I love looking at maps and finding obscure areas.
Where there is a green space on a map calls out to me. I then research the area, plan a trip there, go, and revel in the place.
Two-years ago I went to such a place. I was a bit obscure of the location. I wanted to keep this place described as little known as, well, just that type of place. Oh, I did not keep the location secret. Obscurity, not secrecy as I like to say. Easy enough to find the place if you do not need the bread crumbs and can perform some basic googling.
After my recent trek to the Sabinoso Wilderness, I felt it was time to return to the canyon just to the north.
This canyon? Mills (Canadian River) Canyon.
I reveal the place more specifically since the release of a climbers (bouldering) guidebook this past year. A ranger I saw at the rim campground mentioned people are not only coming from just nearby Colorado but also from back East, and further out West. Mills Canyon is a new destination for many people. And people want to check it out. The local hamlet of Roy is happy over the increased business. And the climbers I talked to at the campground couldn’t believe that something as impressive as these canyons are out on the High Plains of New Mexico. They were excited at finding an area enticing. An area they thought of as dull previously.
Part of me is a bit chagrined to lose my favorite secret fishing hole (of sorts). But with the change in public lands policy, perhaps having some new advocates of these previously ignored places is imperative. The High Plains is an area often neglected in public consciousness. And is among the most endangered of public lands. Always a balance between having people on the ground to protect the land, but not lose what made the land so enticing in the first place.
In truth, the small campground on the rim will have two dozen at the most. And the rutted 4WD access road to the canyon bottom will deter many. The canyon bottom was empty when I was there in 2016. And was empty in 2018. If I did not wish to use the Scamp, I would have had the near complete isolation as I did when I first came to this place.
But I wanted to camp on the canyon rim. To get a different experience and view from my last visit.
I was able to hike from my campsite to the canyon bottom. I went cross country to the rim, down a drainage, the main road, and cross-country again to where few people venture.
I visited the site of the old orchard away from the central area.
I then hiked over to the empty campground at the canyon bottom. A couple I spoke to has been coming here for years. In fact, they spoke to the author of the recent guidebook who happened to be in the campground above!
I pushed further up the canyon. And again thought how I need to go a longer trip linking together the canyon country of the High Plains of New Mexico. A trip idea is percolating…
I turned around not far from where I last was two years ago.
I followed an even longer off-trail route back to the rim campground. The canyon below continued to impress.
I made dinner. Relaxed a bit. Then grabbed my camera. I took another hike to the canyon rim for some sunset shots.
I simply sat and watched the sun go down. This area of New Mexico has among the least amount of light pollution in the continental United States. And the stars starting to appear at twilight confirmed this assertion.
I drove out the following morning and looked across the High Plains. The Sangres were distant on the horizon.
And only a good map, or now a guidebook, would tell of the jewel out of sight down the dirt road.