Friday, November 18, 2011

Unexpected Adventure: Sugarite Canyon State Park in Raton, NM

The other day I happened to find myself in the unfortunately-named town of Raton, New Mexico. Raton is really close to the Colorado border and is surrounded on three sides by mesas.  It's really quite picturesque. I snapped this photo while driving through downtown in the early morning.

There's not too much to the downtown.  It has that retro-cool feel but except for some cowboy boot stores, many of the old shops are closed.

In any event, was in town for work and I got out of work with an hour of daylight to spare.  I quickly checked in to my hotel and bee-lined it over to nearby Sugarite Canyon State Park where I had an unplanned adventure.  The park is an old miner's camp and there are well-maintained and well-marked trails leading from ruin to ruin.  I went on the river walk and then up to check out "coal mine #2."

I spied this mule deer in the ruin of the old school house.  Deer must have been hankering for some knowledge.

The miner's village was in use until 1941 so the ruins are in pretty good shape and you can see all sorts of artifacts strewn about:
Nails & Bailing Wire
Sweet looking wash basin
The path itself is peppered with informative placards, explaining the life of the miners and history of the coal mine.  To get up to the abandoned mine, the path winds up the mesa.  The walking trail itself is the converted coal rail car track.  All around you can see the various modern projects that have been built to stabilize the mesas and minimize the erosion caused by the decades of mining and mining slag.  About 1 mile from the visitor's center, which contains 1/2 mile of somewhat steep climbing, you reach the old coal mine #2.
This is the entry to the old mine that is now, obviously, closed and inactive.  Indeed, the entry tunnel has collapsed to the ground.  An info sign  nearby said that the mine was eleven miles long!  The sun was starting to go down so I headed back down to the car.

The state park boasts all sorts of camping facilities (developed and undeveloped) and non-motorboat reservoir access.  Although, as I drove in to Raton, I noticed an unusual sign:
I have been in my share of bear-y areas but I have never seen this sign before.  I asked a local and apparently, the sign is no joke: in the spring and summer bears are running all over the place!  So, I would advise camping with caution during these seasons.  Also, portions of the park are closed/restricted due to the forest fire last summer. Because Sugarite is a state park, it's not free.  A day pass is $5 per car and other stuff like boating and camping is also fee-based.  All this to say, if you plan on spending some time in Sugarite, it's probably a good idea to check out the state park website before you go.

Anyway, I thought that Sugarite was pretty cool.  I was the only person there and, in addition to that deer, there were all sorts of birds (juncos, towhees, pinon jays) flitting about.  Not bad for hitting the trail on a lark, eh?


  1. get it? I was checking out birds on a lark! I am such a punster.