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  • J.F. Rowan

Crossing The Rio Grande

We finished up the house-sit on a Wednesday, packed up everything and since it was late in the day, decided the best route of departure was back to Trinidad Lake State Park. It was about an hour trip back to Trinidad and we arrived an hour after sunset. At that time of day, it can be hard to see when you're trying to navigate through a dimly lit state park. As it turned out, we found a spot that was very close to the spot we had when we were here last. Unfortunately, after a good nights sleep, we found out that the entire area of the campground was booked or reserved and we had to move down the road. So around 10 AM, that’s exactly what we did. But where?

Go figure! The same spot we had the last time we were here. Except this time, we had to leave.

Brainstorming while driving isn’t always a good idea, but we made it work and decided we would head to New Mexico, this time through the scenic Cimarron State Park Area. It was gorgeous and though we considered stopping and staying the night, we pressed forward to Taos. Taos was great. Charming little artsy town without being too pretentious. Taos is what it is, and it never acts or claims something it isn’t. We liked the feel and so we stopped for a quick lunch and some window shopping. We bought some spices for the chuck wagon and a "Bush" hat for me. The sun is pretty strong in these parts and the doctor strongly suggested I start covering up my not so thick head of hair. Okay, back in the truck and head south.

Palisades Sill, cut by the Cimirron River about 40 million years ago. Elevation, 8000ft.

Could have spent an hour in this place.

After lunch, I took a look at the map and spied a National Wildlife Area just south of Taos that allowed camping. So, away we go to the Orilla Verde National Wildlife Area, in some kind of gorge near the Rio Grande. At the time, all I knew was there was some kind of camping there. The initial route takes us away from Taos in a south westerly direction. It’s flat, with not much in the way of…well…anything. I’m beginning to wonder if either I read the map wrong, or perhaps some sort of typo on the map. There just does not appear to be anything here! Then, out of nowhere, a bridge. A bridge in the middle of this flat unassuming dessert. When I hit that first expansion crack, out of the corner of my eye it was as if the whole world had opened up, straight down almost 1500 feet. The bridge wasn’t real wide so just as fast as we were on it, we were off it. After a few turns, we found the gorge. Oh, we found it alright, almost as unexpectedly as the bridge that went over it during our first encounter. The last road we were on was a small dirt road that didn't look it was frequently traveled. At one point, we saw two kids leaning up against a parked car who seemed to be laughing at us as we drove past them. No sooner did we pass them and all of a sudden there we were, looking over the hood, almost a thousand feet vertically as this now little dirt road, clinging to the side of the cliffs, would guide us to the bottom. We soon understood why the two kids we had seen earlier were laughing at us. The constant nervous excitement in the form of laughter from me and a wide range of English expletives from my wife accompanied us almost all the way down the rocky narrow, sometimes extremely narrow road. Once again, my trucks navigation had the last laugh. As it turns out, this was the back route into the Canyon. No one takes this route, not even a FedEx guy who's late for supper. The more “widely” used route was a nice asphalt road that we could have taken from the other end of the Canyon. Go figure. But honestly, I wouldn’t have done it any differently. Some days you just have tame the dragon (or the demons)! It was a challenge on a few different levels that I’m glad we both faced and lived to tell the tale.

Yes, that is a drop off to the left. What do I care, that's Yvette's side. (chuckle chuckle)

Early morning light in the canyon. Wonder if the fish are awake?

Pretty now, but that will change when it starts to sleet.

Finally, on the bottom (with the wheels still under us) we followed the Rio Grande until we found a great riverside campsite. No one else in sight, we parked the rig and headed out to explore the river. It would turn into a great overnight stay and a place to mark on the map if we ever pass this way again. My only regret is that I didn't drop a line in to see if I could catch us some vittles. In the morning, the decision to stay or go was made for us. At about the half-cup of coffee mark, it started to sleet and the temp started to fall. We didn’t have any reception of any kind in the gorge, so we were in the blind weather wise. NOAA radio, Internet, cell service, not even a ranger to ask about the weather so we decided it was time to leave. We exited the gorge through the more kinder-gentler road and continued south heading to, we hoped would be a decent state park called Storie Lake, in Las Vegas New Mexico. But on the way, we would be tempted by the call of the wild. Would we give into temptation?

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