NEW MEXICO--LAND OF ENCHANTMENT
RED RIVER JEEP JAMBOREE 2005
Red River, New Mexico is truly a town like no other. Nestled in the Carson National Forest, high in the southern-most tip of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, it is four square miles of breathtaking landscape tucked into beautiful valley. This old mining town rich in northern New Mexico history offers friendly faces, kind hospitality and good wholesome family fun. It is far from the noise and congestion of the city, has no traffic jams, no sirens, no pollution. I have lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico my entire life and have been to Red River several times but only really enjoyed the facade of its beauty. As I would find out, wheeling and Jeeping in Red River brought about a whole other dimension in my mind of New Mexicos best kept secret which is most prominently known as a ski town.
This time on my visit to Red River, I took what we New Mexico natives consider the back road which basically runs from Santa Fe southbound on interstate through Las Vegas, Cimarron, and Eagle Nest to Red River, New Mexico. This was the first time I had taken this route and most certainly will not be the last. The drive through the mountains was scenery-spectacular and worth the additional time the trip took. The crisp mountain air and drop in temperature became apparent as did the rise in altitude--Red River is at 8,750 feetno matter, I as well as my friends were excited about the weekend before us.
Event headquarters was at the Red River Conference Center. Immediately I noticed that there were not the 100 or so other Jeeps or long registration lines that I had previously experienced at other Jamborees. Of course that could be because my experience has been with the larger venues, because the price of gas had outrageously skyrocketed probably discouraging some drivers, or because other Jeepers had arrived earlier and were taking advantage of the several activities available in Red River from hiking to shopping to lake fishing. Quantity did not overshadow quality as no matter how many or how few Jeepers are around, Jamborees are always a blast. In the end, the entire event provided an atmosphere of down-home, relaxation-oriented western town fun for those of us lucky enough to be there.
Friday morning began with a hearty breakfast, pickup of sack lunches, and the routine drivers meeting. JJUSA emphasized that drivers should be wise to consider the high altitude of Red River since activities considered normal at lower altitudes would require more effort until the body could acclimatize to the local altitude. It was recommended that drivers of carbureted Jeeps make adjustments to compensate for the thinner air, as some drivers found to be the case once on the trails.
The first trail of the day was Goose Lake. Ranging in elevation from 8,500 feet to over 11,500 feet, the trail traverses the northern side of the Sangre de Cristos, past Black Mountain, and ends up at Goose Lake. The trail took approximately 2 hours or so (one way) to reach the lake, but there were stops along the way to view old mines and just plain appreciate the scenery. The trail is rated a 4 and consists mostly of rock/gravel roads. The rocks are small, but kept us moving slowly. Once we reached the lake, we stopped for lunch. The temperature was a little chilly but well worth it. It was literally like being at the top of the world and a great hideout from civilization.
After taking in lunch and admiring the scenery, we made the trail back down and proceeded to the next which was Pioneer Creek. Although not precarious, this trail is rated a 4 to 5, depending on the amount of rainfall. There was some water in the bed and areas where if there had been more water probably made for some awesome waterfalls, but that day the beautiful forest itself was the prize. Along the way were also remnants of log cabins and mining areas. I am partial to wheeling in creek beds (go figure!) so this one was my favorite trail.
The day ended with drivers and passengers visiting, sharing stories and enjoying a few cold beverages and a great meal at the Conference Center. Some then retreated to their campground, cabin, or condo and many opted to group up and do some sightseeing taking advantage of the last light of day left. It was the perfect end to a great day of wheeling.
Fourth of July
Saturday morning saw everyone refreshed, fed and ready to roll. My morning trail was Fourth of July. This trail, rated a 3, was a steep climb on a sometimes rocky and rutted road. The trail was lined with aspen and pine trees and was once again filled with incredible scenery. At the end of the trail there was a hill that the Jeeps got to play on. Wildlife is supposedly abundant on these trails and usually hidden from motorized vehicles, but on the way down there were some mule deer that paid no attention to our convoy as they scurried their way between the Jeeps making their way on down the mountain. This was an added treat.
After lunch at the Conference Center, the last trail was Greenie Peak. Greenie Peak is only rated a 2 but the drive nonetheless magnificent. This peak is the highest accessible to vehicles in New Mexico at an elevation of 11,240 feet. We rode through several really pretty meadows in an area where a beautiful alpine setting abounds. This particular trail appeared to be popular as evidenced by the amount of Jeep, ATV, and mountain bike traffic. At the summit, the view was a stunning 360 degree breathtaking sight of this mountain majesty in all its beauty. This includes a view of Wheeler Peak which is the highest point in New Mexico at 13,161 feet. And to think, all these trails with their stunning views, the crisp mountain air and meandering streams, old abandoned mines and cabins along with the beauty of the Southern Rockies have been in my back yard this whole time! I felt somewhat ignorant of my status as a New Mexico native but fully intend to spread the word to fellow Jeepers and will continue to take advantage of these trails in the future.
Unfortunately I had to depart at the end of this day back to Santa Fe. This event was my 4th one and mostly I have wheeled the more difficult terrains of Texas. Yes, the Red River trails were easy but the picturesque beauty and wonderful company of fellow enthusiasts made the event memorable. The Jeep Jamboree was exactly the getaway I needed and as always, it was sad to say goodbye to old wheeling friends as well as the new ones I met along the way. It was an excellent adventure and truly added to the addiction that comes along with the Jeep off-roading illness.
I would like to extend sincere thanks to JJUSA and event sponsors. As usual, it was a terrific time had by all due to their diligence and hard work. I am already looking forward to planning my next Jeep Jamboree.
SEE YOU ON THE TRAILS!!
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Podcast (audio files)