Riding North NM: Mesa Prieta and Comanche Canyon

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Riding North NM: Mesa Prieta and Comanche Canyon

Post  AtomicXRer on Tue May 10, 2011 4:01 am

Mesa Prieta (or Black Mesa as labeled by cartographers) is a rather large unassuming 1000 ft high flattopped formation located at the confluence of the Rio Ojo Caliente and Rio Grande rivers between NM285 on the west and NM68 on the east. Not to be confused with Prieta Mesa, the other large similar like mesa NW of Abq. in Sandoval county. This one is, a 1,000-foot-high escarpment located in north-central New Mexico. It’s the flat feature in this pic:

There are a large number (apparently near 20,000) of petroglyphs and other archaeological features that are evidence of human occupation spanning the last 9,000 years. It is believed to have been a center of religious and ceremonial activity of the Tewa people in the late prehistoric period. The most extensive occupation and ceremonial use of the area occurred from about A.D. 1300 to 1600.


Bumblebeep and I decided to scale this mesa because of its intrigue, possible scenery from up on high, and chance to see these petroglyphs.

Our journey starts off in just outside WhiteRock/Los Alamos. This is why his name is bumblebeep:

Here’s an unassuming pic of Black Mesa from North Espanola side:

If you ride around to the western side on NM285 toward Ojo Caliente, the it looks a little more ominous:

At his rest stop we see the remains of what was a violent double murder crime
( http://www.kob.com/article/stories/S1999917.shtml ) earlier this year.

This is the final gassing up point in Ojo before attempting to scale Black Mesa:

Now it’s off-road just SE of Ojo:

The off-road entry point is north of our challenge, but is very scenic SW high desert style:

This man we met on the road told us about a lot of “facts and finds” in the area that need going back to and discover.

We finally get to a fun power line road that leads us to some nice views at the base of Black Mesa:

We just had to stop to take a gander at the overlook.

Well… We get to a steep baby-head-sized rock road that is way too steep for 650s..AND can’t make it up to the mesa. Here is a couple of pics of where on Google Earth we were attempting this:

We needed smaller bikes…there IS a road, but it would be hell attempting to scale the road. We decided to turn back.

After our Black Mesa attempt, we decide to ride Comanche Canyon. We accessed Comanche Canyon by first riding straight north from Black Mesa on the east side of NM285:

The views headed that way are worth it:

Old sign:

We accessed Comanche Canyon (it runs north-south) from the south near Ojo Caliente using FR97:

These are pics of part of the ride thru 17 miles on FR97 in Comanche Canyon:

Comanche Canyon is more like a narrow valley with some beautiful scenary:

As you head north on FR97 it is greener and more of this:

Here are my final pics as we climb out of the canyon:

Overall it is a great ride. Bumblebeep was a good riding buddy! I am going to have to go back and try to scale Black Mesa with a smaller bike.

XRR Jockey

Joined : 2008-12-01

Posts : 193
Location : Los Alamos, Northern NM
XR650R Year : 2005

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Re: Riding North NM: Mesa Prieta and Comanche Canyon

Post  AURORA on Wed May 11, 2011 2:51 am

Wow! That looks like fun.
XRR Freak

Joined : 2008-12-09

Posts : 689
Location : PHOENIX
XR650R Year : 2003

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Re: Riding North NM: Mesa Prieta and Comanche Canyon

Post  kiffernathan on Thu May 12, 2011 9:03 pm


I had the privelage of riding through NM on the Continental Divide ride in 2007. It was awesome. Of course I was expecting endless desert and was very pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of terrain NM offered. Lots of desert, which was fun, but there was high alpine stuff in the North and grasslands that reminded me of southwestern Saskatchewan (look just north of eastern Montana on a map...). Of the whole trip, NM and AZ were the most surprising areas. I really hope to get back there someday. 2 thumbs
L Rider

Joined : 2011-03-03

Posts : 11
Location : Saskatoon, SK, Canada
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Re: Riding North NM: Mesa Prieta and Comanche Canyon

Post  smj on Sat May 14, 2011 1:15 pm

I hope to send a some time in NM this summer, I may have to look up some of this area. Nice post!
L Rider

Joined : 2010-11-22

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Re: Riding North NM: Mesa Prieta and Comanche Canyon

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