The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Signpost Cartoon, c. Rudi Klimpert

Orienteering in the Gallo Mountains

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 it “orienteering.”

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 bear.

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 classes

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, 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” to Popejoy

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 and Casino.

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 1:00 p.m.
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 (outlets, on-line, and at (800) 905-3315); at the UNM Bookstore and the UNM Arena; and through UNM, at 925-5858 or






Front Page   Up Front  Animal News   Around Town  Business  Classifieds   Calendar  Community Bits  Community Center  Eco-Beat   Featured Artist  Fire and Rescue The Gauntlet   Community Links  Night Skies  My Wife and Times  Sandoval Arts   Schoolbag  Sheriff's Corner  Time Off  Ask Uncle Duffy   Back Issues   Ad Rates   Contact Us