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.”

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Preparing For Winter By Cutting Up Trees

I have been threatening to trim back and cut down the trees in my yard (mostly cut down) for several years. It’s already starting to cool down and I decided to get on it before it’s too late. It’s only been a threat because I wanted to rent a chipper but chippers are expensive and I finally gave up on that idea and started cutting things down and putting the waste in the back part of my lot. Out of sight and out of mind.

Pile of cut up trees

The big project was cutting down a large branch on what I think is a Elm tree. This kind of tree can be seen throughout older neighborhoods of Rio Rancho and Albuquerque and they all seem to have the same problem, whole limbs off the main truck just die off.

On my tree, the main limb that hangs over the patio died off. The dead limb with all its sub branches make for great bird perches in which the birds then crap all over my patio. It also makes a mess with twigs all over the place as the whole thing slowly breaks up.

View of the dead limb off a elm tree

The plan was to cut off the main branch without it falling onto the house. I did the cutting with a reciprocating saw and a 9″ pruning blade and a friend pulled on the branch with a rope so it would fall away from the house.

It didn’t quite go as planned (and I should have had video). I wasn’t able to tie the limb high enough and pulling it with the rope wasn’t effective at moving it away from the house fast enough. The top of the limb partially hit the roof and the glass table. Luckily the limb and branches were dead and dried up and they broke apart when they hit the roof and patio furniture.

Dead elm tree limb that was cut down

I cut up the Elm branch into small pieces and they will be used as firewood this winter. The rest of the trees that I cut down will sit in the backyard and allowed to dry out. Most of it is from pine based trees, so they are not suitable for burning inside but may see use in the outdoor fire pit.

Pile of logs cut from the elm tree limb

Several years ago there was a huge fire in the bosque near the Rio Grande in Albuquerque. After the fire they cleared the trees and I have some of the wood from project. The wood was far away from the house, too much of a pain to access during the winter. I moved all of that wood near the house and cut up the larger pieces with the reciprocating saw, some if still needs splitting but it should be plenty for this winter.

Wood pile brought closer to the house

I exclusively used my Dewalt reciprocating saw
for all this cutting and it amazes me how well a refurbished tool that I bought over 12 years ago works like it’s brand new. I was able to fully test out the Dewalt DC9180 18 Volt Nano Tech lithium ion battery pack and it performed exactly as advertised. It provided full power thought multiple cuts until it just stopped. It wasn’t as fast as a chain saw would have been but it did cut through everything I asked with constant power including a few logs larger than the 9 inch blade. I would guess I could get about 6 to 8 cuts between charges and it would charge in about 30 minutes, which provided breaks for me.

There are still some larger logs that I may try to cut with a small chainsaw if I can find one to borrow.

Large logs that may require a chain saw to cut

Of course my cat Saturn was happy to supervise the project from the bedroom window making occasional recommendations.

Saturn supervising the tree trimming from the window.