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2eddies 06-10-2011 04:15 PM

beaver and deer know of it...
THE BEAVER AND DEER KNOW OF IT…<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>

“Once in our lives we ought to concentrate our minds upon the Remembered Earth. We ought to give ourselves up to a particular landscape in our experience, to look at it from as many angles as we can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it. We ought to imagine that we touch it with our hands at every season and listen to the sounds that are made upon it. We ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. We ought to recollect the glare of noon and all the colors of the dawn and dusk.” – N. Scott Momaday, Remembered Earth, New Mexico’s High Desert, a film by John Grabowska<o:p></o:p>

Wednesday, 6/1/11<o:p></o:p>
When I find myself having deep conversations with the dog and he’s winning the arguments, it’s time to go. It begins, as it always does, with a yearning to be in motion. <o:p></o:p>
Ever since I was a young boy, movement meant freedom. One of my earliest memories does not fade. I’m 8 or 9 years of age, sitting high in an old apple tree in my parent’s backyard. After climbing into the limbs, I sit eating sour-sweet green apples, swaying, bobbing up and down easily in the warm Summer breeze…no thoughts, no worries, as a child it would be all the movement I would need.<o:p></o:p>
So, it’s time to go…Head out of Santa Fe towards the Gila Wilderness, the snow is gone there now and it is warm with hopefully less wind. But I want to go the long way and ride some dirt, so take the DR650SE, spoon on a new Dunlop 606 rear tire, load it with camping gear, get the neighbors to watch the house and feed the dog. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
I need to get from Santa Fe to San Ysidro, NM and there are a couple of ways to do it. Then gas up again in San Ysidro and get on dirt toward Cabezon Peak Rd. heading West. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
Then pick up Pipeline Rd. heading NW towards Cabezon Peak. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
You’ll see it soon enough. It’s warm, and strangely overcast, hazy but visibility is still good. Cabezon Peak, at 7,778’, is a solitary volcanic plug and looks like the peak in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
It stands out by itself in the Rio Puerco valley. Rode Pipeline Rd. until it intersected CR 279, <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
turn left heading West further into the Rio Puerco valley.<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
I’m heading for the north side of Mt. Taylor. CR279 is in very good shape and the bike flew along at 50-70 mph in the straight sections. At an intersection take the right fork onto BLM 1103, it is marked.<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
Don’t continue on CR 279 because it dead ends 15 further miles down the road at a locked ranch gate. Make sure that you have at least 100 miles worth of gas, when you start from San Ysidro, NM, more if you take any detours or get lost. Bring plenty of water, matches, food, cellphone and good maps. <o:p></o:p>
I am heading for Grants, NM ,but there is no one out here to help you. Keep following BLM 1103 until it starts to head up into the higher country. It turns into FR 239 which is what you want to get across Mt. Taylor north to south and then into Grants, NM. There are 2 or 3 fence lines to go thru, just close the gates behind you. It’s been dry, so BLM 1103 and FR 239 are in good shape and relatively easy to ride. <o:p></o:p> <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
After many miles, Mt. Taylor’s (Blue Bead Mountain) peaks come into view. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
It is named after Zachary Taylor. But the Navajos call it “Blue Bead Mountain” and at 11,301’ in elevation, it is one of their sacred pillars of the sky that defines the lands of the Dine’. The mountain is an old super volcano and creates an alpine ecology high above the Upper Sonoran desert of New Mexico below. <o:p></o:p>
The roads are dry and hard today, and although the sky is overcast, no rain falls on the mountain or me. I imagine those roads would be much more difficult if they are wet and muddy. Be careful here, in the Summer monsoon afternoon rains and Winter snows. You’re out in God’s Country here and help is a long way away.<o:p></o:p>
FR 239 keeps going, I saw deer and elk. Came upon one young man, walking in the middle of nowhere, and it took a second before I realized he was a CDT trekker going North. Some prairie dogs were working on their tans in the middle of the dirt road. One must have been bored, so when he heard me coming on my moto he decided to play “chicken” and ran straight for my front tire. I saw him coming. Now I happen to like prairie dogs a lot, they’re very cute, but I’m not going to do a high speed maneuver and swerve in order not to hit one. And this prairie dog had a big pair… His tail hairs just kissed my front tire at 60 mph. The little dog barked and laughed and “counted coup” and got a story to tell his many relatives back in the burrows nearby.<o:p></o:p>
Riding this stretch, my mind shuts off, but my body keeps going. My muscles know how to go, which line up to pick. My conscience self needs timelessness and space and motion. Everything is on automatic, it’s flowing and smooth. There is the line UP and the scenery to absorb and inhale. I just ride on…There is effort and sweat, but there is effortlessness…<o:p></o:p>
As you come down off of the high western side of Mt. Taylor, you drop into Lobo Canyon and CR 547 which will take you down into the town of Grants, NM. There is gas, food and lodging there. I get some gas, but want to push on to the El Malpais National Monument further south on SR 117. When you enter the monument lands, look for the Park Ranger/Visitors Center on the East side of the road. Then go 1 mile further south on SR 117 to a free campground on the left. The small sign says “Joe Skeen Campground”. It has good, new and improved campsites with bathrooms, covered picnic tables, fire pits, BBQ stands and it is FREE. But there is no water available.<o:p></o:p>
Arriving, I set up camp and made something to eat. The sky was still overcast, but it had a strange evening light to it. Then I smelled the smoke from a forest fire and later ash began to fall lightly like snow flurries. I learned the next day that a new huge forest fire had begun that same evening South of Alpine, AZ. I was over 100 miles away! Visibility dropped to ½ mile and only a few red steaks of sunset broke thru the clouds of smoke. <o:p></o:p>
I stared at my maps and turned in by 9:00pm. I knew I was in a safe place.<o:p></o:p>

