Friends of Big Bend National Park
Big Bend Conservancy

Over-estimating your experience or under-estimating the terrain in a place like Big Bend can result in serious injury or death. Use the information and advice found here wisely. Climb/Hike/Camp/Drive at your own risk.

+-Calendar for sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!


Three Rivers, New Mexico or Tres Rios para mis compas Homerboy y Ove

  • 9 Replies
  • 6762 Views
*

Offline guc126

  • Coyote
  • *
  • 178
That feeling that enters the souls of this forum’s members had reached me again. It’s the excitement we all share but knuckleheads like myself find too difficult to articulate.
Compa, hablo del deseo que nos arde para descubrir lugares desconocidos.  El sentimiento del camino, o mejor dicho los senderos del monte. 

This spring’s week of freedom fell on the third week of March which created new variables for the question of destination. Spring Break actually lasts two weeks as different school districts and universities celebrate this event on either the second or third week of the month. So how to play my hand? Las barajas me decian Apache Kid Wilderness en Nuevo Mexico pero el clima me la jugue rete bien y pues cambie el plan. Ni modo, asi pensamos ya siendo rucos, compa.

Where to avoid the crowds was the main issue and the destination decided upon by a brother in law and myself was the San Mateo mountain range, a somewhat remote area in south central New Mexico. In particular the southern San Mateos, the home of the Apache Kid Wilderness, seemed like the perfect fit. Remote, sparsely visited, altitude, trail system, base campground sealed the deal.

Now the only factor that could sway the decision was the weather. A call to the Magdalena district of the Cibola national forest had resulted in warnings not to go. Early March had seen snow flurries in the area, with snow still on the ground in the upper reaches of the range and the trails a muddy mess from the melt. But what do park and forest rangers know? Adopting that attitude I hear from many BBC members the decision was made to go. The main impediment would be the cold if we made it up to crest but that’s not a deal breaker if we’re talking about March in the Southwest, right?

This past Christmas season we (my bro in law, a relative from San Luis Potosi and myself ) had already endured the winter storm that brought extreme cold and snow flurries to the Big Bend. The drive from Alpine to Marfa through a snow blizzard (well, at least by South West Texas standards) was memorable. The hot showers at La Sauceda in BBRSP made that cold spell downright enjoyable. Sabes que tan frio se puso compa? Por tres dias despertamos con nuestra agua congelada dentro de la tiendita y en la camioneta. Como ves compa, tener que descongelar el hielo para el café. 

Christmas in BBRSP:



Belated Merry Christmas to one and all!


Homemade tamales on Christmas day, an old tradition


My cousin Pepe Toño making awsome gifts of "old school" Sotol trekking poles


The bisnaga was good but could have used a little sugar


On the way up La Mota. Almost made it but ran out of time, and talent.


The timeless Panther Mountains

Sorry to get sidetracked folks, but just had to share. Now back to New Mexico.

So all that was left for New Mexico was a hurry up and wait lull while a daily scan on one of my new best friends, Weather.com, slowly cast doubt on our adventure. As the 10 day extended forecasts advanced, a late winter storm was developing that threatened to dump an additional unknown amount of snow on the San Mateos on precisely the date of our arrival, Monday March 19th.

With the impetuousness of youth long gone, and the caution of advancing age ever present, a new look at our destination was warranted. Two wheel drive on the pickup was a deterrent to possible muddy quagmires on national forest roads, not to mention slogging through unknown depths of snow up to the crest of Vick’s and San Mateo peaks. Compa si tuviera un monstruo como el tullo feura reto en mi favor.   

The best possible alternative for snow storm novices like ourselves was a safer destination, not so remote and with good roads but still with an element of challenge, so a new search was on.

A day of research led to a trek up to the crest of the White Mountain Wilderness in the Lincoln National Forest via Three Rivers Canyon, also known as trail 44. Access to the area was good and the western side of the Sacramento Mountains in this area seemed to possess a wilderness nature compared to the developed eastern side bordered by Ruidoso. No calls to the regional forest service office this time. We did call the Three Rivers campground host to make sure the site would be open and he responded that if we didn’t mind muddy, snowy, icy and windy conditions we would probably have a good time.

