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Old Road Trail, NM
mini location map2015-05-24
4 by photographer avatarneilends
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Old Road Trail, NM 
Old Road Trail, NM
Hiking avatar May 24 2015
Hiking6.00 Miles 200 AEG
Hiking6.00 Miles
200 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
This story illustrates what happens when you wander off into another state that you're unfamiliar with.

First, I meticulously planned, routed, mapped, and prepared for a beautiful alpine hike close to Taos in the Carson National Forest. On the morning of the hike though, the forecast called for thunderstorms, so I decided to abort.

Second, I quickly plotted out a plan B for something close to my Santa Fe rental condo, and headed out, this time to the Santa Fe National Forest. The trailhead elevation was 10,000 feet and I was not thinking straight, though. About 20 minutes into my hike, I ran into two friendly Texans heading back down. "You headed up to Nambe Lake?" they asked. Yep. "In about 10 minutes, you're going to be up to your knees in snow. That's why we turned around. We're from Texas where we seem to have a different definition of 'summer' than Santa Fe does, I guess." I laughed that I had the same problem as an Arizonan, thanked them, and aborted the hike. Gah!!!

I drive back to the condo to sit down and try and plot out a final attempted hike that would make this quick weekend trip worthwhile. By this time it's about 10am and my ambitions of anything more than a 5-6 mile hike were gone. As I googled and web surfed (there is no hikenewmexico dot com; how do people in other states function without this site?), I set my sights on the Bandalier National Monument. It's not too far off, is in the opposite direction of the bad weather, is lower elevation, and features canyon scenery that makes New Mexico (and our great Southwestern region) the beautiful land that it is. I picked out a trail, plotted waypoints on my GPS, downloaded the topo, and off I went.

Upon arriving at Bandalier, my novice status as a dog-owner shone through as I stared at an obvious, well-planted sign stating, "No Pets Permitted Beyond This Point." I stared at the sign for a good 10 minutes while internally venting and raging at a federal regulation that was probably debated and studied several decades ago. After calming down, I headed back to my jeep feeling totally defeated. Until my fortunes changed: I spotted a friendly dude wearing a U.S. Park Service uniform who was greeting newcomers into the parking lot. Trixie and I walked up to him and I told him that I'd failed at 3 hikes in the day so far, with the current failure being my ignorance of the anti-dog rule in this national monument.

This park ranger saved the day. He explained that the monument is actually surrounded by Department of Energy land, owned by the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The DOE, it turns out, has beautiful trails throughout its vast wilderness that surrounds the land, which are all public, free for use by hikers, and dog-friendly. Even better, no tourists pay attention to them so they are serene, isolated, and untouched except by folks like him. He told me the exact mile markers to use for two of his favorite trails and how to find them.

I followed his advice, and this turned out to be one of the most magnificent hikes I've experienced in a while even though it was only about 1.5 miles one way (I could have extended it further but did not feel up to it). Trixie and I hiked from a simple but clearly marked trailhead off the main road out to the edge of the giant mesa on which we all were. The views at the edge of the mesa were outstanding, and included glimpses of the Rio Grande in the distance. For me, the sign of any good trail or hike is my desire to sit down and then simply be unable to head back home. That's what happened. I was mesmerized by the view, by the beauty of New Mexico's canyons, and by the solitude. We did not see a single other hiker on this trail, on a Memorial Day weekend Sunday.

Thanks, park ranger, for saving the weekend.

GPS coords for this trip log are of the trailhead, which is marked by a Los Alamos Laboratory sign that contains an excellent map. I'm marking the trip log as 6 miles of hiking rather than the 3 for this hike, to account for the portions of the failed hikes I attempted that day.
"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." --John Adams
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