S24O: Sub 24 hour overnight…
Speckled about the Carson National Forest like rough gems, are some of the earliest Spanish settlements in northern New Mexico – including that of El Rito, where our overnight bikepack began.
Like many other parts of the state, there’s a weather-faded feel to its hamlets; pockets of abandonment where time flows askew. Hispanic in character, they seem transplanted straight from the rugged and remote mountains of the Sierra Madre, south of the border in Mexico. The houses are, far the most part, downbeat and patched up. More often than not, collections of lifeless tyres and cars in open surgery clutter their yards. It’s a discordant aesthetic within this natural space and beauty, yet as integral a part of rural New Mexico as the forest and the sagebrush themselves.
With this feeling in mind, I’ve processed this collection of photos in a different style than usual; bleached, like an old, forgotten roll of film that’s been left out too long in the sun…
The full set of photos, in technicolour, can be seen on my Flickr page. Within the post, each picture will enlarge if you click on it.
Camera: Canon 5dMk2 with 24-105 f/4 lens. Photos imported into Lightroom and processed using the Nik Collection Color Efex Pro plugin.
We parked up at the church in El Rito, a hour’s drive from Santa Fe. Our route lead us north along FR44, diverting east onto Canada del Potroro. This faded into a faint doubletack, then became a more established dirt road, before finally whittling down to a wild and abandoned singletrack, strewn with blowdown and requiring a couple of hours to negotiate. Later, a far shorter bushwack led us steeply down the hilltop onto 106, where we descended and camped beside the diminutive El Rito. Our original intention had been to strike north west towards the Canjilon Lakes and the Brazos Cliffs. However, it transpired that this area remains for a large part smothered by snow, so we doubled back up 106, exploring a few side valleys for future reference, before plummeting down into Canon Plaza via a primitive 4WD track. A mix of sandy sagebrush riding and paved road led us to Vallecitos and Borracho – so name for a famous old steer, El Borracho (the Drunken One), who died in the local wash. From there, it was simply a case of following FR44 back to El Rito, via the Valle Grande Peak. A very nice little loop. The first hike a bike might possibly be avoided by staying on the more established dirt road, instead of following the creek floor, which are may suggested was a 4WD trail.
In a month’s time, options will abound in the forest, perhaps even at higher elevations…
El Farolito, in El Rito, is the place for traditional, cheap Mexican cuisine – if you’re lucky enough to pass by when it’s open. Otherwise, El Parasol in Española does a mean chicken and guacamole taco. If you’re linking the area with Abiquiu has a gas station with great tamales.