PostedSep-13-2006 09:52 PM
Altitude5,101.7 ft.
HeadlineNew Mexico
Entry The La Ventana Trail is first on the agenda and we're excited to check out what New Mexico has to offer. Turning off the main drag we spot a notice of the road closed up ahead but the La Ventana Trail breaks off prior to it beginning. What looks like an abandon construction road twists and turns opening up some variety from the mountain passes of Southwest Colorado. Hoping to find some true rock crawling back within the bowels she never seems to pick up and an hour or two later we're popped back onto the road leading in and now realize the reasoning behind the road being closed out. There is a section where the concrete just simply drops out for a 30 foot stretch. Crossing back over the highway we pick up the route unwrapping a fence to enter the trail. To this point the consensus seems to be that so long as the fence isn't marked otherwise we'll pass through and make sure to close up behind ourselves. Traveling farther down however the bridge over a running canyon is out. It looks half built and then just stops. The road blocks begin to get to us and I take a walk down the side of the ravine looking for another option but the drops are too great. We 180 and head a few miles down looking for an alternate route to join back with the trail.

The section we're approaching is a giant section of land making up roughly 1/5 of New Mexico west of the 25. We're entering South of 40, West of the 25, and North of 60. Even US 117 is in actuality a highly beat up dusty road with continual erosion and drop outs. Though no expert by any stretch of the imagination, New Mexico seems to have areas of dirt and sand which are so dry that when a small stream of water passes through it cuts straight through the ground or road or whatever it may be. What the result looks to be are sections of the road which have 2 foot gaps in width and depth stretching horizontally across the trail. New Mexico's other interesting quality is the continual low sitting shrubbery (haven't heard that word applied since the Holy Grail) blinds you to the State's rapid elevation changes. What looks like a valley in front of you could hold numerous 50 foot ravines which are invisible until you're right on top of them.

After rejoining the trail and a few hours in we're beginning to make some progress in cutting across the desolate section of New Mexico when we roll to a stop. In front of us sits a closed gate. Although we're sitting on what is labeled as a State Highway it appears someone has purchased a connecting piece of the land with no way to get around. No trespassing. The most painful two words imaginable. Hanley smashes his head against the steering wheel while I look for a way around. The trip back out is a few hours to make it around. I know from just trying to picture this that it seems unreasonable that rerouting would be this time consuming but the road conditions are horrible. We're used to the jarring and bouncing but when you throw in 2x2 gaps in the road proceeded by a straight, 60 miles an hour can snap an axle. This is not the place we want to break down. Worse is that certain areas ride the borders of these canyons and erosion has allowed portions of the road to collapse away. You need to be awake when racing across these areas.

Dipping into a ravine the path up the far side has fallen away and we make a shot at taking on the grade. Gathering some speed the front end whips up but the arc of the half dirt half sand composure high centers the truck with the rear bumper now resting on itself. With no option of reversing and not a tree in sight we fall upon our last resort. The Pull-Pal. For those not familiar with this awesome tool, the Pull-Pal is a land anchor which when set in the ground buries itself more and more until grabbing a hold with the pull of the winch. With no issue that's exactly what she does and looking like a scene out of tremors its only a few moments before the Pull-Pal just stops. Not going anywhere, Hanley works the winch while I create some grade with a shovel for the Goodyear's to grab onto and out she comes a creeping. Very cool stuff.

Another couple hours and we're wrapping around in attempt to make it back to our route and we hit the same scenario, a gate. The downside of venturing off the plotted route is the probability of entering private lands shoots up and with New Mexico being known for shooting trespassers first and asking questions later, we don't press our luck. As our path continues to finger out around the bottle necked area we're unable to branch around we hit a third blockage and breaching around would take us through private property which resembled something out of Mad Max. Three hours later we're back out onto the highway as the sun is dropping and in the same spot we were 8 hours before. Sometimes it seems like you just can't win and though the last thing we want to do, we're forced to bridge around the gap in desperate need of gas. One snag and New Mexico's terrain doesn't give you a second chance. We crash in Albuquerque.