Placing feet on the Earth
During planning of the Four Corners Loop, there were two large regions where private land and public land intermingled like meatballs in spaghetti. The first area was where i first set foot on this adventure, between Santa Fe New Mexico and Albuquerque New Mexico. Prior to hiking I wrote letters to three large ranches asking permission to cross their private land. One said no, the other two I never answered back. Since I needed permission from all three and one said no I had to do a slight route change and do about 23 miles of paved road walking, my least desired Earth surface. But this was feasible because the roads were going in the direction that I wanted to go and brought me through the interesting artists colony town of Madrid New Mexico.
The other area were private land greatly intermingle‘s with public Bureau of Land Management land (BLM), Colorado state land, Colorado trust land exists between Maybell Colorado and Meeker Colorado. It is your classic checkerboard mishmash of land ownership. In this case the private land holdings were many and small parcels, not huge 50,000 acre ranches, so I didn’t feel it was feasible to write a ton of letters. Instead I incorrectly assumed I could walk along the various dirt roads that connected the public parcels. For this portion of the Four Corners Loop, I placed the route in the area that had the highest land area density of public land, most being controlled by the BLM. It was my thought that the road connecting these parcels placed on the Earth using public funds would be the right away between the public parcels.
This was a correct assumption in places, other places this was not a good assumption. Right now walking from Maybell to Meeker is impossible without crossing some private land. A lot of the roads I used created a situation where it was impossible to walk from public parcel to public parcel. Basically I felt like a criminal because there was no water on the 43 mile section (I started out with 14 L), and I did not have extra water to be bushwhacking for a pure public route. Cross country travel is practically impossible in the stiff bushes of this region. Yes they are private lands, but I felt the private lands were blocking access to the public parcels we all own.
During the last 42 miles in random places I would see BLM signs stating “entering public land”, “leaving public land” but the later half of the trip what I saw was a whole series of no trespassing signs, even in places where my research showed I was on BLM land. I had no choice but to continue forward not seeing anybody. All the signs were aged in appearance and tattered, the thick impossible vegetation kept me on my course. I was on a road that hasn’t had a vehicle on it in probably 15 years, it might be impossible to even drive unless you were in an ATV. There were landslides present that took out the road (The landslide expose some cool Coal seam layers). The road in places turned to just grass and bushes almost disappearing. There were old broken gates all over the place with old no trespassing signs that haven’t been opened in ages. Every time I encountered a property boundary there was some sort of gate and signage. Even with all this in the middle of nowhere on an abandoned road I would see signs telling me I was entering or leaving public land. Let’s just say this section needs work if this is going to be an official National Scenic Trail, some work with landowners is going to be needed.
This is why I’m actually hiking this loop, to learn about these issues and problems so a continuous foot path can exist.
If you’re a landowner and you’re reading this and determined I may have crossed your land, I apologize for this, please forgive me. It was definitely a learning experience for me, and I am not going to tell people they have permission to cross your land. When I finish with the trip I will get on the computer and see if I can find a route that is feasible, and some land owners could get letters to asking for permission for other people to hike across their land in the future if hiking the Four Corners Loop. Forgive me because for my safety I needed to continue on my planed route because I did not have enough water to make adjustments on the fly, and there were not any good adjustments to take. Once I got up on the ridge line the bushes kept me moving down the abandoned ridge line road.
In my I perfect utopian world I wish the United States was like England. I believe over there people can walk across the land they just have a culture where they open the gate and they close the gate as long as you’re not doing any damage you can walk across the land. Personally I see no harm in walking across land. It would be nice if we had some laws like this in the United States we could walk across the land, staying away from buildings and houses etc., and if walking softly and leaving no trace this traveling practice is considered acceptable. On this route I saw lots of open grand vistas, sagebrush, stiff bushes, many elk, a fox, cows a lot of vast scenic beauty.
The section from Maybell to Meeker definitely need some work. I don’t think it’s feasible to do paved road walking in the high heat of this region in Colorado this time of year. It makes sense to get up high and hike the higher hills where it is cooler, but access needs to be achieved.
Learning to make a better Four Corners Loop