Wheeling New Mexico's Lesser-Known Trails
New Mexico is full of great adventure trails and rockcrawling destinations. Most everyone knows about Farmington and Las Cruces and the huge events that take place in those towns, but what about the rest of the state? The Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico covers 1.5 million acres, and it is only one of five national forests in the state. This area is located two hours north of Albuquerque and is best known as the home of Georgia O'Keefe's Ghost Ranch. O'Keefe was a famous Southwestern artist who drew much of her inspiration from the dramatic cliffs and red rocks of northern New Mexico.
This past summer, we joined the Creeper Jeepers Gang to explore part of the Carson National Forest near the town of Abiquiu (pronounced ah-bee-cue). Like Georgia O'Keefe, the Creeper Jeepers Gang was looking for inspiration. Instead of canvas or clay, the Creeper Jeepers work in CJs, YJs, and TJs. During our March visit, the temperatures hovered in the 70s during the day and stayed warm enough at night that primitive camping was still comfortable.
We began on a sunny Saturday morning by unloading Jeeps from trailers and heading out to Area 155 just east of town. As the name implies, this was more of a play area than an actual trail. The terrain was made up of the eroded Cubero Member, which is a soft, white sandstone containing many gullies and ledges. This area, like most of the trails around Abiquiu, was developed by the Sandia Jeep Club in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service. After testing suspensions and locking differentials, the group stopped for lunch under the sparse shade offered by the native pinion trees. From there, we caravanned north on an unmarked dirt two-track. No one knew where the trail led, but we took the opportunity to explore until waning daylight and fuel forced us back the way we came. After a full day on the trail, part of the group headed back to set up camp for the night while others stayed at the nearby Las Parras de Abiquiu Bed & Breakfast.
Sunday morning, the boldest Jeepers gathered to attempt The Webb. In contrast to the soft sandstone Cubero Member of Saturday, this trail winds through an arroyo filled with fractured, iron-rich boulders and ledges. Although our group of vehicles had been reduced from twelve to five, the pace was still slow due to the difficulty of the terrain. The rocks shifted under the rigs as they crawled forward, making the "line" different for each vehicle in the group. As the day carried on, egos were put aside and the straps and winch cables came out. Amazingly, no breakage had occurred up until this point. That was before we saw the exit from The Webb, which consisted of a steep, loose climb from the arroyo to the power-line road along the ridge. To successfully ascend the hill, transfer cases were shifted into High range and the tires began to spin. Although some vehicles were able to make the climb unassisted, most needed the help of the cable and one stub shaft was sacrificed in the process.
In addition to the breathtaking views, another appeal of the trails around Abiquiu is their proximity to paved roads. The broken Jeep was simply driven in 2WD from the power-line road to the tow rig and loaded on the trailer. As we said our goodbyes, it was obvious that the Creeper Jeepers Gang was inspired by this area and will return soon. Now that we know what Abiquiu has to offer, we plan to do the same.