May 17, 2009 at 4:07 pm #1236376
I wonder if anyone has spent time in the Cruces Basin Wilderness, in New Mexico's Carson National Forest. It is tricky to get accurate information from the Forest Service on current conditions (they tend to err on the side of caution, i.e. the access road will be snowed in until July). Any idea what conditions to expect over the next few weeks in terms of vehicle access to major trailheads, and foot travel in the high country? Any great spots one should check out?
JamesMay 17, 2009 at 4:17 pm #1501829
What's it close to?May 17, 2009 at 4:20 pm #1501830
Just east of Chama, right on the border with CO. Elevations between about 8500'-10900'.
JamesMay 17, 2009 at 11:10 pm #1501881
No, but I'll be in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness this weekend at Red River, and I'm sure the snow pack in Cruces will be roughly the same. I'll let you know it that isn't too late. Where is the ranger station for Cruces?May 18, 2009 at 9:06 am #1501926
Thanks, Joe, for the kind offer. Looks like the Forest Service Bulding in Taos and the Ranger District Office in Tres Piedras (SE of the Wilderness) are the main contacts for Cruces, though they may have better information at Tres Piedras because that is the Ranger District for Cruces.
Again, thanks for offer, and enjoy Wheeler!
JamesMay 19, 2009 at 12:18 pm #1502203
@akajutLocale: Central Oklahoma
I had the same experience in the Gila Wilderness on May 1st. The ranger station told us that a road was closed and had too much snow in the higher elevations. The gate on the was closed but not locked and the roads were in great condition. There was still some snow on the SE sides of the mountains. Occassionally you would post hole past your knees. We started running into snow above 9,000.
It is impossible for them to have any idea how skilled you are so i'm sure they err on the side of caution.May 19, 2009 at 12:39 pm #1502204
I've had similar experiences as you in a number of different areas, and I am now at a point where I just expect very conservative estimates of conditions as a matter of course- especially when it comes to things like snow conditions and water availability. And as you say, you certainly can't blame them. I find I get better information in person as opposed to over the phone, and when I ask very specific questions that show I've done some homework and have some experience. For most reliable information, I come to BPL :-)
JamesMay 19, 2009 at 1:34 pm #1502209
@akajutLocale: Central Oklahoma
You could also try some local gear shops (or even REI Santa Fe), diners, etc.
I guess the snow can stick around up there according to this
"The last time I tried to get to Cruces Basin Wilderness was several years ago in mid-June. I couldn't make it to the campgrounds at Lagunitas because of the 4-foot snowbanks still covering the road."May 19, 2009 at 4:56 pm #1502236
Yea, I came across that warning as well! Yikes. I don't mind a few road miles on foot on the way in, but wouldn't want to lose half my trip to it.
Good idea to call local outfitters and establishments. Anything that can prevent some disappointment after a long drive.
JamesMay 26, 2009 at 9:39 am #1503586
Sorry James, we ended up not going thru Santa Fe on the way home, so I didn't get by the Ranger station for you. I can say that in Wheeler, anything that didn't face south or was in heavy shadow was melted. The way the temperature was yesterday, I give it 2 more weeks until it's all gone. We did encounter 37 degrees and 3-4' of snow on parts of the trail Sunday, but we were at 11,750' too.
I don't think I'd be afraid to try Cruces if I was you though.May 26, 2009 at 9:44 am #1503590
I thought I should mention, Wheeler is probably 40-50 miles south of Cruces, but the elevation is higher. Here's a shot yesterday at Middle Fork Lake, around 10,600'. You can see that the majority has melted. I think that is the ridge where I took the previous picture. Hard to say though, since visibility was so bad.May 26, 2009 at 10:23 am #1503601
Thank you for that information. Cruces stays below 11,000 feet, and is relatively rolling terrain with open areas of grassland. Since much of it involves route finding without defined trails in the first place, sounds like it shouldn't be hard at all to stay out of the snowbanks. I get the impression that sections of the access road may keep snow late in the season, but hey, I suppose that is why I own that '99 Subaru wagon with the heart of a monster truck. That, and the fact that Subaru ownership is mandatory in Boulder, CO.
Did that fog ever lift on your hike? Again, many thanks.
EDIT: looks like it did clear out eventually! Your photo is encouraging me to explore New Mexico some more…May 26, 2009 at 10:36 am #1503603
It never cleared when we were up on the ridge to Wheeler Peak, which was disappointing. I've been wanting to see the view off that ridge for 30 years, and it was that foggy. Oh well, I shouldn't have wasted so much time. Sure is hard to get back in shape at my age. And if you strike out at Cruces, run down to Taos, get a green chile beer at Eske's, go up to the ski valley, and into Wheeler. There are worse places to be……May 26, 2009 at 11:07 am #1503613
Sorry the view from the summit didn't work out. Always does help, though, to have a post-hike watering hole mapped out. Well suited to either celebrating success or moderating disappointment (or a little of both), and adds some motivation along the way! I will check out Eske's if I head down that way. My problem is that all those appetizers look so tempting after a few days of energy bars and freeze dried cuisine…
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