Thursday, December 29, 2011

Prehistoric Trackways National Monument- Discovery Site Trail




Our original idea was to hike Tonuco Peak,but we soon discovered that areas just to the north of Las Cruces were still covered with snow. We could see the very steep "road" to the top of the peak from the highway, and it was looking completely white. So we decided to come up with another idea. We took a few photos and headed over to the Trackways trailhead in the Robledo Mountains. Well, first we drove past the Trackways trailhead and parked in a large open area. I wanted to hike up the road the runs to the south of the quarry and then onto the road the runs along the middle ridgeline of the lower section of the Robledos. We had gotten a short ways when we heard a lot of shooting, saw a bunch of guys with a rifles along side the road, and decided to turn around.Given the observable circumstances,this was the right move. Without going into a lot of detail, let's just say that safety was not their utmost concern and leave it at that. We drove the car back to the new official trail head,now located a short ways east of the old one.
The trail followed an old road on a mesa top initially,but then took us up steeply over a couple of small peaks,before signs directed us down into the canyon containing the trackways.The road does continue on for a ways,up and down hills until it dead ends at big canyon.It was obviously made for recreational OHV use which is why it goes straight up hills instead of around them.We've been here many times,but it had been quite a few years since our last visit.There is a new, large sign to read, but little else has changed.We decided to walk out down the canyon,which used to be the accepted route to the Discovery site,but since the canyon runs right next to the gravel pit site which is now a closed area, the BLM obviously would prefer visitors to use the new signed trail. We climbed back up to the new official trail eventually and returned to our car.Besides the reptile tracks and conifer impressions, there is abundant marine fossilization here as well. There is also one of the three basaltic plugs( the other two are in Apache Canyon) in the Robledos found here which all have columnar jointing on a small scale more famously recognized on a grand scale in places like Devil's Tower.It was a nice hike for a short winter day. Next time, we'll go a little further afield, the Robledos are at their best when you walk in their more remote corners.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tortugas( "A") Mountain



We hiked up Tortugas Mountain on Wednesday, taking advantage of what has been a rare commodity lately: blue skies and sunshine. We parked at the main trailhead off of Dripping Springs Road. There is a shelter and some tables,but no bathroom or trashcan. There is also a sign with rules and a trail map with many routes and ways listed. Unfortunately there are no signs on the trails themselves so it's not particularly useful. Once we started up the mountain, we realized there is a virtual maze of use trails, plus the official trails, which can be confusing.I believe we stayed on the actual Turtleback trail all the way up. On the way down, we started out along the "A" and continued straight down a rough way which eventually angled back to the trailhead to complete our little loop. There were good views of the snowy Organs.This is a limestone hill like Bishop Cap and Anthony's Nose to the south, so it supports several different cacti that don't grow on the volcanic soils the dominate our region. I kept a look out for fossils as well, but didn't see much.Total distance for our hike was less than two miles,but it would be easy to extend any hike by using the bike trail that circles the mountain to make any number of loops. Elevation gain was probably around 600 feet, so it's steep. I'd like to hike around the backside and check out the old fluorite mines, or use the bike trail to go all the way around the mountain.On the way back we saw a large raptor( may have been an eagle) fly by at eye level about 40 feet in front of us.That kind of thing is always nice incentive for winter time hiking in the desert.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sierra Vista Trail




We hiked the newest section of the Sierra Vista Trail on Sunday. This trail previously ran from the Texas border near Anthony Gap all the way to Soledad Canyon Rd. We've hiked the section from NM 404 to Webb Gap in the New Mexico segment of the Franklin Mountains. We also hiked south from the Soledad Canyon Rd trailhead.We've used the trail as a part of a loop hike around Bishop Cap Mountain, as well as heading north past Pena Blanca to Massey Tank and returning on a parallel old road which leads back to the county road that runs along Mossman Arroyo. Now the trail has been extended from Soledad Canyon Rd. to Dripping Springs Road,where we started our hike. There is small sign on the south side of the road that says "Sierra Vista". A parking loop is right there,but we continued down the dirt to one of several pullouts and parked. After about a 1/2 mile the road has another loop and more parking where it dead ends in an arroyo. The trail winds in out of several arroyos which start out wide and shallow and but get more narrow and deep as we headed southeast. The ridges have certainly been overgrazed here,but not nearly as badly as some parts of the Organ Mountains foothills.There is still some grass growing with abundant barrel cactus and Mormon tea instead of catclaw, creosote and mesquite. Some large isolated houses came into view as we got closer to the lumpy-bumpy Soledad Rocks and our turnaround point at the Soledad Canyon Rd. trailhead.Distance for the hike is about 2 1/2 to 3 miles one way, with elevation gain of about 200 feet. It's more of trail for exercise or walking the dog,as it has no real destination of any significance. It does have views of the high peaks of the Organs and Squaw Peak,which of course even a long time Las Crucen find hard to take for granted.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Slot Canyons



