I followed Jake on his Ghost Divide Expedition through the Oreo filling sections of New Mexico and Arizona en route to Overland Expo West. Each year, Jake offers trips to and from Overland Expo via 300+ miles of backroads through scenic wilderness. The historical value of New Mexico is easy to take for granted unless you have someone in your midst who can reveal details of what occurred where. I feel privileged to have gained exposure to significant pieces of American Native history while traveling with Jake. What details exactly? Revealing the answer in literary form simply won’t do it justice. I recommend taking an expedition with Jake so you can truly experience the answer.
The five day expedition took us through the Gila National Forest where the southern Rocky Mountains end and the northern Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico begin. We brushed up against the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts, as well as the Colorado Plateau, and we followed the Mogollon Rim into Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. Our elevation spanned from 5,351 ft to 9,563 ft. The four evenings of camping all occurred above 7,000 ft, ensuring chilly conditions.
Once we left our starting point, the first 178 miles did not take us by any trendy coffee shops, fast food outlets, or fuel sources. Social media apps stalled as our phones lost connectivity, which is why Jake carries a satellite communications mechanism, as well as a host of other equipment, for emergencies. Yes, we really were in the remote backcountry.
Pulling a trailer over rugged, high altitude hilly terrain with a 4,000 ft elevation climb while my truck’s air filter collected dust nearly every mile meant my 21 gallon tank was not going to get me to the fuel source in Reserve, NM. I brought an extra 13 gallons, five of which I actually used. I also packed in extra food and water. If only I had packed an extra blanket, I could have better endured the few nights where temperatures dipped well below freezing.
These preparations were not a surprise. Jake advised us in advance with detailed emails communicating what provisions were necessary. Yes, he mentioned cold temperatures. I underestimated the warmth abilities of my mummy bag and rooftop tent. Or maybe I’ve reached that tier in the aging process where tolerance for cold is on the decline. From the multiple emails, it was clear that Jake is organized, thorough, and speaking from year of experience.
I took to heart the information I gleaned from his emails. Privacy tent…check. Camping toilet and human waste bags…check. Shower system…check. Tools and spare vehicle parts…check. Vehicle inspection…check. This last one was costly. My mechanic found my UCAs were not installed correctly, my inner tie-rods were worn, and my exhaust was coming apart. The UCA fix and inner tie-rod replacements cured the steering wheel vibration feedback—something that never registered with me as a symptom of underlying issues.
Our group met in Truth or Consequences, NM on Sunday at high noon. From there, ten 4x4 trucks, outfitted for expedition travel, followed Jake’s well-built AEV equipped Jeep JKUR. Among the trucks were a 1983 Toyota HJ47 diesel and a 1984 Land Rover Defender 90 diesel. Both right-hand drive trucks were imported. Also on the trip was a modified Ford Raptor driven all the way from Canada and a Dodge Ram with a Four Wheel Camper. The remaining five rigs were Jeep JKs. Three of us were pulling trailers. Two of the trailers were built by modern manufacturers of outdoor trailers: a Turtleback and my XVenture XV-1. The other trailer was rather interesting: a former military cargo trailer made of aluminum and equipped with multiple access points. This was a hydraulic tool and repair trailer based on an M-101 chassis. Pat turned it into an ideal expedition trailer.
Each evening, we arrived at our campsites with plenty of time to set up, cook supper, and socialize. My fellow adventurers hailed from Chicago, Florida, French-speaking Canada, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas. The personalities of the various participants blended well and comradery was achieved quickly. By the end of the trip, there were numerous running jokes, frequent sarcasm, and lots of laughter. Never a dull moment with this group.
After five days of driving across diverse terrain, rarely seeing other vehicles, and limited exposure to civilization, I can say there is something existential, yet therapeutic, about taking in what nature has to offer in the great Southwest. When we rolled into Overland Expo, I was excited about seeing the various rigs and meeting the vendors. Yet, I was still clinging to that wonderful adventurous high that had carried me for the past 5 days. I was unwilling to accept that our trip had concluded. The Ghost Divide Expedition had affected me. The longing to return to the natural beauty off the beaten path is why I am certain this will not be my last trip with New Mexico Backroads. Hopefully you can join me on one of Jake’s trips in the future.
About New Mexico Backroads
Jake Quiñones is founder and owner of New Mexico Backroads. NMBR provides professional backcountry guiding, scouting, skills training and photography services to a host of individuals, companies and government agencies. In the time leading up to the NMBR’s guided 4WD based adventures, participants will be provided with helpful information on how to prepare and what to expect. An extensive list of essential and recommended supplies/equipment/gear is provided accompanied with advice, tips, and tricks. The self sufficient aspect of NMBR guided 4WD based adventures challenges and prepares participants for their future 4WD based endeavors—to go boldly, prepared, and with confidence. Visit the NMBR website to learn more about upcoming 4WD based adventures.
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