It was pretty weather when we arrived, so we took advantage of that to take a nice long walk around the park. We discovered an old paved road that now leads into the lake and is completely shaded with brush and trees.
That made a fun walking path, as well as a good place to ride our bikes.
There was also a playground not far from the campground, with some pretty old kids playing there. Denisa prefers the swings, but she also likes a good slipper slide too.
Ute Lake is 13 miles long with lots of coves and fingers--the perfect kind of lake for kayaking. So on the prettiest afternoon of our stay, we inflated the kayak and put in at the Rogers Park about 3 miles from our camp site.
It was a nice day to be on the lake. The night before, we got rain that fell all night. As you can see from the clouds, we were forecast for more rain today.
Last night's rain had muddied the water and brought more of the red clay from downstream of the Ute River. It was a very red water paddle!
The largest metropolitan city in this area is Tucumcari--population 5500. We drove in to check out the sites, and found another town using its location on Route 66 to its advantage. There are murals painted on buildings all over town, and we found this one on the side of the local grocery store. Its claim to fame is that it is the largest Route 66 mural in the world. It even took two pictures to capture all of it.
We stopped in at the Tucumcari Mountain Cheese Factory, because we love factory tours. Through a window in the lobby, we could see a room full of guys in white shirts putting fresh cheese into stainless steel squares. But they no longer do official tours.
In order to purchase this cheese, you have to drive several blocks to the local Ranch Feed store. This was a unique store filled with everything from musical instruments to horse halters to jewelry to clothing to food. They also served barbecue in the back. While there we purchased some of that Tucumcari Mountain cheese and a loaf of raisin bread that had been baked that morning. Both were delicious! But the favorite part of the stop was the piano at the front door. It had a sign that read "Play Me" so Denisa sat down and did just that. She really misses having a piano.
The rain and the wind stopped long enough for a camp fire one evening. We have read different blogs that give cooking directions complete with pictures. Since we aren't traveling as much this week, it seemed a good time to try a cooking blog segment.
First you must have a handsome frontiersman start a campfire using only wet wood. He will find that a tumbleweed makes the driest kindling available in an area that got 3 inches of rain yesterday.
Have this handsome frontiersman toast four large marshmallows at a time, rotating them over the hot coals until the mallows achieve toasty perfection. These warm marshmallows are then laid between graham cracker squares in such a way that the heat starts to melt the milk chocolate between the crackers.
Squeeze the graham cracker firmly, so that most of the marshmallow oozes out of the edges; then nibble it away with just a bit of the cracker and chocolate.
You keep repeating--toasting more marshmallows and eating the gooey edged with just a little graham cracker and chocolate.
We reload until we eventually run out of graham cracker (or marshmallows in the bag). It's not an easy recipe to follow, but it is the yummiest smores we have ever eaten!
In between eating indulgent recipes, we also checked out the bird life at the lake. We loved these bright yellow birds, especially when they were flitting around the yellow wildflowers at our campsite.
Where we had walked the first afternoon, a new pond appeared after the first night of continuous rain. We thought it was interesting that ducks were swimming at a water hole that didn't even exist 12 hours earlier.
The rain also brought out a turtle traveling to higher ground. He was close to a foot long. Denisa attempted to put her hand close to the turtle to give it some scale of size. But she kept thinking of stories of snapping turtles that latch on to appendages that get too close. Since she was on this nature hike by herself, no appendages were available for this picture.
We've been moving about as slow as this turtle as we make our way back to Oklahoma. But now we're zooming through this last portion of road that we have seen many times before. We arrived in the panhandle of Oklahoma for Memorial Day weekend. We are spending our time visiting with relatives rather than exploring new adventures. So there will be fewer travel blogs (and even fewer cooking segments) for a short time.