NM: Caballo Lake – 01/27/2017 – 02/03/2017

Parking: Caballo Lake State Park
Rating: 9

Caballo Lake, NM
Caballo Lake

Although I am not a particular fan of the high desert (I prefer trees, and the altitude gives me headaches), New Mexico is still a nice place to visit for the quiet and solitude. The clear, crisp, dark night sky alone is worth the visit.

This park had both hook-ups and primitive camping with a great section for folk with horses. Unfortunately, the lake level has been low for years – something the park system doesn’t really advertise, but there was plenty of room for some nice long walks. The nearby “village” – though clearly occupied – was strangely devoid of human life during our walks both during the day and in the evening. It reminded us of the creepy emptiness of Sprague or Diablo. On the plus side, that meant that we didn’t get chased by any off-leash dogs.

Caballo Lake, NM
Wildlife
Caballo Lake, NM
Horse Camp

LA: Anacoco (Toledo Bend Lake) – 01/09/2017 – 01/16/2017

Parking: South Toledo Bend State
Rating: 10

Anacoco, LA
Visitors’ Center

Louisiana State Parks are fantastic. They don’t have a lot of ridiculous extra fees, the rates are cheap, but the parks are well-maintained and lovely. This is our third one, and I will miss them. Not only did the sites here have wooden decks and separate tent sites, but they also had boat docks at the RV sites.

On the day we arrived, there was only one other guest at the park, and it was heaven for a few days, but since Monday was a holiday, the weekend turned into a circus.

This was one of the cleanest places we’ve been – on the weekend, they must have cleaned the bathrooms four times per day – of course, the downside was that they needed to be cleaned four times per day because some folk are filthy pigs.

Toledo Bend is an interesting lake. It’s the fifth largest man-made lake in the US, and it’s the largest to not take any federal funds. It was a joint venture between TX and LA. The area regularly experienced severe flooding, so it was a good site for a dam. The charts still show the old farm houses, schools, and ponds that used to be in the valley.

Sailing info:

When I first looked at a chart of the lake, I saw a bunch of “roads” that went N/S along the TX and LA shores and that E/W across the lake. I’m very familiar with shipping lanes and channels, but those didn’t seem necessary on this lake – it’s a dammed lake with no locks, so there is no commercial traffic, and the lake is about 40′ deep and several miles wide so channels across the lake seemed particularly odd.

Once you are out of the inlet with the boat launch, the reason for the roads becomes apparent – none of the trees were cut down before the valley was flooded, and the lake is essentially one giant navigation hazard. The only places where there are no trees are where there were rivers and actual roads.

The roads are well-marked once outside the inlet, but it’s still disconcerting to see the tops of trees sticking out as much as 6′ above the water line just a few feet outside the road. If I ever have to build a pier, I want to use wood from whatever these trees are – nearly 50 years underwater and still standing strong.

For some odd reason, the road markers do not continue into the inlet, so if you have found this page because you were searching for information on boating Toledo Bend Lake, here’s what you do. After launching and heading out toward the main body of the lake, stay in the middle of the inlet until you can make a very wide right turn around the point and go between the island and the mainland. At the level the lake was when we were there (about 2′ down), there is a section at the narrowest area of the pass where we only had about 6″ of water under the keel (had to keep the rudder kicked up), so go slowly. The really shallow part only lasts a few dozen yards. Once it’s a few feet deep, the road markers start up, and it quickly gets to more than 40′ deep.

Despite the road being as narrow as 50′, the sailing was pretty good. The winds were from the south which meant our return trips were directly into the wind. Since the channels aren’t wide enough to tack, we did have to motor back. We did one trip up north along the LA coast and back, and we did another where we did a loop across E/W 2 into TX, up the S TX road, and back into LA over E/W 4. Everyone else was in small fishing boats, so we were an usual site.

