The Red River – Taos County

Red River in Taos County. The Red River was the most anticipated ‘Solve’ for this first trip out.  It was just not in the cards and I’ll explain why.  First though, I was able to get a good night’s sleep and made it to the El Aguage Campground and the trail leading down to the Red River by just after 9:15A this morning.  Miraculously, I met up with John from San Diego that is also an avid hiker, although, he’s in much better shape.  I was not only fortunate to have him look out for me but he did discuss his recent visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial by Eagle Nest Lake (on tomorrow’s agenda).  John had the same exact rental car (Black Buick Verano) as I have.  

Even though I left the area empty handed, the Red River was breathtakingly beautiful and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to spend time at this sacred place.

The day started out perfectly.  I had a slow start but did manage to find a great coffee shop on the way north out of Taos.  Luckily, I found a couple bucks in my wallet as they didn’t take credit cards.  As I followed GPS directions to the Wild River Visitor’s Center, I meandered through many small delightful towns including Questa and Cello.  Almost immediately after entering the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument area, I knew I was in an enchanted place.

It was interesting to see that such a stunningly beautiful place with sparkling clean campgrounds and trailheads along the upper edge of the Rio Grande and Red Rivers were not more populated.  I stopped at several campgrounds and trailheads on my way to the El Aquaje Campground and Trail down to the Red River.  

As John and I descended down the trail to the Red River, I bounced my theories off of him.  He seemed genuinely interested in the Forrest Fenn treasure and more than happy to offer his ideas.  For one, he felt that Forrest’s comment about the treasure not being anywhere close to the Rio Grande would nullify all of the area.  Could be.  In retrospect, I’m not sure that the clues really added up for this Solve.  Hindsight is always 20/20.  When John mentioned his visit to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Angel Fire, something clicked as I recalled Forrest telling searchers during a 2013 interview to read the chapter “My War for Me” if reading nothing else.  This chapter in his Memoirs was about his 20 year experience in the Air Force but more specifically about his tour of duty in Vietnam.

Descending, I quickly realized that the ‘splinter canyon’ identified on Google Earth did not contain an easily accessible way in.  With at least two sections requiring climbing equipment and no stream or creek, it just wasn’t the geologic form that was highly anticipated.  Still, the Red River turned out to be amazing and moving more swiftly than I had hoped.  Even if there was something on the other side, crossing the stream would have been a challenge.

After exploring the river for a little bit, we decided to head up before the sun became too strong.  The .7 mile trail heading up was almost impossible in my deconditioned and non altitude acclimated state.  Luckily, John was patient with me as I kept asking to stop to catch my breath.  What was I thinking?  We talked and theorized and I ended up with good information for tomorrow’s jaunt around the ‘Enhanted Circle Highway’, to the Vietnam Veteran Memorial, Angel Fire, then to cap the day off with a soak in the Manby Hot Springs.  

Saturday night, I made it back early enough to my Motel room and started digging for possible scenarios for Sunday’s Solves.  I even found a runway located just adjacent to the Vietnam Vet Memorial (Forrest was an avid pilot) but am having difficulty isolating the creek or stream.  I will have to determine where to put in after having boots on the ground.