Monday, February 22, 2010

There's no good road' to White Peak

J.R. Logan | Sangre de Cristo Chronicle
Posted: Sunday, February 21, 2010 - 2/19/10 0 Comments and 0 Reactions 1

OCATE — White Peak is something of a misnomer.

The mountain known as White Peak isn't so much a "peak" as it is a bald hill that rises a few hundred feet above a mesa on the edge of Colfax and Mora counties.

Much of the mesa consists of malpais (an area of rough, barren lava flows) and is dissected by a few sharp canyons carved down into the volcanic rock.

Roads that traverse the area around White Peak are rugged and deeply pitted. They can turn a trip of just a few miles into hours of jockeying and jostling in a pickup.

"There's no good road," says Ty Jackson, one of two state Game and Fish Department officers who regularly patrol Game Management Unit 48 in the White Peak area. "People don't understand how truly rough it is."

When he makes his rounds in Unit 48, it normally takes him a full eight hours to travel a distance of 20 miles as the crow flies.

The vicious malpais is hard on trucks and other full-size vehicles, and for a long time it prevented a lot of off-road travel at White Peak.

However, a dramatic increase in the popularity of recreational all-terrain vehicles such as four-wheelers in the last 10 years has allowed outdoorsmen to navigate the uninviting terrain much quicker and reach places that previously weren't accessible.

Jackson says the freedom offered by four-wheelers has created a chaotic web of roads that crisscrosses both state and private land in the White Peak area.

"There's a road everywhere," Jackson says. "Some are old logging roads, and in other places it's just where somebody found a wide spot between some trees."

Though Game and Fish officers can cite people for driving off-road, vague definitions of what actually constitutes a road, especially in an area with so many primitive two-tracks, make it tough to enforce.

"The problem is that once a handful of vehicles drive there, it basically meets the standards of a road," Jackson says.

Rough roads make Unit 48 especially difficult for law enforcement officers who can only cover limited ground in a day's patrol.

"You can literally drive around all day and never cross the same spot twice," Jackson says. More>>>