Joined: Apr 2010
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, Rocky Mountains, USA
beaver and deer know of it...
THE BEAVER AND DEER KNOW OF IT…
“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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then pick up Pipeline Rd. heading NW towards Cabezon Peak.
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”.
It stands out by itself in the Rio Puerco valley. Rode Pipeline Rd. until it intersected CR 279,
turn left heading West further into the Rio Puerco valley.
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.
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.
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.
After many miles, Mt. Taylor’s (Blue Bead Mountain) peaks come into view.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
I stared at my maps and turned in by 9:00pm. I knew I was in a safe place.