Dave and Cindy fulltime in a truck camper. (The Albino Rhino) travel blog

Beckoning me from across the city... Turtleback Mountain awaits.

My goal, to have lunch on the peak. Turtle, or Squirrel... you...

No water in the Rio Grande... the drought has been bad here...

The downhill curve where I lost my water... DAMMIT!

 

The beginning of the trail... with the peak in the distance at...

You can almost see a trail behind me, here.

The view behind me as I walk along the ridge, to the...

Reaching the next peak... another view of the other side. Elephant Butte...

Every time I climb over one peak... there's a new one before...

 

 

The trail can be seen behind me, right along the "backbone" of...

A trail marker, with Truth or Consequences in the background.

Not much on the backside of the mountain range... just more hills...

A ways to go yet... but the highest peak is in sight!

 

FINALLY!

I claim this mountain in the name of thirsty, winded, hikers everywhere......

The afternoon shadows add dimension to the landscape.

T or C in the foreground, Elephant Butte in the background.

Looking down range at the rest of the mountains in the distance.

Hey... what's this?

Awesome... a logbook!

This sure beats leaving my underwear on a pole.

 

Interesting cactus fruit.

 


If I’m in an area long enough, it’s just a matter of time before I start looking for places to explore. When we arrived here in T or C, NM… one of the pictures I took included a mountain range visible from our campsite. It wasn’t until I began reading about the area that I realized the tallest mountain was called Turtleback, and once a “local” mentioned it was a popular hiking destination… well, it was on my list of things to do. (Whether you call it Turtleback, or Squirrel Back Mountain, depends on which side of the peak you consider the “head”. The turtle’s head is on the left, but looked at the other way, it looks like a squirrel laying on its belly with one leg hanging over the edge.) The peak is at 6000ft of elevation, and hikers will ascend 2200 feet on the way up, trudging 4.5 miles in total.

I hopped on the bike, to scout the trip and see if this was something Cindy could do along with me. As it turned out… as close as the mountain seems, it’s on the other side of the Rio Grande. To get to the trail head you have to drive (or in my case, ride) about 4 miles out of the way, to a bridge that crosses the river, then another 2 miles down a dirt road. This was one of those trips I was doing alone… and it’s a good thing Cindy didn’t come along, because if the bike ride didn’t get her, the trail sure would have.

I rode down the dirt road, the wheels on my recently serviced (?) mountain bike squeaking so loudly, I felt as if a kid on a 10 year old tricycle was tailgating me the whole way there. The road looked deceptively flat on the satellite photo, but the area is hilly. Not so difficult that anyone in decent shape wouldn’t be able to easily ride the entire way, though. So… after walking the bike up one of the long steep hills, I gladly remounted my aluminum steed to take advantage of a long, downhill ride. It was on the downside of this hill I had my first mishap… at about 25mph on the bumpy ride down, the grin on my face disappeared as my water bottle bounced out of its cage, and in a flash of sparkling blue in my peripheral vision, I watched my precious H2O splash all over the dirt. Oh, well… too late to turn back now I suppose.

Reaching the trailhead, I hid the bike in some bushes and started up. The trail up the mountain is really less of a hiking trail, and more of a “burro” trail. Despite the steep climb, there are very few switchbacks to graduate the ascent. For much of the hike, you’re climbing at about a 40 to 45degree incline… and walking on loose stones. This means you spend as much energy keeping your balance, as you do making forward progress. The trail was also narrow, and at times invisible. On several occasions, I’d be walking and suddenly find that I’d left the trail without knowing it, only to pick it up again 10 yards away. Aside from no water, steep inclines, and loose footing… another issue I ran into was thin air. I found myself “sucking wind” and taking more breaks than usual on this hike. I would definitely rate this trail “moderate to difficult”.

The views were spectacular throughout the climb, however, and worth all the effort it took to reach the top. As I ate my sandwich, I noticed a black piece of metal on the ground. Turned out to be a buried tube with a notebook inside for hikers to sign once they’d reached the top… very cool! I wondered how many folks made it up here, and didn’t even notice it. I left my mark, ate my sandwich, and headed down. The hike up took 2.5 hours, and the bike ride alone took an hour… it was a little after 2pm. A cold front was on the way and the sun sets at 5:00, so it was time to hoof it! About halfway down, my left knee began communicating to its desire to end this little trip… and gave its disapproval of all such adventures. Duly noted.

I reached the bike at 4:10, and all I could think about was the water I dropped. I hoped there would be a little left in the bottle when I found it on the way back. No such luck… the bottle had completely broken in half, and was bone dry. It was a long ride back to town, the cold front had arrived, and the wind and sun were both in my face the whole way back. My body was starved for carbs and fluids by this point. After 12.5 miles on the bike, and 4.5 miles on the mountain. The only thing on my mind was ICE CREAM, COOKIES, AND MILK! By the time I got home, I had to push my bike up the final hill to the camper… and my eyes were so dried out and full of dust, it was like looking through a hazy windshield. We didn’t have any ice cream, so after rinsing out my eyes I reluctantly embarked on one last walk… to the store. A good dinner, 2 Advil, and a good night’s sleep later… I’m good as new and ready for the next trip.



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