Sunday, February 28, 2010

West Potrillo Mountains- Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument

I decided I wanted to hike to an "unbreached" cinder cone in the West Potrillo Mountains. Many of the cinder cones in this region are blown- out on one side, or otherwise eroded so that they don't have a perfectly surrounded depression in the center. Some do, however, and so I got onto my topo map software and then Google Earth and found reasonably accessible one about 4 miles west of Mt.Aden, which is located right along the Southern Pacific south of I-10. There are a maze of roads out in this area, some are good, some pretty rough, and some long forgotten. So, if you're not handy with maps or a GPS, it can be little confusing. I consider myself pretty handy, and I still got off on the wrong road for a mile or so.The hike wasn't particularly exciting; crossing over desert arroyos and flats that were once sand dunes. I saw many jackrabbits. They all looked plump and healthy. I also saw several different raptors, including what I thought was a peregrine falcon. The terrain near the cone is pretty rough with volcanic cinders and rocks. It's about a 200 foot,steep climb up the cone. From the rim, there was a good view of Aden Crater and lava flow, as well as Mount Riley and the higher peaks of the West Potrillos. The highlight of the trip was coming upon the tallest barrel cactus I've seen in Dona Ana County. It was over my head, and standing all alone in a sea of creosote. Not the most interesting hike,but a beautiful day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tonuco Peak

The Tonuco Peak uplift area is one of the best places for  desert hiking here in southern New Mexico. It has petroglyphs, interesting geology, cool rocks(various colors of quartz crystals, barite, fluorite, obsidian), old mines, and great views of the Rio Grande Valley from the peak. I have hiked here many times and there is always something new to discover;like a small needle eye arch in a branch canyon, or encounter, like the time I took a " short cut ' down through the cliffs that tower over the  large sandy arroyo on the north side and accidentally roused a couple of great horned owls, whose appearance so startled me that I nearly tumbled down the rocky ravine I was so carefully negotiating.Be careful around the mines if you go. Also, there's a giant mystery hole on top of the flat peak- don't fall in it. There is no waste rock near it, so if it's a mine shaft, it must be connected to a tunnel further down on the side of the mountain.The loop hike I usually make is a moderate 7 miles, and uses the big sandy arroyo,Pictograph Canyon, and the road coming from the east to the peak, but there are several other old mine roads that I've used for exploring. Getting down into some of the small arroyos has been fun too.The final climb to the peak is steep,but fairly short. It's amazing the remote feeling you get in the hidden Pictograph Canyon on this hike, even though you're very close to I-25 on one side and the farms along the river on the other. Good directions can be found in Greg Magee's Dayhikes and Nature Walks in the Las Cruces/El Paso Area. Caution: there is deep sand on some vehicle routes, and some roads can turn from decent to dangerous without much warning, and the "road" to the peak isn't really a road at all, so unless you have a jeep or some other vehicle suited to these conditions it's best to do your adventuring on foot.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fillmore Canyon, Organ Mountains/Desert Peaks National Monument

We hiked Fillmore Canyon in the Organs. It was early November and I was still hoping for little more fall color. An early hard freeze and snow meant it was unlikely. As it turned out,most of leaves had fallen off the trees before they had a chance to change, but some years the shrubby ash ,box elder and gambel oak can make nice display. It was a good hike anyway. I explored up Fillmore Canyon proper rather than going through the Narrows. It's a rough little bushwack in there, and really not worth it unless perhaps there's good water running because there's one nice waterfall that I'd like to photograph. I've probably done this hike close to ten times now( not including  the shorter hike to the  first waterfall). It's like taking a trip to the Gila,but with only a 20 minute drive. It's especially nice when water in the creek is flowing, and you feel like  you're somewhere far from the desert, at the same time you're looking at it,  down in the Rio Grande Valley, spread out before you.Update( September,2014): I haven't returned since the Abrams fire a couple of years ago, so I'm not sure what it looks like up there now. Perhaps a fall hike this year is in order.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Upper Gallinas- Gila National Forest

We camped at Upper Gallinas along the Emory Pass corridor in the Black Range in October. It's probably the fourth or fifth time we've stayed there. The " official " campground is an unattractive gravel parking lot with a few tables and fire rings. If you cross the creek, you will find a much nicer,wooded, dispersed area with four or so spots for small trailers or tents. The stars are always beautiful out here. It was already getting down into the 20's at night, so there were no other campers at our campground, and only a couple of others in the 5 campgrounds along the recreation corridor( Wright's Cabin, Iron Creek, Railroad Canyon, Upper and Lower Gallinas). We didn't do a lot of hiking although we've probably hiked every trail in this area a couple times at least. Instead we just explored some old roads in the morning and drove out to the Middle Fork of the Gila River in the afternoon and did the short walk to the hot spring. Thinking about this trip, I feel a little sad now. Our little Cairn Terrier, Bonnie, was with us as usual. She was mostly blind and deaf the last year or so of her life, yet as recently as the  June, she was hiking in the Pecos Wilderness and hunting the myriad chipmunks at the Jack's Creek Campground. She had been getting unwilling about wilderness hikes for awhile,but she seemed particularly stubborn this trip and was carried much of the time. I was thinking this may be the last time she should come with us. As it turns out it was her last camping trip, she died 2 months later . She was nearly 15 years old.IMPORTANT UPDATE: The road and the camping spots across the creek, as well as all of Lower Gallinas have been officially closed since  the Silver Fire(June,2013).

Monday, February 1, 2010

More Carbonate Creek Maples-Gila National Forest

More photos of the maples. Some of these trees are quite large, and are certainly the tallest big tooth maples I have seen anywhere in the Gila.This was an unforgettable New Mexico/ Gila experience for me. Sadly this area may be greatly altered now due to the Silver Fire( June, 2013). UPDATE(March,2016)- Many of these trees were burned,but some are growing back from the roots. Others survived relatively intact,but some,including some large ones, are gone.

Carbonate Creek-Gila National Forest

I have camped on Carbonate Creek many times,but this time we were just going for dayhike. I was born and raised in Connecticut and when Fall rolls around, I start to get antsy to get out in the forest and see some color.There are maples on the east side of the Black Range, and on the west side the aspens can be spectacular. I opted for the maples this year, mainly because to really get a good look at the aspens involves either a long drive on a rotten road,or a very long day hike. The maples (as well as colorful oaks ) can be seen from NM 152 (Emory Pass road), but it's more fun to get back in one of the canyons and see them up close. They may not be as dense or widespread as the ones in the Manzanos, but there are definitely no crowds to deal with, if you want to go see them. We had to hike about 4 or so miles back in to find a lovely grove of old trees, but the first ones can be seen about 2 miles from where the Carbonate Creek road meets Forest Road 157. IMPORTANT UPDATE: this hike  is within the Silver Fire burn area. I can only hope the maples have somehow survived.UPDATE( March,2016)- Many of the maples have been burned,but many are growing back from the roots. Others survived relatively intact,but a few seemed to have been uprooted and washed downstream in the flooding.