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  • J.F. Rowan

Getting Tanked at Hueco!

No, not tanked like drunk tanked. More like visiting a park called Hueco Tanks State Park (Historic Site) located near El Paso, Tx. Though, if I’m being honest, we probably should have got tanked.

A very scenic drive. Once you are north of I-10, vegitation changes to mosty evergreens.

The drive from Fort Davis was pretty cool. At one point we had to take a cross-connecting route that leads us through thousands of acres of grazing areas. If memory serves, it was a road called RT505. It was still pretty early and as we traversed this section of our route, both sides of the road seemed to have plenty of wildlife to look at, most frequently in the form of birds. At one point I stopped the truck and was able to retrieve the camera and took a couple of shots of a very impatient Red-Tailed Hawk.

Road-side capture of a relitively young Red-Tailed Hawk.

Once we were heading north on highway 54, Yvette took the wheel and was able to log about 50 miles of white-knuckled fun from the left seat. She did great, though it took a while to get the color to come back into her fingers when we switched seats again. She is a very attentive driver and a great navigator. I kid her a lot about it only because it keeps her on her toes. The roads were pretty straight and flat and very little traffic. She had a couple of chances to integrate the exhaust brake into her driving. It is a different feel applying the brake this way, but she did great.

One of the things that I noticed the most about this trip is how far you see a road stretch out in front of you. I would be driving along say through a few hills and curves, then all of a sudden you’re on a flat long straight away that stretches out in front of you for miles and miles. I’ve never in my life been able to drive and see ten or more miles in front of me all in a straight line. I tried making a game out of it. I’d start on a long stretch of road, pick our a landmark and then try and guess how far away it was. I wasn’t very good at it. Not because I was a poor judge of distance, but because I’d get distracted and forget about it until about 40 miles later when I’d finally remember. “Crap!” I’d exclaim. Yvette would look over, “What?” I would just look at her, “Never mind”.

We also tried having someone in the bunk filming out the side window while driving. I don’t know if we will do that again, very difficult to hold the camera steady even when laying down. I probably will start playing with the GoPro a bit to get some different outside shots while we’re driving.

Long, long stretches of straight road.

We take highway 180 west toward El Paso which ends up as highway 62. There is another checkpoint with the Border Patrol. Unlike previous checkpoints we’ve encountered, this one has a line about 12-15 cars. There is also a dog sniffing a few of the cars and the x-ray truck is actively moving around, probably getting photos of vehicles. When it’s our turn, the young border patrol agent who has been pretty much stoned faced at this point has a big smile on his face when he sees our rig. “What have we got going on here?” he says with a smile. We explain what we’re doing and you can tell he is sizing up our demeanor. “Okay then, have fun and safe travels.” and he waves us on. What can I say? Every time we have run into the Border Patrol, they have been absolute professionals, each and every one of them.

We take a right off of highway 62 and head to the park entrance. We have a reservation and we also know that this park is hosting an event this weekend called “Rock Rodeo” a rock climbing event. This park is a bit different than the other state parks we’ve visited. The rules are more strict primarily because the park is very archeologically dense in historic pictographs from both pre-historic and Native America time periods. When we first arrive, we are stopped just outside the park by a ranger the radios ahead to confirm our reservation. We then stop at the main gate and pay for our two nights stay. They seem busy and I end up parking in the middle of the road and stay in the vehicle while Yvette gets our permit. Once we have our permit, we are directed to the next building, the interpretive center where we mandatorily watch a twenty-minute video on the park. The park is a very fragile piece of archeology and they spell that fact out over and over.

Lots of trail restrictions at this park, though at times the restrictions seemed to be inconsistent.

There are two types of trails here. First, therre are the self-guided type. Unlike other parks, they only give out 70 permits per day to hike these self-guided trails. The permits cost $2.00 and you have to return to the office every day to renew it and get a new card if you want to keep hiking. It’s their way of keeping the trail use to a minimum. The second type of hiking trail here is by guide (and appointment) only. These trails are off limits to anyone unless they (as a group) have an assigned guide which only happens Wednesday through Sunday. We are not to keen on groups when it comes to hiking so we opt for the self-guided routine.

We leave the mandatory video viewing and drive to our spot. We do our best to level the vehicle but the spot is pretty challenging. We settle into camp and as usual, try and get in a walk before dinner. We spy a trail right next to our spot, but it’s one of the trails that’s off limits (guided) so we can’t go near it without a guide. The camp host, who happens to have a spot somewhat near us, notices our interest in the trail that’s right next to us. He comes over to our camp and explains the rules. No problem, we hike the other trails…all of them…before dinner. We head back to the truck and think about dinner. Well, we’ve hiked all the other trails, what’s left?

As I start prepping for dinner, I notice three, no wait, four kids coming down the trail right next to our spot. They are some of the contenders with the Rock Rodeo that’s going on. They stop right in front of our truck, seemingly waiting for a ride. Over the next hour over thirty would come out of this same trail with their gear and park themselves at the front, and sometimes lean on the truck. We are in the coach at this point trying to eat dinner. So I don’t say anything foolish, I stay in the coach. I take the truck key and hit the auto start button. The truck remotely starts and any “leaners” clearly get the message. But what is more frustrating is the double standard in the use of the trail. We find it itersting that the climbers are all using the same trails we were told to stay off, yet they don't appear to be supervised. Am I missing something here? Earlier in the day, we also noticed one of the campers going a bit "rogue" in his climb and wondered into a more sensitive area of the park. We spied this guy while hiking and it was clear he was atempting tohide from us, but doing a very poor job of it. Again, no supervision.

Rock climbing enthusist seemed to have free and onencumbered use of otherwise restricted trails.

(Google Photo)

As it turns out, we had our fill. Instead of paying for another day to hike the same trails, and paying another our camp fee, we decide before bed that we will push off tomorrow for somewhere new. When we wake, we pack up and head to the gate to try and get a refund. No such luck, they keep our second-day fee, no refunds at this park. Lesson learned. We head north to our first New Mexico state park, Oliver Lee Memorial State Park in Alamogordo New Mexico.

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