That’s right, we hiked. I wanted to show those attending Cruise Cruces what makes the Chile Canyons famous among rock crawling enthusiasts—an “extreme” rated trail. While some would consider our “hard” rated trails such as Broad Canyon and the steepest sections of the Dona Ana Mountains “extreme”, they fall terribly short. The Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club is a bit conservative when handing out trail ratings. Our “moderate” trails have been known to disembowel well built rigs and whiten the knuckles of the most seasoned of four wheelers. Needless to say, “extreme” means “extreme” in the Chile Canyons—only the most outrageous rock buggies and capable drivers need apply. After parking our rigs at the trailhead, we hiked into Lower Big Jim Canyon for lunch and a view of the trail. Patzcuarro’s Revenge was the site of the 1998 BFG Rock Crawling Championships, and about the last trail I’d drive with my 4Runner. The waterfalls in this canyon range in height from about 5 to 15 feet. While some of the big boys manage to get up this nasty trail without assistance, most drivers require a bit more. When a driver can’t get their vehicle up a difficult obstacle, winching becomes necessary. The winch cable must be fastened safely to an ultra stable object. The Las Cruces 4WD Club has installed secure winch points on the biggest obstacles of the Chile Canyons. This winch point pictured is above Nemesis II, a 15 foot tall waterfall on the trail.
Above- Steve was not afraid to push the limits of his 2010 FJ Cruiser on the trail this past weekend. Here he’s pictured weighing his options after getting his rig in a tough spot (he got out just fine). He did not require the assistance of his winch or recovery gear while navigating any of the trails. He drove home to Albuquerque with little more than dented skids and a few new pinstripes.
Dare I say that Rustler’s Fire Trail is the most remote, most primitive & highest road in Dona Ana County? Yes. Passing another soul on these desert backroads can be few and far between. As for “Rustler’s”, I can almost guarantee pure solitude on this rough and lonely climb to the top of the Sierra de las Uvas. Local legend has it that the road was built by a fire crew decades ago to help battle a wild blaze. The steep inclines signify the direct path that earth moving equipment made up hillsides to reach the fire. The road is now defined by nothing more than faint double track, seemingly in its twilight being returned to nature. Views from the top of the 6,000 foot high ridge include the Rio Grande, Hatch Valley, Mesilla Valley, Jornada Range, Organ Mountains, Caballo Mountains and Gila Wilderness.
This is why we scout trails. This rock fell into the center of Upper Broad Canyon since last season. Since we were the first ones up this year...we named it Window Rock...it's going to smash plenty of them. (Above photo by George Zoros)
At sunset, we stopped at San Isadore Church located in the tiny hamlet of Las Mesitas, Colorado. The church was gutted by a fire in the 1970’s and has remained unchanged since. The Conejos River, surrounding snow capped mountains and golden grass of the San Luis Valley provides a spectacular backdrop for the church remains.
The winding road between Cumbres Pass and La Manga Pass was easily the biggest dose of winter I’ve had in years. The wind had sculpted endless ripples in the snow reminiscent of sand dunes. The evening light was beginning to highlight the snow, giving tinges of pink and orange. We pressed on into Southern Colorado, not wanting to get stuck on the mountain past sunset, given the storm that was quickly rolling in. It was a fitting conclusion for an epic day.
Nature was definitely putting up a fight against me capturing her beauty without a little pain on my end. I felt as though I was being sandblasted in an industrial freezer for much of the day; funny how so many of these photos seem serene. Looking back, I wish I could have stayed a bit longer…
What a difference 82 days makes. Returning to Chama, I experienced subzero temperatures and a landscape that looked like it could not possibly support life. The changing seasons of Northern New Mexico are truly spectacular.
The deserted streets of Chama signaled that locals knew better than to venture out of their cozy homes and tourists were forewarned by good judgment or the Weather Channel. As we drove up the historic main drag, we noticed curtains being parted through a window. The onlooker probably had a good chuckle as to who would purposely go for a Saturday drive on ice. They’ve probably never heard of New Mexico Backroads…
The blanket of snow and dead silence provided a tranquil scene among the broken rafters and cracked walls. The roof must have caved in before the owner was ready to call it quits. Car parts and hardware still sat on the workbenches frozen in time, abandoned before service tickets could be scribed. While the place had been ransacked by animals and hooligans, tools still hung from the peg boards. As I crept between the engine blocks and ruins, I couldn’t help but imagine what the place felt like when it was alive.