Red River, New Mexico Part 1:
Jeff and I spent Monday, May 21st driving from Sherman, TX to Red River, NM. This is a 10-hour drive. We took Hwy 82 west from Sherman, picked up Hwy 287 at Henrietta, TX, through Wichita Falls, and several small cities in northwest Texas and the Panhandle before picking up I40 in Amarillo, which we were on for about 2 miles. We took Loop 335 around the north side of Amarillo and picked up 87/287 again, going north to Dumas, west to Dalhart, northwest to Clayton NM, where we got on Hwy 412 to Springer. At Springer we got on I25 for about 4 miles to Hwy 58, which took us to Cimarron and Eagle Nest. This was a slow, winding road that followed the canyon of the Cimarron River, climbing up into the mountains and eventually dropping back down to Eagle Nest in the valley with the lake. Beyond that, we had 18 miles to get to Red River. It rained most of the way, and it was raining as we moved into our condo (the Auslander), but we got in and settled without getting too wet.
A 10-hour drive west and north from Sherman TX covers a lot of diverse terrain. We started in blackland prairie around Sherman, then passed through the hilly, rocky West Cross Timbers vegetation zone north of Fort Worth, and later entered what was historically short-grass prairie in the Texas Panhandle. North of Amarillo is an area of arid grassland with lots of cholla and scrubby juniper, but after you pass Dumas you are back in flat, agriculturally favorable terrain, but irrigation from the Ogallala aquifer is necessary. This goes on until you reach Clayton. Past Clayton is arid ranchland, but there are places where there are more cattle than the land would appear to support. Here you begin to see some pronghorn antelope. After you pass through Springer and make your way uphill on the west side of I25, the terrain changes dramatically. You climb up into the mountains along first straight and fast roads, then on slow, narrow, winding mountain roads. The mountains get higher and steeper, and the trees taller and denser, as you climb. Snow begins to appear in the highlands, and clear, swift streams are in the canyons. You drop back down into Red River, and after 10 hours in the car, you are glad to get to the Auslander.
We were up early because I was one time-zone ahead, and Jeff was two time zones ahead (6:30 am in Red River was 7:30 in TX and 8:30 in NY). We didn’t hurry because nothing was open when we got up. At about 7:00 am we went in search of coffee (for Jeff), but none of the coffee places were open – it was the Tuesday morning of the week before the Memorial Day weekend – more on the significance of this later. We eventually abandoned the idea of coffee, and started up the Pioneer Creek trail. This is actually a USFS road (438) that is suitable for 4WD vehicles, or for hikers. It goes along the watercourse of Pioneer Creek, which is a tributary of Red River.
A view of the Pioneer Creek trail:
The Pioneer Creek trail starts fairly gently uphill, climbing out of the Red River valley, up the Pioneer Creek valley, which in some places is the Pioneer Creek canyon. In the first three miles, the stream crosses the road four times.
I have not hiked much uphill from the fourth stream crossing. For Jeff and me, we got to a point where we said, I don’t think I want to climb up that next steep, rocky slope. When Becky and I did it in the summer of 2017, we reached about the same point, but we said, the creek is basically running down the road, and we don’t want to wade uphill. After consulting the trail/topo map, Jeff and I figured we had walked about 3 miles uphill, and gained about 1500 feet elevation. This was a 3-hour round trip, but it was worth it.
A view with Aspens: