Tuesday, June 13, 2017
We detoured for bit in upper Wilmeth to get in some deep shade provided by some of the few massive Douglas- firs there. I was hoping to find an errant spring,but we were already well above the ones that I visited a couple of years back. Which brings me to the biggest advantage the canyon hikes( Dark or Wilmeth) have on hiking up on the ridge: water. Both canyons have several perennial, strong springs. Even though I lugged along plenty of water for my dogs to drink( and my shoulders are feeling it now), they really need some water to get into to really to cool down. That all being said the last couple of miles of our trek were a bit of trial.
After our detour we easily rejoined the road a bit further up the valley,but then came upon a sign indicating we were on FR 223F. I had never seen anything that would even vaguely lead me to believe we had gotten off of, or that there was even an option of getting off of FT 5700. But, I thought, wouldn't it just be my luck that there was a fork somewhere in the short section of trail we had bypassed to walk in the canyon. I really didn't need the hike to any longer,but we backtracked to check and be sure. None of us were happy now. I was especially displeased with the Forest Service for leaving what I decided had to be an old sign from before the trails were renumbered and signed. Then despite being overheated and tired Seamus took off up a hill after something I never did see. I always panic when he does this, sometime it's bad,sometimes it's not. This time was a little bid bad but luckily, he returned quickly, so the duration was mercifully short. He did it again soon after, I was calmer, and he came back even more quickly the second time.
We rested in the shade for quite a while at the southern( Wilmeth) trailhead, and then rested frequently in the patches of shade along the last leg of our loop on FR 223, arriving back at the 4Runner after a three and a half hour hike. The main thing this walk had going for it is that it was relatively level, which is a rarity in the Lincoln, where most of the trails run from valleys up to ridges.
Here are few recommendations if you choose to do this one despite the preceding tale.
Hike real early on sunny summer days or when the sun has gone behind the ridge. Overcast days would work too, unless t-storms are coming, and then the huge, open to sky corridor you're walking in is not a good thing at all. Otherwise, don't bring the four legged friends. Finally as you may have guessed, this is not great foot trail,but I think it would probably be great beginners trail for ATV riding, or mountain biking.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
This past Sunday was similarly lovely day as the one in June, if a bit cooler, thankfully.
We started out going up Schofield Canyon( FT 5007A). The steady climb over the first 3/4 mile took the chill off of us quickly. Most trees were leafed out with exception of the oaks. The creek almost entirely dry, but there was one mud puddle recently visited by elk. At the second intersection we headed east on FT 5007 D.
Rather than stay with the trail( FT 5007) as it went up on the hillside to the left, we stayed in Taylor Canyon itself, which has a nice livestock/wildlife trail to follow through a narrow,mostly forested little valley. A short ways down in a clearing,there was a live spring emerging from the western hillside giving birth to a sweet little stream, which made me glad we had come this way instead of the trail that would have taken us much farther to the east and had us walking back on the frequently busy Upper Rio Peñasco Road.
NOTE: right above the Upper Rio Peñasco Road, Taylor Canyon has a rugged little cascade that flows over limestone bedrock. The stream had dried up before reaching it when we visited( the spring is small and is also pumped and piped for livestock use) but I'm sure it does flow earlier in the Spring and in late Summer.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
It's probably been close to 10 years since we hiked here last and this was either the third or fourth time we've done this trail. The last time we tried, there was no place to park past the private property and before the first creek crossing which we did not attempt in our two wheel drive truck. There was much unhappiness backing up the narrow road and turning around that day( read about it in this blog's entry for April 21, 2014 " Black Range East Side"). The first part of road was clear this past Sunday( April 17,2017) and there was enough room to park a hundred yards in or so,but I had forgotten completely about the treacherous first crossing and even though I had four wheel drive this time, I ended up doing the backing up trick again. I might've gone for it at the crossing, if my wife hadn't been with me. There is a fairly large camping and parking area on the other side, which would be the main advantage,because shortly afterward there is the second crossing which no one appears to be crossing at all, so hiking time added round trip amounts to something less than 10 minutes.
Off we went with Seamus and Nessie. The creek was flowing nicely still, which was great for Seamus who loves to get right in, but bad for little Nessie who would rather not get even her feet wet.
The streamside was delightfully overgrown with bright green bunches of willows and alder saplings, so sometimes it was easier to just step from rock to rock in the stream rather than look for a trail that wasn't there. The Silver Fire did not touch the first couple of miles.It was nice to see all the firs and pines doing well on the steep hillsides. Along the stream besides the willows and alders were fully leafed out chokecherry, box elder and walnut. At the big horseshoe bend where you realize you're in canyon about a 1,000 feet deep there is small waterfall and every pool above it,as elsewhere in the stream, was alive with insects both on and below the surface of the crystal clear water.
Past the Virginia Mine the old road becomes easier to follow on the benches in the much widened stream valley. It was easy walking on rapidly disappearing tread that continued through grassy clearinsg and shady conifers.
