• DeArmond Lopez from Personal Website

Dodging Bullets Beneath the Mesa

Even in 2021, New Mexico remains the wild west, despite modernization.


During one of my days off on a Saturday, I felt like getting out of town for a bit to see a landscape other than Santa Fe. I have been trying to stay in Santa Fe because gas has been so expensive. The trails have been good here but I tend to get burnt out if I'm riding the same places too often. I need constant changes of scenery or I tend to go crazy.


I loaded up my bike and ventured off to San Luis, New Mexico. This little town is located just North of the Cabezon Peak Wilderness Study Area, and directly East of the Empedrado and La Lena WSA. Describing this landscape to someone who has never been can be tricky. There are big volcanic plugs jutting out of the valley floor, all in close vicinity to each other. To the North of these big volcanic towers lays canyon land and pristine mesas pulled right from a Spaghetti Western. This valley has been occupied for thousands of years continuously and some of the mesas have hundreds of thousands of ancient rock art. The area is filled with classic New Mexican landscapes that only the locals seemingly know about. Also Continental Divide hikers passing through this wilderness. And also GDMBR riders riding through this place. I guess people know about it but it's still awesome.


In the past, I have ridden South of San Luis towards the Guadalupe Ruins. When traveling this direction, you ride right past these volcanic necks to a mesa with a Chaco Canyon Outlier ruin still existing at the top. This is a classic ride for people living in Albuquerque wanting to leave the hustle and bustle for a day. Upon starting this route, directly to the North is a perimeter of looming mesas overlooking you as you take off. These mesas are slightly less dramatic than the volcanic plugs to the South, albeit only from first glance. The benefit of looking less impressive at first glance means the canyonlands remain remote and desolate.


I decided it was time to venture into the canyons and see a place most people don't think of exploring. This wilderness was stunning and had lots of small surprises around every corner. There was even some wild west gunfire in the remoteness. Follow along on this photographic journey into the mesas:


Good ol' Cabezon Peak. Not a bad view to start out the ride with.

One of several signs seen along the way. This one is much more legit than most signs I end up coming across on my travels.

This mesa side is the first taste of the rugged wilderness that lays here. Those boulders are about the size of a Honda Civic.

Just a classic New Mexico landscape. The mesas here have a unique and understated beauty to them. They aren't the biggest nor most dramatic mesas in the world, however their serenity speaks to me deeply. This isn't a land of over stimulation, but rather a stark simplicity.

It's always kind of strange when remote signs don't have bullet holes in them.

My gorgeous Salsa Timberjack Ti. She carries me steadfast across wide expanses.

Break time on the powdery dirt.

The mesa lands of the Empedrado Wilderness.

Across the vastness we go.

There are a couple of abandoned busses found along the way. Kind of strange seeing them far into the desert and away from the roads.

This is one of those No Trespassing signs that really irritate me. There is no way of knowing if this is a legal sign or just something that has been kicking around since 8-17-1989. This type of signage can be found everywhere in New Mexico, causing issues with public land usage and access. They're also not legal, so keep that in mind when out and about.

Water can be found out here. The cows definitely know where it is.

These kind of gravel roads are what I dream about.

The rig next to a boulder. Thanks David Bell and Mellow Velo for help with building it up!