Robledo Mountains
Redhouse Mountain
Robledo Mountains
Redhouse Mountain
Long Canyon

Long Canyon, Organ Mountains
Broad Canyon
 Note ( 4/14/15): This blog was written before I really began to investigate slot canyons down here in southern New Mexico. Now a whole new world of genuine  slot canyon experiences has opened up for me. I have since written about them over the past 2 years and  continue to research and explore new possibilities.
  A few months back before my free year of HBO ran out, well it actually it might have been after the free HBO ran out as Comcast/xfinity conveniently failed to notify me that it had run out,in order to bilk me for a month of HBO, I watched 127 Hours several times and it put me in mind of our homegrown slot-type canyons here in southern New Mexico. They're not as narrow,deep or dangerous as the ones in Utah,but they do have their charms.
    One of the best ones that I've hiked several times is on Redhouse Mountain in northern Dona Ana County. It starts off in an old manganese mining area about 10 miles northeast of Hatch. It's gets very narrow quickly,and scrambling over bare rock and climbing a few 5-6 foot drops are required. Eventually it levels off and zig -zags along until it opens up and forks at the base of hill. Along the way there are some very thick junipers that I'd be curious to have an expert give me an estimate of their age. The first time I hiked here, we saw a spotted owl in the branches of one of these trees. It was amazingly unconcerned with our presence and only when we approached within 8 feet or so did it lazily flap its wings and drift up to ledge perhaps 10 feet higher and watch us pass.
     There are brief sections of Broad Canyon and Valles Canyon in the Sierra de las Uvas that could almost qualify as slots. Pictograph Canyon at Tonuco Peak also gets very narrow in spots.  Many years ago, on windy winter day, I followed some old roads on the east side of the Robledo Mountains. The road ended( sort of)  overlooking the confluence of two arroyos. I went down, and first investigated a short ways west and north, but then headed down and east where the canyon boxed up, getting  narrow,twisty and deep right before it  opened up onto the bench lands that sit above the Rio Grande. I'd like to revisit this one if only to check my memory, and also check out a similar looking canyon just to north. Also in the Robledos there is a tributary canyon of Faulkner Canyon that gets narrow enough to give a hiker some challenging options at every dry waterfall.
  Probably the most dramatic of any I have visited so far is Long Canyon at the southern end of the Organ Mountains.It is very rugged getting to the mouth of the slot section of this canyon. At the " gate " the walls rise up several hundred feet.There are small ash trees and New Mexico buckeye in the boulder strewn bottom. Golden Eagle nests are on the cliff sides and there's a good chance of seeing one of these huge birds during the winter months. Oddly enough the upper section of Long Canyon is a shallow,grassy depression along the ridge of the southern Organs.Well, these are few that came off the top of my head, if I think of others, I will update.

Monday, November 28, 2011

South Llano River State Park- Texas



I have visited this state park near Junction,Texas many times. We camped here a few times when we still lived in Texas. We almost always stop in recent years for fishing, walking and a picnic. This time we enjoyed some barbecue from Lums(bought in town) and then went for a walk. I've fished here a few times but only caught a few small bass( although I believe one was a native Guadalupe bass). Native pecans,american elms,cedar elms and chinkapin(sp?) oaks make up a forest of large trees along the wide river bottom. Juniper and scrub oak cover the uplands. This is a turkey roosting area in winter. Many of pecan trees had already lost their leaves and had no nuts. I don't know if they were already dead or just stressed from the deep freeze in February and the continuing drought. A few years ago,it was a sunny 90 degrees the day before the Thanksgiving and there were kids tubing here.Two days later it was in the upper 30's and raining( Yes, Texas weather is strange sometimes ). When the water is low enough( but not too low) the current flowing under the low bridge creates a fun little tube chute. We're always talking about coming back here to camp. I'd really like to do some more fishing too. Someday.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sacramento Rim Trail (FT 105)- Lincoln National Forest


