Birthday #70 on the Cumbres & Toltec

October 7-17, 2023

Buddha Cat

It was the usual mad dash to pack for a 10-day trip, with a last-minute complication when our apple tree suddenly decided it was time to produce several bushels of fruit. I ran all over town delivering apples, like the apple fairy. We even dropped some off on our way out.

Mount Taylor Coffee Company

We spent the first night in one of our favorite remote sites near El Morro National Monument. Then it was off to our mandatory stop at the Mount Taylor Coffee Company. It was there we learned to our dismay that Matt and Susan would not be able to join us after all. But we had our home on wheels, our cats and our credit cards, and the weather was perfect. So we would soldier on.

Mount Taylor

Now running nearly a full day ahead of schedule, we decided we could squeeze in a hike on Mount Taylor.

Above the treeline

We headed up the Gooseberry Trail and made it to around 10,200.

aspen forest

We came hoping to see some golden aspens, which were mostly clustered along the creek.


A nice pano from above the tree line.

me on the rocks

Our lunch spot on the nose of a ridge.

aspen leaves

Golden aspen glory. It was a delightfully chilly night at a primitive campground about halfway up the mountain.

golden trees and red mesas

All day we drifted across Navajo the reservation, a land of endless low mesas, ominous large-scale mining operations and only a few signs of human habitation. Fall colors emerged at lower elevations as we eased our way north.

golden trees and red mesas

We had booked a campsite at Abiquiu Lake, but all of the open spots were in a treeless fenced area with neighbors 10 feet away on three sides.

camping near Taos Junction

We got back on the road and drove another two hours to a rough camping spot just inside the Carson National Forest, with killer views of the Sangre de Cristos. And we only had to shove aside one discarded mattress! Dennis put up his dipole and had a nice chat on 80 meters.

Breakfast Chili Line Depot

Breakfast at the Chili Line Depot, a 100-year-old former bar and dance hall in Tres Piedras. The Chili Line was a spur that ran from Santa Fe to the Denver & Rio Grande.

San Antonio Mountain

San Antonio Mountain, a solitary shield volcano near Tres Piedras, has bedeviled me for years. Now nearly a full day ahead of schedule, this seemed like a good opportunity to explore it.

Locked gate on a numbered National Forest road

All maps old and new show that this area is either BLM or part of the newly-designated Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Yet someone has erected multiple locked gates across numbered National Forest roads. The gates block access to thousands of acres in public land in the Carson National Forest. One of the signs says access to San Antonio Mountain is limited to "official business", but no agency is named.

View across the valley to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Not wishing to test the threat of "six months in prison for violations", we bushwhacked miles out of our way, which put the summit out of reach. But we are just PO'd enough to dig into this issue and make trouble.

Miss Bea Haven at the junction a L-O-N-G way away!

Rain showers in the Sangre de Cristos

It was tough picking our way up a steep basalt-studded hillside, and taking care to avoid the one-square-mile of purported private property. The "hike" nevertheless yielded some stunning views of the vast yellow grass plain, and shafts of rain darkening the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Nodding Dwarf Sunflower

A few wildflowers lingered, including this nodding dwarf sunflower.

Aspen forest in the distance

We were aiming for that hillside of golden aspens, but eventually realized there was a steep ravine and another mile of bushwhacking ahead of us.

Green and yellow forest on San Antonio Mountain

A good zoom captured the sun-soaked forest we could not quite attain.

Starting down

Starting down. It was time to find a place to tuck in for the night.

Light and shadow on San Antonio Mountain A last look — for now — at San Antonio Mountain.