Anacoco, LA
Sunset
Anacoco, LA
Covered bridge on the trail
Anacoco, LA
Dock
Anacoco, LA
Visitors’ Center
Anacoco, LA
Lake forest of doom
Anacoco, LA
LA side lake “road”
Anacoco, LA
TX side lake “road” marker

LA: Abbeville (Vermillion River) – 01/02/2017 – 01/09/2017

Parking: Palmetto Island State Park
Rating: 10

Palmetto Island, LA
Lagoon

Another great Louisiana State Park. Plenty of privacy, lots of wildlife, nice and peaceful.

We didn’t do anything particularly interesting – just did a lot of walking around. The river has a strong current, and we were worried that it would take forever to go back upstream if we sailed down to the Bay, so we just stayed on land. After the chaos of New Orleans, it was nice to have some to quiet time.

It got down to 22 degrees one night (I think that may be our coldest night so far), and we were in heaven to finally have some really cool weather – we even had to put on warm hats to hike!

Palmetto Island, LA
Walking path
Palmetto Island, LA
Tent site
Palmetto Island, LA
Campsite
Palmetto Island, LA
Digging dill holes
Palmetto Island, LA
Future road kill

LA: Westwego (New Orleans) – 12/23/2016 – 01/02/2017

Parking: Bayou Segnette Park
Rating: 9

Westwego, LA
Bayou Segnette Park

This is surprisingly large park so close to New Orleans. The sites are really big, and some of them even have a wooden deck. It was $20 / night which was a bargain considering the one in town wanted $250 / night for the holidays for zero room.

An interesting facet of this park was the lack of locals. In every park that we’ve stayed, locals (i.e., same state tag) have made up at least 80% of the campers, but here they were fewer than than 10%. There was even an RV from Washington and one from Germany.

The annoying thing was that every single person with small, yappy dogs had them tied right next to the street. Each site had 50-100 feet behind the paved pad where they could have tied them up to let people walk to the bathroom in peace. Aggressive dogs are not cute just because they are small.

We had our first Uber rides. We first did a trial run on Boxing Day and then rode again on NYE. It was a nice experience except Uber’s New Orleans maps are terrible and don’t seem to have information on streets that have been permanently closed. Every time our Uber driver got lost trying to find us, but they were all persistent and very pleasant, and everything worked out.

The French Quarter is crazy.

During the day, it’s like going to Disney – tons of folk with strollers, long lines for food, and people standing in the middle of the street to take pictures.

At night, it’s like a giant fraternity party with lights, booze, music, dancing – and strollers.

New Year’s Eve was extra crazy because of the upcoming Sugar Bowl and the fact that it was New Orleans’s first time counting down New Year’s on Dick Clark. Added to that were heavy thunderstorms and minor flooding.

We had all kinds of food in town – excellent raw oysters, po boys, crawfish etouffee, dirty rice, frog legs, crab, and (of course) beignets and coffee.

We did some gambling at Harrah’s, and we went over to the big Sugar Bowl party. Now, I’m not saying that SEC fans are more dedicated than Big 12 fans, but I probably saw 100 Tigers for every Sooner. Unfortunately, due to the lightning, they kicked everyone out of the party for a while. Later on after we had left, they let folk back in for the broadcast.

We walked through most of the French Quarter and the river walk a few times. We got to see all kinds of people – from those dressed in full formal evening wear with a domino to dressed in nothing but underwear.

Every police officer in the state must have been there, and they seemed to be doing a good job of letting people be wild without letting them get out of hand, but it did feel weird opening drinking on the street in front of the cops even though I’m fairly certain there was more rain water than rum in my cup.

Because we got absolutely soaked, we ended up calling the night off a little early and took the ferry across the Mississippi to catch our Uber. We had been warned by our first driver that NO on holidays with all the streets shut down is near impossible for the drivers to reach their customers. Being used to significant ferry rides in Seattle (and one 17 hour ride from Ireland), the three minute crossing wasn’t enough time on the water, but it did give the chance to read the boat’s emergency procedures in case of nuclear fallout while crossing.