I believe this is our fourth hike on the Rim Trail. We've now covered all but a short segment between Karr Canyon Rd. and Alamo Peak Rd. of the fourteen miles from Slide Group Campground to Atkinson Field. It was 39 degrees, windy and cloudy at about 11:40 when we started off,but conditions improved as the day went on, although I never took my coat off. At 3:40 when we ended our hike, the temperature was 39 degrees.There was recent snow on the ground here and there and the shady parts of the trail were decidedly damp. This trail weaves in and out of the heads of several canyons gradually ascending and descending as it goes. Some sections provide more or less flat walking that closely parallels NM 6563, the Sunspot Highway. One of the better hikes we've done out here started out at Atkinson Field and used Trails 111 and 109 to get to Alamo Peak.We then used the road and the Rim Trail to complete the loop. Be forewarned- although the Rim Trail is closed to ATV use,most of other trails in the area are open to 4 wheelers and by the looks of it they get a lot of traffic. Most of it is on weekends during the warmer months,but you never know.The Rim Trail is open to bicycles and motorcycles and the one person we encountered was a bicyclist.Also, be prepared for quite a bit of temperature gradient on these trails.The difference between the shady hollows and the sun-baked south exposed hillsides can be as much as twenty degrees.The best time to hike this trail is October when fall colors are peaking: there are bigtooth maples and extensive stands of oak and aspen. We missed it by a couple of weeks, but I'm keeping it in mind for next year.When we reached FR 634 we decided to follow the road instead of the trail.This is one of the many roads in the area that wind around the hills and dead-end at a flat topped peak.We didn't make it to the end, but we did see a some nice camping spots for a warmer time of year.We saw three bull elk crashing across the trail in front of us, listened to ravens in the trees, and admired the truly huge Douglas-firs that grow along the stream courses. The views to valleys reminded me that we were in some true mountains, despite their ease of accessibility.All in all,it was a nice, if not spectacular, seven mile hike.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cider Making


We have three dwarf apple trees that produce hundreds of apples every year.We bought the three varieties, Pink Pearl, Sierra Beauty, and White Pearmain as bare root trees from Trees of Antiquity in California about six or seven years ago. For the last three years we've been making apple cider. I'm not talking about some cloudy apple juice. This is a fermented product using champagne yeast. It's a pretty labor intensive process usually taking the better part of a morning to do a two to five gallon batch.The fermentation is complete after about 3 weeks.At that point,it's like a nice still white wine. We rack it off a couple of times, add sugar for carbonation, and then bottle it. I don't know what the alcohol percentage is, but it does go to your head just like champagne. On Thanksgiving or Christmas when we look at the bubbles rising in our glasses, we can remember our labors under blue autumn skies and know it was more than worth it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cameras

I was half-watching George Romero's Diary of the Dead recently. It follows in shaky documentary style the travels and travails of college film crew as they film themselves in the usual zombie infested landscape of western Pennsylvania. One scene,where a female student is haranguing the never seen,but sometimes heard obsessive compulsive camera operator, struck a chord with me. She asks him something along the lines of " so if you don't get it on video then it didn't happen?" Well,the problem is,for too many of us ( mostly males) this is kind of true,which may explain my gender's obsession with pornography.We are a culture now of images both still and moving,and becoming less and less one of words,either written or spoken. A few years back, I read John Muir's My First Summer in the Sierra, and I felt I was right there with him,page after page in Yosemite or high on some Sierra Nevada peak. No images were necessary. I could see everything in a way that even the greatest photographers of the day could not capture: I was seeing through another man's eyes. In the past, I have often, especially when fishing, completely forgotten to take pictures on my outdoor adventures. I write my blog about this hike or that fishing trip and feel empty inside because I have no pictures to serve as either "proof" or just as touchstone for my memory. I bought a 35mm SLR a few years back, and it made me become more and more conscious of being a photographer( however amateurish). Now, there's no going back-the taking of pictures is an integral part of the experience. Still I hope that people will read my words. I still like to get my information that way. It still gives the opportunity to express precisely. All of this is my long way round of saying that on my last 2 hikes I, first forgot the picture card for my recently acquired Pentax Digital SLR, second,on my most recent hike left the camera in the truck( which I guess is a little better than hauling it to no purpose up a mountain). The ubiquitous cell phone came to the rescue, for which I was glad because for the purposes of the internet, its quality is sufficient. I was also sad that it is so hard just to " be" in the land,fishing ,hiking camping,hunting,wildlife watching or whatever else it might be,without thinking of our cameras.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Powderhorn Ridge Trail-(FT 82)-Aldo Leopold Wilderness





I parked my truck at the gate on the mesa top.The road continues down to the stream bottom.If you want to cut off 1/2 mile(round trip) from your hike, or if you're wanting to camp, driving this last section of road is an option. It's actually in good shape especially compared to horrendous 3 miles( see Forest Road 151 blog) leading up to this point. There is one stream crossing that might be a little dicey if the stream is flowing. Anyway,the forest trail sign pointed down the road, so that's the way I went,but it looked like the old trail goes straight ahead onto the ridge.This stream bottom trail is probably the only option if one is on horseback. The wide, grassy and shady valley of the South Fork Powderhorn Canyon is a more pleasant way to start and finish the hike anyway.


