Joined: Apr 2010
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, Rocky Mountains, USA
beaver and deer know of it...
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…
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
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…
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.
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.
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.
I see a sign on the Interstate above saying Santa Fe is 218 miles away.
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…
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.
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.)
I continue on NM 1 thru the Bosque del Apache Wildlife area,
then the village of San Antonio then to Socorro, and Lemitar, NM.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve just ridden over 1,000 miles of dirt and pavement in 5 days…. and I never left the state.
“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
The beaver and deer know of it…and now so do you.