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Old 06-28-2020, 03:11 PM   #21
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On Saturday we broke camp, headed up through the pines along the flank of Mount Taylor in the Cibola National Forest.





The Cibola is a disjointed collection of National Forest lands that are spread across northern and central New Mexico, Oklahoma, and west Texas. The area we were in is the Mt. Taylor district, and is a relatively small chunk of the entire Cibola, which includes forest and grasslands of over 1.6 million acres.

Mt. Taylor, or Tsoodzif in Navajo, is a dormant stratovolcano. At just over 11,300 feet, it is the highest point in the Cibola National Forest and was named for President Zachary Taylor.

The mountain is considered sacred by the Hopi, Zuni, Laguna, Acoma and Navajo peoples. For the Navajo, the mountain is an integral part of their creation story. The Navajo believe that First Man created four mountains with the sacred soil from the Fourth World to mark the four cardinal directions (with Mount Taylor representing the south) and that the spirits of the Black God, Turquoise Boy and Turquoise Girl continue to reside in the mountain. For the four other tribes, Mt. Taylor is a place to connect to their ancestral past.

Soon we dropped off of Mt. Taylor and into the desert between Grants and Cuba. This area is a checkerboard of Navajo trust lands, BLM land, and private holdings. The desert landscape, as Jim said, looks just like you’re in a cowboy movie. It’s a beautiful stark landscape of mesas, draws, and interesting rock formations. We pass by the striking volcanic neck known as Cerro Alesna (the Spanish word for awl) and head towards Cabezon Peak.











A couple of mallards surprised me when they got up off this tank!









Cabezon Peak is a volcanic plug that is visible from miles around. It dominates the relatively low mesas and hills surrounding it on the north. Cabezon means “big head” in Spanish. The Navajo believe that it is the head of the giant Ye’i-tsoh, who was killed by the twin gods Nayenezgani and To’badzistsini. The lava flows to the south of Grants, which include El Malpais, are thought to be the congealed blood of Ye’i-tsoh.



As we head towards Cuba, the scenery is amazing and the travel is quick. In the rain, this section quickly becomes impassable. Between Reserve and Luna on day 3, I saw motorcycle tracks that seemed very new, but never caught up with any bikes. Here again, I saw motorcycle tracks over the truck tire tracks in the soft dirt. They appeared to be only a day or so old. There are also some older ones petrified into deep ruts from a couple bikes that struggled through here when the weather was not so good.

See this thread for an account about what this area is like in the mud!
https://advrider.com/f/threads/bad-m...rez-rr.727309/



We got to Cuba around noon, fueled up, and ate lunch at El Bruno’s. It was good.

Cuba (originally Nacimiento) was settled in 1736 by 4 men. 30 years later, the San Joaquin del Nacimiento land grant was formed, and more settlers moved in. The town was later abandoned due to heavy raiding pressure from the Comanches, Navajos, Utes, and Apaches. Slowly, as this pressure decreased, the grant area was repopulated by farmers and ranchers. In 1887, a post office was established, and the town was renamed Cuba, meaning water tank or trough. Cuba became an important stop along the travel routes north from Albuquerque and Bernalillo, as well as a trading center for the various Native American communities in the area.

We left Cuba and headed into the Jemez Mountains. The Jemez are in the Santa Fe National Forest, established in 1915 and covering over 1.5 million acres. The land was formerly designated as the Jemez National Forest to the west of Santa Fe, and the Pecos National Forest east of Santa Fe.

Being a Saturday, I expected the Jemez would be fairly busy. It is a popular day-trip and camping destination for people from Los Alamos, Espanola, Santa Fe, and even Albuquerque, especially in the summer. But it looked like the 4th of July weekend up there! Every campground was stuffed to the gunwales with trailers, campers, trucks, and ATVs. Any flat area where dispersed camping was allowed was crammed full as well.

We stopped at Teakettle Rock and decided to press on to the Tusas Mountains in hope of more peaceful camping. It would also shorten our trip the next day, allowing us to spend more time fishing at the Rio de los Pinos. Jim told me that New Mexicans sure seem to like camping…together.