     After about a mile and a half of easy walking the trail quickly took me up to a small saddle on the ridge. I didn't see it on my way up,but on my way back down I saw the old trail sign indicating that Trail 82 does continue straight along the ridge. Thing was I couldn't see any of the old trail tread. Either it's been deliberately obscured here with downed branches and such,or it just hasn't been used or maintained in a while and is disappearing naturally.After this point the trail winds it's way up onto the ridge,crosses over it a couple of time before sidehilling far above the North Fork of Mcknight Canyon.There are couple of spots where I briefly lost the trail in this section.If you walk more than a hundred feet without seeing a tree blaze, a cairn or obvious tread, you will have lost it too, just go back and look for one of those three and you'll find it again like I did. There wasn't many places for the trail to be any way: I was on the top of a narrow ridge.After the somewhat exposed sidehilling section, I arrived at a saddle with large trees and a second sign. This is the junction with Trail 80, South Fork Mimbres River. Now the upper end of this trail appeared clear,wide and well trod,but I have read that the lower end is a horrible maze of burn downfall and brush. So even though it's only 2 miles from here to the Middle Fork Mimbres River(FT 78) junction, it may not be a good choice for hiker,backpacker,rider or fisherman.From here trail 82 switchbacks through some young aspens and eventually levels off for some pleasant walking through an aging aspen forest that is nursing the next generation of conifers. From the junction with the Crest Trail(FT 79) it's a short walk to one of the twin crests of Mcknight Mountain.
      The views to the south of Water,Pretty, and Flower Canyons were awash with the golds and reds of aspens and oaks.Hillsboro Peak and in the distance Cookes Peak were visible as well.Looking to the east and north, the Caballos and Vicks Peak are seen.This is wonderful place to linger awhile, the highest point for many miles around(10,165 feet).The hike is about 10 miles with a little over 2000 feet elevation gain and took me exactly 5 hours to complete. The middle section of the hike has nearly continuous views of the aspen covered slopes of the Black Range Crest and Mcknight Canyon. Except for the last section of the drive to the trailhead, I highly recommend it as Gila classic.Oh and for you wildlife lovers I did see a cute little bear run across the creek on the way back.IMPORTANT NOTE: Parts of this hike are within the Silver Fire burn area. Check with the Forest Service for conditions.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Forest Road 151- Gila National Forest

I love the Gila,but sometimes I wish getting to some of the trailheads was a bit easier. I had two fall color hikes in mind. Both are from Hiking the Aldo Leopold Wilderness by Polly Burke and Bill Cunningham. One starts off of the top the Mcknight Road and goes down Pretty Canyon,up Sid's Prong and then uses the Crest Trail and the road for the final segments of and 11 mile loop. The other was an out and back hike on the nearby Powderhorn Ridge Trail to the crest of the Black Range and its highest peak; Mcknight Mountain. Now I've been up the Mcknight Road (FR 152) twice before and it's very rough and slow going for the last 10 or so miles past the East Canyon Rd. (FR 537) turn off. I had read that that it was no longer being maintained and absolutely needed high clearance and four wheel drive. I checked with the Forest Service and they concurred, but I suspect it's probably no worse than it was before and that my pick-up which is not particularly high clearance or four wheel drive and has made it up there before, would probably make it up there again. They did mention that there was a distinct possibility of tire damage- which of course no matter how high your truck is,or how great the four wheel drive is, the most vulnerable part of any vehicle are the four pieces of rubber that actually touch the earth. Since I don't buy the kind of tires that would lessen the probability of a flat on roads like these, I opted for the Powderhorn Ridge Trail and Forest Road 151.Ignorance is bliss, at least for a little while. I had driven this road before,but only to the trailhead for the Mcknight Canyon Trail(FT 92). There are 3 more miles after this to get to the end and the start of my hike. Although driving them probably saved me some shoe leather and the energy to make my climb to the high point of the Black Range, it probably didn't save me much time. Those 3 miles took a little over a half hour to drive.It wasn't really a road so much at times but a rocky place where no trees were growing. I don't think I scraped bottom on the way there, which was good,but I just kept thinking a flat was inevitable. At least here, I consoled myself in advance, there are ample places to pull off and change a tire.Unlike the Mcknight Road which is barely notched into the side of a mountain,with many hairpin turns, FR 151 stays almost completely top and center on Kelly Mesa. I did make it,with four intact tires. I fretted periodically on my hike about the return drive,but not so much that it spoiled my enjoyment of a spectacular fall day. Ah, the Gila, always an adventure. Of course,roads like these are probably more than little responsible for the fact that in the 13 years I've been hiking the Gila, the vast majority of the time, just like this particular time, I have encountered none of my fellow man.IMPORTANT NOTE: The Silver Fire may have changed the road and trail conditions in this area. Check with the Forest Service for  accessibility and vehicle suitability.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Kingston, Forest Road 40 E-Gila National Forest


