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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
We were back in forest when getting to our final destination.
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.
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.
We were lucky to have a day of no rain where we were able to hike to the top of Ease Pecos Baldy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
In 15 square miles of abandoned land, about 400 misfits—aging hippies, disillusioned veterans, teenage runaways—have built a community where no one cares if you smoke pot, fire your rifle all day, let your kids drive your car, or walk around naked in the desert heat. It’s a landscape of beat-up old trailers, shacks jerry-rigged from recycled materials, solar panels, little farms, greenhouses, and at least one tipi. “Where I live is the last remaining land of America that is left,” says Dreadie Jeff, another Mesa resident. “You can do what you fucking want there.”