A nice park with wide and well marked trails to hike. For the most part, the main trails are nearly as wide a small car. Motorized vehicles are not allowed obviously, so somehow the trails are maintained with some type equipment to keep them that wide.
When I arrived a little after lunch, the visitor center was closed. My first time at this particular state park. The park lot was empty except for one car at the far end. I didn’t see any other soul, so I parked [not in the first empty spot, I never do that], got my backpack, and began my hike. The trailhead is at the visitor center. I hiked just about to the dam, and then turned around, return path the exact same way I’d walked earlier. The path takes you through several campsites, and they all looked mostly full. Camp/RV facilities looked good and modern. Walked past groups who said Hi at these sites, and also a park volunteer who was in the midst to clean up a particular area. Friendly chap, he explained that the visitor center is staffed pretty much with volunteers, and could be closed when they’re all out on the field.
I finished my hike at the visitor center and noticed a New Mexico park ranger pickup truck parked right next to my rental. It did strike me as odd, as in why park right next to me? My rental was a luxury foreign SUV, clean, new. The park ranger pickup truck also looked new. In fact, it was darn impressive. Where I’m from, the state park ranger vehicles are usually the cheapest / smallest domestic pickup trucks available, and invariably rusty and ready to be removed from service. Not this New Mexico park ranger truck: big, fancy, clean, shiny, looked new. While I fiddled for the car keys in my backpack, I admit to continually look at this fancy truck. New Mexico buys pickup trucks like this for their rangers? These guys/gals are fortunate!
At that point, an armed park ranger emerged from the visitor center, which I had thought was closed. The park ranger straightaway demanded why was I looking at his truck. Huh? I pointed to my rental and replied that this was my car. He again said why was I looking at his truck. I again responded that the car next to his was mine.
I realized at that point that this park ranger was really spooked, and borderline angry. Yikes. I have worked with many law enforcement personnel; my day job has had me work with NYS investigators, troopers, and ENCON rangers. Even the times where I’ve interacted with law enforcement due to an incident such as a traffic stop, I have never seen anyone this spooked. I then said that I used to work at ENCON, which is the NYS Environmental Conservation agency, and they don’t have trucks as nice like this one. That seemed to put him slightly at ease, albeit not much. I knew better than to make any sudden moves. He then asked if I was ‘all set’, and I replied, yes Sir, Thank You. He walked back into the visitor center, although he seemed to keep his gaze on me the entire time, and most likely once in the visitor center, he’d have kept an eye out through a window.
I moved deliberately, slowly. I found my keys, unlocked my vehicle, had some water, and drove away. Yowza…I hope to never hike in New Mexico again. I realize New Mexico is next to the border, and perhaps these rangers have had to be on guard all the time. And, I admit that I really did stare at the pickup truck, as was surprised to find this State’s rangers have such impressive vehicles. But that cannot be considered a crime and this incident was way too strange for me. As you can perhaps tell, I am Hispanic; my mother’s lineage is Spain. And, that simply was a liability in this situation. I consider the incident as cautionary, and will stick to the North East or other states like Utah for hikes. I’d done some big hikes earlier in the year in Utah and found everyone in the parks, both tourists and local law enforcement, were really pleasant.
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