Orienteering in the Gallo Mountains
—BARB AND TY BELKNAP
We have a certain circle of friends who like to hike. It seems to
be their favorite form of recreation and exercise. They each wear
out a good pair of hiking boots every two years, always climb to
the top, and often don’t get back until after dark.
We tag along sometimes on some of their secret trails, but they’ll
cut us off if we reveal locations in this Time Off column.
Last month we all went car camping in the Gallo Mountains of Catron
County, in southwestern New Mexico. (We’ve been cleared to
write about this trip because they read about it in New Mexico Magazine.
Anyway, who else would drive four hours in hopes of finding the
middle of nowhere in the least populated county of the West?)
We followed them west on I-40 as they nursed ancient SUVs along
at under sixty miles per hour. State Road 117 took us southwest,
across the Great Divide, next to El Malpais National Monument, whose
staggering vistas and cliffs we filed away in our memory for future
trips. At the tiny downtown of Quemado our friends showed us where
we were, and where we were going, and gave us a copy of the magazine
article that prompted this expedition.
We followed the four-car caravan down State Road 32 to a dirt
road through cattle gates, past a hillbilly’s shack, and up
the side of a mountain, where the road ended abruptly before we
arrived at a decent place to camp.
Our navigators pulled out topographical maps to plan the next
move. There was never any referring to the magazine article. As
we found out, the whole trip was planned according to the wavy lines
of a topo map that indicated that we needed to go back to SR 32,
drive south, and turn off onto Forest Road 93. Then take a gravel
road about ten miles, then off the main road half a mile to Rim
Spring, a place that promised good views and hiking. Many of the
landmarks on the map had something to do with springs or creeks,
probably because cattle drives used to follow routes through there.
As we arrived, about an hour before sunset, the camp was just
as envisioned—a beautiful ponderosa-pine forest at eighty-seven-hundred-foot
elevation, with a view of the Gila Mountains to the southwest. We
found relatively flat places for the tents, ate green chile stew,
and skipped the campfire for safety’s sake.
The next day, a rough course was plotted down a wash to another
spring, then around a prominent symmetrical hill, bushwhacking up
the side of a canyon, along the ridge to the top of a rise, then
dropping back down into camp.
Topo maps are great, as long as you know where you are. From a
good viewpoint, the terrain appears as a three-dimensional reality
of the representation on the map. One of the guys said that after
a while, the map itself appears to the eye in 3-D. Some people call
At the bottom of the wash was a wide-open park full of ponderosa
pines, gnarly old oak trees, and the oldest alligator juniper any
of us had ever seen. The ground was littered with pottery shards,
stone flakes from ancient toolmaking, and even a few arrowheads.
It must have been a fine place for whatever tribe—Apache,
Navajo, or Anasazi—to hunt, gather, or maybe even to grow
a crop. There was plenty of fecal evidence of large herbivores and
When it came time to bushwhack out of the canyon, everybody picked
his own climb. We stuck with a guy who was packing his own global
positioning system. (We lost ours last year.) It was hard to see
the terrain through the trees until we reached the ridge, where
everything appeared as indicated on the topo map. Nevertheless,
we badgered our friend to check his GPS, and found ourselves headed
in the right direction, only a quarter-mile from camp.
We left the next day, but everybody else stayed the night for
another hike, which took them to a place with even more evidence
of ancient civilization. The guy with the GPS also had a good eye
for artifacts and stayed behind to explore while the others headed
back to camp.
Along the way, the orienteers somehow lost track of which contour
line they were on. Apparently, as noted, a topo map is not much
good if you are disoriented. A four-hour hike turned into an eight-hour
hike. One woman who was packing her two-year-old on her husband’s
back had the nerve to suggest that they might need a GPS. The guys
grumbled something about “not lost, unless you don’t
find your way back,” which they did, and well before dark.
In our friends’ freestyle approach to hiking, the maps,
compasses, and GPS usually stay in the backpacks along with basic
emergency gear like rainwear and matches. The possibility of being
lost in the woods overnight is part of the fun and is not to be
feared. (It wouldn’t be the first time.) Orienteering technology
is a linear, goal-oriented approach that can separate a hiker from
the wilderness and detract from a larger sense of orientation.
If you are adventurous enough to go into the Gallo Mountains,
don’t worry about following the vague directions in this article.
As the saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.”
Historical society to explore the theory of three
cultures in New Mexico
The Sandoval County Historical Society meets Sunday, May 7, at
2:00 p.m. at the Delavy House Museum, in Bernalillo. University
of New Mexico professor Paul Carpenter will speak on “Three
Cultures: Maybe Yes, Maybe No,” in New Mexico history.
The program is free and open to the public, and refreshments will
be served. The Delavy House Museum is off Highway 550, west of the
Rio Grande, between Coronado State Monument and Star Casino.
For further information, contact Martha Liebert, at 867-2755.
Public encouraged to jump on board free boating-safety
New Mexico State Parks will offer more than two dozen nationally
accredited boating-safety courses free of charge to the public in
2006. The classes are designed to teach boaters vital safety information
before they head out on the water.
“Memorial Day and the start to the summer boating season
is fast approaching,” said Dave Simon, director of New Mexico
State Parks. “Now is the perfect time to take advantage of
our free boating classes—it could save your life.”
The classes cover topics such as how to properly launch and anchor
a boat, navigation systems and the rules of the “road,”
how to respond to sudden weather changes, surviving hypothermia,
and other safety information. Those who complete the eight-hour
boating-safety class, which is certified by the National Association
of State Boating Law Administrators, also receive two free nights
of camping at state parks.
Boating-safety classes are offered at various locations throughout
the state, including Albuquerque, T or C, Carlsbad, Clovis, Conchas,
Tucumcari, and Taos. Most boating-safety classes have a limited
capacity; therefore, early registration is recommended. Schedules
and locations can be found on the State Parks home page, at www.nmparks.com,
under the Hot Links section, or by calling (888)-NMPARKS.
Classes are also available on-line through a home-study course.
Further information can be found on the State Parks Web site or
by calling State Parks.
Tibetan monks bring “Sacred Music Sacred Dance”
The singers of Tibet’s Drepung Loseling Monastery will perform
“Sacred Music and Sacred Dance for World Healing” at
Popejoy Hall on Sunday, May 7, at 2:00 p.m., as part of the Popejoy
Presents series, sponsored by Lovelace Health Plan and Sandia Resort
The goals of the tour, produced by Richard Gere Productions and
Drepung Loseling Institute, are to make a contribution to world
healing and peace movements, generate a greater awareness of the
endangered Tibetan civilization, and raise support for the refugee
community in India.
The Drepung Loseling monks are renowned for multiphonic singing,
each simultaneously intoning three notes of a chord. Their traditional
instruments include ten-foot dungchen trumpets, drums, bells, cymbals,
and gyaling horns. Rich brocade costumes and masked dances add to
the exotic splendor.
In the days before the performance, the public is invited free
of charge to watch the monks construct a mandala sandpainting, an
ancient spiritual art form to purify and heal the environment and
its inhabitants, in the UNM Center for the Arts lobby, in front
of Popejoy Hall.
The mandala construction schedule is as follows:
May 4, 2006: Noon–Opening Ceremony, construction begins at
May 5: Mandala Construction–10:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
May 6: Mandala Construction–10:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
May 7: Consecration Ceremony, mandala dismantling and sand dispersal,
following “Sacred Music Sacred Dance”
Tickets ($32, $26, and $19) are available at tickets.com
(outlets, on-line, and at (800) 905-3315); at the UNM Bookstore
and the UNM Arena; and through UNM, at 925-5858 or www.unmtickets.com.