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Old 04-29-2013, 08:46 PM   #1
gregdee OP
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Northern New Mexico Routes

Last summer my wife and I did two trips that required us to return home from Antonito, CO to where we live in Tijeras, NM, which is pretty much smack dab in the middle of New Mexico. We often end up in Antonito, CO as it is the exit point from the San Juan mountain range and is a good stop for gas. There are a couple of routes that will lead you there. One is via forest service road 103 which crosses the Rio de Los Pinos up high, crosses through the old railroad town of Osier, and then flows east with grand views of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in southern CO and Northern NM. The other route is along forest service road 87A which leaves the Lagunitas camp ground and Cruces Basin Wilderness and eventually runs down along the lower part of the Rio de Los Pinos taking you just south of Antonito.

Now there is nothing special about Antonito except that they have gas. We stopped for lunch once. The food we had at some Mexican/American joint was crap. There aren't a lot of choices in Antonito. By slab one can either run south on 285 for an hour+ eventually running through Ojo Caliente and Espanolla, or they can retrace the routes they probably took heading north along the CDT route from El Rito to Hopewell Lakes, crossing highway 64 and continuing north towards Cumbres Pass.

We want dirt, at least as far as Taos if possible. Once in Taos one can pick up the High Road which takes you back to Nambe on a superb piece of pavement that I would never hesitate to ride on any bike. To complete our first big trip last summer we looked at the map and decided to head north from Antonito and cut across to highway 522 via Manasa (home of the Jack Dempsey Museum) and then run south through Costillo, Questa, Honda, and eventually Taos. The first 1/4 of the route was OK but the rest was lame. Next we stole a route from Big Dog and cut across from Antonito to Costilla via country road G which crosses the Rio Grande on an old wooden bridge . This route was actually pretty cool but it dumps you really far north, pretty much at the boarder between NM and CO. At the time we were inclined to ride up and across the Via Vidal as we had never been through there. The ride through Via Vidal was nice but once you leave there the land is primarily private and the road is basically boring gravel road for another 30 or so miles and you eventually pop out just north of Cimaron. And from here its another hour or so up to Eagle's Nest and Angel Fire with two or three choices home from there.

I wanted to find a better more interesting route so I spent some time playing around with various maps and found that there appeared to be a potential route across the mesa between highway 285 and the Rio Grande river gorge. Saturday morning we decide to go see if it could work. I new it would be a long day since it is a solid 3 hour drive via highway to Antonito from Tijeras. We planned to hit the road at 7:00 a.m. and get to Bode's in Abiquiu for burritos before 9:00.

Saturday came and we hit the road at 7:26 a.m. We prepped the bikes and all our gear the night before but this is how it goes when you end up sleeping until 6:36. The morning air was crisp and I had decided against wearing my extra down jacket layer under my shell. Dumb ass move - I was cold and had to pee bad before we were half way to Bode's but I stuck it out. We rolled into Bode's just after 9:00 and scored ourselves 4 burritos and 4 double walled stainless steel espresso cups. They have great stuff at the store and you can never have too many espresso cups! We sat on the bench out front and "hoovered" our burritos We were pretty hungry after 100 miles on the road with nothing but coffee to get us going. The other two were for lunch later on so we didn't have to suffer the cuisine of Antonito on this trip. A guy getting gas chatted us up and we explained our intended route. He was truly surprised we'd be riding dirt on these bikes. I explained that these bikes did great in the dirt so long as they stayed upright.

We back tracked a bit and picked up highway 554 through El Rito, the classic CDT route, but we continued on the pavement to the junction with 111 and then headed north up through La Madera, Vallecitos, and Canon Plaza. Our past experience with the dirt section of the CDT we bypassed was that it was marginal and not really worth our time riding it. We were rewarded with super fun twisty backcountry pavement winding along streams and through farming valleys. An excellent choice and I am glad we did it. Eventually the chosen route turned to dirt as we merged with the CDT again following route 42 and then 91B.



