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Old 11-27-2013, 06:48 PM   #1
Southmt OP
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Capitan Mountains, NM

Just a little 3-day ride. Part was in the Capitan Mountains of SE Nuevo Mexico. Mostly they were a destination. We have trials in that corner of the state in the fall, go about 50 miles east of the Capitans to Roswell, then 20 more miles east to the BLM off-road area called Haystack Mountain. Last year, I took my KLR down there and tried to ride west to the Capitans and camp (rather than ride the trials) but it was cold, damp, and misting, and that was down on the flatlands. Not as comfortable up on top. I turned around.

I'm glad I did, as I didn't take a good look at maps, and had everything all wadded up in my mind, and would have been seriously... uh... disoriented and wandered around forever.

This year, Son Trevor would be down there with his sweetie Lia, and I planned on leaving home Friday morning, and meeting them down there Saturday night after a night in the mountains.

Why the Capitans? I worked there for the Forest Service in '74-'75 or thereabouts. They're a (rare) east-west range, poking up out of the flats, north of Ruidoso and west of Roswell. I'd been on top once on a fire, it gets LOTS of lightning strikes, for some reason. I wanted to go there again. Some is Wilderness now, but there's a road up the end of the mountain and along the ridge for a ways. Riding that was the plan, the goal of the trip...

Oh, and that's where the real Smokey Bear came from. Cub found in the Capitans. Bet you didn't know that.

Sooo... here's a map. Took some alternate routes.



Heading out of the Albaturkey fringes, on down towards Corona. Ahhhhh.... Looks pretty bleak in the photo, but the distant mountains on the left are the Gallinas, then some mesas (one with a wind farm), out of the photo to the right are the Manzanos, the Sandias, the San Pedros (where I live), the Ortiz, then (180 behind us) the Sangre De Cristos east of Santa Fe. From the Gallinas to the Sangre's is about 120 miles.... love these landscapes! No claustrophobia here....



Past a pretty neat homestead. I'd love to know the history and the people that built this.




Onward to Cedarvale, a mini-place along the road. I'd always thought it was named after the "cedar" (juniper) trees about 10 miles west. Nope. I'm thankful for signs like this.



The old schoolhouse. I always though it was pretty cool, driving by. On one trip, I stopped and explored.



Who'd a thunk it? A subterranian gymnasium, no doubt they had bleachers. Check out the roof beams. I'd give about anything to see a ball game here, when it was in its heyday.



On to Corona, a good place to gas up. RR tracks on one side, the town strung out on the other.



A bit south of town, on a totally nondescript hill, another historical marker. Again... who'd a thunk it.



The highway goes south to Carrizozo, but there's a dirt road that roughly parallels it, as do the RR tracks. Off onto the dirt.





Jicarilla Mountains, looking SE. Capitans in the left distance.



North of Carrizozo is Ancho ("wide" or "broad"). When I worked for the FS, my roommate was from a ranch there. His Mom ran a museum for a lot of years, and I was wondering if there would be anybody there, maybe learn something about my old buddy.

Nope. This must've been the museum...




There were only a couple abandoned-looking houses in "town", but it looked like this old schoolhouse was still being used as a church.



Out back. Seems all the old schools had such facilities. You'll see a much better one later.




Don't you wish you could see kids playing here, 'way back when?




Heading east to them Jicarilla Mountains....

Posted, keep out, right? Hah! This very public road passes through private land. You need to keep on the road and right-of-way, but the sign is totally misleading. I wonder how many well-behaved, law-abiding folks following their map see this and turn around? I have.




Up in the mouintains, I ran across this really interesting building.




Wow, somebody took it upon themselves to let people like me know what it is. Thanks!




Inside.



A nice big Alligator Juniper.



Here's why they have that name.




The cistern. I expect that roof runoff was their drinking water. (I was a lookout in the Guadalupes, south of there, and the cistern *was* the drinking water, straight and unfiltered. Go throw a bucket down and get some...)



Dovetail joints, hand-hewn logs.





Leaving. It'll be a long ride trying to find a camping place. Coulda stopped close to here, but it was too early. I had no idea what was ahead.



