Entertainment doesn’t have to be costly

By Clyde Davis: Columnist

Summer is half over. We are allotted a finite number of summers. What then to do, if you have felt that summer 2007 is passing you by? Here are some suggestions, with parameters.

The parameters are distance, expense and a disclaimer. First the disclaimer: You do not have to be in great shape to enjoy these destinations. If, for example, I propose a hiking site, you can also enjoy that area from a car, with a cane, or in a wheelchair, minus the hiking part.

Expenses: I am pointing out places of minimum expense, where you can cut the bill even further by taking a picnic meal. Times are tough.

Distance: For the same reason, as impacted by cost of gasoline and lodging, I am limiting this verbal tour to places just plus or minus three hours, so they can be considered as day trips.

Begin with one of my favorites, Palo Duro Canyon, east of Canyon, Texas.

Rich in history and outdoor beauty, the sweeping vistas are one of the most picturesque driving tours to be found. Hiking there is marvelous, though you’d best remember your rules for hiking in hot, dry weather.

Trail maps are readily available at the visitor center, and there is a riding stable or two for horse-minded visitors. Biking is possible, if challenging, and my wife tells me she has ridden a motorcycle there in another life, though I never had the chutzpa.

Heading the other direction, out Route 60 through Fort Sumner, it’s a three-hour drive to the Manzano Mountains and the surrounding area. As most of you know, this is the southern end of the Albuquerque East mountains, and takes you up into high pine forest and cedar terrain. Like the Lincoln National Forest, which I’ll mention later, many forget the beauty of this place. If you plan to hike, take sturdy shoes (this is not a sandals hike). Remember you are going to an area 3,500 feet or higher in elevation, and take bug spray.

If you like history, take a side trip to the historic and hallowed Quivera Pueblo ruins, a couple miles from Mountainaire, which is on your route.

Let’s head southwest now. Having visited two hiking destinations, it is time to cool off in the Bottomless Lakes, east of Roswell. Are they really bottomless? I hope not. They are, however, beautiful and deep, and permit swimming, fishing and simply enjoying the cool breezes. Don’t forget the sunscreen and a lifejacket for any little ones.

In the northwest points, you have Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa, you say? Let’s not overlook the Blue Hole, and Santa Rosa Lake. The water there has a mystical feel to it. The Blue Hole is known to scuba divers, but contrary to what you may think, you don’t have to be a scuba diver to go in. Nonswimmers would, however, need a lifejacket. This thing really has no sloping entrance; it just drops.

Ruidoso has many great hiking trails in the surrounding National Forest area, with some of them closed, however, at various times.

Thus, it’s best to check ahead and consider fire danger levels, which impact the opening and closing of trails. If the trails are all down, you can go on over to nearby Bonita Lake, truly one of the most picturesque areas near us. Or, half an hour’s drive over a scenic road, Cloudcroft, where we spent this week, is an undiscovered gem.

There are other possibilities. My purpose here is to get your mind started working on what you already know is out there. Notice that nothing has been mentioned that involves more than gas money and an occasional park entrance fee.

In keeping with our frequent focus on “romance for life,” hey guys, how about fixing your lady a gourmet picnic basket, blindfolding her, giving her a CD player with earphones, and taking her to one of the mentioned sites? Kind of a grownup’s “Blind Man’s Bluff?”