Another Trip To The Ojito Wilderness

I made my third (what is becoming an annual) trip to the Ojito Wilderness in April of 2013. What I like about the Ojito is how close it is to Albuquerque and how short the actual hikes are to some amazing landscapes.

Campsite by gregjsmith, on Flickr
Campsite by gregjsmith, on Flickr

This time we took a hike up to the Bernalitto Mesa immedialty west of the hoodos. It was about a 500 foot climb to the top.

Large chucks of the mesa have broken off by gregjsmith, on Flickr
Large chucks of the mesa have broken off by gregjsmith, on Flickr
View of the campsite from the mesa by gregjsmith, on Flickr
View of the campsite from the mesa by gregjsmith, on Flickr
Cabezon as seen from the mesa by gregjsmith, on Flickr
Cabezon as seen from the mesa by gregjsmith, on Flickr
Looking east from the top of the mesa by gregjsmith, on Flickr
Looking east from the top of the mesa by gregjsmith, on Flickr
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The Last Pack Trip Into The Pecos Wilderness

On Friday 7 September 2012 4 friends and I rode horses into the Pecos along with 2 pack horses and 1 one guide. We rode about 8 miles up to East Pecos Baldy. The horses were provided by Tererro General Store and Riding Stables at a cost of approximately $1250 (not including tip). The pack horses carried each of our back packs at about 30-40lbs each and 70lbs of food (with an undermined but significant amount of that weight in alcohol). Since the Pecos Wilderness is a Wilderness, no motorized vehicles are allowed.

Tererro General Store Riding Stables
Tererro General Store Riding Stables

The Tererro General Store typically takes hunting parties into the Pecos but we not interested in hunting, just a way to get into the mountain without having to carry 40lbs plus packs 8 miles in. However we were hiking out, all downhill and theoretically with less pack weight. What could go wrong?

Which brings me to the title of the article. Apparently there has been an overall reduction of horse packing business for the Tererro General store and insurance is not only becoming more expensive but harder to get as insurance companies don’t want to cover horse packing. Therefore this will be their last year of providing these trips and they plan to sell off the stables and horses. We weren’t the last trip up for the horses as they had a few more hunting parties going up but we were near to being the last trip.

Horses packed and waiting for riders
Horses packed and waiting for riders

This is the first time I have rode a horse since I went to the Philmont Scout Ranch over 20 years ago. I was a little nervous that the horse I was going to be riding would take one look at me and decide to ignore all my commands. There was nothing to be nervous about. The horses, mine was name Sampson, has been on this trip many time and knew the way better than I did and was used to newbies trying to drive. There was very little for me to do except keep him from running into the other horses when they suddenly stopped and from taking any shortcuts that we might get stuck in (they aren’t all that smart sometimes).

My horse was named Sampson
My horse was named Sampson

We start the trip about 10am New Mexico time and arrived at our destination 8 miles up the mountain about 12:30pm. The 8 mile ride took us through some forest, then to a large clearing with some grazing cattle.

The riding party
The riding party
Cattle with pointy things along the trail
Cattle with pointy things along the trail

We were back in forest when getting to our final destination.

Some fallen trees along the trail
Some fallen trees along the trail
The horses will be happy to get rid of us
The horses will be happy to get rid of us

It mostly rained the whole time so we had to come up with covered communal area where we could sit around the fire and not get soaked. There also wasn’t a lot of firewood, the area had been picked pretty clean. What little firewood we found was wet.

Campsite in the Pecos
Campsite in the Pecos

We spent time exploring the area near East Pecos Baldy. There are supposed to be big horned sheep in the area but all we came across was cattle and a few bow hunters on horseback also looking for sheep.

Pecos Baldy Lake
Pecos Baldy Lake

We were lucky to have a day of no rain where we were able to hike to the top of Ease Pecos Baldy.

Near East Pecos Baldy
Near East Pecos Baldy
The group (except the photographer) on top of Ease Pecos Baldy
The group (except the photographer) on top of Ease Pecos Baldy
People on a nearby peak
People on a nearby peak

Finally, we hiked out on 10 September 2012. While we ate and drank our way through most of our supplies we still managed to have quite a bit of weight on us on our way out. Making us wonder why we didn’t rent horse to take us out.

Hiking out
Hiking out

The enitire photoset can be viewed on the Flickr set “2012-09-07 Pecos Pack Trip“.

Overnight In the Ojito Wilderness

Limestone formations along a hiking trail in the Ojito

The Ojito Wilderness is about 11,000 acres of Sandoval county, New Mexico that was designated wilderness by congress in 2005 throught the 1964 Wildness Act. It is located west of Rio Rancho, New Mexico and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The glow from Albuquerque can bee seen east of the Ojito. The Sandia’s can bee seen to the left of the short mesa and right of the tall light tower. The small red lights are from the radio towers on top of the Sandias.

People have been going to the Ojito for years before it was protected as a wilderness, it’s not one of the better known outdoor areas near the Albuquerque. The Ojito is a combination of desert; sand, cactus and scrub but also contains some pine trees and grasses. It’s sort of a transition area between the deserts in Albquerque and the forests of the Jemez. What makes the Ojito special is the number of impressive rock formations. There are a number of hoodoos formed by water millions of years ago, badlands and buffs.