Got out of the serious Forest Service land, into a checkerboard of public/private/public/private....

Then I ran totally out of public land, going east out of the mountains. It was great country, seemingly endless rolling grassy plains, really nice. All gated, fenced, "No Trespassing". Couldn't go back, there wasn't any camping for the last 30 miles, so I kept going. Got back onto Forest/public land, on Capitan Pass, and there were some sideroads with good camping spots. Ahhhhh...

It's amazing that in such empty country, it can be so hard to find a place to throw your bag out for the night.




This is on the far west end of the Capitans. To the east is West Mountain, then Capitan Gap (where we're going) then the East Mountain. East Mountain is by far the bigger of the two, the Main Mountain so to speak. Got that?)

Oh, here's dinner. Yum.



Next morning, heading down into the valley, we camped a bit high last night, but it didn't get too cold.



Capitan. My memories are of the Smokey Bear Cafe and the Rusty Anchor Bar (where'd they get that name?).

Well, "The Anchor" is gone, anyway, it was breakfast time. There was another "new" cafe in town, El Paisano or something like that, it had a herd of Prius's (Prii?) and such out front, I headed for the Smokey Bear. It had a bunch of pick-em-ups out front, tethered like horses at a hitching post.

As you might expect, it was very local-low-key, bordering on dumpy. People talking about the high school game coming up, people walking in and being greeted by their friends. A table of camo'd hunters, the waitress girl approached with a coffee pot... thanks, but there's no coffee drinkers here. What? That beat me....

Anyway, it was good to go there, 40 years later. I hope it's there 40 more years from now, just as it is.




East out of town a couple miles, then north to Capitan Gap, between the West and East Mountains.




Road narrowed down once it got past the last ranch turnoff...



The Gap.



The road going up the end of the mountain, then along the ridge. I knew it'd be a bit rough. I had a 16t on the front (stock rear), but didn't want to change it for this one little bit of road.




Up the main grade. Some 'gas it and go'. Way down below, that's the road we came up on. Sierra Blanca in the background. As usual, the photo doesn't do it justice.



Along the ridge, the road goes up and down....




Pretty purple things.




For being just a big rockpile, there are some nice forests up there.




Onward...




Crossing one of the numerous rockslides. That mountain is mostly rockslides.




On top, as far as the road goes. East from there is wilderness, and trails. The rack is for more big solar arrays. There was a generator humming along, but I'd think solar would be much better.




Heading down. I was apprehensive, as going up is easier than coming down.

Going up, if it doesn't work out, you stop and/or fall over. Going down, if things don't work out as expected, it can be a continuing event, augmented by the force of gravity, and you have a front-row seat. I'd called Son Trevor at the trials in Roswell (ain't good cell phones great?) just to let him know where I was and when to expect me.




Heading down along the ridge.




More red-weeds.





A nice oak tree.



Through a burn. Hot enough to kill the trees, but look at the grasses coming up beneath. Nature's cycle.



Another view of Sierra Blanca. Ruidoso is at the foot of it.



Down to the bottom. Coming down wasn't as bad as I'd feared (loose surface, rolly rocks, etc.). I'm ok with that.

Onward, there's a paved road out on the flats that parallels the mountain. Goes straight into Roswell.

This road might go straight down to it, but another branch parallels the mountain for quite a ways before turning downhill and joining the pavement. I figured I'd take that way. For some stupid reason, I thought it'd be a pretty "good" road.




Not bad, but not what I expected.



What's this? Water? About the last place I expected that. Can I ride through it? This is something new! Holy s**t!




Holy s**t for real! How do you spell b-i-g b-e-a-r? I noticed 7 of these along the road. Either a lot of bears, or one bear that had a thing for pooping in the road. I know!... the dude was in the bushes laughing his ears off, that another stupid human would stop and take a picture of his poop....





More of that wet stuff. I figured the mountain is half rockslides, so the water goes straight into the ground rather than evaporating or running off right away. Thus the springs.




This is where that came from, a little gushing hole in the ground. (I guess that's what a spring is, eh?)




Had to take pictures of all of 'em. Really surprised me.



