyone. Call me an Optimist, I drove on, but alas, the campground was full. We did a little sight seeing, took a few pics, but didn't do any hikes.

Chaco Culture Nat'l Historic Park

Fajada Butte
Pueblo del Arroyo

We'd did an overnight at Angel Peak BLM Area/Campground (1986), which is one of the "overflow" campgrounds listed at the Park. About a 39 miles drive. So we backtracked to US 550 then North toward Bloomfield, NM. Then a 6 mile dirt road drive to the campground. The area is kind of neat with views of some neat looking Badlands with Angel Peak rising up from them. It is a somewhat lonely place, not many people around, but there was a fairly large group camped at the campground with many horses & dogs. There were 3 turn out or vista sites/picnic sites (two with new vault toilets) which would be nice for an overnight. Seems one of them had two Silverstreaks doing just that. Seems the campground was free, never saw a collection box.

Angel Peak
Ford F-150 with A.R.E Camper Shell Our RV for the Trip @ Angel Peak BLM Area

Castle Rock at Angel Peak BLM Area
Badland with Angel Peak looking over them. I believe it once looked more like an angel with wings ups, but sadly the wings have fallen some decades ago.

After unloading our supplies & finding a place to store them overnight (some had to spend the night out in the cold. We prepared a warm supper using a two burner butane stove (second time we have use it....the Scamp being self contained & all). Made our bed (we air up the full sized air mattress before leaving home, but being a considerable higher elevation (around 6,000+ feet) the mattress was a little too full. Not sure how cold it got down to, but it was chilly if not cold (some where in the mid-30s I would believe. We were prepared for cold. We had a sheet inside the sleeping bag & two blankets plus a bedspread on top. I did take the RV battery from the Scamp to power my CPAP machine with a converter. It worked well, I have a camping mod on the machine which cut down the heating & uses only 75 watts. It worked well.

Sunday morning after sleeping in a little, having some breakfast bars for breakfast, we re-packed out 'stuff' in a little better arrangement & drove back to US 550. Since we were only about 15 miles south of Bloomfield, we decided to drive up to get some fuel for the Ford & some for us as well.

Alas, the prices were a couple cents higher than the small gas station/convenience store near the turn off to Chaco on US 550. Bloomfield is an oil town (they never have cheep gas). The ever optimist, I drove all the way to Aztec seeking a better price. We did find a Bar-B-Que place, the Serious Texas BBQ. The meat was great, the Sauce was not, nor the pinto beans & the coal slaw was worse. The meat being moist & tasty, left us smiling.

We did top off the gas tank at Bloomfield (my luck the gas station by the park turn off would be closed)---$3.79. Then retrace our way down to Chaco following US 550. Talked a while to our daughter in Tucson at the turn off. One loose cell service fairly quickly after leaving the highway. None at the Park, only a pay phone. Angel Peak CG was hit or miss.

The 13 miles of dirt with a lot of rub board hadn't gotten any better overnight. The campground had many sites to choose from. Found ours, payed, when to visitor center to get entry permit. Happened to be Free Weekend at the Parks, but it would be free anytime for us with my Senior Card. Looked around the center (not a lot to see) watched a movie, went back on the loop drive. Did a few stops with a little walking to see a few sites. Pueblo Bonita was the first one:

With it's many Kivas.
Not to mention so much Masonry Work & Styles.

Next door was Chetro Ketl:
With it's good sized kiva:
More Kivas - the curved wall in photo is of a above ground kiva, which were rare:

More Masonry work - Outer walls close the the cliff at Chetro Ketl, the line of shadows near the upper part of the walls had wooden 'post' for a balcony was was still there in 1901, but they were taken down for firewood soon after.

Went back to the campground (perhaps a little too soon, should have stopped a few more times). I was planning on trying to do a little bathing, I'll brought 25 gals. of water, while it was somewhat warm & not too busy at camp. But you know what they say about the best of plans. After unpacking & readying for sleep. All I found time for was a quick shampooing of my head & a little sponge bathing of my chest. There is just no privacy at the campground. The wind was at best breezy which made it nice & cool for hiking, but not for showering out doors. Showering should be viewed as poring cups of water over ones head. Heated water, of course.