2eddies 06-10-2011 04:18 PM

THURSDAY, 6/2/11<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
Woke up around 6:00am, but laid there drowsy, until 7. Got out of the tent to a warm, clear morning. Got the coffee water going and began to dress and take down the tent. Was on SR 117, heading South, thru El Malpais and the lava flows by 8:30am. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
Picked up dirt CR 41 and rode it South for 30 miles toward Pie Town, NM. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
About 10 miles down CR 41 I came up on a man and woman who were trekking along the dirt heading North. CR 41 here is part of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and they had already come many miles North from the US/ Mexico border. CR 41 to Pie Town, NM was smooth, dry, hard and fast. As I pulled into Pie Town, a big old vulture sat on a stop sign right to me. It was something right out of a million Western movies and cartoons. He just sat there trying to figure out if I was dead or alive. They always wait patiently for you to die, they never waste energy trying to kill you. I pulled out my camera and he still didn’t move, but as I swung the camera up to get him in the viewfinder screen, he flew away. I guess he realized I was still alive and he had wasted his time waiting for me to start to stink.<o:p></o:p>
Now Pie Town, NM has a few other residents and a few places to eat. It’s a famous stop on the CDT, but there is no gas. You have to get fuel in Quemado, NM to the West on Hwy 60 or go East on Hwy 60 to Datil, NM. I could have continued South on dirt out of Pie Town, NM, but I wanted to be prudent and chose to go to Datil, NM, 20 miles away East on Hwy 60, to fuel up. Besides I love the Plains of San Agustin and wanted to ride in it again.<o:p></o:p>
The Plains of San Agustin stretch flat for many square miles. It makes great range land for cattle and pronghorn antelope. There are only a few, widely separated ranch houses and mountains surround it. There is no light pollution or EM radiation and other towns are far away. That’s why your federal tax dollars paid to build the Very Large Array Radio telescope there so astronomers could listen to the stars, galaxies and supernovas light years away. The VLA takes up just a small corner of the Plains of San Agustin. I used Hwy 12 that travels down the West side of it SW towards Reserve, NM. I came on a herd of antelope that were near the fence lines. Here are some pics…<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
A couple of hundred yards on down the road, I came up on a buck antelope standing right on the shoulder of the road. Now pronghorns don’t like to jump over fences. It’s strange since they could easily do so. But if they had their ‘druthers, they would prefer to go under a barbed wire fence if they can. So since this buck was next to the pavement and in between the two fence lines on either side of the road, he had a problem and he knew it! He took off running away from me down the road. I was right behind him and he was easily doing 40 mph. They’re fast! He was looking around for a place to dive under the fence. Most times there is a ditch or arroyo or they dig out a place they can get under, but not on the flats of the Plains of San Agustin. Things were happening too fast for me to get out my camera. Finally after about ¼ mile of running straight down the pavement, he just turned “stage left” and tried to duck under the second wire of a 3-wire fence. Now a pronghorn doe might have made it with some natural grace, but this big old buck had some tall antlers. So when he hit the fence line, he got his front legs and snout in between the bottom and middle wires but his antlers hit the middle wire and bent his neck back pretty good. That one hurt! He kept pushing though and as I passed him he got his antlers and the rest of his big body thru the barb wire fence. He was okay and running back onto the Plains of San Agustin when I left him. It reminded me of film clips of people running thru barbed wire fences to escape East Berlin in the early 60’s. It hurt to watch them hit the wire and you realized just how badly they each wanted to be free.<o:p></o:p>
Just further down the road, there was a dead antelope on the shoulder, road kill I guess. A flock of ravens and one Golden eagle were picking the carcass apart. They didn’t even look up as I drove by.<o:p></o:p>
I rode on….across the Continental Divide again and down into the San Francisco River drainage, and into Reserve, NM. I had lunch there and got water and fuel, then headed SE out of town on CR 435 into the Gila National Forest, headed for Snow Lake, 55 miles away, up in the high country. <o:p></o:p>