There are the towers. I hadn't picked up on the fact that there was a good-sized burn up there, when I was up there. But it was all brushy, I guess that should have been a clue.



Cool snag.



The going was slow, 1st gear (especially with the 16t sprocket). Turned out to be about 35 miles in 1st gear that day. Anyway, I was afeared I'd get most of the way around the hill and reach something impassable. I REALLY didn't want to have to turn back.

This was the worst. There was an old bladed route running around this (to the left where that log is sticking out), evidently at some time in the past somebody needed that, though now it was overgrown and had deadfall across it. But it was an option.

Well, a little rock-work, and it was worth a try. I'm amazed at how a loaded KLR, with generous applications of throttle, can get up stuff.



At the end of the road. Hang a right and cruise on down to Roswell. Being a slacker, and familiar with the area (yeah, right) I figured 20 miles. Turned out to be more like 60.....





Saw this guy along the road. He was stretched out and not moving, I feared he'd gotten run over. Stopped and nudged him with my foot. Stiff, maybe mostly dead?



Heck no, I'd just woke him up! He struck at me (missed) and was rarin' to go. Yeah... I'd checked out his tail first.....



Moved him off the road with a stick, continued on to Roswell. Looking back at the Capitans.



Looking forward. Hey, I just wanted to BE there.



Made it through town, and past town another 20 miles to Haystack Mountain (mountain????) BLM riding area, a very cool place for all sorts of off-road motorcycling. We need more places like this, give people a good, legal, appropriate place to go.

Here's Son Trevor selling parts, he sells parts and gear out of his trailer. With the price of gas, and using my old gas hog '74 Chevy to pull it, that's a losing proposition!



From the other side. The young lady on the ramp is Sadie, her family came over to trials from desert racing. Sold her Dad my bike as a present for Mom. They got hooked on trials and all three have been kicking butt ever since. Great family! The other lady is Trev's sweetie Lia, an herbalist. Love her to death, she likes to go to trials and camp.



Leaving the next morning, another school. This one has two entrances, I guess to keep the sexes separate, and a magnificent facility out back.



Through Roswell, used to live there, nice place but no pictures. Here are the Capitans. Again.



The idea was to head west, then instead of going back towards the mountains, go north across many miles of plains, intersect a road that goes west to Corona. Remember Corona? All roads lead to Corona.

Anyway, right there at the turn north was this.... your tax dollars at work.



Rural New Mexico, what else can I say?



Plains.



This the Year of the Grasshopper in New Mexico. They're all over! At home, now in November, they're still all over. Strange. They were like popcorn jumping off the road.



Tank. Guess what mountains those are....



More road. This turned out to be 40 miles, and I never passed another car. Just a handful of ranches, maybe every 5 miles or so.



Had to get the bike in a picture.



Little hill / big hill. I was struck by the scene, endless flats all around, then 2 hills, similar but very different.



Along the way was a very big marshy area... some strange freak of geology. Saw this deer there. there's another to the right, you can just barely see an ear-tip.



End of the road, hit the pavement. Guess which.....



Onward to Corona. I like flatlands and mountains, some of each.



Through Corona, headed south a couple miles then west to take a loop through the Gallinas.




Not much of a loop, I just skirted the north edge. The map showed a road going through, but.....

(SOAPBOX) For whatever reason, some people want to liquidate all our public land, and figure everything should be private property. Well, take a good look at this. That's all you'd ever see. (ENDSOAPBOX)




Leaving the mountains, see that little dim mountain poking up on the left? That's home, many many miles away.




Wind farm.



Cattleguards! Something told me to take a good look at 'em before going across. This one wouldn't have caused a disaster, but they can. Saw one once on a paved (fairly high-speed) road, right on a curve. Two panels, they'd pulled apart and there was about a 6" slot in between,right parallel with the direction of travel. Drop your front wheel into that, and....!!!!




Interesting sign. Willard, NM.



Almost home, an 11-mile straight-arrow road. South Mountain to the left, San Pedros to the right, Ortiz on the far right. Sandias with Albuquerque beyond are the farthest away. Bet you wanted to know that, eh?



Last photo.