Ojito Hoodoos
Ojito Hoodoos
Ojito Badlands
Ojito Badlands

I have had two trips to the Ojito, once in April of 2011 and this last time in June of 2012 and it will probably be a annual trip for me. Spring or Fall are good times to spend overnight in the Ojito, June is not. It’s hot, most plants have stopped flowering and there was a large number of nats and other flying insects. One of the reasons I like living in the desert is the lack of flying bugs so I was surprised at how many there was. There is no water, lakes or streams and people must bring it with them. As this is official Wilderness land no wheeled vehicles are allowed. Including bicycles. This probably keeps people away but backpacking a short distance in is well worth experience.

Firepit with hoodoos and a pine tree in the background
Firepit with hoodoos and a pine tree in the background

The area I camped included a group of hoodoos with a large area of sand and trees farther out. In the middle of the sand area there is a fire pit. Believe it or not while the rest of the state was under fire restrictions the Ojito was not. I verified with the BLM and was specifically told that the Ojito was not included with the rest of the state. Part of the reason might be because there is so little to burn. There are some pine trees spotted around the area the vegetation is pretty spares and well adapted to not getting water.

Trying to find out the fire restrictions in the Ojito was difficult. The official BLM webpage for the Ojito doesn’t tell a whole lot about restrictions in federal lands, as they are often different from the state lands. NM Fire Info lists state land fire restrictions and Public Lands Information Center lists federal fire restrictions.

FInally, New Mexico First District Representative Martin Heinrich created the Ojito.org website.

“Thank you for visiting the Ojito website. I hope you find the information here useful as you learn about and explore this unique and beautiful place. As someone who dedicated several years of my life to the creation the Ojito Wilderness, I also hope you will leave the area just as you found it. If we are all good stewards of this wild landscape, generations to come will continue to enjoy Ojito’s opportunities for hiking, hunting, photography and outdoor adventure. Enjoy. This is where the West is still wild.”

The Wildlife West Nature Park In Edgewood, New Mexico

Update: There are a number of embedded images from Flickr in this post, however Flickr isn’t serving them up right. Please visit the set to see more.

If it wasn’t for a link to a “Bear Festival” in the Duke City’s Fix Morning Fix, I would have never known about the Wildlife West Nature Park in Edgewood, New Mexico.

I went on a hot Saturday afternoon. There wasn’t many people and there wasn’t much of a festival going on, although I did get a free hot dog. Wildlife West has a chuck wagon dinner and country music show in their amphitheater about 7pm and I suspect more of the actives occur around this time. I’m not sorry to have missed the country music.

Wildlife West is not the Albuquerque Zoo (nor is the Albuquerque Zoo the San Diego Zoo). Wildlife West is more of a native animal park which sets native animals of New Mexico in the native environment of New Mexico. It’s not huge but it is well laid out and the animal habitats are well designed and professional. All of the animals, some which are protected and illegal to own, come to the park as human imprints or were injured in some way that they most likely would not survive in the wild. Personally, I find this sort of zoo (or animal park) as much if not more interesting.

The park starts off with a marsh that’s protected with a 6 foot wall and some view niches. I’m not sure if this was an incomplete exhibit or the expectation was to view the animals from the niches, but all I saw were ducks.

The next exhibit was of Dusty the Road Runner. The Road Runner is the state bird of New Mexico and is protected. Dusty is an Imprint. I find Road Runners to be beautiful birds and welcome any chance to see them up close.

I came to the park for the behind the scenes tour of Koshari the bear, for which I failed to read the info panel. I don’t recall how the bear came to the park. It’s interesting that even the Albuquerque Zoo doesn’t have a native New Mexico bear. Other than Wildlife West, the other way to see a native bear is to camp in the Sandia Mountains and put food in your tent. The behind the scenes tour included a guided tour behind the exhibit where we got a slightly closer look a the bear through a chain link fence and the tour guide enticed the bear with peanut butter on a dog bone. Not as impressive as I expected but informative and interesting.

There were a number of other animals that I saw including Phantom the Puma, Farley the Gray fox and Sparky the Lynx. There were also a number of animals that I did not see including the wolves and elk. Most of the animals were smarter than the humans and were staying in the shade. Unfortunately I did not see a lot of animals I would have liked to have seen.

The bird exhibits were left for last and were probably the most interesting. Although the exhibits seem small, most of the birds could not fly. For example Ernie, the Great Horned Owl, right wing was damaged probably from being hit by a car. This is the first time I have seen a native Owl up close.

I would recommend that anyone check out the The Wildlife West Nature Park in Edgewood, New Mexico. The website claims that the park is a few minutes from east Albuquerque, but it’s about an hour from Rio Rancho. I suggest going when it’s not 100 degrees, for both the humans and the animals. It took me about 3 hours to walk through the park with only about half of the animals viewable and I would also suggest anyone going to time their visit with the chuck wagon supper and show at about 7pm. The park costs are Adults: $7.00, Seniors: $6.00, Students: $4.00 and Children under 5: FREE. All of my photos from my last trip are geotagged and viewable on Flickr.

