POSITION: 35°10’36.5″N 106°28’13.0″W

You need a break. Walk out our back door into the wilderness. You may think I’m exaggerating, but a quarter of a mile up the hill is an honest-to-G** National Forest Wilderness. What, you ask, distinguishes a wilderness from all the regular National Forest areas? I’m so glad you asked that question because there’s lots!

Guns and Boozers

My buddy and erstwhile forest ranger, Ron, could tell you off the top of his head what the wilderness rules and regs are. They are not the same as a regular old campground in the woods. You can’t take a bike on a wilderness trail, nor are you allowed to fly drones that worry wildlife. Fireworks are a no no. In-line skating is permitted on roads closed to automobiles (but where’s the fun in that?). Guns, the kind you shoot, are frowned upon. But thanks to the hard work of the National Rifle Association they now are allowed in parks – within federal, state and local laws of course. For overseas visitors, you should assume everyone in America’s national parks is packing heat.

In Kentucky’s Daniel Boone Wilderness dogs must be leashed if a ranger tells you to leash them. You also can’t drink alcohol in Daniel Boone’s wilderness. Heaven knows what might happen if your dog got drunk and sassed a ranger. Boone, a (lapsed) Quaker, would surely not approve. I discovered these regulatory subtleties while searching the web for the National Park Service’s Wilderness Handbook. I couldn’t find it. Perhaps, Ron, if you read this, you could fill in the missing dos and don’ts in the back country.

Stinking Gourds

Buffalo GourdsOur walk takes us along the Domingo Baca trail in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness, itself part of the Cibola National Forest. And since you asked, no, Cibola is not a corruption of Cebolla (onion). And while Cibola translates from Latin as ‘food’, in America’s southwest it refers to the myth of the Seven Cities of Gold. A myth begun by the Aztecs and brought home to Spain by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (aka Á.N. Cow’s Head). The rest is history… Well, almost. Cibola is also the Spanish name for the Zuñi pueblo on the far western edge of modern New Mexico. I suspect the latter was the inspiration for the National Park Service’s brand consultants. As for Domingo Baca (Sunday Roof) I have nothing.

Wait! Hold the presses! This just in: Domingo Baca was a rancher who married well. His second wife’s family had appropriated lands so their sheep might graze while looking over the twinkling lights of Albuquerque. The same land that became the national forest. (Thanks Lauren!)

Sandia translates to watermelon. So, nothing to do with sand. Watermelon…? Not the first thing I think of when I head out back to the dry, dusty trails behind the house. Perhaps they grew in the arroyos decades ago. Before the climate changed. However, in late fall you find small buffalo gourds (cucurbita foetisdissima) everywhere here. Rich in polyunsaturated fats, a young buffalo gourd can be eaten like a squash. It’s not as big as a watermelon but looks remarkably like one. Perhaps a hungry conquistador, having passed through Louisiana on his way west, came across the little gourds and baptized them ‘sandias’. Heat and thirst having already frazzled his brain.


Note: all photos of Bodhi have had his leash digitally removed to enhance the sense of freedom a good doggy walk provides.




  1. Well, you are thorough with you digital work on Bodhi, nicely smoothed out the harness and tether ring. Perhaps you should have digitally removed the bicycle as well? All that being said these pictures bring back a flood of memories!

    Julian R Northcott

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