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  1. #1

    Question New Mexico Alternate Routes (PieTown To Grants)?

    Just so you understanding where Iím coming from to understand the purpose of my questions, these are my personal rules for taking alternate routes (other people can do what they want and Iím good with that):
    • For scenic beauty
    • For personal safety (fire closures, dangerous high water, heavy snow issues, etc.)
    • To make resupply easier by avoiding a hitch, provided the shorten distance is only a handful of miles.


    In light of those rules, I have a few questions on some of the central New Mexico Alternatives just north of Pie Town. Iíve downloaded the latest GPS waypoints from Bear Creek Survey and have been studying the official vs popular alternative routes in my PC's Garmin GPS mapping software.

    Cebolla Wilderness Alternate: This alternate goes from Pie Town to State Route 117 bypassing much of El Malpais National Monument but avoids a lot of busy highway walking by using little used minor roads. As highway walking might actually be more dangerous than most things on the trail, so this might be a good thing. At first glance, this alternate's purpose would seem to be just to shorten the distance to Grants while avoiding having to hike along busy highways. It cuts off ~50 miles which seems excessive if it doesnít have anything else going for it. But after looking at a potential alternate route to part of the alternate, it might have some potential. Hence my questions below.
    1. What is the road walk like up to near Rt 117 just before the route leaves the road (at Bear Creek alternate waypoint, CW245) for a cross country cut to the east to join another road going north up to Rt 117? Anything nice about it compared to the highway walk, or is it purely to avoid the highway walking along State Rte 603/36/117.
    2. Is there a reason why one canít just continue straight north at that point (waypoint CW245) to Rte 117 along the same road you had been hiking on? The road seems to be the boundary between the NM and private land and access should be allowed I would think. But what is the reality? Private road with no public access? This would allow getting to Rte 117 ~1.5 miles NE from where the official route leaves Rte 117 to start following the ancient native route across the monument and would likely be the scenic highlight of this section. I would think this would be the part one wouldnít want to miss if one ignores the heat/water issues of the area. The negatives of this alternate to the alternate for some is that it adds back in many of those miles that were being skipped. Positives are it adds back in some of the scenic beauty of the area. Hence the reason why I'm exploring the option.

    Edit: Never mind. Seems like a route change to the official route may be now using the exact route I was asking about abpove. Now I need to understand why the available way points of the official route don't reflect the changes that exist on the available maps and Guthooks.


    Bonita Zuni Alternate: This alternate cuts off some of the highway walking to Grants from El Malpais National Monument. Using this alternate shortens the mileage from the official route by ~4 miles, avoids some highway walking, but it does remove 4 to 5 miles of the hiking through El Malpais NM that might be nice.
    3. What are the last few miles of the cross country section through El Malpais like? Would one be giving up some interesting scenery if they used the alternate here?
    4. Anyone actually know if the alternate route has any nice scenery. The map suggests it might as you are hiking a dirt road instead of a highway to start (which is already a plus) and then a potentially paved minor road through a steep narrow canyon along a creek bed that might be nice. Is this creek dry or wet most years?

    Thanks for your help.

  2. #2
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    Miner, I am doing the NM section starting in mid-April. Just have a question for you. I estimated the Cebolla alt to take off 37 miles. How sure are you that it is ~50 miles? Just wondering if I figured it wrong. My personal plans were to not take the Cebolla alt. Just want to ensure I figured my mileages correctly.
    Lonehiker

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by lonehiker View Post
    Miner, I am doing the NM section starting in mid-April. Just have a question for you. I estimated the Cebolla alt to take off 37 miles. How sure are you that it is ~50 miles? Just wondering if I figured it wrong. My personal plans were to not take the Cebolla alt. Just want to ensure I figured my mileages correctly.
    A couple of years ago, I made a comment on a forum that ideally it would be nice to have a map using the Bear Creek Survey's data (who survey'd the official route for the former CDTA) but with Johnathan Ley's notes on it. Bear Creek responded with a link to Beacon's Databook Info that uses Bear Creek's data. I've seen a few places since then that link to Beacon's databook. Using Beacon's data of the official mileage between the 2 waypoints of where Cebolla leaves/joins and then looking at the end of his spreadsheet where he lists the distance for alternatives. Subtracting the later (50.1) from the former (104.3) gives 54 miles.

    My own first inclination is not to use most alternate routes as they seem mostly designed to cut distance and time off a thru-hike. No exactly the reason I'm out there unless the official route is closed. But I decided I was being closed minded so I started to look closer at some of the routes I initially rejected to see if I might be missing something even if I had to tweak them somewhat. Hence my OP.

  4. #4
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    My way isn't as scientific but verify my methodology.

    Source Guthook app

    Cebolla Alt

    Toaster House mm 424.6
    Jct Cebolla South 452.5
    = 27.9 shared mileage

    Cebolla Alt distance to N jct is ~25.4

    Total distance = 27.9 + 25.4 = 53.3

    Standard route

    Toast House mm 424.6
    Standard route to N Cebolla jct mm 514.0

    Total distance = 89.4

    Standard route minus Cebolla route
    89.4 - 53.3 = 36.1 miles shorter
    Lonehiker

  5. #5

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    Lone Hiker, I figured out the reason for our difference in mileage. It would look like you are more likely correct and I may be using slightly out of data information on the route. The GPS waypoint files available at both the CDTC and BearCreek Survey show the official route following the highways out of Pie Town to Rte 117 which was what i was referencing and what Beacon's DataBook from 2016 uses. While the New Mexico Map version 1.1 pdf file provided by the CDTC shows the official route following the exact route I was proposing in my OP and asking about in my questions (1) and (2) above. Assuming the map is the current official route and someone forgot to update their waypoints to reflect this, then my questions about the Cebolla Wilderness alternate are now moot. Well, this gives me the incentive to make sure all my other information is fully updated as part of what I have was based on planning from a few years ago until I decided to delay the hike.

    Now I just need my questions (3) and (4) answered. But given that some sources don't even mention the Bonita Zuni Alternate (eg. the CDTC planning guide ignores it), it make me wonder if it's not just an old holdover from an earlier reroute that is seldom used now.

  6. #6
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    I went south from grants in March 2015. There is alot of pavement walking but the road is not that busy. Once you reach the turn south it was on a two track. Interesting area. There was a windmill north of 53 a few miles, but I did not check it out. Only other water was a small pond and some snow yet, between 53 and zuni canyon road. Hence your last water might be the Munn water cache on the east side of the Lava field. Walk into town proper goes by a lot of houses, with big dogs, so use care. I would and plan on doing it again with my brother.
    The cebola alt was a nice walk, cut up by a possible stay at the Thomas Mountain Ranch. Very nice people. And mid way from Pietown to the Armijo Canyon. Where you may find old native pottery. Look but don't take, rangers patrol the area. You will pass some old structures, and possible water sources, I used the Henson number 2 water mill just before you hit the road, a short walk north takes you to the trail up to the ridge walk overlooking the lava field. It was snowing when I went thru, so I did not attempt the climb. The trail down to the ventura arch appears to be sketchy. Then a road walk to the trail crossing the lava field, and the Mumm water cache.

    I hope to be doing the section from Armijo Canyon to Ghost ranch via the Bonita-Zuni starting in Mid april.

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