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2018-07-11 / Agriculture and Outdoors

Visiting an ‘enchanted land’ — New Mexico

Woods, Waters & Wildlife
By John Jefferson

An angler casts into a Rio Ruidoso pool for trout. The easy-to-read New Mexico Fishing Rules pamphlet contains color illustrations of nine cold-water fish and ten warm-water fish, where to find them, fishing regulations, and other information. JOHN Jefferson An angler casts into a Rio Ruidoso pool for trout. The easy-to-read New Mexico Fishing Rules pamphlet contains color illustrations of nine cold-water fish and ten warm-water fish, where to find them, fishing regulations, and other information. JOHN Jefferson Here’s another vacation travel suggestion.

Each of our 50 states has a nickname. Some are a stretch to understand — like Utah’s “Industry.” Utah has many other charming aspects besides industry. Some states open themselves to jest — like New Jersey’s “The Garden State” — which some change to “the garbage state.” New Mexico claims to be “The Land of Enchantment.” That’s appropriate.

Maybe it is enchanting to me due to its Indian heritage and customs. Maybe it’s due to the solitude one experiences in the mountains. As a light breeze whistles through the pines and spruce trees, imparting perhaps a bit of a chill, one can almost sense an enchantment. It’s almost as if the spirits of the mountains are watching, guarding the land’s treasured riches against exploitation.

I seem to feel it more in the fall as summer gives way to autumn, and foretells the onset of winter. The golden aspen leaves subtly punctuate the melancholy mood of the changing seasons. But the enchanted aura was sufficiently present last week in the mountains surrounding Ruidoso in south-central New Mexico.

To a Texan, the mountain air is a welcomed relief from 100-plus degree heat. We sat on the deck of a good friend’s house and watched the sun set behind the mountains each evening knowing the 82-degree, low-humidity day was yielding to a cooling 50-60 degrees. We wanted to bottle it and bring some home.

We fished in the Rio Ruidoso, Rio Bonito, and Alto Lake, but scouted three other nearby waterbodies. Bonito Lake Park is still closed due to fire damage. Five-day licenses cost $25.00, plus a $4.00 “Habitat Management and Access Validation” charge. Licenses can be ordered online.

Visiting with several New Mexico game wardens at Alto Lake, I asked where they would fish. Before answering, one warden asked whether we were after “coldwater fish” or “warm-water fish”. That intrigued me, knowing that there was such a choice during the summer! Another warden asked if we preferred lake or stream fishing. What a place! Just wish New Mexico was closer, although we love driving across Texas — even through areas others think are boring.

Alto Lake was a short, scenic drive from town through the mountains, and was a beautiful fishery, nestled at the foot of tree-covered hills. We fished from shore, but almost wished we had brought our kayaks. Shoreline vegetation was an aggravation. And water at the far end was inviting — as it always is.

Ruidoso is a charming mountain valley town of about 7,700 year-‘round residents. Tourist season boosts it to around 40,000. And tourist influx strikes during summer, ski season, hunting season, horse-racing events, and almost anytime. An Arts & Wine Festival is July 27-29, offering localized art and merchandise. Accommodations are abundant. The Chamber of Commerce says there are 61 lodging rental companies and 50 restaurants offering practically every type cuisine — including the restaurants at Inn of the Mountain Gods on the Mescalero Apache Reservation.

Ruidoso’s elevation is 7,000 feet — with no mosquitos!

John Jefferson is a lifelong outdoorsman, Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. hunting and fishing regulations coordinator and director, 20-year editor of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual, author of two hunting books, and recipient of numerous awards for writing and photography.

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