CR 435/FR 141 is paved out of Reserve for 25 twisty miles or so and then it turns into a good, graveled, forest road for the next 30 miles to Snow Lake. I saw elk, but no people as I climbed higher. In the distance to the West, across the state border with AZ, I saw the tall smoke plume of the forest fire I had smelled the night before. It was huge and sent billowing dark clouds of smoke into the air. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
I’d ridden there in the White Mountains before, along Hwy 191 (formerly Hwy. 666, The Devil’s Hwy.). You have to try it sometime. 1,200 turns in 100 miles of twisty mountain road, south of Alpine, AZ. However, after this monster fire, the views will be much different for a few years.<o:p></o:p>
I rode on…Snow Lake is at 7,500’ and is beautiful. It is situated in a lovely large bowl, with open park land and tall pines all around. The “Dipping Vat” campground is next to the lake and the fee is $5.00 per night for a tent site. There is potable running water, picnic tables, fire pits, BBQ’s and bear proof garbage bins. The bathrooms have toilet paper and are clean. The good Forest Service people have even stacked firewood near each campsite. But there are no open fires allowed right now. The lake is a “no wake” lake and has a concrete boat ramp, trout fishing and a small earthen dam at one end. It was 52 road miles from Reserve, NM and is right on the boundary line with the Gila Wilderness Area. No one else was there…perfect!<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
I set up the tent and went for a hike around the lake. There is a trail head in the SE corner of the campground and heads for the dam. It connects to FT 141 down to Gilita Creek and the Middle fork of the Gila River.<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
Along the trail, I kicked up two ruffed grouse, who shot up like they were fired out of a cannon, whirring and chirping, up the hill. They know which direction is tougher for you to follow.<o:p></o:p>
When I got to the dam face, I turned down the foot trail along the Gilita Creek. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
The creek is a “Special Restriction” fishing stream designated by NM Game and Fish. I saw small movements along the far creek bank and realized ducklings were rushing to hide under their mallard mother. Their mother stayed very still in the weeds while I walked up slowly trying to get a picture of them, but they were well camouflaged just a few feet away. Here are the pics…<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
What a great place to be a duckling, narrow hidden canyon, small gentle stream, lots of water bugs, moss and algae to dabble in, willows, weeds and a mother’s downy feathers to hide in…Don’t worry babies, I won’t hurt you. But your mother is right, you have to hide. As I turn away from her and her brood, the mallard shoots upward and tries to make me chase her and forget about eating her tiny ducks. No worries. I continue to walk away back towards the dam. But there are dangerous babies here. Just a few steps away, a foot long baby snake is on the foot trail, already hunting in the warm, late afternoon sun. When he feels me or smells me, he quickly tries to hide, but only gets his head underneath a rock, where he thinks as long as his head is beneath a rock he can’t be seen. Here’s a pic…<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
I walk back to camp and start to write in the sun. Make dinner, eat, clean up and then walk back down to the lake . It’s around 7:00pm and I know animals will be moving. Right on cue, in the distance, a female elk walks like a ghost out of the cover of the pines and down to the water’s edge for the last drink of the day. She’s careful, slow, vigilant, head high, sniffing for danger. I watched her and tried to get a pic with the telephoto. Then from another direction, comes a young man, out of the trees. He’s another CDT trekker, with a backpack, big water container and long trekking poles. He’s headed North in the late light. It’s one thing to ride the CDT on a moto, quite another to do it on a bicycle or even unicycle. But to walk the Rocky Mountains is the trip of a lifetime. He hikes by me and says nothing. There’s no need. We both know…<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
I watch, as the elk and the young man, both walk away and disappear back into the trees…<o:p></o:p>
I stayed down by the lake as the sun set. Hunters came out and began to work along the edges of things. The trout in the lake worked the edge of water and air, swallowing mosquitos and other bugs working their side of the liquid world. An owl flew by beginning his nightly patrol along the edge of the water and ground. Overhead night swallows and bats danced and ate a late dinner in mid-flight, while the clouds turned pink, then blue, then grey. I stood on the edge of the earth and waited for the stars.<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>

