JEMEZ MOUNTAINS--The Artist Ken Saville and I decided to sneak off for a night in the mountains while the sneaking was still good. It was raining as we headed up into the forest past Ponderosa. The Ponderosa turn-off, by the way, is just past Jemez Pueblo. It is the gateway for the eastern half of the Jemez country.
At any rate, The Hard-Ass Artist Ken Saville and I were not discouraged by the rain, since it is never certain whether the rainfall even extends over the next ridge. We were right. The road we took...the one that goes past the Christian camp and that huge buried ruin up on top had hardly seen any moisture.
We turned off a couple of times and found ourselves on a broad ridge with a view of canyons on either side. We had been here before and decided to pitch camp. Ken discovered a cache of camping supplies near us. It included various items with "Sandia National Lab" logos. It also included an old, well-cared-for heirloom Estwing hatchet. There was a couple hundred dollars worth of stuff there, all neatly stacked up under a tree. We did use some of the items, but then returned them to their protected spot and left them there. We never take anything out of the forest. This is not to say that a large lost bag of drug money wouldn't be a temptation!
Camping is extremely ritualistic. I use the same camp box that my father made 50 years ago. I use the same 50 year-old stove that I used as a child. Ken has worn the same jacket since I have known him. He uses the same tent he carried around New Zealand years ago. We fix the same food. Ken drinks the same whiskey and beer. And I ALWAYS take a box of LCD's...Little Chocolate Donuts.
It was a great night for sleeping--unless you are a dog, that is. "Baby" was on duty all night long from her station in front of my tent. I don't think she slept at all.
But morning came soon enough and we decided to go a bit further down the road. Ken and I have made up names for most of our favorite places and roads. This road is known as "Deuce and a Half" Road because of the abandoned 2 1/2 ton truck down where the road enters Jemez Pueblo land. The truck seems to have more missing parts to it each year. We saw the hood a couple of miles back being used as a backdrop for target shooting.
Eventually the road comes to a junction, with branches going off to such places as Borrego Canyon and Borrego Mesa. I must sheepishly admit I haven't been to either. There is also an old logging camp and another large ruin where the canyon broadens out. It is interesting country.
One time Ken and I were driving down this road when we met an old rancher in a pickup truck. We pulled up even with him and started talking. Eventually I asked him, "Where does this road come out?"
"It don't!" he said. That has been our name for this area ever since: It-Don't Canyon.
You don't need a 4wd to start on this road. You will wish you had one before you get to the end. But this drive is beautiful and "extreme" enough as you climb out of Paliza Canyon to please even the most avid thrill seekers. Just remember...take nothing. Oh yeah...bring water. This ain't no city park.