Forest Road 40E begins when the pavement runs out in the little town of Kingston(just off NM 152 about 25 miles from I-25). It rambles on roughly for about 3 miles before ending at the Aldo Leopold Wilderness boundary. Along the way there several steep stream crossings, and a few nice campsites as well. We did camp here way back when in the late nineties,when we were still tent camping. It was little hot for late spring/ summer camping. This was before we learned that spring and especially fall were the best times for camping in the Gila.We poked around the old mine dumps and did walks along Percha Creek. A nice place for exploring,although less remote than some of the other drainages on the east side of the Black Range because of the proximity of the town. Trailers are probably not a good idea here. High clearance four wheel drive may be needed to go past the first mile or so.IMPORTANT UPDATE: Nearby areas have been been burned by the Silver Fire(June, 2013). IMPORTANT UPDATE: Forest Road 40 E has been vastly altered by flooding and other factors in the aftermath of the Silver Fire. Probably only the first mile or mile and half past Kingston are usable at this point, and even that stretch may be a more of an adventure than most folks are looking for. There is little to be gained by trying to get a vehicle in any further( September,2015).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Riverside Campground- Caballo Lake State Park


We've really enjoyed this campground the 5 or 6 times we've camped here.We always take a spot away from the main loop which has electric, water, showers and flush toilets nearby, and opt for the "developed" camping which only has fire rings and tables and single pit toilet and usually very few campers at least in the fall and winter when we have visited. A couple times we've had the whole lower end of the campground to ourselves. That was not the case this past weekend,when we had to share the " developed" area with several other campers,including some sort of Jeep club types who had way too many vehicles and two large popups squeezed into a single site. To their credit they kept it down to a dull roar both days so the atmosphere stayed congenial.This is great place to use as base camp for hikes in the Black Range in the Fall and the Caballos in the Winter. We'd thought we would try nearby Percha Dam State Park this time for a change,but quickly realized that this camp is just more spacious and more well laid out,plus it has one of the best sunrise views anywhere in New Mexico.

Ladrone Gulch Trail(FT 127) Revisited-Aldo Leopold Wilderness



We hiked the Ladrone Trail( in the Aldo Leopold Wilderness) hoping to see some fall color where the trail passes through a good sized aspen grove. I was pretty sure that we were too early by the almost total lack of color in the oaks,willows and cottonwoods lower down. I was right. When we reached the aspens high on hillside above the head of Carbonate Creek,only about 10 percent of the trees had begun to turn.Still it was an absolutely beautiful day and this is one of the best day hikes in the Black Range.
   The storm that had blown through brought in rain,and much cooler air to the region.In fact when we reached Hillsboro Lake( more of puddle this year) nearly at the crest of the range, we saw patches of snow and a rim of ice on the pond.Temperatures were in the 50's which made for a much more pleasant time than when we hiked the trail in July a few years back.Depending on how far one drives the crummy FR40E past Kingston,this is an 8 to 10 mile hike with over 2000 feet of elevation gain. Some sections are very steep and rocky,others just steep.There was water running in Middle Percha for maybe a mile and a half. A small spring was running where the trail follows a side gulch, a tiny bit of water flowed at the head of Carbonate Creek and there was just a couple of inches of water in the much shrunken Hillsboro Lake. Other than Middle Percha none of these sources of water can be considered reliable year round.
 I was more aware of the few, but great views at several intervals  this time along this trail: back towards Kingston and Caballo Mountains, north across the upper valleys of Carbonate and Mineral Creeks, and all the way to Vicks Peak and San Mateo Mountains. There are a lot of dead and dying trees in Black Range due to the prevailing drought conditions,but there are new ones slowly replacing them.Perhaps fewer fir,spruce and deciduous oak now,but the Gila in its flux goes wildly on.          IMPORTANT UPDATE(9/21/2015): This hike is within the Silver Fire burn area and may  have vastly different conditions than described here. Check with the Forest Service.Driving  beyond the third stream crossing on FR 40E is not advisable for most vehicles and drivers. There is no parking, the stream crossings are steep and filled with large boulders, and eventually,sections of the road are completely missing.  Don't get caught in the thick gravel with a flat unable to turn around.  Parking and starting further back may make this a longer hike by 2 or more miles( up to maximum of 12 if you forego the road altogether and just start in Kingston).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Noonday Canyon,Gila National Forest



