As you could tell from the previous post, the campground of Soda Pocket in New Mexico’s Sugarite Canyon State Park was pretty much a fascinating place for Barbara and I. The Fox, Mule Deer, Bear and Hummingbirds along with the beautiful scenery held our attention and imagination day after day.
We had only planned on staying one week and then moving on, but come the 7th day we were questioning ourselves as to why move when we were enjoying where we were at. So, the day before we were to pull out we changed our minds and gave Soda Pocket another week to work it’s enchantment on us.
Fishing. Our plans are to tour and discover the great state of New Mexico for at least a year. With that in mind, I went ahead and purchased a one year, non-resident fishing license. It’s not cheap, but spending a year in “trout country” certainly makes the cost bearable. Barbara did some quick math and surmised that in order for the license to pay for itself, I would need to provide her with at least ten fresh caught fish dinners over the next year. My first stop was Lake Maloya which, along with Lake Alice, is a part of Sugarite Canyon State Park.
Lake Dorothy in Colorado which I wasn't licensed to fish.
I have two different sets of tackle with me; an inexpensive fly rod and reel, and a spinning reel and rod for bait and lure casting. I chose, for my first real attempt at catching a New Mexico Rainbow Trout, the fly rod. With my very first amateurish cast, I hooked and landed a trout! Of course, a photo was in order to record the event. An eleven inch rainbow Trout is a perfect pan-size fish for me, so it was a keeper. Several other fly rod casts resulted in a small perch which I threw back and another trout which got off before I could land it. Then the wind kicked up which made fly casting a chore so I switched over to my spinning rod.
First fly rod caught Rainbow Trout, Lake Maloya, NM
Worms do not seem to be the bait of choice for trout. Here, they use what is called “Power Bait”, a play-dough type of substance scented mostly with garlic, and also some little red gel balls that are suppose to emulate fish eggs or roe. They are scented with something as well. The Power Bait did it’s job and helped me land another trout, this time 10 inches long. Another keeper. After that, the fish quit biting so after field dressing them I proudly took my two fish back to camp. The two fish didn’t look like enough for dinner so the next day when we went grocery shopping I purchased a farm raised trout to compliment ours. Come to find out, “compliment” was a big understatement. The taste and texture of the store bought fish did not even come close to the excellent taste of the fresh caught. The three fish made for an excellent meal, and “Dinner Number 1” was in the books.
Fish Dinner number one, in the books
Several days later I took my poles down to Lake Alice and once again with my very first cast, this time with a Kastmaster Lure on my spinning rod I hooked a small trout which I photographed and released. I then hooked another trout and then a small catfish and once more, the biting died off. I went back to the camp empty handed but satisfied to know that I could catch fish and did so in both lakes at Sugarite Canyon. I was happy.
Hiking. As Barbara and I continued to explore the area we’d do some short walks and hikes, mostly around the campgrounds or along a service road that followed the shore of Lake Maloya. As I mentioned in the previous post, the thinnest of the air at 8,000 feet can and does take ones breath away. That made any strenuous hiking something to work up to. After our first full week, we chose a trail head that was located on the way out from our campsite. It was listed as an moderate trail and as being 4 miles in length, ending up at the lake. We hiked it about half way, always on guard for bear, and then turned back. Along the way out, right at a turn in the trail, we almost collided with a bicyclist! He stopped in time and said “Whew! You scared me as much as I scared you!” We both thought that the other was a bear. LOL After a short conversation with him, a native of Raton, NM, we both continued on our way and we marveled at how good of shape the man was in to be bicycling a rough rocky trail as we were on. Barbara and I were both pleased at our “accomplishment” of doing a four mile round trip hike into the mountains and that gave us the confidence toward the end of our last week to try the shorter but more strenuous hike up to Little Horse Mesa.
The two trails that we hiked; one moderate, the other strenuous.
Fresh Bear track along the moderate trail. Found plenty of over-turned rocks as well.
We weren’t sure what to expect and quickly found out that the quarter mile trail was basically straight up a mountain side. Think “Loose Rocky Staircase”. But we took our time, stopping often for a drink of lemonade and eventually crested the top onto the mesa. We had no idea what awaited us at the top! The top of the mesa was a huge grassland prairie dotted with pine trees and an enormous amount of flowers and other blooming plants. It was simply beautiful. And the view from the top was gorgeous as well. As you can see in the photos, we were pretty high up at about 1,000 feet more than our campsite! We spent another hour or so hiking around the rim of the mesa before starting our assent back down. It was actually a little more difficult, due to the loose rocks but we both made it down and once more patted each other on the back for another accomplishment and another step forward to a better lifestyle.
The view from Little Horse Mesa looking out and down upon our RV
View looking from our RV back up to Little Horse Mesa.
Throughout or last week at Sugarite, we heard stories of Cougar and Black Bear sightings and we continued to see plenty of bear ourselves. In fact, the day before we pulled out, a bear came through the field we camped by and “posed” several times for me as if he were giving me a parting gift. In fact, it was and I even thanked him verbally for doing so!
My "Good-bye Bear". Nice!
There is so much more I want to tell you about our stay here; the way the rising and setting sun constantly changes the view of the mountains, how bright a half moon is at 8,000 feet above sea level on a clear night, how afternoon rains bring a welcome cooling as evening sets in and of the many wonderful campers we’ve met who had so many stories of their own to share. But blogs shouldn’t be too long, shouldn’t be a novel, and shouldn’t be loaded with all the photos that I had set aside for it. So I’ll end this one, the conclusion of our stay at Soda Pocket Campground, knowing that I have in no way done this place justice with the words I’ve written or the photos I’ve shared, and knowing that someday soon, perhaps this fall, we’ll be back to explore and take in even more of this wonderful part of New Mexico.