Along I-25 there wasn't much rain falling on Friday evening,but we could see as we drove along that the Sierra de las Uvas and the Caballo Mountains were getting hammered. Nonetheless we continued on to the Black Range. We already had decided we wanted the "luxury" of pit toilet, so the option of boondocking out on Carbonate Creek or Sawpit Canyon on the east side had been eliminated( digging at "cat hole" in the cold and rain is not as fun as you might think). So, up we went over Emory Pass and down the other side. Iron Creek had quite a few campers, and the one spot we looked at had the feel of camping in a parking lot. So we moseyed on down to Railroad Canyon,saw that it was empty, and in our desire to set up camp before both the rain and complete darkness fell, stayed. It did rain all night,but it's been so dry this year there was absolutely no danger of creek flooding.
Railroad Canyon Campground isn't much: three indistinct "sites" with tables and fire rings set along Gallinas Creek. There are some very tall pines that grow in the center of the area that's been worn down to dirt by vehicle traffic. The trees provide some shade over one of the sites. There's a one holer toilet,some critter proof trashcans, and that's about it. If you follow the road past the campsites there is an unattractive quarry area and then the road dead ends at some huge boulders,placed there to prevent vehicles from driving any further.. Many years ago when we first came here, it was possible to drive across the creek to a couple of much nicer, more natural sites, and this could still be considered a "walk-in" camping area, I suppose.We had periodically thought about camping here before, but usually there was someone there,so we moved on usually to our favorite spot at Upper Gallinas, where it is still possible to drive across the creek to some good spots without tables or fire rings, as opposed to camping in the gravel parking lot on the other side- where I have never seen anyone camping. Our favorite spot there has been compromised by the installation of metal corral- and has lost its charm in my eyes. Still, we might have been better off.
After our hike to Rabb Park on Saturday( see blog), we went to La Esperanza Winery and had a very enjoyable tasting and a bit of conversation there. We also visited the Mattocks Ruin Site and the NMDGF's preserve for the Chihuahuan Chub on the Mimbres River( I'll blog about these later). We got 20 dollars worth of gas at the newly reopened store and gas station there in San Lorenzo and headed back to our camp.When we got back to Railroad, I was little dismayed to see what I refer to as a compound had been set up about 10 feet away from our campsite. There were four vehicles, three or four large tents, at least 10 people and several small dogs. Their music was echoing down the hillsides. To be fair, it wasn't blasting, and these seemed like decent enough people. I just don't understand people such as these sensibilities and their lack of sensitivity regarding their fellow campers. I always wonder what would happen if I were to just start playing some music that I prefer at equal volume, what would they do? It's not that they don't have the right to listen to the music, it just doesn't make sense when they've chosen to camp in such close quarters to those who may not want to. It's just about common sense, which isn't that common anymore. I've begun to understand, especially after seeing the crowds at Bonito Creek over in the Lincoln last year, that outdoor recreation, camping in particular, is really a social activity for many people. We've gone camping with other couples before,but not with everyone we know and their cousins packed into a campground about as big as my backyard.These folks that set up these compounds aren't really interested in sights and sounds of nature at all. It's all about the party,even a fairly subdued one such as this one was. What was even stranger about this situation was, I believe that there was no one camping at Upper Gallinas, less than a mile away, at all. So, when they could've easily chosen a more spacious and isolated spot, why would they choose camp right next to someone? I've had this happen before at Riverside Campground at Caballo Lake State Park, when even though there were six or seven empty primitive spots along the river where we were camped, a couple decided to camp right next to us. Are this people lonely? Does being in close quarters remind them of home and make them feel safe?
The corridor in the Black Range is getting too popular on the weekends.The problem with these type of free campgrounds is you're getting the worst of both ends of the spectrum of car camping. On the one side state parks and other fee campgrounds have a lot of conveniences( electricity, water, showers,campground hosts) and usually have lots of people, but there are lots of rules( such as the number of vehicles at at site) and enforcement(usually) to make sure everyone gets the opportunity to have a peaceful, hassle free experience. Dispersed camping on the other hand has no conveniences, but you can usually get far enough away from other folks to do your thing, without bothering or being bothered by other people. These free forest campgrounds like Railroad Canyon have almost no conveniences, no enforcement of rules and lots of people acting any old way they want without acknowledgement or regard for the people that are 15 feet away from them. Well,I've gone on long enough. Bottom line: we packed up, hooked up and were out of there in 10 minutes. I really didn't mind leaving in this particular instance- we had a nice day, it was going to be cold and damp and we hadn't brought any firewood, and we were probably going to leave right after breakfast Sunday anyway. If it had been a longer trip, it would have been a much larger inconvenience. Still, the world is getting to be very small place for sensible people. It might be digging holes or shelling out the cash next time out.