The Land of Enchantment
New Mexico has offered it’s own challenges from the San Juans, but the solitude and beauty have been worth it.
Cumbres Pass to HWY 285
Entering New Mexico
Once again, we finished getting our resupply squared away before leaving the pass. After so much alpine hiking, it was kind of nice to enter the trees and wander through the forest. We did have a ton of downed trees to crawl over and around. I was a bit surprised that there was no indication that we had entered New Mexico, not even a “Welcome to Carson National Forest” sign.
After a time we joined some quiet roads and had pretty easy walking. Clouds rolled in and threatened to storm pretty early, around 10:30 am, but the biggest annoyance for us in the trees was the wind.
We took an early lunch and weathered a few spats of rain. 3 bike packers zoomed by. A stark reminder that the slowest possible mode of travel is hiking with dogs.
After lunch, we crossed some beautiful, grassy meadows and roads. Aside from Alpine hiking, this is some of my favorite terrain.
The trail eventually ascended Brazos Ridge and I added booties onto Prima due to how rocky the trail was. It was also incredibly breezy. While not dangerous, it was the tiresome kind that causes you to walk at an angle. After several hours of this, all of our feet were tired and we found a nice dry campsite in the trees.
Leaving the CDT
The next morning we got up and going with the knowledge that we would be leaving the relative “safety” of the CDT. The forest slowly transformed into wonderful Aspen grooves and we met our last CDT hiker on a ridge. At the upper laguanitas campground, we went left onto FSR 87, effectively beginning to blaze our own trail.
The walk on the FSR was relatively unexciting. Things warmed up quickly and I realized I had made a mistake in not searching harder for water at the campground (though since it was technically closed, I don’t know what luck I would have had). All the intermittent streams we passed were unsurprisingly dry and the day started to heat up. The new goal became making it to the Rio de San Antonio.
The closer we got to the river, the more cars started to pass us. A few stopped to make sure we were okay, which was nice.
Around 2 pm we finally found water! I have never seen Prima voluntarily hang out in water, but she was hot enough to just stand, then lie down in the stream. I took advantage of the opportunity to wash off and then we all had a nice siesta.
Around 4:30 pm, we moved a mile down the road to a better campsite and listened to the cows and cattle trucks go by.
Knowing we had another hot, dry walk to our resupply, I filled up with water and we left early. The area around Stewart Meadows was really lovely early in the morning.
Aside from a few horse trailers passing us, 2 loose sheep, and some cows in a pen it was pretty quiet. San Antonio Mountain rose up and we began to circle around its south flank. We were entering the desert.
We were making okay time, but I kept pushing the dogs so we could get to our resupply before it got to hot. The sight of US HWY 285 cutting across the sage brush was quite welcome.
After walking up the highway a little, we went through a public gate and entered the Rio Grande-Del Norte National Monument.
The cache was easy to find and I was very thankful I left 2 gallons of water. I pigged out on what I could and the dogs took a nap. We hung out for a few hours before deciding it was cloudy enough that we could keep walking. We tried to follow roads as much as possible, but at one point the “road” didn’t actually exist, so we went cross country trying to stay on deer trails as much as possible. At that time I carried 9 liters of water, enough to hopefully get us to the next water cache some 20-25 miles away.
Around 7 pm we found another road and made camp. It’s amazing how lonely it felt out there, I’m really surprised we didn’t see any Pronghorn.
I left the fly off of the tent that night, a great decision! The sunset over San Antonio Mountain was gorgeous and the sunrise over the Latir Peaks the next morning was even better! We also enjoyed views of the Blanca group and Culebra Range in Colorado.
As the night fell, the desert came alive with all sorts of sounds-birds, reptiles/amphibians, and insects. I particularly loved watching all of the thumb sized black beetles roaming around.
To Red River
To the Rio Grande
After such a splendid night, we attempted to get moving early. I was wigged out about the impending heat and nervous about roads that lead to nowhere.
The road we had found the night before was little more than a two lane track, but fortunately it did lead us where we needed to go. We moved by an oil pump and up a hill onto a larger road. After passing a deer skeleton and run down shack, we hit a significant east-west road that took us to a larger county road. About this time we got passed by a 4Runer, an odd sight after the solitude we enjoyed the previous night.
As 11 am rolled around, we found a nice pinion pine to hide under for the afternoon. All three of us had a nice nap and only one vehicle went by, a truck pulling some cows in a trailer.
I finished off my Jack London book with one of my favorite shorts-“To Build a Fire.”
By 3 pm, I knew we needed to start walking if we were going to make the 10 miles to the next water cache. It was still pretty toasty out.