We left San Antonio Sunday but had to hunker down between Carlsbad and Artesia in New Mexico that night as the front passed through the area and dust whipped up by the winds made visibility on highway 285 a nightmare. We slept in the pickup at Brantley Lake state park as setting up a tent in that wind seemed like a losing proposition. Nombre compa estaba ruñiendo arena esa noche, no te digo.

We caught the first snow of the front as we climbed from the eastern to the western flank of the southern Sacramentos through Cloudcroft. We stopped for breakfast there, waited on by a beautiful woman with a horrific toothache which we helped alleviate with several doses of Ibuprofen, and attended by a cook with a compact .45 cal. automatic strapped to his belt. “It keeps the complaints about my food to a tolerable minimum” was his answer to my query about his “heat”. I added that his breakfast had been quite good, thank you. No se porque salgo con mi calibre .40 cuando voy al monte compa, nunca la cargo. Es mas probable que me tire en la pata, y alli con el oso muerto de risa y no de balas.


Driving through Cloudcroft NM, village of deadly chefs.

The wind had abated somewhat as we reached Alamogordo and turned to Tularosa, with no snow but still with the sense that winter was having one last laugh. Past Tularosa we finally reached the Three Rivers turnoff to the forest service campground and the trailhead. The turnoff is marked by one of those quintessential New Mexico Native American themed tourist shops, often in the “middle of nowhere” and usually priced for the wealthy. Ni modo compa, la camioneta corre con gasolina, y no joyeria de plata y turquesa.


650 Miles down and just a couple to go.

We got to the Three Rivers campground Monday afternoon located at the foot of the range which I believe is also known as the Sierra Blanca here. We stopped and paid for a five day stay with the camp host named John who we had already spoken to over the phone. A lot has been said of camp hosts, park rangers and the like on this forum, not all of a positive nature. Having read a couple posts on the internet about this person I did not know what to expect. The man who I had the pleasure to meet that day was laid back, gracious, tolerant, wise, vigilant in a positive way and in no way “nosey”. If the “federales” would adopt a role model on how to deal with the public this would be their guy. Sometimes we the public should also be wary of the “chip on the shoulder” some of us carry when we first encounter these men and women. Sometimes it is warranted, sometimes not, but its never a good start.

Anyhow, this gentleman enters my personal “hall of fame”, along with the staff at BBRSP. Pura buena onda compa, como Ud.

(I remember the bitter cold nights during our December stay in BBRSP. Although a complete burn ban was in effect at the time we really had no alternative but to have a well endowed campfire every night to try and stay warm. We were at Los Ojitos which is less than a mile from La Sauceda and there is no way the staff made up of ranch and country people would not have known what we were up to. They never bothered us.)


Burn ban? What burn ban?

John, who has been the campground host for the last 15 years, is working on a book of his first 10 years at Three Rivers. My bet is it will be a great read. Talking about reads, my book for this journey was “Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America.”. I had not known that the book would be appropriate to the forest within Three Rivers, a setting similar to Ishi’s Indian world.

The campground consists of 12 sites and 2 twin composting toilets, in addition to a group site. All these sites have tent pads and tables, some, but not all, with shade covers over the table. Several can handle moderately sized campers. All have fire rings. None have electricity or water but water is available at the campground host’s site.

In addition there are several primitive campsites just past the trailhead under the shade of tall conifers. According to John the campground is mostly empty during the week but fills up quickly on the weekends, especially during the spring and fall months. Summer is very hot, but the escape from the heat is just a few steps away within the forest of the Three Rivers canyon. Me imagino que es igual en la Sierra de Arteaga, o Los Jardines de Boquillas, o otros rumbos que conoces Compa, donde ojala me lleves cuando baje la inseguridad.   

The campground lies at over 6,000 feet and the altitude where trail 44, the Three Rivers Trail, reaches the summit is at 9,900 feet I believe. The climb, or hike, is somewhere around 3,600 feet in 6 miles, all within a forest environment in a narrow canyon that often resembles a ravine, twisting and turning up the mountainside up to the crest of the White Mountain Wilderness.