There are nice restrooms with flush toilets & running water, only cold, at the campground. Clean ones with electric lights. However, around 8 or 9 pm the water pipe into the are broke. No water (doors also locked for women, men's side was still unlocked {?}) until late the next morning.

We had another good heated supper, put the two blankets inside the sleeping bag & added a blanket on top the bedspread we had last night. The battery had regained most of it power using a small solar panel. I had put water in the machine at Angel Peak, but didn't at Chaco. In the middle of the night, the tube to the mask was dripping with moisture. Completely wet where it was touching the blankets. Need some water, I assume. Therefore, I turned it off.

Even with all the placing of blankets, someway the bedspread had gotten down at the foot of the bed. I had gotten out once to go to the restroom. The water was off at that time. Perhaps getting out & back in pushed the bedspread down??? I had been too warm before then & was moving a lot trying to get cool enough to get to sleep as well. But after getting back, I was out quickly. When I woke early morning chilled, I then noticed the wet air tube & damp blankets which led turning off the CPAP machine as mentioned.

By then, we were needing the extra bedspread which was not there.

We slept in again, got up leisurely & found the restrooms still without water with a note saying the pipe had broken & the women's locked. The urinals were none flushing & could be used which was good for me.

Using the bedspread, we had a privacy curtain with the pickup's door, sun screens in the windshield & an extra person. My wife was wanting to give the old bedspread to Goodwill last week, but I said no we can use it camping. Therefore, we were able to get dressed. We left the pot 'o' potty at home, knowing they had restrooms here. But a bucket can be used for many things. Water is Water.

We had two scrambled eggs each with chopped ham for brunch and cups of milk with cookies. Leisurely packeted up and just wanted to go home. So our exploring & hiking was over with a lot more one could do. It was our 3rd visit & we have done more in previous visits.

Nice uneventful drive home, with a late lunch at Wendy's in Bernalillo.

Average MPG for the 926 mile Trip was 22 mpg. At one point at about 750 miles point it was at 22.7 mpg, but with some frontal winds from this side of Albuquerque to Hatch & the down & up canyons through there, it didn't last or get better.

Beside not wanting to get the Scamp Scrambled on the rough roads, I wanted to see just how feasible it would be to use the pickup & shell for traveling & camping. For traveling of course it would be great, very comfortable, easy to drive with a smooth gentle ride. Overnighting/Camping not ideal, but doable with some work. I'd want a small utility trailer to store all the stuff, take a shower tent for showers & privacy for changing. We have a screen shelter, which I was wanting to set up & check out, but with the wind, we didn't. It would have been nice to have the shade. Didn't need the screen, insects were not a problem.

If the camper shell had a door instead of the tailgate & lift gate, it would help greatly. However, if taking the trip across Canada up to Alaska, rain, insects & cold might make having tent & shelters a problem being wet when time to put up & pack up. Insects would be hard to keep out of the shell with the tailgate & left gate for sure.
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Old 05-02-2012, 05:56 AM   #2
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Name: Bob Ruggles
Trailer: 2015 Escape
Posts: 1,532
Back in the 1970s and 1980s we travelled a lot sleeping in the back of our truck. Once had a Ford Ranger with topper that had a door in the back. Went from Michigan to and through the Canadian Rockies. With down filled sleeping bags we had no trouble keeping warm at night. Did get snowed on July 4. Obviously had to cook & eat outside. Now that we're geezers, we like our fiberglass tent on wheels (Egg Camper) for our comfort.
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Old 05-02-2012, 01:27 PM   #3
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Trailer: Scamp 16 ft Side Dinette
Posts: 1,185
Additional Information I left out (I know, it was long already, why add more?):

The road to Angel Peak was mainly sandy, which normally means not too rough of a drive, & it is an easy drive there. The first 1/2 mile, maybe a mile or so, is very washboarded (has had gravel placed on it) then it was really a smooth surface. Being sand (packed), I believe wouldn't be a problem in or after a rain. I don't remember see old ruts in any of the route. Many places with them on the road to Chaco. The road to Angel Peak, I'd towed a TT there in '86 & would not be concerned to take the Scamp there now. I'm grad I didn't take the Scamp on this trip to Chaco. But I took the same trailer I had in '86 to Chaco from Crownpoint route in '96, it was worse than the route from US 550 - longer & rougher.

