My Solo Wanderings of the West

BCBadger

New member
By sharing your stories and photos, you give people like myself, who won't be able do that sort of trip for a few years, a reason to work hard towards reaching that goal. Thanks so much for the inspiration, and the invaluable advice you have been so graciously passing along.
Cheers!
 

Ashton

Newbie
By sharing your stories and photos, you give people like myself, who won't be able do that sort of trip for a few years, a reason to work hard towards reaching that goal. Thanks so much for the inspiration, and the invaluable advice you have been so graciously passing along.
Cheers!
What he said! Motivation to work hard, long enough to spend a good deal of time doing this type of living.

Hope your plans take you down to the Gila and Leopold wilderness areas. The continental divide has some beautiful areas and seeing the Gila River flow freely may be a fleeting opportunity as there are plans to divert the head waters. You could easily bounce from Southwestern New Mexico (Silver City area) to Northern Arizona (Flagstaff) through Forrest lands to see the scenery before the area starts its triple digit weather threat. I have a plot of land in Gila, NM that my mom lives on, you are welcome to camp and use it for a base for a spell. Message me if you plan to head that way and we can chat more details
 

kennyj

Explorer
Thanks everybody for all the great comments! Chet, maybe I should do an update on my horns?

Leaving Cochiti Lake I got on I-25 headed south. I had considered looking up Walter White’s house in Albuquerque but decided I didn’t want to deal with the city and traffic; I got in the center lane and shot straight thru the city, all the way south to Socorro. Heading west out of Socorro on Route 60 the road climbs several thousand feet. Turning off the highway I crossed about 5 miles of desert plain then into the wooded Water Canyon in the Cibola National Forest.




There’s a free primitive campground there where I settled in for a few days.




Past the campground the road continues up the canyon and up the mountains, around switchbacks and narrow shelf roads.




The road climbs almost 5,000 vertical feet up to mountain meadows, with increasingly spectacular views.




At the top is the Magdalena Ridge Observatory. The amazing thing is that wild mountain road was built to construct the observatory and the complex of lab buildings and housing at the top of the mountain. A full time crew maintains the road 365 days a year for commuting staff.




A view on the way back down of the steep road. Not a drive I would want to make on an icy winter day!




One evening in the campground I heard a motorcycle sputtering up the hill. I met this guy, who bought his 70s Yamaha 400 for a few hundred dollars and was riding from Ohio to San Diego across US 60. No fancy luggage, he had everything wadded up under a cover and bungied to the bike. A clear plastic tray attached to the bars held map pages as his nav system.


 

kennyj

Explorer
Continuing travel west on 60 I crossed the St Augustin Plains and passed the VLA radio telescope array.




I had passed by here going east in 2014 and remembered this nice BLM campground near Datil. This time I settled in for a week or so to explore and enjoy the area. Being off season the campground was pretty quiet.




I took a couple rides back the 15 miles to the VLA. On one ride in the late afternoon the sun lights up the enormous radio telescope dish. A graphic at the visitor center showed two of the largest school buses end to end would not span the diameter of the dish, almost 100 feet.




A total of 27 dishes in 3 spokes of 9 dishes comprises the full array. Last time I saw them they were arrayed pretty close. This time the dishes were moved out to the largest array with a total diameter of about 20 miles. The distance between each of the dishes here is nearly a mile, the furthest dish is too far to see. The array is reconfigured every 4 months with a giant transporter moving them along double sets of rail tracks.

Operators reposition the dishes frequently; it’s very eerie to watch the giant array simultaneously swing around swiftly and silently to aim at another point in the sky.




A hawk perches high on top of one of the scopes.

 

kennyj

Explorer
I took a number of rides out in different directions across the St Augustin Plain. The area has an interesting history with a string of water wells spaced out across the plain from when there were annual cattle drives across the high plain. The watering places are still used by herds of pronghorn; these guys were grazing nearby.




From the Datil campground is a network of trails that climb to great views of the plains and surrounding mountains




 

kennyj

Explorer
20 miles up the road from Datil is Pietown, New Mexico, known for its pie!. This is the Pie-O-Neer which was closed. But there are at least 5 other places in Pietown to buy a $5 or $6 slice of pie.




Pietown also has Jackson Park, a large area where you can camp just about anywhere, including the outfield of the rundown baseball field. A road runs across between home and the pitchers mound. I found a spot with one of the few remaining tables.




Near the remains of the ball field I saw this sign, which directs to a line of port-a-potties that hadn’t been serviced in a very long time.




