We woke up fairly early and headed down from the mountains and back into the high desert. It was warmer down here, but still so nice compared to home. First order of business, FIND WATER! I had a spot that we were going to check out with the assumption that it could be busy. We pulled into the trailhead to find 1 car with a tent. They looked like they were still getting going.
Hmm, pretty empty... Let’s go for it!
The couple mile hike belies what’s to come. Dry and brushy until you drop right into the river itself. Once down here, it’s paradise. We checked out the hot springs, but decided we had to walk further down river to explore. We had the canyon to ourselves.
(Listening to Swallows fly around the canyon around us. The walls were filled with their mud homes.)
With our exploring done it was time to go back and enjoy the springs and crack a cold one.
The springs were hotter than most I’ve visited. Somewhere well over 100°f and it was downright painful at first. As we took a break and jumped into the river to cool off Kelsey got a worried look on her face. “I, well, I think the rock beneath my feet is hot, really hot.” I think for a moment she thought something had bit her since her feet were feeling very warm in a cold river.
It turns out the geothermal activity heats the rocks and sand at the floor of the river in some spots. It’s a very weird and wonderful sensation. To stumble upon it ourselves made the feeling of discovery all the more.
We could stay here all day, but sure as we expected, we started to hear some other people hiking in. That’s our cue! We hiked back out taking one last look at the unlikely garden of eden below.
After finding some fuel, our first stop of the trip so we were just about in need of our jerry cans, in Reserve, NM we headed up and up and up. Climbing from about 5,500 feet to over 9,600 in just a few short miles. This area was hit hard by New Mexico’s largest forest fire.
(See the Elk?)
We kept putting along. Seemingly the climbing was never ending. Finally we were back into some older growth trees. We started looking for a good side trail to camp off of. We were on what I’d call a secondary dirt road. It gets use, but not a lot of it. I wanted to be at least one level less used to camp. We spotted a small track with grass growing on it. Something about tracks on the inside of turns. They get used or spotted less often it seems.
We crawled back and had to lock the diff to get over a large fallen tree. That tree was the indicator to me that we’d found our camp for the night. Perfect. I spun the truck around and backed it in to where the road became so overgrown it disappeared.
It was perfect. Our own little valley and creek. We even had a random little bench seat. I’m not sure who, but someone had been placing these little bench seats all over this area of the forest. A forest service or fire lookout employee with a bit too much time on their hands? This one had been long forgotten, most likely since the tree we crossed had fallen.
As I was sitting there reveling at what a great spot we’d found I saw something move in the forest to my right. I looked over at it expecting to see an elk or deer since we’d seen tens of them so far today. Instead it was a dog... or wait, a big dog. Where was the owner? That dogs moving weird. Very fast and confident. Oh shit. “Kelsey, CAMERA, CAMERA” I whisper shouted. The wolf looked at me briefly, but seemed very unconcerned. I was trying to soak it in, but I was mesmerized. Seeing something in nature you’ve never ever seen is startling. Knowing that it puts you lower on the food chain is all the more... moving.
I now had the camera in hand. In hindsight I should have started shooting video for hopes of even a blur of him. Instead I tried to wait for a clear shot and after a few more bare glimpses between trees, he was gone. Good bye grey wolf. That was a treat.
So, now with my gun on my hip, we proceeded to cook dinner. Hoping it didn’t smell TOO good.
I tend to collect coozies. This gem from Reserve, New Mexico had a strange and wonderful enough saying that I had to buy it...
(That is so true!)
With that, we went to bed, dreaming of wolves. Neither of us ventured very far to use the facilities until we left camp the next morning!