One of my prerequisites for camping is that it should be a nice remote location. I chose my favorite area of the state, El Malpais National Monument. It's little-known and has a great diversity of scenery. Basically it's a volcanic area with lava flows only a few thousand years old. On the eastern side there are sandstone bluffs where I have hiked and camped before. In the center are the lava fields. On the west side are cinder cones and volcanic vents that make up the Chain of Craters Wilderness Study Area. I had only driven past the volcanoes, but it looked like an interesting place. That's where I set my sights.
Going into the area I relied on my GPS only. Normally I plot mileage on maps and carefully watch the odometer. This was the first time I put my faith solely in technology. I had programed a road intersection as our final end point. It got us there relatively easily. It did take us across a little piece of private land, but the gates were unlocked. We got a little lost near a cow camp, but I ignored the GPS for a minute and we found the right road.
We camped out at the base of Cerro Piedrita (little stone mountain), a 200' cinder cone. The campsite was nice and flat with ponderosa pines. There had been a forest fire in the recent past, however, so some of the trees were burned. It must have not been an intense fire because many of the trees were still alive. The ground was a bit dusty, but it wasn't too bad. I dug down about 4" to make a fire pit, and there was moisture in the soil.
Once camp was set up we went in search of the Continental Divide Trail which is supposed to be right near the road intersection. We searched and searched but found nothing. This is a new trail and New Mexico is notorious for holding up completion of the trail. Perhaps it hasn't even been "constructed" yet. We found no blazes, no flagging, no cairns, nothing. We decided to climb the volcano instead. It was a nice hike with pretty views from the summit. We hiked down the other side and eventually picked up the road back to camp. Thipher found a nice fat horned lizard. We had to keep his dog, Blue, from eating it. I should mention that Anubis and Mesa also came along. Anubis is an well-seasoned camping dog, but this was Mesa's first time. I was a bit concerned since I have only had him for a week. Would he be a good dog? Would he run off? How would he react to another new dog? I did not have to worry. He and Blue got along like brothers. They ran and played the entire time. I tied Mesa up when I went to bed. In the morning I found that my fear of him chewing through his tether was valid. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find him still in camp and happy to be with his pack. Unfortunately he had discovered Ari's cookies during the night which had been sitting on the table. *LOL*
We had some cows walk close to camp. The dogs had a great time chasing them away. Ari and Thipher also had fun chasing them. *LMAO!* Ari caused quite the stampede! In the evening we sat around the campfire with me pounding down cheap beer and Ari ridding the world of pine cones. We had quite the fire going. At one point Ari found a dead little tree which was dubbed "The Charlie Brown Tree" in reference to the tree from the Christmas Special. It ended up in the fire complete with soda can decoration. Yes, the soda can was eventually disposed of properly.
On Sunday morning we packed up camp and headed off to another volcano that looked very interesting on the topo map. Here is where maps can be confusing. On 2 maps there was no road to the volcano. On one map there was a road. Which was correct? The answer was the 3rd map. We drove right up to the volcano and started hiking to the summit. At the base of the volcano was some of the prettiest camping sites I have ever seen. Lots of pine trees and flat areas everywhere! All the area needed was some water and I would be camping there every weekend! It was gorgeous! We'll definitely be going back there. This volcano was Cerro Chato (flat-nosed mountain). It actually had a pine-tree-filled crater at its center. After we climbed the 350' to the summit and walked along the rim, we headed into the center. It was so pretty standing in the crater with forested walls surrounding us.
We decided to take the southern route home which would lead us to Socorro. A quick call to tenax (Yes! We actually had cell phone coverage!) found him at home and willing to accept visitors. It was a long but fairly pretty drive down gravel roads to finally get down to Highway 60 at Pie Town. Yes, New Mexico has a town named Pie Town. Yes, they have a pie festival in Sept. We'll have to go check it out (and fursuit!). Our route also took us past the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. No, we didn't see Jody Foster trying to make "Contact." *lol*
We arrived in Socorro and had lunch/dinner with Tenax. Mesa got to play with his 2 dogs. After our meal we took all 5 dogs for a walk around campus of NM Tech. It was quite a sight to see our parade of pups! We hung out, played Wii, ate gelato, and then made our way back to ABQ. It was a hella-fun weekend trip!
The Chain of Craters area
The Charlie Brown Tree goes up in flames. Note all of the pine cones ready to ignite.
Ari and Thipher enjoying the campfire
Great Horny Toads!