Out of the Jemez to the north, we dropped into the desert around Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch – Georgia O’Keeffe country, with its striking banded mesas and cliffs. Then to Abiquiu Lake, and down the dam face to the Chama River tailwater. The dam was built in 1963, and was raised in 1986. It is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The tailwater was crowded and running pretty dirty, so we passed on fishing there and headed on towards Abiquiu.



Abiquiu (“choke cherry place”) was first settled in 1742 by several Tewa families and a catholic priest. In 1747, a Comanche raid forced the town to be abandoned. In 1754, a land grant was established and the area was resettled as a defensive outpost. The settlers were primarily of Native American descent, and were previously slaves, servants, and captives of the Spanish. Known as Genizaro, the land grant was their only way to become landowners. Abiquiu was the home of Georgia O’Keeffe from 1929 until 1984.

From Abuquiu, the route heads through El Rito (originally El Rito Colorado, or the red creek), one of the oldest Spanish Settlements in New Mexico.



From El Rito, we headed into the Tusas Mountains, expecting fewer campers. There were just a few less...



About 7 PM, we finally found a spot to camp, at about 9,600 feet at the top of a small pass.





Total mileage for the day was about 220, leaving us only about 100 miles to Antonito the next day.
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Old 06-28-2020, 04:20 PM   #22
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Nice job Matt, your post took a lot of people who can’t get out now along for a much-needed ride!
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Old 06-28-2020, 08:26 PM   #23
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What a treat this trip report is. Thanks so much for the backstory on the images.
Cheers!
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Old 06-29-2020, 12:01 AM   #24
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Thank you for such an interesting detailed report. I couldn’t stop until I completed the entire thread. Your photos and videos were terrific.
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Old 06-29-2020, 04:44 PM   #25
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I was on this trip and feel I am getting more from this trip report !!!!
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Old 06-29-2020, 04:56 PM   #26
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Day 6



Around Abiquiu, we had crossed into the Carson National Forest, encompassing about 1.5 million acres. The Carson was established in 1908 with the merger of the Taos National Forest and part of the Jemez National Forest. In 1982, the Pennzoil Corporation contributed 100,000 acres of the Valle Vidal to the Carson. We’ll be hunting elk there this November on a once in a lifetime draw!

We left our campsite on Sunday and continued north through the Tusas Mountains. We passed through the small village of Vallecitos, settled in 1824. In 1909, the village was granted Ejido (or communal) rights when Teddy Roosevelt created the Carson National Forest. In 1947, these rights were effectively reduced when grazing rights and allocations were reallocated in favor of large operators rather than local residents. The resulting lack of access to land and water for ranching operations killed the economy in Vallecitos, resulting in an exodus of residents. Only a few diehards remain today.



We traveled northward, and just after Cleveland Gulch, encountered the roughest section of road on the whole trip. A prophetic sign a mile or so earlier said “not suitable for passenger vehicles.” But, we had seen a few of those before, with no problem. Anyway, this rutted section only took about 15 minutes to negotiate, but if I had been alone, I would have found an easier bypass. Not dangerous, but a stuck would take a long time to get unstuck.



After the rutted section, the road opened up in to high plains, home to pronghorn rather than elk, and nice roads. Soon we skirted the Cruces Basin Wilderness, and crossed the Rio San Antonio, but it was too small to fish in that area. We continued on past San Antonio Mountain to the Rio de los Pinos. There were a fair number of campers here, just south of the Colorado border, but we found a few good runs and caught a couple trout each.





With rainclouds threatening for the first time on the trip, we left the Rio de los Pinos, crossed the narrow gauge tracks of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, and headed into Colorado.





The Cumbres & Toltec is a 64 mile rail route between Chama, NM and Antonito, CO. It was originally part of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, but the line has been owned by the states of Colorado and New Mexico since 1970. The track was laid in 1880, and the 3 ft narrow gauge was used instead of the 4’8 ˝” standard gauge because it made tighter turns possible, a huge benefit in the high mountains. The line travels over the 10,000 ft Cumbres pass. Often, heavy snow would necessitate the use of rotary plows to clear the track, as winters may see up to 500 inches of snowfall on Cumbres Pass. In 1968, the working rail line was abandoned, and in 1971 the Scenic Railroad was formed. In 1973, the railroad was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Over the border, we found a campground along the Conejos River, and settled in for the evening. Just about 85 miles for the day, but a small section that was the most demanding of the trip.