2eddies 06-10-2011 04:21 PM

beaver and deer know of it...
FRIDAY, 6/3/11<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
Slept well, woke up briefly at 4:00am to the sound of a hoot owl and then an elk calling. No answering calls were heard as I fell back asleep. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
Woke up again, now in the sunlight. I’m using a new model Eureka Mountain Pass 2XTE tent. It’s very roomy with two doors and two very large fly vestibules for gear.<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
It’s slightly heavy for backpacking although the weight can be easily split between two people. On a moto trip it’s perfect for 1 or 2 people and all of their gear. It’s easy to set up, guys out nicely, has loads of headroom and good venting, easily a 3+ season tent. They use heavier fabric on the floor and give a good warranty and Eureka has great customer service…So I didn’t get out of my bag or tent until 9 AM. Over coffee and oatmeal, I decided to stay at the lake one more day. The big 90,000 acre “Miller” fire in the Gila Wilderness is almost out, but is keeping people away. Another larger “Wallow” fire, burning south of Alpine, AZ, is also making campers stay away. But the Gila is a big place and I am far away from fire and smoke and being just outside the Gila Wilderness Area boundary, am safe and alone. It’s a very Zen moment, as my Buddhist moto friend James would say. Another friend I ride with, Pascal, always reminds me how lucky we are to live in the mountain West where we do.<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
So today, I write, hike and later swim in the lake when it gets hot, listen to the wind in the tall Ponderosa pines and let the Sun’s warmth seep deep into my bones.<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
Take a hike!<o:p></o:p>
Walk to the dam at Snow Lake by following the foot trail for FT 141. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
At the dam top, cross to the East side of the dam and follow the trail downstream. About ¼ mile down, you come to another stream and a small beaver dam. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
Cross over the beaver dam. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
Upstream is Gilita Creek. To your left, downstream, it becomes the middle fork of the Gila River. You have also crossed the boundary into the Gila Wilderness Area. Now here the Gila River doesn’t look like much, but it was one of the great highways of the West. Native Americans followed it, early Spanish explorers followed it, mountain men trapped beaver and walked West. The Gila River flows into and across Arizona, all the way to the SW corner of AZ, all the way to the Colorado River, near present day, Yuma, AZ. They walked or rode the length of the Gila, then crossed the Mojave Desert to San Diego, CA and the Pacific Ocean. Kit Carson many times followed the Gila River route to get to the “Left Coast”. Carson rode mules rather than horses when he had a choice. He found mules more reliable and sure-footed. Kit Carson had a long and unbelievable life. Read Hampton Sides bestseller, BLOOD and THUNDER, to learn more of Kit Carson’s life and times. Carson was a witness to great Western history. He’s worth knowing, the good and the bad. He spent much time in Santa Fe and Taos, where he had his home and family. Now I’m hundreds of miles from Santa Fe, but Carson was here before me.<o:p></o:p>
If you have time on your hike, continue to walk along the Gila or Gilita. I saw hundreds of trout inchlings and a few 3-4” fingerlings. The darkened pools are shaded by tall pines in the narrow canyon. It’s cool and green and the willow thickets are like candy to beaver.<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
Eventually, I headed back to the campsite and walking up a small hill from the lake, my hiking boots continually broke thru into the shallow tunnels of voles and pocket gophers. Almost every step, another small section of tunnel collapsed. This is urban sprawl on the vole level just beneath the surface. How long have they been digging in this hillside? Five months? Two years? Three hundred years? No wonder the owls sit in the old pines overhead. Voles and pocket gophers are like candy for owls and coyotes. They swallow them whole. Meanwhile the voles and gophers aerate and turn the forest soil and accidently seeds fall in the holes and trees and other plants sprout.<o:p></o:p>

