Exploring North-Central New Mexico

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What do you do when you are in between projects??? Plan a road trip of course!! One of my friends wanted to camp down at the Great Sand Dunes National Park (in Colorado) for a day or so. The weather was not looking too swift so we aborted that plan.

Given the weather situation in Colorado, other options were researched – Green River, Wyoming? Wild Rivers Recreation Area, New Mexico? The weather also sucked in Wyoming, so Wild Rivers it was! My friend wasn’t interested in New Mexico so I soloed it. IT WAS FABULOUS.

‘If I waited for others to adventure with me, I’d be a full-fledged couch potato’

~Pam (I Choose This)~

“The Wild Rivers Recreation Area is located in north central New Mexico within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Two rivers that run through the park, the Rio Grande and Red River are National Wild and Scenic Rivers.” This description was snagged from Wikipedia that was literally a 10 second read. Not a whole lot written about this place.

I found another blogger who had posted on Wild Rivers, so reached out to her and asked which of the 5 campgrounds were the best. She mentioned, “Big Arsenic (Big) or Little Arsenic (Little)”. I couldn’t seem to find much information on these campgrounds – part of me felt this could be a total disaster.

The pictures found were definitely pretty, but one never knows – living in Colorado generally means New Mexico isn’t greatly explored. A day or so later, the car was loaded with extra blankets, beef jerky and some some yummy red wine a friend had given me months ago.

The drive down was nice and smooth, not much traffic between Denver and Colorado Springs which is essentially a Christmas miracle. The 5 hour drive was spent listening to an Audible book about friendships. Definitely eye-opening and informative. A long-time friendship dissolved a couple of years ago and sometimes I need to unwind things in my mind to figure out how that situation could have been handled better.

Anyhoooo, I got to the Big Arsenic campground and secured my spot. The special thing about the Big and Little campgrounds are that they sit on the rim of the 800-foot Rรญo Grande gorge. SUPER quiet – no-one else was there except a 1980 ish VW Vanagon around the corner from me – I couldn’t see a thing or hear a peep! They were in space #6 which was literally right on the rim. One could easily just drive over the edge if not paying attention.

View – 20 feet from camp!

Once situated, I jumped on the closest trail which was the Big Arsenic Springs Trail, accessible directly from the campground. You hike about 800 feet into the canyon to get to the Rio Grande River. It was stunning – crisp and clear as can be. From there you can walk along the river and back up the canyon to the Little campground and down the road back to Big. All in all, it was about a 5 or 6 mile hike. It was hot as hell that day and realized my 1 liter of water probably wasn’t enough in the heat. The only souls seen on the trail were 2 fly-fisher people – can’t imagine hiking 800 feet out of that canyon in hot waders and boots – UGH.

Trail Map

At night, the stars were U-Mazing…..there is a song with lyrics that describe stars as really “angels taking a cigarette break at night” – I think of these lyrics every time I look into a densely lit night sky. As I was sitting there listening to my Steel Drivers playlist and sipping red wine, my gratitude meter was off the charts. How lucky was I to be sitting there in an unexpected gem of a place???

Many of you won’t make the trip to this place, so the lesson learned here is that you can find magic in the most unexpected places, you just have to step out there and be open to adventure!

…i choose this…



  1. You are definitely the queen of stepping out there and being open to adventure, Ham! So glad this worked out for you; I know you were debating in the days before. No traffic between Denver and C Springs – that IS a true miracle – I fight that mess every time I come and go. I’ll put this on our list, but we might need a RTT before we can do it!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know! Traffic usually sucks soo bad down there. If not a RTT, rent a retro van or a Sprinter :-). You could camp down there for a couple of days (probably all you would need) and make your way back to Denver – possibly camp somewhere around the Springs. It would be a dreamy trip.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wish Iโ€™d been there with you Pam!! I broke my wrist cycling about 3weeks ago and had to have surgery. The Dr. put a plate in my wrist to support the bone. It sucks but I guess it could have been worse. Anyway, miss you tons!!

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow, what a spectacular view you had!! I love your quote about waiting for others … we have realised a long time ago that when you want to do something, do it!
    Oh, and I love your wine glass (I’ve got the same one – without the name on it) … if I take that glass out, I know it’s camping time ๐Ÿ˜.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Haha, I know ๐Ÿ™‚ Hopefully it won’t be too bad and really, we are going to see our daughter whom we haven’t seen for three years. But still we would like to travel a bit so any suggestions that do not involve skiing will be greatly appreciated! We thought a New Mexico trip may be the safest bet in terms of weather, but I know that this is wishful thinking…

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        1. Check and see if this part of NM is temperate, itโ€™s beautiful! Also see if Ojo Caliente is open (hot springs resort). I have not been but hear good things. Santa Fe is also wonderful if u havenโ€™t been. Itโ€™ll be cold there. Salida is a really cute town in CO – usually not as cold as the rest of the state. You could stop there and then do a drive by of the Sand dunes on the way to NM. ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

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    1. Not sure I want to know about your experience ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚. Yes, the tent sits on top of the car. Itโ€™s super easy to open and once set up, itโ€™s essentially a king size bed. I had my sweet Exped mattress and a down comforter with me. Nice and cozy in there! It weighs about 150 lbs so it stays on the car all year round. Itโ€™s brought a lot of joy the past 1.5 years!

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  4. Hey Pam
    Great thing to do between projects !
    And that view 20
    Feet from campground is amazing
    Also – I know More of what you mean about Weather changing plans – it does matter
    I have only recently been doing overnight hikes (but likely won’t do any I the frigid winter)
    And you know – two trips ago I had a very good experience when we had to ration water –
    It was not too low but near the evening we realized we only had so much left and still wanted coffee in the morning (partly because the coffee on an overnight hike is a fav ) anyhow – I think everyone needs to experience the need to conserve because it changes ya for the better –

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Coffee is a MUST on camping trips!! I will ration whatever water it takes for morning coffee. LOL. Im afraid this was probably the last camping trip of the year. HOWEVER, Colorado weather right now is really mild. I may have to try and squeeze another adventure in if I can!

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  5. Hi, Pam! So happy to have connected with you! Youโ€™re near my old stomping grounds! I used to live in the foothills of the Sandias โ€” I love and miss New Mexico so much! I plan to go back to New Mexico, one day, to do some more hiking there โ€” one of my most favorite places, ever, for sure! Happy trails!!! ~ Chelle & SV Sunflower (Sunny)

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you for following my blog, too! ๐Ÿค— We were only in NM for a little under two years, so we didnโ€™t get to explore as much as we would have liked โ€” mostly, we hiked in the Sandias โ€” there are a lot of awesome trailheads in Albuquerque going right up into the mountains. When we didnโ€™t a whole lot of time to get away, we also loved doing the little hikes at Petroglyph National Monument โ€” so cool to see all of the numerous petroglyphs that abound! ๐Ÿฅฐ

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