The next morning, Jim and Suzie headed back to Albuquerque to get the DEF system on their van repaired (the parts had been ordered when they visited on Day 4). I stayed and fished the Conejos and caught one beautiful brown trout. A few casts later, I successfully turned 16 ft of leader and tippet into a rat’s nest about 2 ft long. I tried to untangle the mess, but decided to end my fishing with the memory of that big brown.

I packed up and headed into Antonito for fuel and to visit Cano’s Castle. Antonito, population under 800, was incorporated in 1889. The town is the northern terminus of the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad, and hosts many murals, most painted by Fred Haberlein. It is the home of the oldest church and congregation in Colorado, started in 1857.

Antonito is also home to Cano’s Castle, a collection of 5 structures, including 2 tall spires. The buildings are made or sheathed in scrap aluminum, hub caps tin cans, grills, and other shiny metal objects. Built by Dominic “Cano” Espinoza as a castle for God, the buildings are unoccupied (by people, at least) and Cano lived across the road in a small trailer. He purports that Jesus has been living there since 1987. Cano originally believed that Doomsday would arrive in 2000. It will happen, someday, according to him, in a rain of God-targeted meteorites that will kill two of every three people, and destroy all of the world's skyscrapers. All the skyscrapers including Cano's own Castle. It'll be sad to see the castle go, he has said, so everyone should visit it while they still can, and maybe get on the good side of someone who has the ear of God.













After checking out the castle, I headed down Highway 285 to Santa Fe and then Home to Albuquerque, and a soft bed and hot shower. Total mileage from door to door was just over 1,700 miles.
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Old 07-02-2020, 06:12 PM   #27
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REF,
I'm with you on the source of the itinerary. I'm actually very interested in that trip. I also will appreciate any info from velo47.
velo47 were your vehicles 4X4?, gas?
I like the report, very cool. Would really like to hear dialog when you were driving.
My Dad grew up on a ranch in Lincoln Co. out west of Roswell, NM. Had aunt and uncle who lived in Alamogordo, NM so the trip has a real meaning to me.
REF: Like to know more about the sites you mentioned. I'm looking for trips as i love exploring the western states.
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Old 07-02-2020, 06:32 PM   #28
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Thanks!

My van is a 4wd Sprinter with low range, Vancompass skidplates, swaybar disconnect, suspension upgrades, and lift. It's on 265/70/17 KO2s. Jim and Suzie's Sprinter was 4wd with low range on 33s (255/85/16s I think). Both diesels.
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Old 07-02-2020, 08:22 PM   #29
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Thank you velo47,
I was curious as Sprinters don't (to me lol) have that masculine front end 4X4 look.
FYI: I just returned from a 24 hr loop trip to the southern Sierras. Burbank, CA north on 14/395 entered the Sierras at Kennedy Meadows and the South Fork of the Kern River. Over Sherman Pass (9,000') down to Kerrnville (North fork of the Kern River) where we camped last night. In the a.m. down river to Bakersfield (great BBQ lunch). South on I-5 to Burbank. The landscape is breath taking. 420 miles.
My point being: I passed 0/zero SMB's. I would say I passed a minimum of 15 Sprinter conversions (one of which was a SMB).
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Old 07-03-2020, 01:39 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by velo47 View Post
Thanks!

My van is a 4wd Sprinter with low range, Vancompass skidplates, swaybar disconnect, suspension upgrades, and lift. It's on 265/70/17 KO2s. Jim and Suzie's Sprinter was 4wd with low range on 33s (255/85/16s I think). Both diesels.
Great thread!!! Thanks for sharing everything. Amazing.

So we almost got a Sportsmobile, but ended up with a F350 gasser pickup truck, with a Hallmark 9.5' pop up camper on it.

Compared to your rig - do you think a 4x4 F350 (with skidplates) would be more, or less capable than your rig, for handling the rough roads you encountered?

FWIIW our tires are WRANGLER ALL-TERRAIN ADVENTURE WITH KEVLAR - SIZE: 275/65R18.

and we also have a limited slip diff. with Electronic Lockers.

thanks
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