Riding the Rail Trail: overnighting in Galisteo, NM.

Plans are a brewin’ for more extensive travels.

But in the meantime, overnighters scratch the itch, and satisfy the fix…


The Rail Trail parallels the old Santa Fe-Lamy line: 20 miles of powdery red-dirt, beelining across the New Mexican desert. Most of the trail is a fun mix of gently rolling doubletrack, woven with singletrack and sandy arroyo crossings. Unfortunately change is in the air. Bulldozers are out to ‘realign’ the trail, stripping it of its character and transforming it into a wide thoroughfare.


The railway was laid down 1880, to connect Santa Fe with the main line running all the way from Chicago to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Lamy reached its heydey as a railroad town in the ’30s. Nowadays vintage passenger railcars and a blunt yellow diesel ply this journey twice weekly with train nerds, and it was used in the filming of Elmore Leonard’s 3:10 to Yuma remake,.


Eldorado, one of the settlements en route to Lamy. At one point a coyote, bushy in its winter pelt, loped alongside me. We kept stealing glances at each other through the piñons.


Peeling off from the Rail Trail, we ventured into the Galisteo Basin Preserve, where stealth camping opportunities abound. Kicking off the area’s cultural history were the Paleo Indians, who arrived here in 6000-7500BC.


A singletrack runs the length of the spine along the ridgetop, while meandering jeeps trails weave between piñons and junipers in the basin below. Vast, empty and open, there’s a soothing, peaceful quality to the landscape here.


Camping amongst the fingery cholla cacti. I absentmindedly trod on one.

Black Diamond Mega Light tarp mini review:

Very spacious for its weight (sleeps 3, weighs 1.27kg/2lbs 5oz)

Single pole makes for low bulk

Lots of headroom

Great for views

Simple, minimal, earthy camping


Doesn’t trap much heat – chilly in the winter

Not desert critter-friendly

Needed modifications – a midge net skirt and extra attach points for guylines, courtesy of Bear Paw Wilderness

It’s expensive ($270) for what it is, as are the accessories


The Cholla: striking fear into bicycle inner tubes. And my feet.


New Mexican spring storms seep across the skies like ink blots.


May I recommend the Plat du Jour? Whole grain quinoa blend, served with slivers of zucchini and shards of carrot.


Dessert treat. 1. Snip corner. 2. squeeze directly into mouth. Thanks be to Justin.


Morning view.



2 thoughts on “Riding the Rail Trail: overnighting in Galisteo, NM.

  1. Bryan Keith

    Hey Cass, great to see you’re still getting out there even if it’s just short overnights. I’ve managed to get myself happily stuck in Antalya studying Turkish. Hope to be on the road again next month. However, I’m wondering, what happened to Death Valley? It’s getting too late now, I think…


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