The next town up the road is Quemado. I stopped at the ranger station and stocked up on maps and info for the Gila National Forest. Leaving US 60 and heading south, I drove to the Quemado Lake area. The lake was really low, and with the pay campgrounds gated for the season, the area was only being used by hunters.




There is an area of free campsites with tables and fire rings. I was the only camper that wasn’t there hunting. I rode the bike out some of the area forest roads but was nervous riding through hunting grounds, even with a blaze orange vest over my riding jacket. It was a pretty dreary Halloween day in the forest.




Next update continues south into the Gila National Forest. Thanks for reading!
 

justbecause

perpetually lost
I spent a summer in Magdalena working at the Philmont satellite camp "Double H". I would do anything if I could get another shot at that summer, I would do more exploring and less drinking.
 

chet6.7

Explorer
"Originally Posted by kennyj Thanks everybody for all the great comments! Chet, maybe I should do an update on my horns?"
A horn update would be cool.
When I was on the AK ferry passing through BC in thick fog, I got to hear 2 of those dual tone fog horns at the same time,it was so cool.
How is your rear cargo carrier configured? Can you open the rear doors,once the moto is off,but with the black cargo carrier still attached? I need to revamp mine as I want to switch to bigger action packers and that will interfere with the shell doors.
Have you thought about posting some youtube videos of your travels? Van or bike would be good.It could be short clips,no music necessary,minimal editing,just the sound of the bike and a few comments when you feel like it.
A guy I follow,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PHULrKuagM
As always, another great update!
 

kerry

Expedition Leader
This is a marvelous account of a great journey. I'm still only on page 18 and I'm curious about the model of freezer/refrigerator you have and how you installed the digital controller. Perhaps you've already answered that question somewhere between page 18 and 100 but it could take me days to find that. :) We have some Australians coming to the West to use our camper for a couple of months (we used theirs in Australia last month) and I've sent them a link to this thread so they can see how to travel.
 
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kerry

Expedition Leader
I made it from page 18 to page 103 in one day. A marathon and delightful read. I love your style of traveling, your ability to take mechanical setbacks in stride and your visits to many places which have enriched my life over the years. I completely agree with your views about Nebraska. We first paddled the Niobrara river in the early 1980's and we've been back at least a dozen times since to run various sections. In fact we're heading back next week. Next time you drive thru I recommend you rent a canoe or kayak from one of the many outfitters in Valentine and paddle from Cornell Bridge just east of the Wildlife Refuge to Smith Falls State Park which is a great place to camp. The outfitters will do the shuttle for you. A second day run down to Rocky Ford is worth it also. It's all class I moving water right up to the rapid at the take out at Rocky Ford. Next time you drive in from Vogel Canyon to the campsite high on the rim of the Purgatoire River, stay and take the trip to the dinosaur tracks on the banks of the river. They are the longest set of dinosaur tracks in North America. They are about 7 (?) miles up river once you get down from the rim at the campsite. I've ridden it on a mountain bike. I'm pretty sure you could do it with your motorcycle. The trail down to the river would be dicey but the ride upstream doable. It passes an old Mexican village with the remains of the church and cemetery still visible. This is south of the Arkansas river which used to be the boundary between the US and Mexico at one time. Happy trails.
 

kennyj

Explorer
Sorry it took so long to get back to the thread! I've been visiting with family and time got away from me.

A horn update would be cool. When I was on the AK ferry passing through BC in thick fog, I got to hear 2 of those dual tone fog horns at the same time,it was so cool.
I was hoping to get out to do some new horn video but haven't found the time. I have two big horns now and have set up to blow both in harmony. I have video but hoped to get some better quality. I'll try to do a write-up sometime of my strange hobby.

How is your rear cargo carrier configured? Can you open the rear doors,once the moto is off,but with the black cargo carrier still attached? I need to revamp mine as I want to switch to bigger action packers and that will interfere with the shell doors.
Yes, I can open the rear doors. Typically what I do is move the cargo box out of the way then unload the bike, then replace the cargo box. I found it's easier than putting it on the ground then having to pick it up again. Lately have been working on loading/unloading the bike without removing the cargo box. I'll post some detail pics sometime.

Have you thought about posting some youtube videos of your travels?
I fooled around with this for a while. For much of my travel in 2013 and 2014 I ran a dashcam and have about a terabyte of video from that. I edited quite a bit of the video but haven't done anything with it. I was just reviewing some of that video and thinking I should do more with it.

