30-Aug-2016 -- This is the third of three successful confluence visits on a trip up to see my daughters over Parents Weekend! It continues from 35N 108W.
I left Grants early in the morning northbound on NM 605 and turned left onto NM 509 and then west onto Indian Service Rte 9 and then right onto NM 57 and intercepted the track William Eskel had taken 7 years earlier. I passed by Ruby Ranch with a steel bull atop a large outcropping (Picture 7) and continued until NM 57 made a hard right here where I turned left and continued west for another couple miles until the road veered to the northwest here where I parked.
I was about 3 km east of the confluence and set out along the barbed wire fence just to the south of where I had parked. The terrain was relatively flat and the temperature was nice this time of year. Along the way I passed several survey markers south of the fence and a couple of old rolled up power cables. These were fairly thick and long and, based on the weathering, appeared to have been abandoned long ago. As I got very close, I headed south away from the fence line and up a small rise to the confluence.
The confluence area was sandy with small scrub bushes. As I was setting up my Trimble GPS to log positions, I got a text message from my Mom! I was surprised there was any sort of cellular coverage out here. The only man made things in sight was the east-west fence line I had followed and a small north south powerline and old windmill to the northwest. The service must have been from a tower at nearby Chaco Canyon.
Visibility was unrestricted in all directions. I spent awhile there taking pictures and sending a SPOT message declaring confluence success. On my way back, I managed to startle three different jack rabbits. It seemed like they must have been hiding just behind a shrub and waited until I was almost on top of them before hopping away!
I decided to head out to the north and stop at the Chaco Canyon Visitors Center. It looked like it would be a great area to camp at one of the prepared sites. Chaco is the fourth unit in the National Park System to earn certification as an International Dark Sky Park – rating it “as one of the best places in the country to experience and enjoy natural darkness.” I could easily see why, there is absolutely nothing around for miles! The roads within the park are paved and I was hoping that my trip northeast out of the park would remain paved. I was disappointed. Just like the way in, after I left the park, washboard dirt roads were present almost all the way to US-550.
Post processing of the GPS data (511 positions) reveals that my Trimble GPS receiver was 1.6 meters northeast of the actual confluence with a Horizontal Precision of 2.1 meters.
From where I parked, my round trip hike took 1:42 h and was 6.4 km. Inbound from the south at the intersection of Bia-9 and Chaco Canyon Road, it took 30 minutes to drive the 27.7 km to where I parked. On my way out to the north, it took 49 minutes to drive the 45.5 km to the intersection of US550 and CR7900. I had started my day in Grants four and a half hours earlier and was now heading towards 36N 107W.
As I headed east, I could see large storms ahead. I stopped in the town of Cuba where it was drizzling. I stopped for lunch hoping the band of rain I was tracking on my phone would soon pass. I turned off on NM 197 and came within 1000 meters due east of the 36N 107W confluence and discovered that the access used by William Eskel now had No Trespassing signs. The rain continued and I imagined the response I would get if I had approached any of the homeowners in the steady rain and asked them for permission to cross their property onto public lands behind their houses.
I decided to abort my attempt and continue my trip north to visit Project Gasbuggy. This makes the third such site I have visited on confluence treks. Previously, I had visited the Trinity Site on a trip to 34N 108W and Project Faultless enroute to 42N 122W. This place was also in the middle of absolutely nowhere and the wooden signs in the Carson National Forest at the Project Gasbuggy site were very faded. I would imagine very few people ever visit this place or are even aware of its existence or significance.
Onward to a hotel in Alamosa for the night and I spent the next morning exploring the Great Sand Dunes National Park before spending the next 4 days with my daughters!
Another outstanding confluence adventure!