We covered some territory in the month of December, gradually making our way across New Mexico. Mostly we were trying to escape the persistent cold weather near Carrizozo, so heading south and west made the most sense. We lingered a bit in the lower Rio Grand Parks and opted out of some of the boondocking that was in our original plan. It’s easier and more economical to enjoy the electric sites available at the state parks instead of burning through tanks of propane in the cold weather!
We stayed at two new (to us) New Mexico state parks along the way… Percha Dam and Caballo Lake, both of which are located along the much dammed Rio Grande River watershed. Percha dam is very popular with the birds, and we saw (and heard) many Sandhill Cranes on the wing as well as Great Blue Herons and other water-loving birds as we walked the trail along the river.
Tonuco Mountain Petroglyphs Hike
One of our favorite hikes in the early part of our journey was the Tonuco Mountain Petroglyphs hike in Ricon. We found it on our “All Trails” app and the trailhead was a reasonable driving distance from Percha Dam. The only real problem was mud holes along the 4-mile-long dirt road going to the trailhead…and swerving into the mesquite branches to avoid the mud gave our truck some “cowboy pin-striping”.
Our poor truck really takes a beating on some of our adventures!
The hike starts out on a mesa and then drops down into a wash along a cliff. It was clear from tracks that this area is frequented by ATVs, and we saw footprints left by other hikers, but we saw no other hikers on the trail.
Finally, the trail veers left and heads up into a canyon toward the west. Pretty easy going at first, but toward the middle of the trail we had to clamber up some steep rock formations to keep going. We kept our eyes peeled for signs of petroglyphs but saw none on our way up the canyon. There was much interesting geology along the way to keep Linda entertained…including this boulder with lenses of zoned jasper:
At a point the trail splits and since it was after noon (and we are slow hikers), we decided to choose one this time and leave the other fork for a future hike. We chose to go to the right. We took a quick lunch break and explored the area a bit. The path ended at a dry waterfall with dark stains left by minerals (likely manganese) in the water.
After exploring we made our way back down the trail and, lo and behold, there were the petroglyphs – facing in a way that only a person hiking DOWN the trail would observe them…
The entire hike was about 5.5 miles long, and those steep rock faces that we navigated going up the canyon required some careful attention by the two weary hikers coming back down!
End of the Month and Westward
The end of the month landed us at Rockhound and City of Rocks State Parks. These were the first New Mexico state parks we ever stayed at, and they remain two of our favorite places for our snowbird travels. On Christmas Day we drove from Rockhound to Oliver Lee State Park, where Ric’s sister and brother-in-law were staying on their way out to Yuma on their own snowbird journey. It was great to spend the holiday with family – and we enjoyed catching up with each other’s winter travel plans!
We celebrated a very quiet New Year at City of Rocks with homemade Margaritas and a Scrabble game (Ric won)… and an attempt to stay up until midnight (we failed).
From there we headed westward into Arizona – but that’s another year and another post…