A Simple Backcountry Wandering

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In The Gentle of Wandering the principles of wandering are described within the context of hiking in the backcountry. If you have never ventured into the backcountry, you may want consider a simple wandering like the one described below to give it a try.

The idea for this wandering came from looking at a topo map (see below). The area of this topo map is a bit south and west of Socorro, New Mexico. The paved road near the top of the map is U.S. 60.

Having proximity to a main road is a good way to begin your backcountry wandering career. But more important than the road is the place name of Chupadera Spring. It is about a half mile south of U.S. 60 towards the center of the map. Interesting place names on a map are a good source of ideas for a wandering adventure, and a spring in a dry land like New Mexico is always worth investigating.

In a dry land, water attracts animals, and animals attract hunters. Water also attracts settlement or people tending animals like sheep or cattle. This means that you have an excellent chance of finding evidence of both prehistoric and historic use. You might even find something that was used in Ice Age times.

If you look at the map again, there is an unpaved road going south from U.S. 60 (west of the spring) that will allow you to park within a half mile or so of the spring. This is another reason for selecting a place like this for your first backcountry adventure.  You have a good unpaved road and have less than a mile of driving on dirt roads. Once you get some experience under your belt, you can venture deeper into the backcountry.

If you look at the map, you can see a gap in the hills east of the road. This is a good place to park your car and start wandering. You can easily walk through the gap and start heading downhill to the spring.

Let’s see what we can find:

As we go downhill, we’ll soon see the spring down in a small valley / canyon. The old road on the other side of the valley is no longer usable.

When we get down in the valley, we can see an old windmill from an old ranch operation. There are still cattle in the area, but the ranch is long gone.

When we get closer, we can find remnants of water tanks and other structures.

If you look closely along the base of the cliff, you can see walls that were built by shepherds over 100 years ago to protect their sheep at night.

The spring is still there, but the flow is weak. It may have been stronger in wetter times. As you can see by the hoof prints, cattle still drink at the spring.

As you work your way downstream from the spring, you will see colored rocks on the ground. There will be thousands of them. These are pieces of chert (a form of flint). They are leftover material from making spear points, arrowheads, and blades. They are evidence that prehistoric hunters were here. If you look at the map, you will see that the drainage from the spring merges with another drainage about a third of a mile south of the spring. There you will find more evidence of prehistoric hunters.

Was this natural cave overlooking the junction used by prehistoric hunters as shelter? There are thousands of chert pieces immediately in front of the cave.

But the adventure isn’t over yet. You can work your way uphill in the other drainage to get back to your car. The large colored boulders are chert.

Here is another example of a chert boulder in the canyon. You can complete your adventure by following the chert to its source.

As you can see, this is a simple wandering adventure that you might want to do.


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