Cool, fresh, mountain air. Thunderstorms. The chilling sound of coyote yips echoing through a canyon. Lush meadows laced with wildflowers and quaking aspens. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh…………. Cara and I are in the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico enjoying our first camping trip with Maddie. I find it amazing that we can drive, in just a few short hours, from 100 degrees in the scrubby desert to 70 degrees in a lush forest. Our camp ground sits at 7500 ft above sea level nestled in the Bonito Canyon north of Ruidoso. (Texans proudly mispronounce the town name by saying Ree-uh-Doh-soh).
My first adventure is a bike ride with my dogs attached to my cycle with a Springer Dog Jogger. They are so excited to be out of the city and into the woods that I can barely control them. When we begin our journey they suddenly bolt and I feel like I’m riding on a rocket sled. I panic and start to brake while barking orders to them. “EASY, EASY, SLOW DOWN!” I yell. They don’t.
We exit the campground and turn onto Forest Road 107. I gain a little more control and start to enjoy the rolling hills that lead us through a beautiful valley. Bright grassy meadows dotted with yellow coneflowers greet us. All this lushness is framed in by a coniferous forest made up of douglas and white fir, ponderosa pine and pinyon. The fresh smell of damp pine is exhilarating and reminds me of my days living in Germany on the edge of the Palatinate Forest.
After riding for a while the dogs are finally getting tired. I notice their parched tongues hanging out of their mouths and then see a little stream to the left. We stop, they drink, we ride. The temperature is a pleasant 70. Soon we reach some aspen trees with their telltale smooth white bark. The quaking aspen has figured out a secondary way to reproduce other than seeding. New trees sprout from the main root system and, in fact, each tree is a clone; genetically identical to the parent tree.
After admiring these wonders of nature, we continue until we arrive at a little cave in the side of the mountain. As I dismount to take a picture, my little escape artist, Taz, has slipped out of his collar and is exploring the shallow niche. After letting him check it out, I get him back in his place and we wind and roll along the dirt road.
We come to Tanbark Canyon and begin a long steep ascent to who-knows-where. The climb is a leg burning, throat searing, brutal effort, but well worth it because, when we reach the top, we are rewarded with a fine view of Nogal Peak (elev. 9.957 ft). Feeling elated, we now descend the steep rocky road back to the rolling track that brought us here. Connecting with nature is as important to the human mind and body as the air we breathe and food we eat.
If you suffer from clinical depression or some other illness, take my advice and run, bike, saunter or just sit in the forest beside a stream or meadow. If you do not feel better after bonding with the natural world, you will only be charged a fraction of what you pay your therapist (make check payable to Mother Earth).
If camping isn’t your thing, maybe you should try glamping --glamorous camping. Opportunities exist where, for an exorbitant amount of money, you can travel to an exotic location and stay in a yurt, tee-pee, or tent including canopy bed, full kitchen, refrigerator, hot tub, massage, etc. Check out El Cosmico in Marfa, TX where you can sleep in a restored 1950s era “Kozy Coach” glamping trailer.
The ride home takes longer than expected. I keep noticing wildflowers along the way and can’t resist stopping for a few snap shots. I’ve determined that this area, complete with stunning scenery, wicked climbs and muddy creek crossings would be a great place to hold an ultramarathon trail race. We could call it the Rio Doso 50 for us Texans who can’t correctly pronounce Ruidoso.
Eventually I make it back to camp for some coffee and muesli and then get ready for a hike with Cara and Maddie. Cara’s birthday is today so we want to take her to a beautiful place to spend the afternoon. We don’t have to go far before we are following the S. Fork Rio Bonito. The creek is dry at first but as we continue up river the water begins to flow.
Soon we pass a rock cabin ruin and then arrive at a picturesque little spot on the bank of the rio. Large boulders create pools where water cascades over tiny dams. I take pictures while Cara rests with Maddie napping on her back. The dogs enjoy exploring and sniffing until the little escape artist’s leash gets snagged on a branch. I was wondering why he was being so calm and still. Let’s see if he can get out of this little predicament. After a few minutes, I start to feel sorry for the little fellow and set him free.
|Escape Artist can't get out of this one|
Maddie wakes up and we continue up the trail. Another cabin ruin comes into view, but all that standsis the proverbial fireplace and chimney – a remnant of the past; of the people who homesteaded in this area in the 1800s. William Bonney, also known as Billy the Kid, rode in these parts around the same time, so I want to believe that he may have warmed himself by this fireplace while dodging the law.
Since Maddie is now awake, we decide to let her dip her feet in the water. We backtrack to our favorite spot and Cara takes Maddie’s shoes off and rolls up her pants. She enjoys feeling the chilly water on her feet. I’ve noticed that she is always happier when we are outside. There is so much more to see, hear, feel, and smell when we are outdoors.
The mountains of New Mexico are a gem and a great place for running, biking, hiking or just hanging out in the woods. Maddie had a great time on her first camping trip and will be back for many more adventures. Who knows? Maybe one day she will run the Rio Doso 50 with her dad, but for now, her favorite activities are climbing on the rocks and looking up at the trees.
See you on the trail.