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.”

Cactus And ATV Riders Don't Mix Well

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Jim Baca posts this unattributed picture of an apparent ATV rider who fell into a bed of cactus. Jim calls it Divine Justice, I call it just plain terrible.

Wrong Kind Of Cactus On New Mexico Poster

The 2004 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is due to start in October. There’s been a bit of hub-bub because of the poster.

The major problem to me is they hired a Texas artist to do the poster. There’s always been a kind of Texas/New Mexico rivalry between the two states but this isn’t my issue. See New Mexico is pretty well know for it’s fancy-smancy artists. Santa Fe and Taos both have quite a few of those types there. I suspect they are at least better known for their artists than Texas.

Second problem is the Texas Artist screwed it up. There’s Balloons and there’s a cowboy. Sounds good. There are also Saguaro cactuses. For those not familiar with the South West United States, these are native to the Sonoran Desert which, “has a quite limited geographical range, centred on southern Arizona and extending into western Sonora (Mexico)” which means they don’t even exists in New Mexico. I know, to the rest of the world these cactuses exist in the desert southwest and that includes New Mexico. But if you want to accurately show one of New Mexico’s few claims to fames then it’s probably a good idea to be accurate on such a little detail. Perhaps the cactuses could be replaced with power lines.

By the way, thanks to Metaquerque for the links