Emory  Pass

Emory Pass is not the highest or the steepest pass in New Mexico. Neither does the road have a shoulder of any kind. But because of a number of factors, this is my favorite paved pass or summit in New Mexico so far. For one thing it doesn't need a shoulder. Traffic is so light (at least in winter)  that a wider road would only disturb the landscape more needlessly. The surface is a rough chip seal. But currently it has matured and is so smooth that it is perfect to ride on with any kind of skinny tire (Feb 08). The road is in strong contrast to the area to the the south. Coming up from the Mexican border and Deming there is an amazing absence of garbage and litter. It almost seems, that you have crossed into a different country again. Neither are there those annoying tourist businesses that sell junk of all kinds. The contrast in landscape is also amazing. After the stark shapes in the dessert to the south, the road climbs into deep soothing forest. These mountains are part of the basin and range province. The ranges are individual fault blocks with a younger geology than superficially similar landscapes, like all those rounded hills in the Appalachians for example. Here the landscape has a more angular, disturbed, look. Finally, unlike many of the forested paved climbs in the Sangre de Cristos to the north, there is a grand overlook onto the drier dessert mountains to the east. All this - and you can make believe it is the season of your choice during mid February.

01.(5640ft,mile00) START-END WEST: NM90 crossing the Mimbres River south of Lorenzo
02.(8228ft,mile15) TOP: Emory Pass
03.(6350ft,mile23) Kingston
04.(5290ft,mile32) START-END EAST: Hillsboro


From West. The lower approach on NM61 following the Mimbres River below the starting point on the profile is a pleasant ride through large gently flowing hills, passing settlements that have names on maps, despite the fact that they consist of a few interesting old houses or lived in schoolbuses and a white church here or there, services every other Saturday. It's a great ride in mid February, but I imagine it gets pretty hot during most of the year. The profile starts with Ancheta Canyon after the junction NM90-NM6. The road soon climbs into a juniper forest with interesting views back down into the Mimbres Valley. Instead of climbing the high ridge ahead the road turns right and crests on an intermediate summit in order to descend back down to the lower Gallinas area. The road rounds a deep ruggedly incised meander of this creek and climbs in deep forest towards the ridge line. The last miles are comprised of forested switchbacks in order to deliver the rider at a grand overview of the Rio Grande Valley to the east. The overlook is few feet higher than the pass and the far views come as a great surprise after climbing into heavier and heavier forest.

From East. (described upwards) The open lava capped valleys of the Rio Grande tributaries seem to end in the old mining town of Kingston. The town contains only a few buildings that show little sign of life, and instead add to the feeling of remoteness of this area. Above lies a forested climb up a traverse, where the road is never straight but follows every contour of the land, great cycling. Looking back you can often see the road turns stack up behind one another, similar to the contours of a relaxed snake that is maybe in the process of crossing a road. Now and then you catch a glimpse of the dessert hills below. Some of the upper turns are perpetually shaded and remnants of snow linger long after the last storm.




An out and back ride starting at the junction of NM90 and NM61, over the pass to a turnaround point a mileage marker 45, about 5 miles shy of Hillsboro measured 63 miles and 6000ft of climbing in 5:2 hours measured with a Vetta cyclecomputer (with some tire problems) (r2:08.02.07).


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