A Summer Time Trip Up The Sandia Peak Tram

Albuquerque, like many cites, has a number of attractions that locals consider tourist traps and therefore never go to. I don’t consider the Sandia Peak Tram to be a tourist trap and yet I’ve only rode the tram one other time in my 15 years living here.

The Tram was built in the 1960’s by the Swiss company Bell Engineering. At 14,657 feet long, it is known as the longest tram in the world. During the winter the Tram can be used to for skiing the Sandia Peak Ski area. It’s a convenience when Sandia Peak has good snow, it often does not. The 2009-2010 Ski season had some of the best snow in a decade and I threatened many times to take to Tram for skiing but never did.

During this trip I dined at High Finance Restaurant at the top of the peak. High Finance is not the cheapest restaurant in town, but certainly not the most expensive I’ve ever dined at. Understanding that getting supplies to the top of the mountain is probably more expensive than getting them in town, I have to wonder if the name of the restaurant has anything to do with the cost of the meals. In any case the food was excellent.

The most impressive part of this trip was the storms that appeared to the west of the city (and later that night made it into town). With the sunset behind the storms there was a spectacular show of orange rain that looked like fire falling from the sky. the storms highlighted the multiple mountain ranges, Mount Taylor, Cabezon, etc, where you could see them in layers. I had a tough time coaxing my Sony DSC-HX5V to focusing that far out and yet managed to get quite a few good pictures. Had I known I would be treated to such a show I would have brought my SLR.

10 New Mexico Lift Tickets For $125

The American Lung Association is having a New Mexico Skiing Lift Ticket Promotion. Pay $125 for 10 lift tickets with a 2010 Ski Card. If you use this card 3 or 4 times, it will have paid for itself.

10 LIFT TICKETS FOR $125!
Cardholder is entitled to one complimentary adult lift ticket at each of the following ski areas, subject to any conditions listed. Equipment rentals/lodging not included. Limit one card per person.

New Mexico Ski Areas
1. Angel Fire 800-633-7463
Not valid 12/21/09-1/3/10; 1/15-1/17/10; 2/12-2/14/10; 3/14-3/20/10

2. Enchanted Forest 505-754-2374
No Blackout Dates!

3. Red River 505-754-2223
Not valid 12/25-12/31/09; 3/13-3/20/10

4. Sipapu 800-587-2240
Not valid 12/20-12/23/09; 12/27-12/31/09; 1/2-1/3/10; 1-16- 1/18/10; 2/13-2/15/10; 3/8-3/11/10; 3/15-3/18/10

5. Ski Apache 505-464-3601
Not valid 12/19/09-1/3/10;1/16-1/18/10; 2/13-2/15/10; 3/6-3/14/10

6. Taos 505-776-2291
Not valid 12/27/09-1/1/10; Not valid after 2-15-10

Colorado Ski Areas
7. Arapahoe Basin 888-272-7246
Valid Sunday through Friday any day of the 09-10 ski season, excluding 11/27/09; 12/24/09-1/4/10

8. Monarch Mtn 888-996-7669
Not valid 12/26/09-1/2/10; 1/16-1/17/10; 2/13-2/14/10; 3/12/-3/21/09

9. Ski Cooper 719-486-2277
No Blackout Dates! Not valid with any other offer!

10. Sunlight Mtn 970-945-7491
Not valid 12/26/09-1/3/10; 2/13-2/15/10

My Last Car Rental: 2009 Ford Mustang

2009 Ford Mustang From Hertz

During my last three days in Arizona for work I rented a a 2009 Ford Mustang from Hertz. It wasn’t my choice, it’s what they gave me and while not quite as exotic as the Corvette it’s probably much more common.

It didn’t have the GT badge but it did seem to have the 4.6 Liter V8 and other GT like features . I didn’t look under the hood but I drove it in perfectly legal ways and certainly seemed like it had more than a V6.

IMG_0412

I really enjoyed driving this car. I was really impressed with how well Ford integrated some of the retro elements of the car while keeping it like a modern automobile. It handled well, It as comfortable to drive, I fit in it and could extend my legs, I could see out if it well and it had power. Ford states it can get about 25 MPG highway and the computer on the car showed 25 MPG from whoever drove it last (don’t know if it was highway or city).

I’m not alone in my assessment. Consumer Reports gives the Mustang high marks in their test. They liked it better than the Camero and the Challenger.

The Mustang received a Very Good overall road test score of 78, outpointing the Camaro which received a Very Good 71, and the Challenger, which received a Good 53 points. CR’s engineers found the Mustang’s 2010 freshening makes it an even more balanced and satisfying driver’s car than ever before.

“The Mustang topped this group by delivering strong acceleration, communicative steering, and the most agile handling,” said David Champion, senior director of CR’s Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut.

Since driving the 2009 Mustang I have decided that I am going to buy one. Mostly likely a 2010 model due to some significant improvements (really I want the sequential turn signals). Now, all I need is the money.