The hot, dusty, and desolate road seems to continue forever. The intense heat waves rise from the desert landscape bending light through the windshield and putting Rogue Riders into a transient state… watching yellow dashed blurs marking our slow forward progress. Everything seems the same until a lush green mountain rises through the clouds appearing on the mirage like horizon. As we start our ascent, the landscape bursts into life and inspires Rogue Riders to do the same. The higher and higher we climb, the lower and lower the temperature drops. Ahhh… we’ve reached Cloudcroft, NM… a mountain oasis floating in the clouds, inviting weary travelers to open every window and bask in the crisp fresh mountain air. Welcome to 9000 ft above stress level!
We are Rogue Riders and we ride with no rules ;)!!! This might be why we are escorted through Cloudcroft by a squadron of Harleys. This brigade isn’t stopping for nothin’ … mainly because this town doesn’t have a SINGLE stoplight! With a population of only 750, Cloudcroft, NM is the smallest of the friendliest towns. It’s surprising they can keep this place a secret! The best kept secret is the haunted hotel on the hill, The Lodge Resort and Spa. This isn’t just a 5 star accommodation, but a true experience with whispers of ghost stories echoing throughout the hotel’s halls. Set atop of the Sacramento Mountains within over 2oo,ooo beautiful acres of the Lincoln National Forest, the hotel is beautiful, and the surrounding area is where everybody is at!
One of the best ways to explore this mountain wilderness is through the labyrinth of trails by mountain bike. Who better to show us the way than our expert friends at High Altitude Bikes, Justin and Mary Ann. They know these mountains and the gear it will take to tame it. Everything is harder at 9000 ft, especially riding against gravity up precarious trails. Already in the clouds, the cardiovascular-taxing incline lasts until you reach the almost roller coaster apex and pause for that split second wondering whether you should take the already decided plunge. The ride is thrilling… The heights and sights are breathtaking… and the camouflage party bus, in my opinion, is the best way to get back up. Another great way to explore Cloudcroft involves a different kind of saddle and over 1000 lbs. of bad-attitude mountain-muscle… we are going horseback riding!
Aspen Cloud Riding Stables was nice enough to lend Rogue Riders some of the wild kingdom’s 4 wheel drives (horses)! Mack and Kitty would be our new friends and modes of transpotation. The horses are powerful and sure-footed which is a good thing because the trails are steep, narrow, and slick from the morning rain. Between the mystic mountains and embracing people within Cloudcroft, this town truly defines hidden gem.