The park locks its gates at night and requires an entrance fee during the day, so we still had to do some significant walking to take our Uber rides. I had never been so relieved to get back to the RV to kick my shoes off, and it was fun to turn on the TV for the countdown and see all the places we were just visiting.

Westwego, LA
Possum on the half shell
New Orleans, LA
New Orleans
New Orleans, LA
Beignets and coffee (sigh – joined the ranks of those who photograph food)
New Orleans, LA
Bourbon Street
New Orleans, LA
Mini ambulance on ATV chassis
New Orleans, LA
Bourbon Street
New Orleans, LA
Sugar Bowl party temporarily closed down
New Orleans, LA
Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA
New Orleans from the ferry

Don’t scroll down any further if you are squeamish.

 

 

Seriously, stop scrolling now.

 

 

You’ve been warned.

 

 

Westwego, LA
Boat ramp with extra surprise

GA: Cordele (Lake Blackshear) – 12/08/2016 – 12/14/2016

Parking: Georgia Veterans Memorial Park
Rating: 10

St. Augustine was the farthest east we planned on going this trip, so it was time to head back west. We wanted to see my in-laws one more time since they are more-or-less on the way.

This was the first time we have stayed at a place twice. This time around, they had lowered the level of the lake about four feet to allow folk to do dock repairs. That was simply too low for us to be able to launch the sailboat, but we did do some puttering around in the Porta-bote. The squirrels were not hibernating, and they were everywhere.

We got to spend some quality time with the family. My MIL is great about playing board games with us, and we had a most excellent time. We also got to see some family that we hadn’t the first time through, so that was a nice plus. Everyone had their places decked out for the holidays, and once again we were well-fed.

GA: Cordele (Lake Blackshear) – 09/24/2016 – 10/07/2016

Parking: Georgia Veterans Memorial Park
Rating: 10

Georgia Veterans Memorial Park
Campsite

My partner’s family lives in Americus, but this was the closest available RV parking. It’s a lovely park with the ability to beach the boat right at the campsite like in TN, so we were happy with that. The only problem is that our rudder is too long for the drop-off angle, so we’re finally going to have to order a kick-up rudder. Oh, and for some insane reason, they have low power lines over the boat ramps which meant raising/lowering the mast while on the water.

My in-laws are really sweet people, and they graciously took us on a tour of all the family. I haven’t seen most folk in twenty years or more, but everyone was very welcoming, and they all cook amazing country food. We did a lot of catching up and had some time with various folk to play board games, go sailing, and sit around the campfire. It was great to trade stories with everyone and see how much all my nieces/nephews have grown. My mother-in-law is a fountain of knowledge about the doings of the family, so we got a great update on everyone. She is such a wonderful, hard-working lady, and I am constantly surprised at how much energy she has.

My partner drove his parents’ car while we were there, and the very first night, he hit a deer – or rather, the deer hit the car. Fortunately, the car and the deer were fine, but that certainly made me extra careful when motorcycling those highways, but I did take a spill when my tire got caught in a sand trap on a driveway. I am not used to loose sand being used on driving surfaces. Fortunately, only my dignity was injured.

Georgia Veterans Memorial Park
Lake Blackshear
Georgia Veterans Memorial Park
Small swamp
Georgia Veterans Memorial Park
Alligators

WY: Ranchester – 06/22/2016 – 06/23/2016

Ranchester, WY

Parking: Connor Battlefield Campsite
Rating: 9

Ranchester must be the friendliest place in Wyo. We pulled into town, and as we were parking in front of the Visitor Center, a gentleman pulled up alongside and started telling us all about Connor Battlefield park, the Bighorn mountains, and local shopping. He talked with us for quite a while, and even offered to give us a lift to the grocery store so we didn’t have to take the rig (nothing creepy – he was really nice). He went to Connor while we popped into the Visitor Center to make sure there was room for us.

The park was another excellent place to stay. The pull-through lots were nicely maintained and were a reasonable distance apart. There were only three other sites occupied, so it was nice and quiet.