Regardless, we commenced walking and took a break in the sage about once an hour. The dogs ran from shade spot to shade spot and I just slogged, unable to use my umbrella due to the breeze.
By 7 pm, it finally started to noticeably cool off. At that point we were almost past the houses that lined the road. We saw 3 bighorn sheep near the road before we dropped down to a dirt track.
So far, this cache is the only one that’s taken me a few minutes to find. I grabbed to gallon of water and we walked down the road to find a campsite.
We ended up with a wonderful site overlooking the Rio Grande gorge, though with it’s proximity to the main road it was noticeably less wild than the night before. Again, I left the fly off of the tent.
The sunrise was nice, though not as nice as the previous day. I was anxious to get to the market to buy snacks, so we left early. The walk down into the gorge was cool thanks to some thin cloud cover. The Cholla is currently flowering, which only added to the beauty of the area. We spent a short amount of time O-ing and Ahing over the River.
The walk into “town” was straight forward other than scaring off a few loose dogs that tried to run up to us.
We got to the market, which is right on the main Taos highway, around 8:30 am. I set the dogs up with my pack then went in a bought snacks. I had been ruminating taking an OTZ, so I bought some extra food and snacks to take with us.
New Mexico requires face coverings inside public buildings, so I used my buff. The gal at the checkout counter was nice and said that I could eat my snacks out front. The dogs got some wet food and I had ice cream and a sandwich. There was also a free little library, so I snagged a copy of “War and Peace.”
We met a nice older lady that gave us directions on how to avoid walking the highway in order to get to the San Cristobal Creek trailhead.
After eating our hearts out, I packed up and we started the long, hot walk. We walked up the Lobo Ranch road and found a gate into the national forest. From there, we walked dirt tracks to the San Cristobal Road. Everyone was hot, but I really just wanted to get to the trailhead so we could camp and relax.
That day I discovered that Prima REALLY doesn’t like being leashed when hot and tired. Even after finding an irrigation ditch where the dogs drank and I put on the cool coats, it was like walking a rock. Once we got up high enough, I let her back off leash, which helped a lot.
We pushed up the hill and eventually found the trailhead. After walking down to the creek I got very excited because I found an awesome campsite, but there was already tent there. We walked another quarter to half mile and found a decent spot near water.
Upon waking up, Prima was very foot sore from all the road walking, so I rolled over and went back to bed. We slept in until 7:30 am, then spent the day lounging around, eating, and reading “War and Peace.”
Only 2 groups hiked by.
While still a bit sore, Prima toughened up fast. Both dogs zoomed around, sniffed things, and peed on stuff. Skittles especially had a lot of energy and kept rolling on the ground.
The hike up the creek was cool and lush. We saw lots of Thimbleberry plants as well as Red and Blue Columbine.
The climb up the ridge was steep, but not our worst of the day. While initially difficult to follow, the Lobo Peak Trail ended up being a nice one to follow throughout the day. We summitted Lobo Peak around 11 am and ate lunch there. The weather was beautiful- blue bird and relatively calm.
Continuing on the ridge, we saw snow, but no people until crossing the Gallant trail. After that point the trail was incredibly steep up hill, really stretched my Achilles!
We made the it above tree line again with the only casualties being that both dogs lost a bootie. We met some nice backpackers at the top and talked to them for a bit. We could even see Elk in a meadow far below. Lots of great views of the peaks and a ski area to the south as well as Lobo and the Rio Grande Monument to the west.
Goose Creek Trail was a bit difficult to find at first, but took us down crazy switchbacks to a nice lake. Lots of OHV people at the lake.
From the lake, we were supposed to continue on the trail, but after following the GPS half a mile with no sign of trail, we bailed and bushwhacked to the road. I’d much rather roadwalk than bushwhack for who knows how long!
We walked another couple of miles and found a decent dry campsite.
Singing “Cheeseburger in Paradise” we walked down the road to Red River. The road was much quieter in the morning and we saw both a deer and a Black Bear on the way. We also enjoyed seeing the old mining ruins. We finally started seeing some OHVs towards the bottom of the road and had a nice conversation with a fisherman about gear.
The dogs are doing “okay.” The road walking is definitely taking a toll on their feet, so trying to work out some solutions while in Red River. Prima is also getting oil added to her food for extra calories.
The thing about hiking alone is you realize how terrible your voice is (at least I have). However, I think I could give Buddy the Elf a run for his money in the singing and composing departments. So far I’ve come up with:
Just Keep Hiking, Over the Snow
Snowcovered Fields Forever
Wandering Through the Sage
Class 4 Grass Slopes
Stay tuned for more!
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