2eddies 06-10-2011 04:25 PM

beaver and deer know of it...
SATURDAY, 6/4/11<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
Slept ‘til 8:30am and then packed up<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
and drove out by 9:30am, immediately heading East from Snow Lake on FR 142/CR 021 headed for the Beaverhead Work Center 30 miles away on dirt. Easy going on a dry, hard surface thru beautiful mountain country. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
After 19 miles, I turned onto FR 59 for 11 more miles towards Beaverhead WC. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
FR 59 intersects with FR 150 and there I turned South on 150, now headed for Wall Lake<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
and then on to Mimbres, NM for fuel about 56 more miles away. Make sure you have enough water and fuel! No joke! You don’t want anything to go wrong out here! The bears are not helpful and the coyotes just try to scam you out of your money and electronics.<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
These dirt forest roads take you around the perimeter of the Gila Wilderness, but not into it. Vehicular traffic is not allowed inside any designated Wilderness Area. FR 150 drops you out onto paved Hwy 35 and I turned East down the Mimbres River valley a few miles to Mimbres, NM for fuel. Then I reversed direction on Hwy. 35 and went back towards Hwy 15 and the Gila Cliff Dwellings. But first I stopped in Mimbres for a great BBQ lunch at “Brian’s BBQ” on Hwy 35 in Mimbres. I recommend the beef brisket dinner plate, it’s great stuff!<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
So after lunch, now west on Hwy 35, past Lake Roberts<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
to the intersection with Hwy 15, then go north on Hwy 15 which will take you into the heart of the Wilderness <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
and to Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument and the nearby Gila Hot Springs. Got to the Visitor’s Center at the end of Hwy 15 and then paid the $3.00 entry fee and toured the Indian cliff dwellings which date from around 1270 AD. Here are some of the pics. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
How amazing the site is, you walk up into a narrow canyon, Gila River nearby, spring fed year round water in a small creek just downhill, mid-cliff cave protection… Another western Eden! It’s worth seeing. You can also walk right thru some of the caves to see the various rooms and views close up and wonder what it was like to live there 700 years ago. Friendly NP docents are there to answer questions. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
I spent a while there and then walked back down out of the canyon to my moto. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
It was around 5:30pm in the afternoon, so I rode back down Hwy 15 just a few miles to the Gila Hot Springs Ranch. Here is one of the great bargains of the whole trip. The Hot Springs campground charges just $5.00 a night to soak all you want and then camp overnight. Wow! I put my tent up between one of the hot pools and the Gila River was just a few feet away on the other side. There are three clean pools with different water temps and you can fish or take a cold plunge in the Gila. Everything is clean and simple, quiet and friendly and very Zen. I got in the pool with the medium temp, put my feet up for a few hours and later, still in the water, watched the sunset and thought that life was Goooooooood!<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
There is fuel and food available if you need it at “Doc McDonald’s”, another local institution in Gila Hot Springs, NM. There are other campgrounds, RV parks and a few bed and breakfast places right in that area, but I recommend the Hot Springs Campground for price, location, outdoor hot spring pools and laid back ambience.<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
Later, looking at my maps before I sleep, I realized I had driven 135-140 miles on dirt and pavement today, but wound up only 15-20 miles, as the raven flies, from Snow Lake. ..and I am right back on the Gila River in the heart of the Wilderness.<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>