I had the GPS going as we left Angel Peak, it was wanting to take some routes off the one we use coming in, not sure were it would have lead. Many off shoots to oil field sites. The Chaco website had a "Warning: Some of the local roads recommended by map publishers and services using GPS devised to access Chaco are unsafe for passenger cars. Please use our written directions to avoid getting lost or stuck."

As for max-sized rigs in the BLM campground, space was limited in each place, the camping site(s) at the upper terrain (campground is on a loop drive at the end of the road there & the upper part is in the middle of the loop) seems to have more room. There were a couple of vehicles parked there & they had a good sized horse trailer, maybe more than one. They had 8 or more horses & 4 or more dogs & had a very large tent set up. But truthfully, I can't put a size max.

BLM website: "Angel Peak Campground has nine sites available for tent camping; each with picnic tables on a concrete underfoot, gravel pathways, and fire grates. Picnic shelters are located at three campsites; two with single shelters and one with a double shelter suitable for larger groups. Two accessible vault toilets and trash receptacles are conveniently located in the campground. A short nature trail winds among the plants that have found a niche along the desolate rim and leads to an overlook of the canyon where a bench is provided for relaxing and enjoying the view.

No electrical hookups or water is available.

Three picnic areas and a campground are located along the canyon rim overlooking Angel Peak and the Kutz Canyon badlands. Three picnic areas (Sage, Castle Rock, and Cliffs), containing seven developed sites, are located along the rim road. Each site has a shelter, tables on a concrete underfoot, a gravel pathway, and a fire grate. Trash cans are located in all three picnic areas. Accessible vault toilets are available at both Sage and Cliffs picnic areas."

There were at least 2 Airstreams parked at Cliffs vista/picnic site. There was lots of room at it to park a very large rig. From a distance, they appeared to be 20 footers or better. I wouldn't believe there would be anything said about staying overnight, but that's just my thought, not fact.

Angel Peak BLM Webpage

There was one Sprinter van RV at Chaco, as well as several smaller vans with roofs to raise up. As we were leaving (still on the payed roads in the Part itself), a very large tour bus was coming into the park. There had been a good size Airstream there & several other rigs Sat. From what I have read, once a month or so the road is graded & isn't to bad. In '96, the road was to back leaving out this route.

Alternative Campsites

I like the first come first served campgrounds, I am happy they are like they are, with the campground sign being at the start of the route with a full marker, I didn't have to do the backtracking & would not have if I was towing. Having reserved sites would be a bummer, in my mind. If they would have a place for overflow would be nice & shouldn't be too hard to find. At least they could allow overnighting in the visitor center parking lot after 9 pm or so.

Maybe these sites will be of help any visiting the area for other things to do: Chaco Culture National Historic Park - Farmington Convention & Visitors Bureau

Chaco Culture National Historical Park - Chaco Culture National Historical Park

One can do a study of the many shades & hues of Brown at Chaco:
As well as the play of shadows on surfaces. All contrasted with some really Blue skies.

But there are some green (not brilliant greens) as well:

Windmill on the route to & from Chaco on Navajo Res.

We were surprised to see traffic signs warning of Elk, but sure enough we saw one the first evening we got there, in velvet as well, but not pic of him. But the next day, we saw 6 to 8 grazing, one can be seen in this pic:

Angel Peak CG area had more trees (Juniper) as I remember:

But I failed to take any photos of the trees, except these.

I've always liked the look of Fajada Butte:

I plan on doing a painting of Fajada Butte.

Fajada Butte from the area we saw the Elk grazing:

Near the entry from Crownpoint.

We did see a few birds, only one photo of one:

There seems to be a new Apache Nugget Travel Center & Casino at the junction of US 550 & NM 537. The gas prices were the best we say up in the area: $3.54 gal. Just got gas in Las Cruces for $3.32.
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