NM – San Pedro Parks Wilderness

I couldn’t believe my luck. Joan decided to take a slight detour into New Mexico as she began her relocation travels from Moab to Atlanta. I’m all about opportunities and there was no way I was giving up this one. I may have said my goodbyes a month earlier after our week in Capitol Reef and the Henry Mountains, but I was more than ready to say HELLO again, lets play! I’d stopped at the Ranger Station in Cuba looking for ideas and thus learned about San Pedro. When you want to play, how can you say no to a park? San Pedro Parks Wilderness is known for high, moist, rolling mountaintops with numerous meadows and large grassy “parks.” Source: USFS 

My readers and friends know I don’t enjoy planning or rigid itineraries. I love that Joan embraces this philosophy. We prepared by downloading maps to our Gaia phone apps, which would supplement our paper map and trail descriptions. I thought this quote in a book I was recently reading was quite appropriate for this adventure as we had no destination in mind; how much food we carried would determine the maximum length of our journey.

We began our hike from the San Gregorio trailhead located in the southern part of the wilderness. I don’t have a photo at the trailhead so I’m assuming there wasn’t any signage. About a mile from the parking lot is San Gregorio Reservoir. I couldn’t talk Joan into going for a swim. Maybe on our exit? 

Time to find the parks. Will there be swing sets and slides? Maybe we’ll find ziplines and a concession stand with rootbeer floats.

At the first junction we decide to stay on the Las Vacas trail, saving the Damian for our return. 

We stay the course at the next junction also. I love having so many options for loops and variety. 

I loved this trail. Weather and temperatures were perfect. This was Jan’s definition of flat strolling trail; no bushwhacking required. 

We were soon reminded late April is early spring at 10,000 feet. 

We were excited to be on the CDT. “The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail climbs to the beautiful San Pedro Parks Wilderness area from Cuba, NM and then heads northeast to the Chama River and Carson National Forest. The CDT route follows the Los Pinos, Las Vacas, Penas Negras and Rio Capulin trails through the Wilderness.” Source: Continental Divide Trail Coalition

Well since we didn’t find any fun toys in the park, we decided napping in the grass (imagine it’s green with plentiful wildflowers and butterflies) would be an acceptable substitute. 

Of course we needed to summit nearby San Pedro Peak (10,952′).

Hey look, peak #2, Ped Peak at 10,523′.

Signage was inconsistent and confusing within the wilderness. We were glad we had multiple resources. 

Trail 31 is also known as Rio Capulin Trail. 

It’s wise to come prepared for rain. 

Umbrellas make such a difference, especially during hail storms. 

The next few miles on the CDT/Rio Capulin was trail in need of some maintenance with lots of deadfall. This sign represented the junction of trail #31 (Rio Capulin) with trail #30 (Rio Gallina) were we planned to begin the next leg of our loop. It was getting late so we decided to continue a bit further north on the trail and find a place to camp.

We slept on options. I wasn’t thrilled with our choices.

  1. Reverse direction on trail #31 back through known deadfall jungle gym
  2. Continue hiking north until the trail crosses Highway 96 or Road 103 and try hitching back to the trailhead
  3. Attempt unmaintained trail #30

Known or unknown? Joan left the decision up to me.

My ultimate decision was to give trail #30 five minutes. How much worse can it be than what we’d already hiked?

Soon 5 minutes turned into 15, 30, 60, 90 . . . there was no evidence of old trail. But by now it seemed better to continue forward.

Are we having fun yet? Well Joan loves this stuff, Jan not so much. 

See that smile? Yep Joan kind of fun. She’s even more relaxed since I made the decision to take this route. Oh Jan, what were you thinking?

We quickly gave up on trying to stay on course with our digital map and instead decided to visit a couple of interesting points of interest marked on the map like Red Rock Cliff.  Compass navigation was very helpful at keeping us moving in the right direction. This is Joan’s specialty; I have room for improvement.

Look we found ourselves some red rocks. 

Along the way we found some interesting sights. 

1930 graffiti

1937 cursive writing graffiti

At four hours in, I’m happy for breaks and butterfly distractions. 

We can’t believe our eyes. Someone else has been this way in the not so distant past. 

We see a cave on our map so once we locate on the ground, Joan goes in to explore. 

Then it was time to find the path of least resistance. 

The happy smile of finding our way out of the deadfall . . . ONLY eight hours into this day’s obstacle course adventure.

YES, the trail is in sight. Excellent job expert navigator Joan!

Yippee! Lets find a place to camp! 

Jan was plenty tuckered after this 9-hour day of off-trail, log hopping, bushwhacking fun. That was a long 6-mile day!

Why is Jan tuckered? Joan did a fine job capturing my challenges. 

Any regrets? Not when I’m sharing it with my friend. She makes me giggle, laugh and enjoy the crazy situations we find ourselves in. 

It’s a new day. Our plan is to complete a figure eight loop but after our experience with the non-existent Gallina Trail, we had low expectations of trail conditions. We camped near the junction of San Jose, Las Vacas and Los Pinos Trails. 

On the Los Pinos and Anastacio Trails, we found a mix of nice surface, snow covered surface, well-trodden trail, and post/cairn-marked trail. 

We liked the looks of the Palomas Trail. 

How does the Damian Trail look? 

Ha, I guess we might as well end this loop with more obstacles. 

Back at San Gregorio Reservoir I still couldn’t talk Joan into a swim. 

Adventure Date(s):

  • April 28-30, 2018

Tips:

  • Carry a paper map. Although it was dated 2006, it was a necessary supplement to our digital versions. 
  • Obtain trail conditions reports from both the Cuba and Coyote Ranger Stations.
  • Prepare for weather. Temperatures dropped to high 30’s both nights, plus we had heavy rain and hail.

Resources:

Links:

6 thoughts on “NM – San Pedro Parks Wilderness

  1. 5 minutes! Haha 8 hours later… and we did it! Go Team J and J! This is a trip I will never forget because of your great positive spirit and the sense of challenge and exploration. Loved that crazy off-trail to see the cave and red rocks! Thanks for being totally awesome and full of joy, my friend!

  2. Pingback: NM – Manzano Mountain Wilderness – Jan's Jaunts and Jabberings

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