The going was good most of the way until we got up above ~9500 ft or so where we started to encounter snow drifts. Some creative route finding was in order. There were only two spots that we required we leave the road and we followed previous tracks in both cases. Here's one spot that looked a lot more intimidating that it really was.



In hind sight it would probably have been better to stay on FS 42 going east and staying a little lower in elevation, to dump out onto highway 64 this time of year, but we didn't know that at the time. We eventually made it to 64 crossing the last major snow drift only 200 yards south of the highway.

We aired back up when we got to the pavement as riding a 500+ lb 135 hp bike with only 25 psi in your tires is not something I'd like to do on purpose. We've been using the Double Tough pumps we picked up at Cycle Gear for 50% off at $19.99 several months back but mine seized up and started to smoke. Get what you pay for. I finished off the job using Kerry's pump. We had 10-15 miles of highway 64 to cruise to get back out to 285 at Tres Piedres and from there is was a run up to the CO boarder and Antonito. Highway 64 is super fun and I'd hit this again. Only other time I'd been on this road I was making a run from Wolf Creek ski area to Taos Ski Valley and we were following a snow plow truck. Wasn't so scenic on that trip as it was dumping heavily at the time.

We gassed up in Antonito as we were down to less than half a tank at this point. We headed east out of town on the most southern road in Antonito, even south of the gas station, to the east and across the railroad tracks. It soon headed south, then east again. We were in farm country. After about 10 minutes of marbly gravel road we pulled over to air down and eat the second batch of burritos. It was 1 o'clock already.

We continued east a bit more then south once again. Things were looking good and I was beginning to have confidence that my route would work out. We were now out on the Taos Plateau but the only way I knew we had crossed back into NM was because of my GPS. There was no state line that I saw but perhaps one of the many fences marked the boundary.




Riding through here felt like I imagine riding through Mongolia to be. High grasslands with hills nearby and high snow capped peaks in the distance. I here that in Mongolia though they don't have any fences. We're training for that "someday trip".

Here's a sequence of Kerry taking off:








And a couple of shots of me to prove I was actually there.





As we approached the end of this particular route we began to see some interesting houses. This ain't no earth ship:



Did you see that triple garage? Those are like RV height. Someone must have some serious toys parked in there.

Upon making it to the top of the river gorge we stopped at the overlook and snapped a couple more shots. The river was a beautiful green color and looked to be running clear, very much unlike how it is running through Albuquerque.


Those are my thigh vents that are open, not my drawers hanging out.

And here you can see our route down.



The switchbacks were fairly tight but manageable, although from my vantage point it sure looked like Kerry was about to fly off the edge exiting one of the turns as I saw rocks shooting out from under her rear wheel as she was directed right towards the edge. My heart skipped several beats watching that one. I think she was too freaked out by the entire series of switchbacks that she wasn't even aware of what I had witnessed.

There were lots of cars parked and since this is really the first nice day we've had this Spring loads of people were out fishing, hiking, and enjoying the river. Nice spot I might come back to some day.

We rolled up the east bank and picked up the highway into Taos. We stopped for a much needed break and grabbed a good cup of coffee. From there it was the High Road south. There's a tight right hand turn, very much like a switchback, that you make when you join 76 just south of Sipapu. Kerry had zero issues with this and I swear it was much tighter than any of the switchbacks we'd come down to meet the John Dunn bridge just a hour or so earlier. We rode through the early evening light enjoying the crisp mountain air. The descent from Truchas that time of day was fantastic!

We eventually got back onto our usual route down north 14 and rolled up our driveway well after dark to an eagerly awaiting dog named Buster who let us know in that howling beagle voice that we were way late for dinner.

Here's a map of the route across the Taos Plateau. We successfully achieved our goal of finding an alternate dirt route south from Antonito that would allow us to miss the majority of 522 in northern NM. Total distance: 417 miles; ride time 8:59; travel time 13:01.



