Summer 2021 Tour Ruidoso, New Mexico, Episode 3: Wild Horses, Grindstone Lake, Lower Cedar Creek Trail

In this episode, we encounter wild horses, drive up to Grindstone Lake, and take a hike. I know at the end of last week’s post I teased a hike, a ghost town, and a surprise, but I couldn’t shoehorn the ghost town and surprise into this post. They’ll pop up in next week’s episode. On to the horses.

Wild Horses of Lincoln County

We followed the directions and signs to the Monjeau Lookout, hoping for clear skies and a fantastic view. The dirt road lead through Villa Madonna, a small community tucked among the trees and hills. Jon shimmied past a Jeep on the side of the road and parked. Up the hill, a herd of horses grazed in a field.

Wild, or feral, horses keep watch to protect their herd

A young family walked toward us, so Jon asked if the Monjeau Lookout was up ahead. “Yes, sir, but the gate’s closed,” said the father in a polite Texas drawl. Jon asked, “Do you know if the horses are wild?” “Yes, sir,” the father said, “They’re feral.”

Wait a minute. I’ve heard of “feral” cats, but “wild” when referring to horses. Was he being friendly or making fun of us oldsters? If the later, we were glad we could make them laugh.

Villa Madonna community saved from a fire

As the family walked back to their Jeep, I noticed the father’s gun on his hip. People walking around with guns at their waist or strapped to their thigh is not something we ever see in the San Francisco Bay Area. I suppose carrying a gun in this part of the country might not be a bad idea. Besides horses, elk, and deer; bear live around Ruidoso. I’d sure hate to bump into a big black bear without some kind of protection. We should think about making more noise while hiking. The crunch of gravel under our shoes may not be enough to keep a bear from our path.

How did this one tree survive the blaze?

Watching the horses graze on the hill cured our disappointment in not seeing Monjeau Lookout, a site we’ve put on our list for our next visit to Ruidoso.

Grindstone Lake

Completed in 1987, the Grindstone roller-compacted concrete dam stores water from the Rio Ruidoso and Grindstone Canyon Creek as a community water supply. The dam sits at 6,918 feet above sea level and has a surface acreage of 40 acres. In front of the dam, the lake is 115 feet deep. Well, maybe not that deep with the water level so low.

Kayaks and canoes for rent at the lake

Ruidoso Parks and Recreation operate the recreational activities at Grindstone Lake and WiBit Water Park. Fishing, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boarding, among other activities, are available. The Dam House has boat rentals, fishing equipment, and snacks.

There’s still enough water for Wibit Water Park fun

A fee is required to park at the lake and advanced reservations are required Friday through Sunday. An additional fee and reservations are also required for the Wibit Water Park. No one is at the water park in the photo because it was closed the day we visited.

View homes dot the hilltop and anglers try their luck

Lower Cedar Creek Trail

Behind Smokey Bear Ranger Station on Cedar Creek Road are trailheads that lead to several paths used by equestrians, bicyclists, and hikers. One morning, we chose the 1.5-mile Lower Cedar Creek trail for an early morning hike.

The V Tree

A squabbling congregation of crows greeted us at the trailhead. Their debate followed us several yards as the trail wound its way near the creek, and finally abated as we continued up and down hills, and through a varied landscape of junipers, pines, and cactus. (Note: Yes, I know “murder” is the technical term for a group of crows, but I liked the ring of congregation or crows)

Small pond in a wetland area
A middle tree?
Prickly pear
Jon powers up the hill
How many seedlings will survive?

The crows were still squabbling when we returned to the trailhead. Apparently, they hadn’t resolved their disagreement. Back at the truck, Jon realized his hiking shoes had carried him for the last time. A trip to mid-town to buy a new pair was added to our daily to-do list, but first we needed food. Cars had crammed into the parking lot in front of Log Cabin on previous days when we passed by. On this day, we lucked out with a spot in front and enjoyed a filling breakfast.

We recommend Log Cabin Restaurant for breakfast

Brunell’s in mid-town had a large selection of shoes for Jon to choose from. The friendly staff stacked boxes of shoes and boots around him. After trying several on, he found the perfect pair and wore them the rest of the day with no soreness or blisters.

That wraps up this episode. Next week for sure we’ll share our visit to the ghost town, a lava field, and the surprise find.

Safe travels