Exploring the Land of Enchantment

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of July 9-15, 1998
Planning a memorable trip to Australia
Exploring the “Land of Enchantment”
Backpacking in Ireland on the cheap
Rafting Tennessee’s Olympic-famous Ocoee River

Exploring the “Land of Enchantment”
Question: I’m moving soon to the “Land of Enchantment” and would like some tips on places to hike, boulder, kayak, or just hang out. I’ll be working for the Institute of Mining and Technology in the Socorro area as a geology cartographer, so I hope to get out and explore quite a bit. During my interview process I was taken to nearby Water Canyon in Cibola National Forest. Nice Place. Any other ideas?

Paul Brown
San Jose, California

Adventure Adviser: Two of the most popular kayaking spots in New Mexico are near Taos on the Rio Grande River. The first, dubbed the Race Course by rafters and kayakers, is accessed from the town of Pilar right off of New Mexico 285, approximately one-half hour south of Taos. With a steady flow of Class III rapids, the Race Course is an exciting little five-mile stretch of whitewater. A step above the Race Course in terms of whitewater is the Box, a 15-mile stretch of Class IV rapids separated by long stretches of flat water. To access the box, take NM 285 through Taos until you reach the Arroyo Hondo Valley approximately two miles north. You’ll see a general store on your left. Take an immediate left after the store onto a paved road Follow that road for a few miles until you reach the John Dunn Bridge, which is your put-in. Though the water isn’t considered to be terribly technical or dangerous, at least one woman has already died this year on the Box, so don’t take the seemingly benign whitewater for granted. For more information on kayaking, call Wild River Sports (505-982-7040) in Santa Fe. A wonderful place to backpack is the Santa Fe National Forest east of Santa Fe. Whether you prefer a simple day hike up Santa Fe Baldy, or a five-day backpacking trip that traverses a good chunk of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, you can access wilderness within an easy 20-minute drive up Hyde Park Road in Santa Fe. One great weekend jaunt is to start at the Santa Fe Ski Basin parking lot at the top of Hyde Park Road, hike up the Windsor Trail, and instead of doing a daytrip up Baldy and back, head down the backside into the Pecos Wilderness. You’ll eventually end up at the Holy Ghost Campground accessed off of New Mexico 63. The trip is approximately 20 miles and traverses Aspen groves, wide-open vistas, and dips into a few mountain lakes. You’ll have to arrange for a shuttle pickup or park a car at each trailhead. For maps and further information, call the National Forest Service/BLM office in Santa Fe (505-438-7840). Finally, for a late fall, early spring excursion, head to Chaco Culture National Historic Park in northwestern New Mexico, 20 miles south of New Mexico 44. Chaco Canyon is a desolate world unto itself riddled with Anasazi ruins. Choose to camp in the designated campground or get a free backcountry permit and hike out to some of the furthest removed ruins rarely seen by human eyes. Since the park is so far removed, it is an excellent place for stargazing and oftentimes offers workshops or weekend seminars. For details, call 505-786-7014.

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