There appears to be quite a network of roads up there and some appear as if they may make it down to the river. Definitely worth more exploring and an overnight camp trip or two. Anyone know much about the plateau?
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Old 05-01-2013, 06:19 AM   #2
bluebird120
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Great write up! Will be down in that area this weekend to poke around the dirt, probably stealing a bit of your route for sure. I have been across that bridge you are talking about via BigDog's route, Pretty awesome area for sure. Is the track across the plateau pretty straight forward or is there a lot of navigating?
There is river access and campgrounds north of taos on 522 south of questa, just driven down to them...never stayed the night due to lack of shade(summertime).
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Old 05-01-2013, 06:54 AM   #3
Carl Childers
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Hey, that's my backyard ! I've spent many happy days riding the Taos Plateau. There are miles and miles of side roads and trails that come off the main route, so many that they can't all be ridden in even several days time.It gives me a place to ride when the mountains are snowed in.

I also use that road to get me near Stunner Pass outside of Antonito that connects me up with hundreds of miles of asphalt free riding all the way up to the San Juan Mtns. On my annual summer dual Sport trip to Colorado.

Nice ride report your pictures do the area justice.
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Old 05-01-2013, 06:42 PM   #4
gregdee OP
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Originally Posted by bluebird120 View Post
Great write up! Will be down in that area this weekend to poke around the dirt, probably stealing a bit of your route for sure. I have been across that bridge you are talking about via BigDog's route, Pretty awesome area for sure. Is the track across the plateau pretty straight forward or is there a lot of navigating?
There is river access and campgrounds north of taos on 522 south of questa, just driven down to them...never stayed the night due to lack of shade(summertime).
There appears to be plenty of signage with the main routes numbered. There are also many side routes that seem to go all over the place. Give it a shot and let us know what you find.
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Old 05-01-2013, 07:55 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Carl Childers View Post
Hey, that's my backyard ! I've spent many happy days riding the Taos Plateau. There are miles and miles of side roads and trails that come off the main route, so many that they can't all be ridden in even several days time. It gives me a place to ride when the mountains are snowed in.
Oh please tell, are there any routes that drop down to the river up by the Punche Valley? I saw some spots on Google Earth that looked like they might work out as a camp spot down near the river.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carl Childers
I also use that road to get me near Stunner Pass outside of Antonito that connects me up with hundreds of miles of asphalt free riding all the way up to the San Juan Mtns. On my annual summer dual Sport trip to Colorado.
Been through Stunner a few times. I actually prefer the route through Jasper on 255 that goes by the Terrace Reservoir as opposed to the CDT route coming through Platoro. The road up to Platoro Reservoir is way too busy. Which is your preferred route or are there others?

Quote:
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Nice ride report your pictures do the area justice.
Thanks. Appreciate the compliment.
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Old 05-02-2013, 06:59 PM   #6
Carl Childers
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I haven't explored Punche Valley area to any great extent yet but nearly everything south of the NM line (it is marked) and last time I went up a few weeks ago I did ride a number of new (to me) trails on the Co. side in the rolling foot hills area between the border and Antonito. I want to do an overnight up there soon so you have given me a new mission to see what's by the Rio Grande up around Punche! Anything on the NM side just takes you up to the rim of the gorge with the river 100's of feet below until you get to the Dunn bridge

Stunner and the pass road over to Del Norte is pretty deserted on week days but does get busy on weekends so I try and route myself through there during the week if I can. I do as little pavement as possible, The DR is geared down and has full knobbies and is the happiest in the dirt where she'll go about anywhere I want.On asphalt cruising speed is 60 - 65 with lots of tire noise!
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Old 05-02-2013, 09:03 PM   #7
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Stunner and the pass road over to Del Norte is pretty deserted on week days but does get busy on weekends so I try and route myself through there during the week if I can. I do as little pavement as possible, The DR is geared down and has full knobbies and is the happiest in the dirt where she'll go about anywhere I want.On asphalt cruising speed is 60 - 65 with lots of tire noise!
Wow, what are you geared down to? On my wifes DR and on my KLR we're running 14t counter shaft sprockets and we can do better than that speed wise, especially her DR. Doesn't matter really, as those bikes are not intended for speed.

