South Baldy, Jan 2016 · Index of Trip Reports · Pine Creek, July 2020

Springtime Campground, San Mateo Mountains, Jan 2018

One of my ongoing efforts is to do more camping & hiking. Another ongoing effort is to post more trip reports. My posts here are a small fraction of the trips I have photos of, and those trips are a small fraction of what I have done. Well, this trip - and post - are a step toward doing and posting more. Yay!

One weekend in January 2018, I escaped from Socorro to do a bit of camping. Being January, I went to Springtime Campground in the San Mateo Mountains. It was quite a nice place to camp, especially this time of year. Cold enough that I had the campground almost to myself; there was 1 other camper. But not so cold as to require snow camping. Camping is so much nicer when you aren't squeezed in right next to other groups.

Setting up camp at Springtime Campground in the San Mateo Mountains.

The tarp on the left is covering a jungle hammock that was a Christmas gift (and it is a lot greener than it looks in this photo). I didn't have stuff quite sorted out to sleep in it, but wanted to try it out. If you use these in the winter make sure you have some insulation below you; the bottom of your sleeping bag doesn't insulate well when it is compressed below you.

More setting up camp.

On Saturday I hiked up to San Mateo Peak. Not far up the trail is something that Karl should put on his Things I Find In The Woods webpage, if he ever makes such a page.

An old falling apart trailer, or maybe horse drawn cart.

The thing was presumably some form of trailer, or maybe a horse-drawn cart. Whatever it was, it was very heavily built for its size, and had some sturdy suspension.

A close up of the leaf springs on the cart-thing.

Much further up the trail is the remains of San Mateo Spring. Both the watering trough and the spring itself were bone dry. The prolonged dry weather is having a major impact on New Mexico's springs.

The dry watering trough at San Mateo Springs.

At the top of San Mateo Peak is a fire watch tower and associated hut. The hut is slightly less glamorous in person than what you see in this photo. It looks like the tower may still, occasionally, be used. But whoever works here sure isn't living in the lap of luxury on the tax payer's dime - unless you consider a small, falling apart, rodent-infested hut to be "luxury." However, it could be a great place for somebody to enjoy getting out on their own in the wilderness.

The fire watch hut.

The fire watch tower was a lot more interesting. It is quite tall, and stabilized by guy wires (post tensioned with turnbuckles).

The watch tower on San Mateo Peak.

As an engineer, I always stop to admire a good turnbuckle. I really should add a "Most scenic clamping U-bolt of the year" section to Scary Bridges.

A turnbuckle on one of the guy wires.

I was pleased to see a lack of no trespassing signs. Hikers should show the utmost respect to places like this. But it is annoying when the signs clearly fail to stop vandalism while preventing sign-abiding citizens from enjoying the view.

Or maybe they just thought the condition of the stairs up was more than enough of a keep out sign? They are in worse shape than you would suspect from this picture.

The stairs up to the watch tower.

The stairs don't look any better going down than up.

Looking down the watch tower stairs.

The view from the top of the tower is great.

View from the top of the fire watch tower.

On the way back down I stopped at an old cabin, near San Mateo Spring. It was in worse shape than the fire watch hut...

An old collapsed log cabin.

The view half way down from the watch tower is still quite good.

The view east, overlooking the canyon the campground is in.

After getting back to camp I had a nice evening. Being January, it got dark very early. A few years ago I was pleased to find that Coleman still sells gas lanterns. The fueled lanterns still provide more, nicer, light than any LED lantern I have found. They also provide some warmth. Propane works well in the summer, but not so much in the winter. If you go with a liquid fueled lantern, be sure to get one that burns unleaded. The price of white gas is insane.

The camp sight in the evening, lit by a lantern.

The next day I packed up camp and headed out. I stopped for a half-day hike around the base of the San Mateos. Where I found a cabin in slightly better shape than the one by San Mateo Spring (but worse shape than the fire watch cabin).

An old, collapsing, cabin.

OK, maybe it isn't really better condition; it is just slightly less collapsed.

A close up of the collapsing cabin.

South Baldy, Jan 2016 · Index of Trip Reports · Pine Creek, July 2020

Last Updated: Jan 2019; Original Posting.

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