Seeking isolation in New Mexico (1 Viewer)


High mileage, good condition, needs TLC.
Sep 9, 2019
Hurley, NM 88043
Once the exclusive realm of the Apache, the San Mateo Mountains northwest of Truth or Consequences New Mexico rise in solitary splendor and are managed by the U.S. Forest Service as part of the greater Cibola National Forest. Vick's Peak rises to just over 10,000 ft at the south end of the 40 mile long range. Named after Apache Chief Victorio, head of the Warm Springs Band who lived and hunted here, the enormous south facing cliffs can be seen for miles. Luna Park Campground sits near the base of Vick's Peak and is popular with climbers. Strangely carved cliffs rise up about 100ft from the 4 little campsites and one can spot pitons and chocks marking climbing routes on the boulders and cliffs.

My friends D_ and K_ wanted to get away for a few days during the panic and fear and decided to come here, one of the most isolated places we knew of that was likely to be warm and most importantly, deserted. Getting there includes leaving the pavement in Monticello, NM and driving up rugged, twisting Forest Service road 139 for 9 miles. the first 6 or 7 miles are ok and we are thinking that bringing our travel trailers along was a great idea. We started to change our mind when we hit the switch backs that brought us up the final 1,000 feet in elevation over two miles or so to our destination. We crawled and creeped over rocks and wash-outs wondering if we had made a big mistake. D_ in the lead with his 30ft fifth-wheel had to do some creative backing up on the worst switch back which more than freaked out his wife K_ since the drop off at that point was straight down at least 500ft. My 22ft trailer was doing fine but I was starting to wonder how my two cats were doing with all the bumping and shaking. At this point we had no choice but to keep going. There was no place to turn around. We finally rounded the last bend as the campground came into view.

Luna Park did not disappoint, it was deserted and the view was beautiful. We were confident on leaving home that the campgrounds in the San Mateo's were not closed, at least according to the Forest Service website they were all still open. Checking the information board upon arriving, we find a laminated sign in black bold print stating "CLOSED." So we decided to stay anyway. After that torturous climb, we were exhausted and ready to relax as were the cats who were pissed but just fine. We had it all to ourselves, we thought, until we woke up the next morning and realized that two other campers had arrived in the night and decided to flout the closure order along with us. Two young couples in their SUVs had arrived some time in the night. They were nice and we got to watch them show off their climbing skills while we practiced social distancing. I spent most of my time climbing around looking for good vantage points for some pictures.

We arrived last Thursday and by Sunday everyone was gone including D_ and K_ who had left their cat at home and needed to get back. The other couples left too and I had the place to myself for one whole day. It was glorious. Monday comes and I decide to head toward Hillsboro where there are several gold claims I have access to through a membership in the Gold Prospector's Association of America. I've been camped near one since Monday and am slowly learning about prospecting and panning just for the fun of it. Turns out it's hard work requiring much patience and tolerance for failure. I am camped near a tiny stream and steep hills rise all around me and deep canyons lead up to the high Mimbres Mountains which are part of the larger Black Range in the Gila National Forest. There is an old ruin next to my campsite where crudely shaped rocks form a 12' x 12' square that now all but collapsed, once was home to someone trying to make a go of it in this beautiful but forbidding land. Living here 150 years ago would mean certain death by Apache who fiercely protected their homeland.

Thinking now about heading back to home base (D&K graciously let me use their home when needed) to restock and plan for my next, more extended outing. Once it warms up a bit more, I'm heading for the East Fork Gila River for some fishing, hiking, photographing and relaxing. I'm lucky to have a tiny signal here but in the Gila headwaters, there will be only silence. It a great place to ride out this pandemic and I have to capacity to last a month off grid in relative comfort. I'm one of the fortunate ones.

Here's a pic of Vic's Peak. More pics coming when I get a better signal. Stay safe and well everyone.


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Jan 31, 2020
This area of nm always eludes me in my travels across this state. This is definitely a great place to get away from the world. Dig the post, thank you.

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