There is nothing left of the large wooden building that I photographed almost 20 years ago, except for the sheets of tin that were once its roof and parts of an old woodstove. It had collapsed on subsequent trip, and now there's not even a a trace of old dried lumber which was surely instantly turned to ash and blown on the breeze as stringers from the Silver Fire made their way down the mountain.Another nearby building that's built into the hillside and still had its glass window and tin roof back then is just the cobblestone walls now.
Effects of the fire are most obvious as we approached the gorge. Where once a lush forest concealed all but the tops of the 500 foot high cliffs of bare igneous rock from view, now the entire buttress of stone that is the north wall is visible from quite a ways back. There are surviving trees however, so the view isn't entirely bleak ( see my blog " North Percha Creek" from 5/26/10 to compare images).
The gorge is one of the most spectacular places that I know of in the Black Range,and making it even better, as if in confirmation of how special this place is, are ancient pictographs on the overhanging walls at the base of the cliffs.
As we walked further up the narrow canyon, I spied a tom turkey walking up the steep hillside on my left. Seamus clued in, and even as I tried to discourage him, went in pursuit. Well, we were all more than a bit surprised when this huge bird took to the air and flew over our heads back down the canyon. The stream runs over bedrock through most of this section and I was hoping to see a little cascade further upstream I remembered from years ago but, we turned around before finding it. Walking back, with our necks craning at the immense rock towers on either side of the canyon, we took many photographs, but I knew that none would really do this place justice. You would need much better photography equipment, but really it's better to just be there.
Saturday, April 1, 2017
The short box section is the real attraction here, and it had us craning necks with the requisite amount of awe. Unfortunately,once past the box, the hike became a rather monotonous trudge in the much widened, thick sands of the shadeless Buckman Wash.
We had planned to hike down to the river which would have made a roundtrip journey between 5 and 6 miles,but the bright sunshine and open terrain had us taking our black dogs for refuge under one too many scraggly juniper, so we made the decision to turn back with about 3/4 of mile still left to go.The clouds came soon afterwards which made our walk back much more pleasant.
On our return we saw many chains dangling from one overhang, and I wasn't sure I entirely I approved of the practice of installing permanent anchors.
After arriving back at the parking area, we drove the remaining couple of miles of the Buckman Road down to the river, where the wash creates a break in the rugged cliffs. It was high, brown, and foamy with a large rapid that was running backwards just downstream from us. A very raw and uninviting time and place to contemplate our beloved Rio.
The Taos BLM website had great directions to the Diablo Canyon and other attractions on BLM land in the northern New Mexico. Check it out.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
I've known about the Organ Eye for several years and finally took the plunge to find it on the second day of my spring break. The eastern boudary road into the trailhead starts just past the Sierra Vista trailhead on the county road. It was my first adventure of several that day. Let's just say it's not great and if you don't have high clearance and the option of four wheel drive, find someone who does.
I haven't been out to this area in several years, and had forgotten how scenic the southern Organs are. Massive ribs of pock-marked volcanic tuff, immense rusty red towers and jagged formations that puncture the soft curves of the hillsides, though not comparable to the world class Needles a few miles to the north,make the ridgeline south of Achenbach impressive as a desert range on its own.
I started out from the trailhead situated between the foothills of the ridge and a small detached mountain. There was a trail patted down in the grass and still curled poppies. It followed and crossed the arroyo and then headed up a ridge between the main canyon on the south and smaller side branch. The the trail disappeared. For reasons( other than the lack trail, which the readers of this blog know doesn't deter me in slightest) that don't reflect well on your author, I ended up going back downhill. I decided subsequently to climb a steep hillside on the south, thinking there was natural arch there to be seen. Nothing doing, but nice views, although none of the Organ Eye. I then angled my way down and began up the main canyon, which I thought of dubbing " Fool's Canyon" because only a fool would want to go up it through the spanish dagger, catclaw, whitethorn, mesquite and octotillo without even a trace of trail.There was an odd sort of dwarf forest of soapberry trees just beginning to leaf out which brought some sweetness to the unrelenting thorniness of the vegetation.
I spotted a very small arch and climbed up,around and then behind it to get a look. I thought there was a larger arch beneath, but no dice. Now I continued up the hillside and got my first look of what I thought was the Organ Eye, looking from that vantage point like the entrance to large cave.
It was getting hot already and I still had 500 feet of elevation gain to go, but I decided to give it shot. I sidehilled on deer trails, in and out of gullies, careful not lose any significant elevation as made my way toward the dry cascade just below the "cave." Eventually I was directly across from the massive fin of rock and the Organ Eye, at its base, was visible for the first time. I edged my way slowly across the bedrock of the waterfall and a ledge and then I was in the Eye, grateful for the first shade of the day.
The Organ Eye is the largest arch formation I know of in the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument. It is not well known, and from the lack of graffiti, trash and evidence of campfires it seems to have very few visitors. I was happy to be there and took many photos to commemorate the occasion.
I decided to go out the northern entrance and then down the steep slope. When walking down rough, treacherous terrain like this, it's best to forget taking anything resembling a straight route. Any direction that allows a few free steps that aren't uphill works. Just keep moving generally where you want to go and don't be afraid to find a better option.
I went over a low saddle and found a couple of cairns and soon was back on my original path from several hours before. The poppies were open now and it made me smile to see them after so many years absent.