It’s always good to talk with your camp host and/or local ranger when exploring a new area. On a recent camping trip to New Mexico, the locals told us about two hikes worth doing while in the region. You can see exactly where we were in this previous post about Cimarron campground. While there, we had 3 days to do some exploring. If you are in the mountains above Red River, NM and want some scenic day hikes, here are two to consider:
We headed south from our campground about 20 minutes and navigated our way solely off vague directions the ranger had given us the previous day. We thought we were in the right spot because he told us to go past McCrystal Campground and shortly thereafter we would see a roadside parking area. (See 2nd photo below)
On the first outing, we parked, took some photos, then decided to walk down a gated road that was on the same side of the road as the parking area. The men had told us the scout camp “was about 1 or 2 miles in.” Matt set his pedometer to help us know when we should be coming up to the destination.
It was a beautiful, wide valley with an abundance of wildflowers, trees and wildlife. Bowie came across a resting fawn and she chased the poor thing in circles until it finally outran her. Two white-tailed deer came around shortly after and “barked” at us in admonishment for messing with their child. We were kind of freaked out! I apologized to them and promised to take Puppy far away from them.
We eventually wound up in an old boy scout camp. Evidence of fires showed themselves with black-trunked trees and brittle orange pine needles. There were cabin frames that stood lonely on wood platforms and even an old portable potty which hid behind a barricade of downed trees that served as a privacy fence.
It was hot, but a few groups of trees that covered the road were a nice reprieve from the shining sun. The hike was about 3.2 miles round trip.
The Valle Vidal (pronounced VA-yay vee-DAL) area of the Carson National Forest has been called the Yellowstone of the Southwest for it’s abundance of wildlife and the broad open meadows. I don’t believe we’ve ever witnessed so much wildlife on one trip!
On our way back to camp that day, we saw lots of buffalo. (A mama, baby and daddy very close to our car! It was awesome to see them that close up.)
We also watched a bobcat cross the road right in front of us. We stopped and I tried to take a picture even though it was hiding in the brush just above the road (there were 2 deer on the opposite side of the road-I guess we messed up the cat’s dinner plans!) She’s hard to spot, but she’s staring back at me…
The area is known for being a protected elk calving spot. We saw elk and deer, although I’m not good at differentiating the two. The deer I grew up with in California look different from the ones we’ve seen in the southwest.
I’m ususlly in the passenger seat, which is advantageous for a photographer. I spotted a black bear chilling out in the grass, but by the time I screamed for Matt to pull over, the black furry mass had almost disappeared into the pines. All I manged to capture was his little black butt…Oh well. It was seriously one of the coolest things to see a bear in its natural habitat. It makes me understand all those nuts who try to live with bears a little better. They’re super cute!
The following day we packed up camp and headed down the road for home. We stopped at the same parking area we used for the scout camp, but instead walked down a path on the opposite side of the road. We assumed this would be the other trail our camp host told us about. An old ghost town sounded very intriguing to us!
On this side of the valley we had a creek to follow and the faint dusting of an old wagon road. Behind us were the mountains we hiked toward on the previous day; they were covered with bulging rain clouds. Each time we went around a bend, we said, “the town will probably be up here.” We repeated that about twelve times. We were almost ready to turn around; storm clouds brooding in the distance and the fact that we had gone well past the 2 mile marker made us think that we had somehow missed it. I wanted to turn around, but Matt pushed to “go around one more bend.” And sure as you’d know, we saw something resembling a gate near the stream.
“Is that a house on the hill right there?” We crossed the stream to investigate.
Yes indeed, we witnessed remnants of log cabins that once made this valley a town. Our camp host also mentioned a cemetery, which we found up against a hill.
We were happy we hadn’t given up on finding the spot, but I have to say, the old ghost town was not quite as “fantastical” as the old man made it out to be. It was a great hike though-not difficult to manuever, but still a very good walk. It was just under 5 miles round trip and was the perfect way to end our mountain stay!