***I put this post together during our trip out to the 2016 Overland Expo in Flagstaff, AZ***
It’s night 3 of New Mexico Back Roads’ (NMBR) Ghost Divide Expedition (GDE), camp has settled down with everyone returning to their tents and trucks. As I’m putting together this trip log, I can hear a pack of Mexican gray wolves howling maybe a mile from our site. With this being my first trip into the southwest (outside of a large metropolitan area), it’s an overwhelming feeling to know that one of North America’s apex predators is just out of sight.
Through today (Tuesday), we’ve traversed about 250 miles of roads and trails through the Gila & Apache National Forests on a northwestern trajectory from our rendezvous location in Truth or Consequences, NM (or as the locals call it “TorC”). The terrain we’ve covered has been amazing to say the least! On Day 1 (Sunday), we crossed over the Continental Divide and camped in the Black Range Mountains. We then went on to explore the Mogollon and White Mountains on Monday and Tuesday. Passing through various fire scarred woodlands and high elevation plains, it’s hard to articulate the majestic beauty around each turn of this trip. We’ve been lucky enough to spot an elk at a watering hole and an antelope grazing about 400 yards from the track we were negotiating.
The camping component of this trip has been interesting for someone who has never camped above 4500 feet. Last night we camped at a site roughly 9600 feet above sea level; tonight we’re at 7600 feet. During the day, the temperatures have hovered in the low 70s while it’s easily dipped down into the 30’s, 20’s, and possibly even lower. I’ve also learned the most unpleasant sound you might hear at night is your Buddy Heater cutting out at 0230 and not having an extra canister in the tent to turn it back on.
Jake Quiñones, Owner of NMBR (and contributor to Overland Journal—look for his upcoming article in the Summer Edition), operates one of the finest guide services and overlanding outfits in the United States. The pre-planning communications and preparation that Jake provided each participant laid the groundwork for a successful trip for all involved. Since our meeting location in TorC, I’ve been impressed with Jake’s attention to detail, his focus on the “right way” to overland, and the history tutorials he’s provided. As he put it early on during our driver’s meeting on Sunday, we’re here to “Preserve and Conserve” both the land and our vehicles. All along our expedition, we’ve heard about the history of the area that we’re currently in or will be crossing through. From the likes of Geronimo, Aldo Leopold, Billy the Kid, and Butch Cassidy, Jake has impressed upon our group the significance New Mexico and Arizona have played in American history.
The participants on the GDE come from a wide range of backgrounds and areas within the United States. Ryan Burris is driving a very well equipped 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with an Ursa Minor hardtop conversion. Over the last couple years, Ryan has been able to travel through nearly every single state to the tune of 125k in miles on his Jeep. Ron Herndon and his Land Rover Defender 90 (D90) have really shown the team that old trucks need loving too. Coming from South Florida, Ron and his beloved D90 have pushed through some “Land Rover” type issues to enjoy the GDE. Rounding out the group (besides Mark and I) is Rory and his 2015 Toyota 4 Runner. Rory hails from Southern New Mexico and has kept a minimalist approach to overlanding and his rig. With only a slight lift and upgraded BFG KO2 All-Terrain tires, Rory has been riding in comfort and ease throughout the trip–at some point in on the expedition, he punted on tent camping and started sleeping in the rear of the 4Runner.
As I close down for the night, there are some elk trumpeting well off the in distance and I can’t help but think about what would be racing through my kid’s minds. It’s tough being away from your family and your people but I hope to share with them my experiences and cultivate their eagerness and passion to explore their world when the time comes. I’m looking forward to the rest of the trip and making it to Mormon Lake, AZ!