By Karl Moffatt
If you’ve ever wondered what was up in those hills to the east of I-25 as you traveled south near Socorro, New Mexico then the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has a backcountry byway for you to explore.
Twenty-four miles of good, dirt, road that rambles up through those hills featuring interesting rock formations, curiously colorful peaks and plenty of lonely open space, to wander through.
It’s the kind of road and backcountry landscape that few may see if they stick to the pavement during their travels throughout the state.
Which is exactly why the BLM has designated the road as one of five back country byways here in New Mexico that motorists can follow to find distinctive scenery found only off the beaten path.
|Looking west towards Socorro.|
Those who intend to visit the byway should download a copy of the Quebradas byway’s brochure which includes a map and the highly informative field guide “A Geological Guide to the Quebradas Backcountry Byway”.
The field guide’s chapters and information correspond to numbered stops found along the byway and is a richly detailed document written by Peter Scholle, State Geologist and Executive Director of the state Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources at New Mexico Tech in Socorro.
Both documents can be found on the BLM’s website at www.blm.gov. Just navigate to the New Mexico section, click on Outdoor Recreation, then on Outdoor Activities where you’ll find the back country byways icon which leads to more detailed information about this and the state’s other back country’s byways.
During a recent early winter visit to the Quebradas byway, the road proved to be in good condition and passable to even careful drivers of a passenger car, however, such an attempt when wet would be inadvisable.
Upon venturing up into the barren hills one may experience an uneasy sense of remoteness before the exhilaration of discovery sets in. Having some water, a cell phone and a spare tire on hand should help alleviate any hesitancy to follow this road.
During the trip one might find themselves stopping frequently to check things out, in addition to consulting the field guide.
One particular hillside featured great sheets of loose shale rock cascading down from above and exposed bands of colorful rock strata. This hill begged to be climbed and rewarded those who did with a stunning view back across the valley to the opposing mountains.
|Shale rock like that used on patios can be found here.|
At another stop one can see rows of rock jutting from the hillside like tombstones while just around the corner, a couple of cows stood by the road, staring incredulously at the passing vehicle.
And over the course of an afternoon of cruising the back country not a single other vehicle was seen.
It was the kind of road that went well with a cold beer and second gear and invoked memories of the days when casual, drinking and driving in much of our rural, remote state was a harmless pastime, not a horrendous crime.
|Outdoors New Mexico’s original road warrior.|
The rambling 24-mile drive starts on the outskirts of Socorro for those southbound on I-25.
Jump off the highway at the first exit by the State Police headquarters, number 152, and then head towards the river and Escondia Lake. Cross the river just past the lake and then head south a little ways on Bosquecito Road to the intersection of County Road A-152 and follow into the hills.
Just follow the signs, if they’re still there.
From this direction the byway ends at US 380 about 11 miles east of San Antonio, gateway to the Bosque Del Apache bird sanctuary and home of some of the best green chile cheeseburgers in the state at the legendary Owl Bar and Café and now famous, Manny’s Buckhorn Tavern.
|Cook, Richard Beltran, serves up one of the legendary chile cheese burgers at the Owl Bar and Cafe in San Antonio, New Mexico.|
The back country byways are part of a nationwide BLM effort to promote visitation to scenic areas by motor vehicle in part because studies show a vast majority of Americans drive for pleasure.
New Mexico boasts five scenic byways including the Quebradas which means “breaks” in Spanish, the Guadalupe outside of Carlsbad, the Wild Rivers near Taos, the Chain of Craters through Malpais and the Lake Valley byway near Hillsboro.
|Hills off US 380 upon emerging from the Quebradas.|
For more information about these and other scenic byways check the National Scenic Byways Program website at www.byways.org.