Touring N.M.

Bonding Time at Apache Creek

Jon Knudsen, March 2017

It was late September. My grandson Robert Bennett had a break from school, so we headed south for a final camping trip before winter.

When heading south, I stop in Socorro for supplies and lunch. My favorite place to eat is the El Camino, a family restaurant with delicious red chile and comfortable booths. At the south end of Socorro, we took U.S. Highway 60 west, past Magdalena, and started across the northern edge of the Plains of San Agustín.

The plains are a lonely stretch. To break things up, we walked through the Very Large Array for a while. At Datil, we turned southwest on N.M. Highway 12 towards Reserve. It was pretty late in the afternoon when we got to Apache Creek. This settlement has a small store, a taxidermy and a house; I think they all belong to the same person.

On the other side of the road and across a small bridge is a campground. A road heads south from the campground through the enormous Gila National Forest — all 2.7 million acres of it.

Away from the highway and surrounded by mountain ranges, the campground is really dark at night and the stars seem big and close enough to stir with your fingers. It’s in a stand of stately old ponderosas that somehow escaped the woodsman’s axe for many years, and it’s almost always devoid of other people. I can only guess at the reason, for it is a truly lovely place to camp. Of course, campers do need to bring their own water.

I had two tents. Robby watched me pitch mine and got started pitching his. Later, I cooked supper. Our supplies from Socorro yielded a meal I figured we both might like: cheeseburgers, a pint of potato salad and some nice concord grapes — all washed down with an ice cold soda.

We stayed up talking about camping, school, his friends, working for a living, and whatever else came to us as the moon rose from behind the Tularosa Mountains. We needed no fire; a small LED lantern on the table kept us close.

There is an eerie sort of feeling that howling coyotes impart to a starlit night. And later, warm in my sleeping bag, I listened to them in their cold, wild world and smiled. “Good night, Robby,” I called out. Robby answered, and I closed my eyes.


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