On the first leg of our Journey, we made it to Cibola National Forest in New Mexico and decided to stop for a couple of days at a place we have nicknamed Grasshopper Canyon. Using Forest Service Maps, we found a road that was designated as a dispersed camping corridor, and decided to explore the rugged terrain of the Datil Mountains. As we were driving through a picturesque canyon, I had my window down which was a big mistake as we were besieged by a swarm of grasshoppers, that covered the road. Even at a speed of 5 mph, I felt like I was parting the Red Sea, as the Blue Goose cut through the sea of grasshoppers.
Several grasshoppers had flown inside the cab of the truck and little Breezy, who was sitting in the passenger seat was going crazy trying to catch the flying insects some of which landed on her nose totally freaking her out. I eventually had to roll up my window to keep the pests out. Even so, there was more than a dozen hitching a ride on the hood of my truck and windshield. We stopped at a little grove of Pine trees and I told Don, I thought we might have to find another place to camp for a few days because the Grasshoppers would be into everything - our hair, clothes and even our food!
We decided to drive deeper into the canyon, and came to several forest service gates which Don was kind enough to open and close for me so I didn’t have to get out of my truck and fight the grasshoppers. We eventually found a nice shady area with several pine trees. There were a few grasshoppers flying around, but not nearly so bad as what we had encountered earlier. At least in this place, I wouldn’t be afraid to yawn for fear that a hopper would fly in my mouth! We got our tent set up just as the sun began to set. The next day, we pretty much stayed in the tent playing chess, because it rained off and on most of the day. I couldn’t wait for the sun to come out so I could do a little hiking. There was a dry river bed running alongside our camp that cut deep into the Canyon floor that just beckoned to be explored.
On our third day, after the storms had passed we were besieged again by a swarm of grasshoppers who became more active at the sun began to dry things out. Poor Don, I didn’t tell him about the grasshopper that accidentally landed in the pancake mix when I was fixing breakfast that morning – or the one that landed in the soup we had for dinner. Well a little extra protein in your food is good for you, Right? Besides, I’ve heard that grasshoppers are actually considered a delicacy in some parts of the world.
The following video shows Rocket chasing the grasshoppers in camp. Cricket was actually afraid of them and would hide in the tent when they began swarming.
This video shows one of the swarms that would periodically descend on our camp when things began to dry out.
While we were camping we were visited by a rather large herd of black Angus, who were quite interested in our trucks. One of the poor cows looked like it may have been attacked by a mountain lion because she had several fresh wounds on her side. This really didn’t surprise me because the canyon with its high rocky cliffs seemed like perfect mountain lion habitat. I scanned the cliffs frequently with our binoculars during our stay hoping to see a mountain lion surveying the canyon from on high but caught not a glimpse. Yet the fresh scat I had found in the river bed told me there was one in the area.
Even though we didn’t see any deer or elk in the area, we did get to watch a family of 4 Red-tailed Hawks that had made a nest on top of the cliffs above our campsite. A mated pair had raised 2 healthy chicks, and were in the process of “kicking them out of the nest”. Several times, when the parents arrived back at the nest with a tasty rodent for a meal, the chicks cried out with excitement, thinking it was dinner time . They would try landing near the nest just to be rebuffed and chased away by both parents. The chicks although a little smaller than their parents should have been old enough to catch their own food. It was quite interesting to watch the interaction between the parents and their young.
As nice as Grasshopper Canyon was to explore, I was happy when we decided to pack up camp & embark on the next leg of our road trip. Hopefully the next place we camp at won't have so many flying insects! But I won't be holding my breath because we will be leaving the nice cool pine forests for lower elevations and the dry New Mexican deserts. As we left the area, we made a short stop at the Datil campground to fill up our water jugs, on our way to our next stop at the VLA which I will write about in my next post. It is such a cool place to visit – especially if you have children who are interested in Astronomy!