Three Rivers Campsite #12, Monday afternoon, our home away from home.

 
The view west from the Three Rivers campground. Those are the Godfrey Hills in the background.


The view east frome campsite #12 to the White Mountain summit. Ominous clouds are beginning to form.


A metal corral is available for the use of equestrian campers

That is a 12 mile up and back if done in a single day which is doable for a very fit person, which I would not dare to classify myself or my brother in law "Buddy" who accompanied me on this trip. (I named my mutt in his honor)

Water runs down almost the entire length of the canyon, so water is not an issue on this hike. The literature states that the water in this area should be treated or filtered as Giardia is endemic here. We ran into a couple of locals who traveled up and down the trail on the days we were there that claimed the stream was at its lowest in many years.
The say recent snowfalls have been far lower than the norm but hopefully the melt from this last snowfall should keep the stream from drying over the summer months.  There are more than twenty stream crossings on the trail which I imagine must create formidable obstacles when water levels are high and raging.

The two locals were harvesting Elk antler sheds which they said brings in some much needed extra income. Up and down the trail we only ran across Elk, Deer, Coyote and Raccoon sign although Pumas and Black Bears also live within this wilderness area. Some of the Elk prints we saw must have been bulls carrying some really considerable weight. The most recent snowfall and muddy conditions on the trail where melt was in progress made prints easily identifiable.  Que bueno que no vi osos o pumas en el bosque compa, el peligro no es que me coman pero que me zurre los pantalones.

The mud, snow and icy conditions on the ground added another level of difficulty to the hike. The snow fell from Monday evening to Tuesday afternoon and had already begun to melt at the lower altitudes by Wednesday when we began our hike up to the crest. After talking to John we decided to spend Tuesday at the Three Rivers Petroglyph site located 4 miles from the highway turnoff. His suggestion was that a day’s difference wouldn’t hurt and might actually lessen slogging through snow on a slope which would have a day of melt started (he forgot to mention the mud. So it was decided that we would commence a leisurely backpack up the trail on Wednesday, establish a camp at the 3 mile halfway point, stay the night then proceed up to the crest on Thursday and return to the camp and stay another night, then return to campground on Friday. Enough time to take in and enjoy the surroundings according to John. I have to say he was right.


Late Monday afternoon, snow begins to fall on the Sierra Blanca


Early Tuesday morning, Three Rivers Campground.


Early Tuesday morning, the view from the campground towards the summit. It's up there, somewhere.


Late Tuesday view of the Sierra Blanca, driving back from the Three Rivers Petroglyph site.


Early Wednesday view of the summit. There's a reason its called the White Mountain Wilderness.

The snow was patchy and not a great problem until we reached the higher reaches of the trail, above about 8,500 feet where slogging through up to a foot of snow that covered the trail thread at numerous locations was unavoidable. The ravine like nature of the canyon prevented alternate routes around the snow. The snow was also deep and plentiful at the summit, expertly camouflaged by the meadow grass. It didn’t take long to figure out that the meadow grass there was probably up to three feet high but appeared half that height, hiding snow that at some points was knee high. What one would think was an inch of snow around the grass would result in a deep slog after taking a step. For South Texas old goats who may have seen 2 inches of snow fall in their lifetime it was a real delight. Just kidding, it wasn’t. Nos estavamos resvalando como payasos borrachos compa, te hubieras muerto de carcajadas.
 
Back to the forest within the canyon. I’m not much of a treeologist but as you gain altitude you see distinct changes. There are numerous different conifers from bottom to top with some juniper and scrub oak at the lowest altitude and Aspens beginning at close to my estimate of 9,000 feet. This is a living forest, with life and death in evidence throughout. This also creates a very high number of obstacles as the trunks of fallen timbers block the trail, increasing in number as altitude and distance from the trailhead increase. The trail is very well maintained and easy for the first mile, them becoming increasingly strenuous and difficult thereafter.  The crest is marked by a thinning of the forest and wide mountain meadows. The trail slopes gradually up its first half but the slope becomes increasingly steep along its second half.