At twilight, we saw five owls across the road from our site. One of them swooped down and caught some kind of rodent and took it up into a tree. One of the others fought him for it, but it was too dark to see which ended up with the prize.

Ranchester, WY

Ranchester, WY

MT: Flathead Lake – 06/15/2016 – 06/20/2016

Finley Point, Montana

Parking: Finley Point State Park
Rating: 4
WoW: Grizzly Hills

A few years ago, we stopped at Flathead Lake on our trip to Glacier Park. We had not brought the boat with us, and we massively regretted it. Ever since then, we’ve been talking about sailing on Flathead, so a couple weeks before closing on the sale of our house, we made our only reservation so far to ensure we’d get a space. Finley Point is the only State Park that has both RV parking and a marina.

The marina is very pretty, but it’s not laid out particularly well. The main thoroughfare is open to the center of the lake, so any wave action goes straight down the slips. Also, the docks are not floating and they use rails instead of cleats, so it’s very easy for a boat to catch its gunwale under the rail during a storm. We knew we had to be extra careful because an intense storm was forecast in a couple of days.

The sailing ended up being pretty great. We did some playing around close to the park and circumnavigated Wild Horse Island (saw no wild horses). The winds were pretty consistent, and we didn’t have to do a lot of motoring until we got hungry and wanted to head back fast.

On Saturday, since the forecast was calling for 3′ waves, we went ahead and pulled the boat out of the marina and left it rigged in the parking lot. The day was absolutely pleasant – no storms in sight and the deadline for the warning was almost up. We felt pretty stupid for overreacting. We were watching some folk paddleboard and kayak while playing a board game when it started to mist, so we took the game inside. A half-hour later, it was howling outside. We peeked out, and there was a power boater bucking right off shore. We went to check on the sailboat (she was fine), and we watched the power boater’s friend back the trailer in the water while the boat was jumping trying to get loaded. We found out that the storm had been so sudden, it caught everyone in the marina off guard. The power boat’s dock lines snapped, so the owner had to go out and rescue it in the storm. We didn’t feel so stupid after that. It a weird storm because although the lake was absolutely thrashing, the sky was fairly blue, and it never did do anything heavier than mist.

Sunday, we were back in the water and had another great day sailing.

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Finley Point, Montana

Rant:
When we arrived, things looked really good in the RV park. There were only two other RVs (quiet and obviously retired full-timers), and no other boats in the marina. We launched easily and got unpacked. Our only beef was that the RV spaces are NARROW – we could not even extend the awning. The lots include a very small grassy area behind the parking space on the lake shore with a picnic table and a fire pit.

The next day was completely different. Every single RV space ended up being filled (and it was nerve-wracking watching folk back up their RVs in the spaces next us to make sure they didn’t hit us). We thought the Koocanusa marina RV park was crowded, but it was wide open compared to how it ended up here. I expected better of the group from Hope Church (www.hopechurchmt.com), but they let their numerous children and dogs run absolutely wild, took over our meager space (and picnic table) with their toys and hammocks, left their garbage all over, and blasted their music. Dog crap was everywhere, and the kids were swimming in the marina (which is HIGHLY dangerous with a fixed dock and strong waves – a child can easily get trapped under the dock, and no one would ever see) despite a sign every 10′ warning folk not to swim.

A couple days later, the camp host kindly let us move a couple of spaces over, but in came a whole new batch of rude folk. These people let their dogs AND kids crap all over – seriously, it was disgusting.

It is very obvious when an RV has full-time folk and when it has weekenders. Full-timers train their pets and children to be respectful of other RVers. We all have very little space and not much sound control, and a little respect goes a long way. The weekenders clearly do not care whom they inconvenience, and the posted rules are only for other people.

We have learned our lesson and in the future, we will limit our exposure with densely populated campgrounds no matter how much we may want to be in the area. We are just too set in our ways to put up with too much chaos and garbage.