That's it! Finally made it to the top of the Capitans again, after ... lessee... 38 years. Still a great place. Next time, I'll know what to expect.

Southmt screwed with this post 08-15-2014 at 06:15 PM Reason: Fat fingers typo
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Old 11-28-2013, 08:29 AM   #2
Wallace
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Lived in New Mexico all my life but I'm ashamed to say this is an area I have not explored. Thanks for the detailed history and photos.
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Old 11-28-2013, 09:55 AM   #3
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Lots of cool picture's. Neat ride!

Funny

Holy s**t for real! How do you spell b-i-g b-e-a-r? I noticed 7 of these along the road. Either a lot of bears, or one bear that had a thing for pooping in the road. I know!... the dude was in the bushes laughing his ears off, that another stupid human would stop and take a picture of his poop....



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Old 11-28-2013, 10:02 AM   #4
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Been through this area a thousand times; always wondered about county road options. Usually bearing down to reach destination though. Very interesting country for sure. Saludos, Jim
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Old 11-28-2013, 10:07 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Southmt View Post
Just a little 3-day ride.

. . . .

Next time, I'll know what to expect.

Excellent, thanks for taking us along with you.
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Old 11-28-2013, 10:22 AM   #6
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great ride report with some really cool pictures and history!
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Old 11-28-2013, 10:30 AM   #7
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Nice ride report. Love that part the country.
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Old 11-28-2013, 07:51 PM   #8
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Thanks for this. good to see it from your camera, but I'll have to do it myself...
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Old 11-29-2013, 07:35 AM   #9
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Great report and pictures. I really enjoyed it. We have done quite a bit of riding down there over the years.

I guess if I read closely I could figure it out, but where was that primitive road section, the one in the area of your report with the radio towers?

Was it some kind of loop or out-and back ride?
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Old 11-29-2013, 07:57 AM   #10
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Thanks for sharing that.
I'm going to check out that area in the Delorme atlas while I'm thinking about it.
How's the snow up in the mountains?
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Old 11-30-2013, 07:16 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wbbnm View Post
Great report and pictures. I really enjoyed it. We have done quite a bit of riding down there over the years.

I guess if I read closely I could figure it out, but where was that primitive road section, the one in the area of your report with the radio towers?

Was it some kind of loop or out-and back ride?
I updated that first photo of the RR, added the road up to the towers. About 9 miles up and back. Goes up the end of the mt. then along the ridge. Then that stretch along the north side of the mt. is pretty primitive too.

Dunno about the snow down there.... we just had a storm, we got 10" where I live east of Albq. They do get pretty good snows down there.
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Old 11-30-2013, 07:51 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Southmt View Post
I updated that first photo of the RR, added the road up to the towers. About 9 miles up and back. Goes up the end of the mt. then along the ridge. Then that stretch along the north side of the mt. is pretty primitive too.

Dunno about the snow down there.... we just had a storm, we got 10" where I live east of Albq. They do get pretty good snows down there.
Thanks, that map is perfect. I was thinking about putting that stretch over the mountain in our last trip, but I wasn't sure it went thru.

I have a few problems down there getting on a forest road and then not being able to get the last mile to a highway because ranchers have it blocked off.
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Old 11-30-2013, 02:06 PM   #13
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Nice ride,
I have the same sprocket set up
on my KLR. Great on the highway,
but, if it were easy, I'd change to a 14t
for the dirt. I need panniers like your yours.
Thanks for the report.
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Old 11-30-2013, 03:09 PM   #14
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Enjoyed the reading your RR. Well done...
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Old 11-30-2013, 03:48 PM   #15
Southmt OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wbbnm View Post
Thanks, that map is perfect. I was thinking about putting that stretch over the mountain in our last trip, but I wasn't sure it went thru.

I have a few problems down there getting on a forest road and then not being able to get the last mile to a highway because ranchers have it blocked off.
It goes through, I was apprehensive about getting through because of rider skill.

From the Gap it might go straight down to the pavement, but I took the alternate route, east along the foothills. That goes through too.

I did run into the Private-Rancher-or-Wealthy-Landowner problem in the Gallinas.
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