There are a few useful campsites on the trail past the 1 mile mark which is located at the juncture with Trail 46, posted as the Dry Canyon trail with a distance of 3 miles to the crest. According to the locals harvesting Elk sheds we met on the trail the Dry Canyon route is a shorter but steeper trail to the crest and would constitute an excellent loop on a one way out and back to the crest. The useful campgrounds on Trail 44 are single site at the 1.5 mile mark by the side of the stream, a slightly larger and smoother site at the 3 mile mark by a large boulder large enough for two small tents where we established our site. The boulder also houses a small opening at its base that can be used as shelter. The gem of campsites on the trail is at the 3.75 mile mark at a relatively large and smooth site that can house several tents. There is one last spot, rather small, that can be utilized a short distance from the 3.75 mile site.   

Views of the first half of Three Rivers trail up to the camp at the 3 mile mark.


Wednesday at the trailhead

















 





*

Offline guc126

  • Coyote
  • *
  • 178
Re: Three Rivers, New Mexico or Tres Rios para mis compas Homerboy y Ove
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2012, 07:29:48 PM »
The thread is easy to follow for the first five miles of the trail and is marked by numerous cairns. As mentioned before a high number of fallen trees and debris block the thread but do not erase it. The last mile up to the crest of the mountain range is another matter, but this may have been due to the high degree of ice and snow that although not constant did cover the thread at about the 9,000 foot line, making the way up to the summit anyone’s guess. We took a rather difficult ascent straight up the last 300 feet of heavily sloped meadow after having lost the thread at that point. This was the most difficult point of the entire hike. We found the thread after we reached the crest and found the junction of trail 44 with the Crest Trail #25 and followed it on the descent, making the way down longer but much safer.

Views of the second half of the Three Rivers trail from the 3 mile mark to the summit














The first Aspens begin to appear


We are close to the crest but the thread has been lost. This first meadow does not present much of a problem


Uh-oh we have a problem!


We face about 100 yards of a second meadow at an extreme slope to get to the crest, and no thread in sight. I was never good at trigonometry so I won't estimate the angle but hiking up this slope was the most difficult part of the trail for all of us and left us totally winded. Nothing technical here, just git-er-done, watching your step and using a heavy dose of sotol walking stick. Thankfully no one slid down into the trees separating both meadows. The boy scout and his dad to the right by the trees soon gave up that avenue due to a lack of grip and also proceeded up the meadow. Thankfully the sun had rapidly melted the snow here, preventing any accumulation of mud.


We reach the crest.


Southwest view from the crest into the Tularosa basin, with the White Sands and the San Andreas mountains in the distance.


Northwest view from the crest into the Tularosa basin, with the "Malpais" lava flow in the far distance. Those two meadow covered hills in the center is where I believed the Crest Trail runs by but getting there was too difficult. The snow along the crest where the picture was taken was a deceptive 2 feet thick and soft from the sun. 


A view from the crest to the eastern flank of the Sierra Blanca


And another. The intense blue of the sky here was inspiring.   

The Three Rivers trail reaches the crest of the range at a saddle between two higher points, White Horse Hill to the north and Elk point to the south.

Our plan upon reaching the junction with the Crest Trail was to do some hiking on that trail or down the Aspen Trail which also connects at that juncture but we were disappointed in that the trail threads in all directions were covered in snow. We decided that the objective had been met, and let caution rule the day, realizing that lacking snowshoes was a real problem. So we found a patch of dry ground, spent 30 minutes in the bright sunlight letting socks dry out (they didn’t) and then descended back to our camp at the 3 mile mark.  All in all a very fulfilling experience, and that’s what life is all about. Que te puedo decir compa, nos rajamos y nos bajamos en chingas del friaso en la cima


White Horse Hill on the west side of the saddle,


Elk Point lies to the east of the saddle.






We found the junction for the Three Rivers trail with the Crest trail and the Aspen trail but all the trail threads were covered by the snowfall. The only visible thread was the lost Three Rivers trail descending from the crest, which we took as a good sign to return to our camp.




