On a fun vacation to Angel Fire New Mexico we signed up for an offroad ATV tour with Angel Fire Excursions and we had a blast. After signing some waivers, being told the terrain was rugged and extreme, and getting fitted for a helmet (I began to wonder if my life insurance payments were current) we drove about four miles to the owner of Angel Fire Excursions ranch where the ATVs were stored in a shed. Our guide for the tour was Gary and as he pulled out the ATV's we got to know the friendly family of four who would be joining us on the tour. As was typical of most of the people we met in Angel Fire, they were from Texas.
Gary gave us a quick overview of our tour for the day ("we're headed up some rugged mountain trails in the Carson National Forest for some great views and more") and a short lesson on how to operate the ATV's ("this is the gas, this is the break, and this is the start/stop button") - within minutes we were off in a cloud of dust.
For the first mile or so the road was smooth as it traversed through the trees and toward the top of the mountains - "what's so rugged about this" I ask myself just as Gary stopped and said "it's going to get a little rough and you can follow my lead or cut your own path." And from here on out the trail was rugged, rocky, and bbbb...ounounoun...cycycy...bouncy and jjjj-aaaa-rrrr-ing - but fun and exciting. Each of us would try to follow Gary's path figuring that he knew the smoothest route or we tried to find a smoother path up the mountain and around the rocks and ruts. The rocks seemed like boulders and the ruts seems like the Grand Canyon - but the ATVs and each of the drivers handled them perfectly - we're all pro ATVers after a couple miles of this and ready for anything.
Just about the time I thought my fillings would be bounced out of my mouth or my camera would fall off the bucking ATV or my bladder would burst, Gary would stop for picturesque moment or the road would get smoother and all of us would gun the ATV and try to catch up with Gary - that was a blast! Whenever I could, I would take my eyes off the rocks and enjoy the jaw dropping beautiful scenery as we traversed farther up the mountain through tall stands of pine, aspen, and fir trees which were 5 times taller that most trees in Texas!
Several times on our way up to over 10,500 feet, Gary would stop at a scenic overlook for a short break, an interesting history or geology lesson, a potty break in the woods, or a Kodak moment - the views were amazing!!!! The lake in the distance is Black Lake and scenes from Lonesome Dove were filmed there.
Before we started Gary had told us to keep our eyes peeled for some wildlife. He said if we got lucky we might see deer, elk, bobcats, eagles, and more. Unfortunately, all we saw was an elk footprint, some cow poop, and a deer very well camouflaged in the trees. Gary said on a rare occasion they had encountered a bear on a tour and I surmised based on our trip that it was equally rare to see any homo sapiens in jeeps or ATVs, except maybe on a 4th of July weekend. We definitely felt alone and like pioneers on our trip.
All too soon, after a little over an hour and over and nine miles up over 2000 feet, Gary stopped us for our last scenic vista and an interesting lesson on the mountains, geology, wildlife, and history of the area. We sadly started back down the trail. I was amazing how it seemed easier going downhill over those jagged rocks and deep ruts - we were flying and in a couple of cases I watched Mrs Texas Outside who was ahead of me get some air as she bounced over and off the rocks. On the way down, you had a different perspective and very jaw dropping views.
What a fun tour and a must-do if you're in Angel Fire. The ATV's are 400cc which is plenty of power to bounce off the rocks and race up or down the mountain - it's a thrill to give it the gas and quickly accelerate to what seems like 50 mph! The ATV's are surprisingly comfortable, easy to maneuver, have room for two, and ride the rugged terrain comfortably - the shocks must be huge and the tires can handle the biggest boulders and ruts! Angel Fire Excursions offers 2 hour trips that are around 20 miles round trip as well as 3 hour ATV tours which are roughly 30 miles round trip. One of the best times of the year for a tour into the Carson National Forest with Angel Fire Excursions is during the peak color season which is normally the last week of September through the first week of October.
During the winter, Angel Fire Excursions rents snowmobiles for an exciting and fast tour up the same terrain that we took on the ATVs. Can't wait to come back in the winter and give it a try!