Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ojo Redondo, Zuni Mountains- Cibola National Forest

Tuesday morning(7/21/15), I was off for my very first solo camping adventure. Well it wasn't completely solo. Seamus the Scottie was there with me. I had intended to leave on Monday, but the forecast looked pretty ominous for much of New Mexico, including the area I was headed to: the Zuni Mountains. I 'm not sure why I chose this area. I wanted it to be within an hour or so of Albuquerque. I wanted to be up high. I suppose part of the reason I chose the  Zuni Mountain area was because it was total terra incognita for me , and as you may have guessed I love to go exploring new places.
 I picked out the Ojo Redondo campground, which in spite of being in a not particularly high mountain range( the Zuni Mts. high point  is a little under 9,300 feet) is, at 8.900 feet,  among the higher  Forest Service campgrounds  in New Mexico. There wasn't a whole lot of information about it, but what I came across appealed to me.
 We bypassed Albuquerque on NM 6 which winds through the Isleta and Laguna pueblo lands. We admired the red rock scenery along I-40. The casino billboards,not as much. We ate at one of the two Lotaburgers in Grants. Then I had brief visit to the Mount Taylor Ranger District office, picking up a free motor vehicle use map, and discussing the best route to Ojo Redondo. We then visited the Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center, gathered more information and a copy of Sherry Robinson's El Malpais, Mt. Taylor and the Zuni Mountains, A Hiking Guide and History. Now we were really on our way.
  Taking what started out as a paved county road and then becomes the good gravel FR 49, we drove up the  very green bottom lands of Zuni Canyon, admiring the ever growing walls of buff sandstone around us. We stopped to take a few photos and read a little at  a couple of the Zuni Mountain auto tour stops( which are marked by little rusty iron locomotives). The ever abused road signs, seemed to have more than their fair share of bullet holes,but it was a weekday, so I wasn't particularly worried. Eventually we got on FR 480 which heads to the northwest and our destination. This much narrower, winding, and steeper road was slow going, but it was beautiful day, with plenty of sunlight still ahead of us. We stopped again to snap some photos, through the tall douglas firs and ponderosa pines now growing along our route.

Reaching the campground, it was everything I could have hoped for: lovely, remote and peaceful.  The campsites were two loops shaded by tall pines. Adjacent was a large  aspen rimmed meadow that is the headwaters of Ojo Redondo Canyon. There was only one other group  camping there.  I chatted with a family that had arrived out for a drive and picnic  just as I was setting our for my hike to Mount Sedgwick. When we returned, we had the place entirely to ourselves.After dinner we took a short walk to the old cabin and through the meadow. I got a little fire going. The wood was damp,but it but it got to burning nicely with the aid of firestarters, pine cones, pine needles and some fanning action from my dinner plate. Seamus stood guard  against the black cows that had now wandered into the meadow.  I watched the Big Dipper appear and hoped to  see a shooting star ,but never did. It got cold in the tent as the night wore on. Getting up in the night, the sight of the Milky Way warmed me.

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