This is a marvelous account of a great journey. I'm still only on page 18 and I'm curious about the model of freezer/refrigerator you have and how you installed the digital controller.
Thanks, kerry! My fridge was a 2.1 cu ft freezer from Sunpentown, usually labelled as Frigidaire, and ordered from Amazon. It has about 3 inches of wall and door insulation and a very heavy duty gasket. The controller is mounted in the compressor area; I had to drill a hole to place the temp sensor inside. The fridge is very efficient, even having to run off an inverter, and that fridge has been going strong now into the 4th year.

I completely agree with your views about Nebraska. We first paddled the Niobrara river in the early 1980's and we've been back at least a dozen times since to run various sections.
I passed through Valentine and the Smith Falls area last summer on my way east. Didn't have time to stop but I love the area and look forward to getting back. Hopefully one time it will be with some kind of boat. :)
 

kennyj

Explorer
I'm finally back to finish this recap of last Fall's travels! I'll actually be able to catch up to more recent travels soon.

Continuing south from Quemado Lake through the Gila National Forest, I hit the little town of Reserve, then headed out to Apache Creek at the junction south of town. I had heard that it was a nice spot and would have spent a day or so there but the area was pretty much full with hunter’s camps.




I continued my wander south on 180, checking out some side forest roads and a couple free NF campsites. The landscape changed from forested mountain terrain to mountain/desert. I ended up near Alma and up this side road found a campsite for a night.




The next day I moved to a free NF campground right on the edge of Glenwood, NM. For several days I was the only camper there. Glenwood was a neat little town though it had seen better days, many of the downtown businesses were closed and out of business. The only shopping for the many miles from Reserve to Silver City was a great little gas station/market in Alma.




One of the main reasons I wanted to visit that area was to head into the mountains to the old mining town of Mogollon and beyond on the Bursum Road. The road crests over a mountain range then wanders deep into the Gila National Forest. Unfortunately, about 10 miles in I found the road closed for construction.




With the road closed I wandered up some of the spur roads.




I learned later from the ranger station in Glenwood that the road should be open on the weekend so I tried again on a Saturday, but riding beyond the road closed sign I found a weekend work crew and a missing bridge and section of road. All access to the area beyond was closed while the road was under repair. I’ll have to go back to see that area and explore the roads that head deep into the mountains.
The view riding back down to the valley:


 

kennyj

Explorer
Just outside Glenwood is the Catwalk National Recreation Trail. The “catwalk” originally carried large pipes delivering water from high in the mountains down the canyon to power mining operations in the valley.




The Catwalk was taken down in 2011 in anticipation of a massive flood, then reconstructed the year after the flood. Its a really unique and interesting hike.




On a rainy night at the campground I struggled with a poor cell connection to follow game 7 of the World Series. Standing outside in the rain waving the phone around I tried to get enough signal to get twitter updates on the game. Especially frustrating as the game went into overtime with a rain delay. But especially exciting for my son and daughter-in-law as after the game 6 win for the Cubs, they scored last-minute tickets for game 7 and drove from Illinois to Cleveland and got to witness the Cubs historic win! It was fun to get live text message updates from them at the game.




For the last few nights in the area I moved to a beautiful dispersed site in a high meadow between Alma and Glenwood.




Mountain views from near my campsite.

 

kennyj

Explorer
After some time in the Glenwood area I continued south on 180 toward Silver City. Along the way I stopped at an overlook viewing the first designated Wilderness area in the US, and dedicated to Aldo Leopold, who worked to set aside these 755,000 acres in the Gila National Forest.




From Silver City I left the mountains and headed out across the desert to southeast Arizona.




Outside of Safford Arizona I drove up to the Gila Box Recreation Area, a BLM area along the Gila River. I camped at the Riverview campground, a remote and lightly used area in the Gila River canyon.




The campground sits on a rim above the river with fantastic views all around.




Hiking along the river below the campground. The river also has stretches of white water and is a popular raft trip. This was late November and the area was going through a brief period of Fall colors.

 

kennyj

Explorer
The high country around Gila Box is criss-crossed with roads that give ranchers access to herds in remote areas. The roads are really rugged yet they are considered maintained county roads.




This rough stretch called Orange Cliff Road leads out to one of the highest points in the area.




And to this great view of the Gila River canyon.




Where a road crosses a canyon it descends down a steep shelf road many hundreds of feet to a water crossing, then a steep climb back up the other side.

 
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