Almost forgot to post a couple of examples of the many obstructions blocking the trail thread past the one mile mark from the trailhead. Negotiating the fallen timbers was made more difficult on our return Friday due to the increasingly muddy conditions. 

We spent Friday night at the campground, celebrating the hike with XX and 1800 (thanks to Christopher), enjoying the sounds of the campground that had filled up for the weekend with families. Saturday was spent driving home. We drove around the northern edge of the Sierra Blanca and passed through Ruidoso. It looks like a nice place to visit during the racing season. Sorry no GPS coordinates as I don’t own one. Anyway its impossible to get lost on this hike and the Forest Service wilderness map is adequate.The quality of the images, or lack thereof, is due to my several year old “point and shoot”. The good news is that I shattered the “Cybershot” on the way home and will now be forced to invest in a good digital SLR. 

I read somewhere that the Three Rivers experience was not worth the effort in that there are no grand views out the canyon until one reaches the crest of the ridge and the setting is claustrophobic. This hike to the White Mountain Wilderness Crest Trail is not on anyone’s book of favorite New Mexico hikes, like other hikes that originate in the easier to reach and maybe more scenic Eastern flank of the range. But everyone interprets their surroundings differently. My experience was that I was visiting another of God’s natural cathedrals and I felt my soul unfurl there, something I seldom feel in the houses of the Lord built by men. For a fleeting instant I think I saw the forest in a way that Ishi of the Yahi would have. The voices of the forest around us. The crow that announced every visitor to our little camp at the halfway point. The orchestra of a hundred trees creaking in the wind added to the pleasant sound of running water. The tricky coyotes that disguised their yelps as barks in an attempt to lure the camp host’s dogs to an untimely end. Bendito es el Señor compa, y que te cuide con tu familia en estos tiempos duros.   

It was a joy to share friendship, small talk, coffee and jerky with the few souls we met on the trail. In addition to the two shed harvesters there was a father and son pair of campers from Las Cruces. The gentleman was accompanying his son on a Boy Scout merit badge assignment. The 14 year old who possessed the traction of a mountain ram only had 3 badges remaining to make Eagle scout. I bet he’ll make it to Order of the Arrow.

Before I left I told John he had the most beautiful home in the world, to which of course he agreed. 

Permit me to describe the Petroglyph site before I leave the forum. There are thousands of petroglyphs etched on flat slabs of rock at the top of a line of hills about a mile in length on the county road between the campground and the highway. According to the information at the site the glyphs were etched by a people known as the Mogollon culture. If I remember my readings correctly the Mogollones were an agriculturally based society related to the Anazasi and Puebloan cultures. They lived in permanent sunken dwellings composed of family units. The agricultural based people that inhabited La Junta de Los Rios area where the Rio Conchos enters the Rio Grande in the Ojinaga-Presidio area may have been Mogollones although the first Spaniards in the area called them Jumanos.

The descriptions at the site mention that they are between 1,000 and 600 years old. They record faces, animals, the night sky perhaps, designs that meant enough to spend time recording what they must have known would last far beyond their lifetime. Aqui oyi los ecos de los ancianos compa, el tatatatatatat de los ancestros trabajando la piedra
   
I can’t compare this hike to the Chisos trails in the BB national park as I have never walked them. I love the desert there and have still not made it up to the high ground. The hike from Pine Springs campground to the “Top of Texas” Guadalupe Peak, which I have done, is much easier in comparison with its well maintained gravel and rock path to the top. 

I’ve got some time in June so its time to start researching another remote Southwest destination away from the crowds. I’ll see what I can find with tolerable weather.

A few images of the enduring symbols recorded by the Mogollones at the Three Rivers site.






















