The Road to 65, Mile 24: A Refuge and A Fortress

December 22, 2014, Truth or Consequences- It was a mild day, which I started with a lovely breakfast of Strawberry Pancakes and sausage patties, at Socorro’s El Camino Family Restaurant.  Once again, all the regulars were present; nobody named Strawberry, though.

I set out for my first visit to Bosque del Apache (Apache Woods), since Penny and I came here in 1983.  It made an impression then, and did so now.  There were more sandhill cranes back then, and one of the docents gave a reason for the relative decline in their numbers.  The cranes have become dependent on corn that is grown by a farmer, who is employed by the Refuge.  The farmer they had, left and so, if anyone is interested in growing corn, specifically to feed birds, and be part of an upbeat crew of wildlife managers- contact Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, US Fish and Wildlife Service.

I began my drive down El Camino Real (New Mexico Highway 1), with a stop at this defunct Catholic church, in San Antonio, NM.  This little village has few remaining residents,but it is still worth remembering.  Each small settlement along the Royal Road was once a major stop, for those on foot or on horseback.

SAM_3347 I was greeted, upon my entrance into the Wildlife Refuge, by a Greater Sandhill Crane, perched on a branch.  Of course, he flew off immediately as I got my camera ready to shoot.  Continuing on, I walked a 3-mile loop of Chupadera National Recreational Trail.  The whole trail, up Chupadera Peak and back, would’ve been 9 miles.  I had more on my agenda, so that can be done another time.  The cairns mark each length of the trail.SAM_3355 Watch out!  The snakes and scorpions may be hibernating.  Not so, the thorny bushes.SAM_3358 Out in the distance, lie the San Andres Mountains.SAM_3360 Ann Young was an avid birder, who has since passed on.  To make up for the relative lack of wintering birds this year, here is a video of one of her last visits to Bosque: New growth is taking its place, all over Bosque del Apache.SAM_3363 From the window of the Visitor Center, one can sit for hours, just watching the various finches, wrens and hummingbirds eat their fill.  Many, though, prefer the findings on the ground and in the brush.SAM_3367 Believe it or not, a bald eagle is perched in the cottonwood tree on the right.SAM_3369 Trees growing up out of the sandbars create a safe haven for aquatic life, but also are a convenient place for raptors to sit and enjoy the view.SAM_3372 I walked this berm, around a marsh that is full, seasonally.  This is not the season of its fullness, but I got a sense of what it could be.  A Cooper’s hawk followed me around the loop, screeching, but never quite finding its favourite meal.SAM_3376 Raptors, cliff swallows and barn swallows make their nests in these sandstone cliffs.SAM_3383 SAM_3386 Here is an overlook, above the Marsh Trail.SAM_3389 When I climbed the path, this was my view.  Some say the Chihuahua Desert is more barren than the Sonoran.  Right now, I’d say they are correct.

SAM_3390 This is an oxbow of the Rio Grande, and trends towards dry, even when the river itself is full.SAM_3395 As you can see in Ann Young’s video, sometimes the bed under this boardwalk is full of water.  Not today.SAM_3396 SAM_3399 It is good enough for cattails, though.SAM_3400 My spirit friend was on the job.SAM_3401 Once back along the main flow of the Rio Grande, I spotted a Lesser Sandhill Crane, by its lonesome.SAM_3412 From the Eagle Scout Deck, more evidence of past drynesses and flows could be seen.SAM_3415 On my next visit to Bosque, I will focus more on the North Loop and the Canyon Trail.  It’ll also mean taking in a Fly-In, at sunset.

Continuing down El Camino Real, I came to a dirt road, which led me to Fort Craig, five miles eastward.  This National Historic Site is comprised of ruins, and figures in three sorry episodes of our nation’s history:  The Mexican War, which was its raison d’etre; the Civil War, during which Confederates from Texas tried to use New Mexico as a steppingstone to Colorado’s gold fields; and the Trans- Mississippi Indian Wars, which just led to more suffering and misunderstandings, on both sides.  That its ruins stand at all, however, show just how formidable Fort Craig was.  Walking these paths brought me back to the ramparts and walls of France, Belgium and Luxembourg.  The pilings below support the earthworks, which defended the fort against the Confederate force.

SAM_3416 This is what’s left of the Guard House and Jail.  Prisoners were segregated by race, as were the soldiers.SAM_3418 These are the remains of the Commanding Officer’s Quarters.SAM_3420 SAM_3421 The perimeter walls were more formidable than they look now.SAM_3425SAM_3426 Here is the Magazine Storage, where ammunition was kept safe and dry.SAM_3431 The Battle of Valverde, near Socorro, was a Pyrrhic victory for the Confederates.  They lost so much in materiel that they were unable to capture Fort Craig and hobbled on to Albuquerque, never gaining control of New Mexico.SAM_3435 I don’t believe I have ever cast such a long shadow.  Being tired by now, my course of action was to stop in the unique town of Truth or Consequences.  The story has been told by someone on my Facebook wall, but I will discuss it at length in “Mile 25.”


4 thoughts on “The Road to 65, Mile 24: A Refuge and A Fortress

  1. I love the old churches! And I love the vast horizon…I’d love to see the stars at night. I think this area is a little too barren for me, though. I don’t know enough history…when I think of Confederates, I always think of the eastern part of the country. I don’t know much of the war fought in this part of the country.


    • The area around Bosque del Apache is a lot more pleasant in spring and summer. There were a few battles fought in both New mexico and Arizona, mainly between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions of the Hispanic population.


  2. Catching up on the postings about your journey. Ann Young’s video was such sharp contrast to the current state of affairs. I have never been to ruins, except Montezuma’s Castle, so I was fascinated with Ft. Craig and the pictographs on Inscription Rock.


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