Escapito #2b: Cuba Mesa, Santa Fe National Forest

We packed up camp at the Angel Peak campground early in the morning, and bounced back down 8 miles of washboard road towards the highway. Along the way we pulled into several picnic areas with scenic overlooks and ooohed and aaaaahed at the spectacular Kutz Canyon from many angles. Every stop was worth it..

But then a new destination was calling …… about 70 miles southeast ….. over the Continental Divide to Cuba Mesa.

Cuba Mesa! We set our GPS with the turnoff coordinates which was a smart move. The unsigned turnoff was just a two-track road with a steep descent then over a cattleguard followed by a steep climb up a very rutted road. Not a place we’d want to be during or after a rain, even with 4WD!

We climbed steadily up through a mature ponderosa pine forest with many large diameter ”yellow bellies,” their beautifully patterned bark resistant to fire.*** Piñon pine and juniper were also scattered about along with clumps of Gambel’s oak sporting their glossy spring green foliage.

We didn’t see any deer or elk, but evidence of their presence was everywhere; hoof prints criss-crossing all along the two-track road.

We climbed to about 7500 feet and found a nice opening to set up The Felix. It was a cool afternoon under the trees, and we all enjoyed several walks, bushwacking through the understory, being careful not to step on the cactus that seemed to be everywhere.

We had Cuba Mesa all to ourselves. It was wonderful. After a quiet night under a near full moon, we enjoyed a morning hike before packing up camp to head home. On the way down the Mesa we were greeted by a large flycatcher …. the Cassin’s Kingbird. From high in a juniper, he seemed to be singing “good-bye, safe travels,” before jumping off his perch to resume his search for breakfast.

Thanks for coming along on our Escapito. Until next time!

**** This may be a lucky fire-resistant stand of ponderosa. We flipped on the radio while heading home and learned the Santa Fe NF issued an entire forest closure order applying to all uses, effective the day of our departure! It’s been an extreme fire season. Currently, in another part of the same forest …. east of Santa Fe ….. the largest wildfire ever in New Mexico has burned more than 450,000 acres since mid April, and is only 40% contained. High winds and zero moisture have played a significant part in the firefighters on the ground and in air to put a stop to this burn. This is currently the largest active fire in the nation!


  1. Sarah Reid says:

    Leaves can be such a fun study! I have wondered about the newly unfurling leaves being red, too. It’s most common on our Black Oak species here — almost a bright pink/red. Now you’ve challenged me with watercoloring that next spring. Last fall I enjoyed many a quiet hour in a park kiosk (on weekdays, cuz on weekends it was 10-cars-lined-up all-day-long) entertaining myself with leaf studies in a nature journal.


    1. How interesting ….. so your black oak does the same thing! Maybe it’s a peculiarity with Quercus sp.? For example, groves (clones) of aspen I know that turn brilliant red in the fall, always have brought green baby leaves. I’d love to see your leaf watercolor work, Sarah!


    2. memnona says:

      Beautiful and interesting work ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks you so much dear Aga! I appreciate the comment very much!


  2. What an adventure! I can just picture the bounce travel down the washboard road! Glad you are safe from the fires, and got home before the forest closure. I wish we can send some rain your way – WA state has had plenty this May. Interesting about the Gambel Oak reddish leaves when first unfolding. I remember seeing those trees in March, but all the leaves were dry, brittle brown, I suspect hanging on through the winter. It’s always interesting to me how the oak trees here hold onto their leaves all through winter and suddenly drop them in Spring when it’s time for the new leaves!


    1. Thanks for the comments Karen! It definitely curious how oak leaves cling all winter. We have a Gambel’s oak in our yard that’s quite large. In the winter it looks dead. It holds its brown leaves until the last minute, sensing when the new leaves will pop out. In what seems like a day, the tree/shrub transforms from brown to spring green. Magic!
      I also wish you could send rain this way. My brother, who lives in the Seattle area is growing webbed toes!


  3. sgoodman56 says:

    What a lovely escape. I hope the fires are no where near where you live!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a fun mini trip. The fires seem to be surrounding us, but at distance. The three major forests around us have closed entry to everyone, so that really limits our ability to hike. But better they are closed than risk having a wildfire out our back door (which is a very real possibility). We are always ready to evacuate, just in case. Sure could use some measurable moisture!


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