Trip Report: Northern NM and Rio Grande Exploration Memorial Weekend '12 | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Trip Report: Northern NM and Rio Grande Exploration Memorial Weekend '12

Brian1

Elite Explorer
Joined
February 2, 2000
Messages
5,389
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City, State
Albuquerque, NM
Year, Model & Trim Level
1991 XLT
Callsign
KG5BAQ
First a little back story - last year over Memorial Weekend my friend Mike and I drove from the CO/NM border South to Grants, NM on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) which overlaps the hiking trail in spots. This year we wanted to drive from Grants south towards Silver City, NM to finish up the other part of the trail we didn't do. A few days prior to our departure a massive wildfire broke out in the Southern Portion, less than 20 miles from a stretch of the trail. We had to change our plans due to the heavy smoke and ash in the area so we decided to go North on a modified version of the CDT and hopefully drive a portion that was blocked by snow last year that we had to go around.

We met in Cuba, NM and headed into the forest. Our first stop would be an old copper mine with a few tunnels that you could drive into and actually turn around in. The trail was very overgrown and narrow but we made it to the top and walked around in the tunnels and looked at the view back down the valley.

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We went back down and picked up the CDT again and took it to Tea Kettle Arch/Rock and that is where we diverted from the actual CDT. We headed North towards El Vado Lake and along the way I had heard about some old cliff dwelling ruins. I found the turnoff on a dirt road and then we parked near some oil and gas equipment where there were plenty of no open flame or smoking signs. To get to the ruins, called Nogales Cliff Dwellings, it was a 0.5 mile hike down a wash and then a 0.25 hike up a 600-ish ft tall canyon. We knew there was going to be something there when we saw some Forest Service signs about protecting America's Heritage wrapped around a tree on the side of the narrow footpath.

These ruins date to the mid 1200s and were inhabited by the Gallinas, a much smaller and isolated group of people than the Chacoans and others of the time period.

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The second level and tower

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We hiked back down and then headed to El Vado lake where we crossed the dam. We were looking for a campsite but since it was a State Park and a Holiday Weekend it was busy as well as a fee area.

The shore

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The Dam we crossed

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We decided to head for Hopewell Lake and camp below it on Placer stream

Hazy sunset from the forest fire smoke moving north

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Our camp, around 9500 ft.

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The next morning we decided to find the waterfall in the area, it was just a small one

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We went North again and at this point we were back on the CDT. Soon we came to the section we had to bypass last year.

A forest road marker with the CDT sticker

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We were making good time and surprised at the lack of snow but then it came, we thought we would have to turn around. There were 2 drifts that we could see, this one was a good 6' tall and about 20' across and another one a hundred yards down the trail. We gave it a try but couldnt make it, we would have probably sunk in anyway.

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We found a bypass and eventually met back with the trail. We took a quick break at the Cruces Basin Wilderness border.

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Not sure what this could have been

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Soon we dropped into the valley just below Highway 17 and crossed the Cumbress and Toltec Narrow Gauge RR. Our timing was off, it would have been neat to see the steam engine come by.

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We then took the highway to Antonito, CO to refuel and get some lunch. To be continued...
 



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That copper mine looks really cool. Looks like you had a great time. Thanks for the pics:chug:
 






After a late lunch we headed towards the Rio Grande. I had read an article within the past year in a 4wd mag about a route along the river between Alamosa and the CO/NM border that one of our members was a part of (thanks again Jack!) and with a little extra info we decided to head that way as the CDT into Colorado would surely be blocked with snow. We headed towards Alamosa but decided to bypass part of the route and we turned East in the town of Romeo and took a highway to the river.

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The road was fun and I was thinking it would be fun to drive a Ford Raptor down it! It was fast and twisty but you had to watch out for drainage channels into the river that you had to slow down for. It wandered along the river getting near it at times. I saw an old foundation and walked over to check it out. There was an old tin can and that was about it.

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Pretty soon we came to a cool 1 lane bridge over the Rio Grande that I had to try out

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Soon the GPS track we had split off to a really cool campsite right on the bank. We checked it out and decided to return to it later that evening

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After a very off camber section and then a steep uphill the track split again to an overlook point

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Finally we reached the end of the trail, 0.2 miles from the border according to our GPS

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Cactus

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We returned to the camp about 6

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It was very windy, the waves on top of the Rio Grande were actually moving North. As the sun was setting the smoke from the wildfires moved in again and made for an interesting sunset.

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We studied the maps trying to figure out where to go the next morning (Sunday) but came up empty for a dirt route that would take us to something interesting and a little closer to home. We instead opted for something new to both of us, the Orilla Verde, a steep gravel descent into the Rio Grand Gorge south of Taos.

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Once at the bottom there were many people camping and getting ready to go rafting. We found a place to pull over for a break and to watch a few rafts float over a small rapid.

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And with that we returned home Sunday afternoon, it was about a 600 mile trip with around half of that on dirt.
 












Looks like you had much better weather then we did. I need to get out that way and do some of these trails with you.
 






Looks like a great run.

How do you like the portable winch? When not using it but out on the trail, do you just leave it hooked up to avoid it bouncing around inside the rig?
 






Looks like a great run.

How do you like the portable winch? When not using it but out on the trail, do you just leave it hooked up to avoid it bouncing around inside the rig?

I like it because I can leave it off, leave it on and use it either on the front or back (it is wired for both). For this trip I traveled light and I would have left it in my cargo area except that I slept in the back of my Explorer this trip and it was easier just to leave it on the front than move it around each night. For highway travel I put it back in the cargo area and use a ratchet strap to hold it down.

For around town I just leave it in my garage.
 






..It appears you got the GoPro fixed..:biggthump

..It's kinda funny as I started a little trail run Sunday am shortly after I met up with a Pinzgauer and it's owner..

..I'm a liking that little meadow next to the creek..
 






Yes, the new Gopro worked flawlessly!

The Pinz is really neat. We also saw a really cool Volvo 6x6 for sale in Antonito but it was pricey!

Matt, come out anytime. The Chevy would do alot of stuff out here, but the Ranger would do more :D
 






No trouble Brian. Great trip report. We never camped on the river. We went down there three times. First time we couldn't find a way through and went over to Antonito. The trains were there. Outlaw was Jonesin for some fried chicken. Then we went up in the Carson NF to find a camp site and it was muddy. Found a place and Outlaw worked on a plan for the next day. We went back north to get some info and Larry had some trouble at home and had to head back so I did also. The third time we went back for Pro-4X pics only. Sundance was with us the second time and we camped at a stock pond at the end of the track I sent you. Delorme shows it in NM. The next day we back tracked and crossed that cool bridge and tried to get through on the east side of the river. That didn't work either. Ended up camped in Comb Ridge the next night and then on over for a side trip off Cottonwood in Utah. Can't remember that story being published yet but it could have been. Might be coming up this fall if it wasn't. That side trip is one of my favorite trails.
 






great pictures, thanks for sharing. i have family that way and i hope to road trip it some day with my rig and hti some of those spots you passed through. looks like you had a nice little adventure. im planning to take a similar trip here toward the sierra mountains in the next few weeks. your trip is getting me all juiced up for my trip!
 






great pictures, thanks for sharing. i have family that way and i hope to road trip it some day with my rig and hti some of those spots you passed through. looks like you had a nice little adventure. im planning to take a similar trip here toward the sierra mountains in the next few weeks. your trip is getting me all juiced up for my trip!

Where you headed?
 






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