Anyway, appreciate the info. Keep in touch with regard to what you find. It sure looked to me like one could cruise down or up river from the old bridge on the CO side, off of CR G or 8th street in Antonito I think it was.
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Old 05-03-2013, 07:39 AM   #8
Carl Childers
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The exact numbers escapes me (CRS) right now as I did the gearing a few years back but I believe I went down a tooth or two on the front and then up several teeth on the rear. It can still hit an indicated 80 mph with that gearing when it's wide open but the motor is not happy at that speed.

I will definitely keep you informed on what I find when I explore Punche. Another area that can accessed from the plateau rd. is the large wilderness area behind San Antonio Mtn. I've been trying to use that as a link to the bottom of Stunner pass and bypass Antonito altogether but haven't found any clear maps that show a connection. Without GPS it's a huge wilderness area I'd hate to get lost in. I may have to ride that a piece at a time till I figure it out. Have you traveled that area at all?
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Old 05-07-2013, 06:14 AM   #9
trampaslake
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Great report.

We spend the summers up there. I've always wondered if there was a way to get back north from the John Dunn bridge. You've found it.

Any chance you'd share your tracks?
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Old 05-07-2013, 08:07 PM   #10
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I will definitely keep you informed on what I find when I explore Punche. Another area that can accessed from the plateau rd. is the large wilderness area behind San Antonio Mtn. I've been trying to use that as a link to the bottom of Stunner pass and bypass Antonito altogether but haven't found any clear maps that show a connection. Without GPS it's a huge wilderness area I'd hate to get lost in. I may have to ride that a piece at a time till I figure it out. Have you traveled that area at all?
The only route through I have taken on the NM side is the CDT route put forth by BigDog as discussed at the top of this thread. On our trip to Moab (see sig) we tried to get through to 255 from one of the roads in Antonito but the route dead ended in some old dudes property, though the gps said it would go thru. Whoda thunk? I believe we ended up cutting north on 285 about 5 or so miles from Antonito before we cut west again. Point is that at least on the eastern slope of the San Juans adjacent to the highway there is not a route through. There would have to be something higher up.

My next place to look would be to find a spur off a 103 that allows you to cross the highway (17) somewhere west of Antonito but I don't recall ever seeing any other north-south routes in the area other than the two already mentioned - via Platoro or Jasper. Not a bad area to spend a weekend camped out once the snow melts out.

Just spent a few moments looking through maps on BaseCamp and there appear to be more than a few options to try and cut north. There are several lakes north of 17 so I am certain one could at least get in that far. Look for the La Jara reservoir and then Big Lake and that gets you almost to the Terrance reservoir. But I see a lot of what looks like non-NF land too so that could be an impediment. Then I looked at the Benchmark maps for a sanity check and all the lines in that area are thin - which means not real routes to me. Only one way to find out....ADVENTURE TIME

On a side note, I know what you meant but be careful of the use of the term wilderness. Wouldn't want folks to think we were riding moto's through Wilderness. How about we use wide open spaces with minimal private inholdings. Or better yet - Mongolia-like. Yes, I have a thing for Mongolia.

gregdee screwed with this post 05-08-2013 at 09:01 PM
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Old 05-08-2013, 05:55 AM   #11
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Mongolia it is!
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Old 05-08-2013, 09:01 PM   #12
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Any chance you'd share your tracks?
Sent.
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Old 05-08-2013, 09:55 PM   #13
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N.nm.

Love that part of the country,was out there in Aug.08 got caught in a hail storm,spent the night in Eagles Nest,wanna go back this summer,been awhile,it's time.
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