Wild Horses Couldn’t Drag Us Away

And the threat of a rampaging bear couldn’t scare us off either.

As we drove into the Lincoln National Forest’s Oak Grove Campground yesterday afternoon we stopped to greet a couple of women walking along the road. I was surprised that the campground seemed to be deserted. As popular as the Ruidoso area is, I had been afraid we might not be able to find a camping spot. The women, who turned out to be local birders just out for the day, told us that we would soon meet the campground host who was on a mission to warn everyone about a hungry black bear that had been spotted several times roaming through the campground. They told us that they thought the host’s warning had scared off any potential campers.

But we weren’t scared off that easily. Twice that evening and again this morning we politely listened as the host lectured us about putting all food away and being cautious. Instead of all the bear alerts (we never did see any bears) we could have used a warning about the herd of “wild” horses that visited camp in the morning. A couple of them seemed to think that the food we had out on the picnic table was better than the lush grass they were munching in the meadows next to camp. But they were fun to watch. And things got interesting at one point when two of the stallions got into a fight over who should be leading the mares.

The horses out in the meadow.

With no other campers around and no threat of rain it was a restful time at the campground. We were ready this morning to hit the trail and see some more of the White Mountain Wilderness. It was a beautiful day and an enjoyable 8-mile hike.

Started hike going up Argentina Canyon trail.

Argentina Canyon trail intersects Clearwater Trail.
Meadow along Clearwater Trail.
View of Sierra Blanca.
Nogal Peak in the distance. We left that ascent for another day.
Trail descent was Turkey Canyon.
View of Ruidoso from a drive we took up the Ski Area road.

The Elusive Apache Kid

Today’s hike in the Apache Kid Wilderness was our second visit to this remote area in the San Mateo Mountains and the second time that we didn’t accomplish the hike that we set out to do. Which, by no means, detracted from our enjoyment of the hikes. Without a 4-wheel drive vehicle we often find on Forest Service roads that we have to change our planned itinerary.

We first attempted the 14-mile drive over rough Forest Road 225 in February. Our plan was to park at Springtime Campground where the Apache Kid Trail starts. We got within a mile or two of the campground before we had to turn around because the snow on the road was more than our car could safely navigate. On the way in we had passed the trailhead for the Indian Creek trail. Turning around, we drove to that trail for an enjoyable hike.

The third week in August we knew snow wouldn’t be an issue. Our plan this trip was to camp at Springtime Campground and then hike the Apache Kid Trail the next morning to the San Mateo Lookout. This isn’t snow season in New Mexico but it is monsoon season.

We got to camp Wednesday just in time to sit in our shelter and watch the rainstorm, accompanied with a good amount of hail. The rain stopped in time to fix dinner and take an evening walk. But then at bedtime it started to rain again. As we listened to the rain throughout the night we didn’t have to worry about getting wet. But we did worry about how wet the road was getting. There were some bad spots we remembered that could easily get impassable without 4-wheel drive. As dawn approached the rain had quit but it looked like it might start up again at any time.

We debated whether to immediately drive out or to take our chances on the weather and hike as planned. It was early enough that we decided to hike and then if the weather didn’t improve we could turn around. Sometimes it looked like the clouds were moving out but they never got far before moving back over the sun. As we climbed higher up the trail the views were impressive, even if somewhat lost in the cloud cover.

After hiking 3 miles we decided to turn around and leave the goal of reaching the lookout for another trip. Back on the dirt road it was evident that the previous night’s rain had eroded some new gullies but, fortunately, there weren’t any spots that our car couldn’t handle. I love the remoteness of the Apache Kid Wilderness, but to really do it justice we will have to have a different vehicle. Darn those renegade Apaches.

Driving in on Wednesday afternoon. Storm clouds building over San Mateo Mountains.
Deserted, remote campground. Why the neat shelters? We took advantage of the shelter.
Scarlet gilia.
Evening primrose.

Morning mist.

Is that blue sky coming our way? Never made it to us.
Blue line in far distance is Elephant Butte Reservoir.
Cardinal catchfly.
Elevation profile of hike.
Click on map for interactive version.