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New Mexico Tank Trap Trail - Fun in the Backyard

Posted in Ultimate Adventure on April 10, 2007
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The pretrail ritual of airing down took place at the national forest boundary. The ritual usually includes one last chance to check out everyone else's equipment.

Four-wheeling fun and adventure is where you find it. We have chased new and exciting trails all over the western United States. We have, on numerous occasions, driven 1,000 miles in order to experience some exciting extreme rock crawling trail or rewarding backcountry route firsthand. But, this author has been guilty of overlooking the off-highway jewels in his own backyard. Recently, we hooked up with the local New Mexico 4-Wheelers for a grand time on an excellent little trail only an hour's drive away.

The New Mexico 4-Wheelers are the oldest four-wheel-drive club in New Mexico, tracing their origin all the way back to 1958. They also claim to be the largest organized club of their type in the state with around 60 member families. Typical of many clubs, they are open to all brands of vehicles, welcome all skill levels, and include all levels of vehicle modification. Club members reside in the Albuquerque area for the most part, although there are members scattered up and down the Rio Grande valley and beyond.

After dropping into the canyon, the club checked out the intimidating first challenge on foot before committing vehicles to the climb.

We met up early on a Saturday morning for the day-long run. The growing group at the appointed meeting place ranged from veterans of many years to several prospective members on their first run with the club. With the trip notice clearly stating that 33-inch tires and one locker were the recommended minimum equipment level, club members correctly assumed a moderate to hard trail and most vehicles showed up being driven instead of trailered. When the departure time rolled around, 16 vehicles pulled out and headed north on Interstate 25.

The Tank Trap Trail is located in the Santa Fe National Forest just a few minutes west of Santa Fe, New Mexico. We passed the Santa Fe landfill and stopped to air down at the national forest boundary. We followed Forest Road 24 for about 6.5 miles, and then the route jogged through a gate and on to Forest Road 2554. The trail itself is a short (2.25 miles) loop that drops down off of this smaller spur, meanders up a parallel canyon, and then pops out to rejoin the road. The club generally runs it in the "uphill" direction as the challenges are safer to man and machine in that direction.

Immediately upon descending into the shallow canyon, the club faced the most serious obstacle of the day. A slick and off-camber ramp leads an old road up and around a historic water catchment. Vehicles with lockers and low gearing idled up and around. Other rigs with open differentials and higher ratios slipped, spun, lurched, and shuddered up the route. Each vehicle was carefully guided and assisted according to the skill level and desires of the driver.

By the time the last of the trucks cleared the ramp, it was already time for lunch. Out came the coolers and soon the typical club banter and kidding was in high gear. The camaraderie of a group of people who regularly wheel together was clearly evident, but the club also included the newcomers in their good-natured fun.

The lunchtime conversation included discussion about mapping the Tank Trap route for submission to the Forest Service. The Santa Fe National Forest has long been an "open" forest, which means that cross-country travel is allowed as long as resources are not damaged. With the issuance of the Travel Management Rule by the Forest Chief in late 2005, all national forests will be required to limit motorized recreational use to a designated trail system. The Tank Trap Trail is currently on "open" forest. The New Mexico 4-Wheelers are heavily involved with the travel planning process to ensure that access is preserved by getting the trail designated as part of the rule implementation.

The afternoon was spent grinding up the canyon at a leisurely pace while overcoming the various sections of rocks and mud along the route. By the time hoods were pointed out of the canyon and back toward the road, the bright winter sun was starting to slip from the sky. The club stopped one last time to air tires back up and say their collective goodbyes.

Reflecting back on the afternoon, we concluded that the day had involved almost everything we love about our sport. We were able to reintroduce ourselves to a fun local trail, and, as always, we relished the challenge of overcoming natural barriers with our machines and our skills. But most of all, we enjoyed the great outdoors with good friends old and new right in our own backyard.

GPS COORDINATES
DESCRIPTION LATITUDE (DD MM.MMM) LONGITUDE (DD MM.MMM)
Air down at forest boundary (FS24) 35 41.379 -106 05.385
Corral to right 35 44.461 -106 09.781
Turn right through gate (FS2554) 35 44.480 -106 10.{{{405}}}
Stay right at Y 35 45.995 -106 11.865
Turn right and drop into canyon 35 46.291 -106 11.421
Turn right at cairn, exit the canyon 35 44.992 -106 11.270
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