2eddies 06-10-2011 04:29 PM

beaver and deer know of it...
SUNDAY, 6/5/11 <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
It’s time to head back towards home in Santa Fe. I packed up, but skipped breakfast and coffee. I figured I would get some fuel in Mimbres and stop for food there. I drove out of the campground at 8:30am and passed many browsing early morning mule deer on the way down the Mimbres Valley. Be careful here, nothing good happens when you hit deer or elk while on a motorcycle…<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
I wanted to head East towards the Rio Grande Valley, away from the fires and smoke in Arizona. I had managed to avoid it all so far and wanted to continue doing so. I stopped for breakfast at the Mimbres café and walked in covered in dusty 5 day riding clothes. 8 men were sitting at a big table and one said “why don’t you join us?” I really hadn’t talked to anyone in days. I said “sure”. They all turned out to be older retired local guys who meet for breakfast on Sundays and they all were moto enthusiasts who had raced, dirt biked, dual sported and generally ridden all of their long lives. One guy was in his 80’s and still riding! We had a great detailed conversation about dirt riding in the Gila area, Kit Carson, mountain men, explorers, the huge forest fires in Arizona and Western history. It was unexpected, stimulating, fun. As we ended our meals and coffee, three of the men offered to ride eastward with me on their bikes and then show me a little known local route thru a lush canyon near Cabello Lake, NM. So with that we were off <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
riding the twisty way East on Hwy 152, across the fabulous Black Range, to Emory Pass where we stopped to check out the view from the pass summit. There, on top of the pass at 8,228’, the extent of the smoke in the Rio Grande valley was seen. Everything was hazy in the distance. Emory Pass is named after an engineer in the US Cavalry who came thru here with the Army of the West in 1846, heading to California. And yes, Kit Carson was their guide…<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
Riding any motorcycle on the paved Hwy 152 thru the Black Range is a treat, it’s just great fun! Try it sometime and stop at the two small historic mining towns of Kingston and Hillsboro, NM. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
After these two towns you start to drop out of the Black Range and into the Rio Grande Valley. A few miles before reaching Interstate 25, the guys stop at the intersection of Hwy 152 and Alto Rd. Alto Rd. runs north and disappears after ½ mile. So I leave my escort and wish them well and drive north on the dirt Alto Rd., then the road turns sharply right and leads steeply down into another unexpected Eden, the very green lush Animas Creek valley. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
Filled with small farms and deer hiding under the shade trees, I drive East on Animas Creek Rd. wondering how long people have been living in this narrow oasis valley in the desert. I ride East slowly for just a few miles before the road passes underneath I-25. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
I see a sign on the Interstate above saying Santa Fe is 218 miles away. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
But no Interstate slab for me just yet. I came out on the frontage road East of the Interstate at Cabello Lake, NM and turn Northward on NM 1, heading for Truth or Consequences, NM or “T or C”. It used to be called Hot Springs, NM because there are hot springs there. You can still visit the various springs in T or C, but most are commercial places now. I cruised along Cabello Lake and then later Elephant Butte Lake, both huge reservoirs on the Rio Grande. You can keep riding on NM 1 north for some distance, you pass thru small old agricultural villages that date back to Spanish colonizers. The old Camino Real, the oldest road in the US, used to run from Mexico City, Mexico to Taos, NM. It ran, along thru here, on the Eastern side of the Rio Grande, across the desperate Jornada del Muerto and then back North to the lush edges of the river. I stop near Ft. Craig, an old US Cavalry fort on the Rio Grande and take a picture of a forgotten place, now in the middle of nowhere. A place that was bypassed by the Interstate and allows people to drive by in air-conditioned comfort and never know this spot. Here is what it looks like…<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
Here are just some of the things that happened, if you stood right here, over the last 400 years… Spanish conquistador/explorers in the 1500’s moved up from Mexico following the Rio Grande, looking for the “Seven Cities of Cibola” and Christian converts. Colonizers came north on the Camino Real, across the Jornada del Muerto, to farm and hunt, civilize and occupy. Mountain men followed the Rio Grande down from Taos and Santa Fe to get to the Gila Wilderness for beaver pelts and then to follow the southern route across the western frontier to the Pacific. Navajos raided the nearby farming villages looking for livestock to raid and scores to settle. Apaches moved up and down the river valley at will. The US Army enveloped this area in the 1840’s and built a fort/cavalry base at Ft. Craig nearby on the river. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
In the Civil War, the Confederate and Union forces fought the battle of Valverde right here (and yes, incredibly, Kit Carson fought with the Union forces here). And later, in Summer of 1945, just 20 or so miles to the East of that big mesa at Valverde, the first atomic bomb went off in the early morning gloom. (I always tell people, Hiroshima, Japan was NOT the first place hit with an atomic bomb. New Mexico was bombed first.) <o:p></o:p>
I continue on NM 1 thru the Bosque del Apache Wildlife area, <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
then the village of San Antonio then to Socorro, and Lemitar, NM. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
I have to get back on the slab for a little bit and head north to Bernardo, NM and the exit for Hwy 60 East towards Mountainair, NM. I want to get out of the Rio Grande Valley, it is getting hot and it will be cooler on the East side of the Manzano and Sandia mountains. On Hwy 60 I pass over the Rio Grande to the East side and head up out of the broad valley towards Abo Pass. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
The pass is an easy way to get over the spine of the Rockies here. It also is in a very historically rich area. Abo, Salinas and Gran Quivira National Monuments are nearby. Early Spanish mission/Indian ruins can be seen and the history explained. <o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
At Mountainair, I turn north on Hwy 55, then 337, then 14 and pass thru many of the old, extent Spanish land grant communities, Torreon, Chilili, Manzano, Tajique, Punta del Agua, Tijeras, that still have modest farms and ranches and people hunt and work in the mountain forests nearby. I’m on the edge of things again, riding between the rolling prairie that stretches East to the Mississippi and the mountains called the Rockies. A thunderstorm is north of me on the edge of the prairie grasslands , but I pass between it and the mountains heading home, between Time and Space….in New Mexico.<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>
I’ve just ridden over 1,000 miles of dirt and pavement in 5 days…. and I never left the state. <o:p></o:p>
“There is great good in returning to a landscape that has had extraordinary meaning in one’s life. There are certain villages and towns, mountains and plains that, having seen them, walked in them, lived in them, even for a day, we keep forever in the mind’s eye. They become indispensable to our well being; they define us, and we say, I am who I am because I have been there. It is here that I can concentrate my mind upon the Remembered Earth. It is here that I am most conscious of being, here that wonder comes upon my blood, here I want to live forever; and it is no matter that I must die.” – N. Scott Momaday, Remembered Earth, New Mexico’s High Desert, a film by John Grabowska<o:p></o:p>
The beaver and deer know of it…and now so do you.<o:p></o:p><o:p></o:p>