*

Offline Flash

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2053
Re: Three Rivers, New Mexico or Tres Rios para mis compas Homerboy y Ove
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2012, 08:04:50 PM »
Very interesting trip report. Thanks for sharing, guc126!  :icon_cool:

*

Offline homerboy2u

  • The Chipewa Cris tribe,Canada:
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 5103
Re: Three Rivers, New Mexico or Tres Rios para mis compas Homerboy y Ove
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2012, 10:57:21 PM »
Finally!!!...for the love of God, you got around to post those December pictures. You sure did have a hell of a time there...the pictures and the landscape, man...they are out of the park i tell you.

 I specilly liked the breadcrumbs in your trip report. Very original.

  Now let's go check out your Segunda Parte....hehehehe.. . :icon_lol:

 You...have ...got...to be...kidding me,man. Pecos style petroglyphs?....deep Coahuilan desert rock art?, how is this possible, so far up in New Mexico?. What is the relationship with this precambric art, we have here?. This is amazing, i never realized the connection streched so far up from these lands. A great discovery, I think.

  Muchas Gracias por compartir, Señor.

 :notworthy:..... :PDT_Armataz_01_37:
« Last Edit: March 26, 2012, 11:05:35 PM by homerboy2u »
Stay thirsty, my friends.

*

Offline guc126

  • Coyote
  • *
  • 178
Re: Three Rivers, New Mexico or Tres Rios para mis compas Homerboy y Ove
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2012, 12:26:18 PM »
Ooooorale Homerboy, those "breadcrumbs" were probably closest to the truth, the rest was just this side of embellishment. Anyhow, boy have I got another "knock your socks off" resource headed your way. More comprehensive than Solveig Turpin's Coahuila work. I'm just waiting by the mailbox. I'll include a flash drive with all the 3 Rivers images I have, those on the post are just a small piece. In the meantime here's some "tarea" for your reading pleasure, on the Lipan Apaches in Northern Mexico and Texas......enjoy compadre.
http://www.utexas.edu/law/centers/humanrights/borderwall/communities/indigenous-Anthropological-Report-on-the-Cuelcahen-Nde-Lipan-Apaches-of-Texas.pdf
« Last Edit: March 27, 2012, 01:51:40 PM by RichardM »

*

Offline Lance

  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 867
Re: Three Rivers, New Mexico or Tres Rios para mis compas Homerboy y Ove
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2012, 01:30:33 PM »
Very interesting trip report. Thanks for sharing, guc126!  :icon_cool:

I agree, interesting trip report!  Gotta make it out there sometime.  The rock art was very cool, what style is it?
« Last Edit: March 29, 2012, 06:34:26 PM by lsnead »

*

Offline Flash

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2053
Re: Three Rivers, New Mexico or Tres Rios para mis compas Homerboy y Ove
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2012, 01:44:33 PM »
I take it collecting elk antler shreds in a National Forests is okay? I read in the NPS Daily Report about charges being brought against folks for collecting antlers in Wind Cave National Park.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2012, 05:49:28 PM by Flash »

*

Offline homerboy2u

  • The Chipewa Cris tribe,Canada:
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 5103
Re: Three Rivers, New Mexico or Tres Rios para mis compas Homerboy y Ove
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2012, 05:06:09 PM »
Unless i am mistaken, this has something to do with BLM lands...a complete different ball game here. But, in all fairness, i did not pay attention if it was a State or National park to start with.

 Excellent question.
Stay thirsty, my friends.

*

Offline Flash

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2053
Re: Three Rivers, New Mexico or Tres Rios para mis compas Homerboy y Ove
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2012, 05:52:30 PM »
Exactly, Homer, National Forests and BLM lands have an entirely different character from National Parks. I can imagine being able to buy a permit or it being free.

*

Offline Arlon

  • Roadrunner
  • *
  • 87
    • Photo albums
Were you at the campground that is just past the petroglyph site? Been to the petroglyphs several times but never have been up to the campground. Thanks for posting the pics. Looks like a great place to spend a winter weekend. Added to my short list of places to stay within half day of Midland.
Stop, click, stop, click, click, stop, click.....

 


©COPYRIGHT NOTICE

All photographs and content posted by members are to be considered copyrighted by their respective owners and may not be used for any purposes, commercial or otherwise, without permission.

+-Calendar For Sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!

Powered by EzPortal

Facebook Comments