Cruising Through the Chihuahuan
After Roswell, New Mexico, I headed just southwest of Carlsbad, to the Guadalupe Ranger District of Lincoln National Forest.
Rising from the second largest desert in the United States, the Chihuahuan Desert, the Guadalupe Mountains span from west Texas to southeastern New Mexico with Guadalupe Peak being the tallest at 8,751 feet.
Over 250 million years ago the mountains were a reef for what was called the Delaware Basin. Over time, tectonic compression, wind and rain, created what is now the Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico, and northwestern Texas. It has exposed one of the greatest fossil collections in the northern hemisphere.
On the east side of the Guadalupe Mountains, nestled in the foothills, lies the town of Queen (approximate population of 50). Queen also happens to be located in the Lincoln National Forest, and this is where I would find my first two off the grid camping spots for the first three nights.
The first spot was about a quarter of a mile down a dirt road. I parked my little Subaru between two pinyon pines, a fire pit someone had built, and a lot of cow pies. Most of this land is open to cattle grazing, and they can be seen everywhere, from grazing in canyons, and along the roadside.
I set my solar panel up, put out a chair and a table, and went for a hike. Aside from the yuccas, prickly pear cactus and junipers, it was pretty quiet. Still in the middle of winter, at an elevation of approximately 6,300 feet, it was cold and windy. Not the best time to view wildlife but none the less, you never know what you can find if you don’t give it a try.
And Here Comes the Wind
So an uneventful first day, I decided to find another site, with a bit more of a panoramic view. I turned down a well maintained gravel road (Guadalupe Ridge Rd) until I found a not so well maintained forest road. As soon as I turned onto the namesake for Rocky Road ice cream, I got a quick glimpse of a coyote, who darted from eyesight. I knew that this could be a good spot for some wildlife.
Again, parked by a fire pit, some junipers and pines, and more cow dung. Since I was feeling good about the opportunities for some decent photography at this location. I decided to set up a tarp to give me a bit of a shelter from the wind. Well, this turned out to be a bad idea.
To begin with, setting up a tarp in some pretty gusty winds isn’t a lot of fun. I spent the the next several hours wondering, as the tent poles bend and flex in these turbulent gusts, if they are going to make it through the night. This made me quite anxious! Now these tent poles have held up to quite a bit, from squalls along the Maine coast, to heavy gusts in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota.
R.I.P… They served me well for so many years. They didn’t make it to through the morning. However, the wind did.
Run In with the Runner
After cleanup, and breakfast, I went for one of several hikes I would do throughout the day where I would find my first wildlife; a domesticated ungulate (sounds better than saying cow).
Again, with the wind and the cold, there was not much to see in the way of wildlife. From my experience back east, whenever I would go birding with my bud, Round Eye, we would see our avian friends in rain, snow, and frigid temperatures, but when there was wind, nothing. The exception to this rule, here in the Guadalupes, is the roadrunner.
This little bird had no problem of being the center of attention for the next couple of hours as it wondered around the campsite, even in the midst of this blustery tempest.
Sitting Bull Falls
The following day I would head to Sitting Bull Falls. The wind had died down, but none the less the following evening would present a set of new challenges.
Sitting Bull Falls is a day use area within the Lincoln National park’s Guadalupe District. However, before you arrive to the day use area there are several places to pull off the side of the road to camp. Again, there is no electricity, or running water.
Sitting Bull Falls is a spectacular canyon where a series of water falls cascade into this gorge. Prickly pear cactus, and yuccas cover the canyon walls, and yes, there are even cattle.
As I settled into my camping spot for the evening, I sat mesmerized looking at the cliffs above me. I literally couldn’t move my gaze away from them, until the cattle started moving into my vicinity. Meh, whatever, back to staring at the cliffs above!
Subee and the Cow
It was around eleven o’clock that evening when I was awakened from my sleep. Unannounced to me, the cattle who had previously been grazing near my campsite decided to spend the night. I believe what was happening was that they decided to accept my little Subee Camper into their herd.
During the hazing, one bull was scratching his nose on the passenger side rear view mirror which is what have must have awoken me, startled me, scared the crap out of me! Imagine seeing this enormous head staring at you just a couple of feet from your face?
On the other side of the car was another cow who was chewing a fabric screen that slips over the backseat window. that one had no problem stopping when I awoke, but the other one, just stared at me. Then he went back to scratching his nose on my rear view mirror.
I could have honked my horn, but that probably would have caused a stampede (there was probably about twelve cattle here). So I decided to use the “lock the car function” on my keys. That flashed the lights and made a quick beeping noise. That seemed to do the trick, for a little while. So again I had to use the “lock the car” function. This time it worked for the rest of the evening.
The Road Goes On
Well my little Subaru made it through her hazing and all her new friends were still there at sunrise. I decided to hightail it out of there in fear of a rancher arriving with their branding iron to make his mark on my Subee….
Onto the Organ Mountains! Golden Eagles, more wind, and one crazy hike in a snow storm! Peace.