space 06-10-2011 04:36 PM

Nice report!

For me, a bit of the familiar and a few ideas for places I need to explore. And I really like that opening quote.

Poor pronghorn. They can sure run, but they can't jump! Fences have hurt their population, but yeah ... they can get through ... eventually. I see lots of 'em up on the high plains.

amofpers 06-10-2011 05:03 PM

Hey dude,

The Persian here. Nice report and great pics. We will ride before I leave.

nrspence 06-10-2011 07:58 PM

Wow Ed, what a great report. I'm chomping at the bit even more now to go ride threw New Mexico. Man, great writing and great pictures. Im very impressed. I hope i get the opportunity to go on a trek with ya someday.

ClearwaterBMW 06-10-2011 08:51 PM

this a fantastic ride report
great pictures.... and wonderful descriptions to go with them
thanks for sharing ALL of this with us
well done, Ed

i hope that you'll consider posting a lot more often around here
thanks for being here

2eddies 06-11-2011 06:39 AM


Originally Posted by space (Post 16135477)
Nice report!

For me, a bit of the familiar and a few ideas for places I need to explore. And I really like that opening quote.

Poor pronghorn. They can sure run, but they can't jump! Fences have hurt their population, but yeah ... they can get through ... eventually. I see lots of 'em up on the high plains.

Thanks for your comment. N. Scott Momaday is a national treasure and I really appreciate his writing and perspective. He is a Pullitzer prize winner and fine example of a human being. I highly recommend him.

BadBrian 06-11-2011 09:04 AM

Great stuff man. I really enjoy your writing....I'm generally just happy to get my spelling correct!:arg

Throttlemeister 06-11-2011 12:16 PM

Thankyou for sharing this, I know a few places I will going to the next time I'm in NM. The Gila HotSrings look totally awesome!

Great ride report:clap

Mike Ryder 06-11-2011 01:27 PM

Fantastic writing here. Slightly Hemingway-ish with some Kerouac.

Quoting 2eddies here,

"I watch, as the elk and the young man, both walk away and disappear back into the trees…
I stayed down by the lake as the sun set. Hunters came out and began to work along the edges of things. The trout in the lake worked the edge of water and air, swallowing mosquitos and other bugs working their side of the liquid world. An owl flew by beginning his nightly patrol along the edge of the water and ground. Overhead night swallows and bats danced and ate a late dinner in mid-flight, while the clouds turned pink, then blue, then grey. I stood on the edge of the earth and waited for the stars."

Artful RR Mr. 2eddies

G-Wing 06-11-2011 01:29 PM

Reconnecting with Mother Earth
Wow! Great photos and commentary. I've added another place to visit on my bucket list, thanks :thumb

hatchetdan 06-11-2011 01:48 PM

Send this as a link
I will send this to my friends who want to understand the appeal of adventure riding cross country, thanks for sharing you insights!

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