21-Oct-2001 -- On a business trip to Alamogordo, NM, my companions and I decided to
try for this confluence, since it was the nearest confluence to
Alamogordo that hadn't been visited.
I scouted the location out using the Garmin MetroGuide mapset, and I
was pleased to discover that there was a road less than a mile from the
confluence. Looking at it with the US Topo map showed that the terrain
wasn't too rugged, so I didn't expect the confluence would be too
I decided to try an experiment, and I had my StreetPilot III generate a
route to take us to the confluence. It turned out that this route
worked rather well, and we didn't have any problems following it.
We started out north of Roswell on Highway 285, and the SP III told us
to turn off of Hwy 285 onto "Corn Rd". The road actually didn't look
like a real road, so we missed the turn and had to double back (our
mistake for not listening to the GPS). When we reached the road, we
encountered the first of what would be a series of fences punctuated by
"cattle grates" - a grate that consists of steel pipes set into a box
in the roadbed designed to presumably prevent cattle from crossing them
but let vehicles cross the fence uninhibited.
While I came from what I considered a rural area, this was VERY rural;
the "road" consisted of a single lane of badly graded dirt road that
got progressively worse the farther we went. We wouldn't have called
this a road in my home town; it was more along the lines of a wagon
path in a pasture. But the MetroGuide data actually SHOWED all of
these "roads", and they even had names assigned to them (but after we
turned off Corn Rd, they were all named "Co Rd 552" or something
We drove on these roads for approximately ten miles. Most of the time
we didn't see any signs of human civilization. Occasionally we'd run
across some rusty farm equipment, a few water tanks, and even once an
abandoned farm house, but those quickly disappeared behind us on the
rolling countryside. We crossed five or six fences during the drive;
the first few fences had the cattle grate so we were able to just drive
across them without stopping, but later fences had the cattle grate
fenced off and a swing gate next to it (which led me to think that
maybe the cattle grate wasn't so effective at preventing cattle from
crossing it). In these cases the duty somehow fell to me as navigator
to get out of the vehicle and undo the snap swivel (on the better
gates) or untwist the baling wire (on the lower budget gates) and open
the gate to let our vehicle pass.
After driving these bumpy roads for about a half hour (yes, it was a
rather low average speed) it was getting closer to sunset, and we were
less than a mile from the confluence. We decided to put our Ford
Excursion into 4WD mode and pointed our massive SUV right at the
This was my first real "off-road" experience and it was rather
surprising to me. I guess I had this mental picture of manly, rugged
men who wore flannel shirts even in July serenely driving up and down
canyons at 70 MPH in perfectly clean pickup trucks, the independent
suspension absorbing each and every bump they encountered. The reality
was a little different. "Manly men" aside, even at only a few miles an
hour the Excursion bounced all over the place, and I would have
considered the terrain rather flat. I gave up trying to use the GPS
dash mount or even taking a drink from my water bottle; I just held on
as we slowly lurched across the landscape.
When we got to within 3/10ths of a mile of the confluence, we
encountered a fence that we didn't see from the road. We got out of
the Excursion and decided to walk the rest of the way, but when we
examined the fence we realized it was too low to crawl under, too high
to step over, and too flimsy to climb over. None of us wanted to wreck
some farmer's fence, so we got back into the Excursion and drove back
along the fence line until we reached the next gate.
However, my examination of the Topo map before we started our trip
showed that there was a dry stream bed on this side of the fence, but
since it was now even closer to sunset we decided to give the Excursion
another try going off-road. We encountered the dry stream bed, but a little
scouting found a ford for our Ford, and we were able to navigate the
obstacle with few problems.
Once we got within 500 feet, we got out and walked the rest of the way.
However, in my excitement I was staring too closely at the GPS screen
and not the ground in front of me, and I ran right into a small cactus.
Luckily I had my Leatherman tool with me and I used the pliers on it to
remove the cactus needles. After that I was a bit more careful and
made it to the confluence without incident (after doing a bit of the
"GPS shuffle" to get the latitude and longitude correct).
When I was at the confluence, I was struck by the remoteness of the
area; there was no sign of any human civilization visible. Even after
sunset, no lights were visible anywhere.
The ride back was relatively uneventful, except that we had to do it
in the dark. Once again my GPS came to the rescue; I had left the track
log on and we used the saved track log to navigate across the dry stream bed
back to the road. During the ride back to Hwy 285 we encountered a
bunch of jackrabbits (where were they during the day?).
One minor snafu on the way back was that apparently all of the bouncing
around stuck the gas tank sensor in the "full" position, and we had to
do a bit of dead reckoning to determine how much gas we had left. But
after we filled up again, the sensor got unstuck so it all worked out
in the end.
In summary: one confluence achieved, a lot of remote ranchland, and
a whole bunch of cactus needles in my leg.