The Rabb Park Trail starts in swale along the crest a short ways west of Lower Gallinas Campground.There is an old road on the north side that steeply drops from NM152 and areas to park adjacent to it. If it's wet at all, better to park at a small pullout a little ways west along the highway. The trail starts immediately to the left down a rocky stream course and then disappears completely, which led us on a circuitous route back up the hill, down some arroyos and through a fence where we finally found the trail again. We discovered on our return that the trail only disappears briefly and had we persevered initially we would have quickly found it again as it exits the stream bed.The trail crosses Noonday Canyon which usually has precious little water but when we visited back in July 'O8, it was a whitewater torrent. We found a relatively calm spot to cross and then continued along the road on the other side. A short distance further there is a sign showing the Rabb Park Trail taking off to the left(west). We started up this steep,rocky path and quickly realized it was already too hot for this particular excursion. When I encountered a couple of free roaming hounds as I scouted out just how much more climbing this trail was going to do( a lot) the deal was sealed. We headed back down to the road and decided to take a more leisurely hike. We walked along that same road as it follows Noonday Canyon to the north. It eventually dead ends( or at least appears to) at an old cabin,which still may be getting some use.We didn't investigate the cabin and its environs too closely,because we weren't exactly sure as to the property status. We instead called it a day and headed back,just before the rains came. I was grateful for our change in plans:it would have been tough negotiating the Rabb Park trail once it was wet. That hike will have to wait for a cooler,dryer day.IMPORTANT UPDATE: Parts of this hike are within the Silver Fire burn area(June, 2013).

Quaking Aspen Canyon Trail 86,Gila National Forest












Access to this trail is off the Mcknight Road. About 10 miles in, there is a turn-off for Forest Road 537. The initial pitch down into the canyon is very steep,with a some large road bed rocks that scraped the bottom of our truck. There is some shady,spacious,flat camping areas a short ways in along the stream,which usually has some water and even tiny fish(not trout).

We parked and started walking down the road,passing an old homestead with corrals,sheds and a cabin.


Eventually there was a fork in the road. The left branch continues on the East Canyon Trail(FT 93). We headed right on FT 86( Quaking Aspen Canyon). It was pretty pleasant walking on a clear Autumn day. Huge oaks were in brilliant color, and eventually we saw a few aspens a short ways past the junction with the Rabb Park Trail.
A nice walk in a section of the forest that attracts very few hikers, although hunters do frequent the area.IMPORTANT UPDATE: Parts of this hike are within the Silver Fire burn area (June,2013).

Tierra Blanca Creek and Trujillo Canyon-Gila National Forest



I've been back on Tierra Blanca Creek 3 or 4 times, although not very recently. The first time I was looking for trout. I had read in Rex Johnson's Fly Fishing Southern New Mexico that this small stream in the Southern Black Range( also known as the Mimbres Mountains)contained a population of rainbows.It was a good hike,but the fish were no more, although there were plenty of ornery looking cows drinking in the stream which had plenty of water. I probably made it almost to the divide that first trip,hoping I would find fish up high. I did see a very large blacktail rattler sitting on a rock right in the middle of the creek on my way back down. On subsequent visits I've come to the conclusion that this is a snaky place. My last visit I actually encountered someone coming in from the other side in a Jeep Cherokee, it looked liked he had run out of visible road a ways back. I told him he absolutely would be at the end of the drivable portion of his journey soon, because we had just had to climb around a 10 foot waterfall coming the other way. Trujillo Creek is reached starting from the Tierra Blanca trailhead,but heading north on an old road.Many old mines,an old trailer and a bread truck that someone managed to drive in here are encountered on the way. Trujillo usually has some water.We followed the old road along the creek,passing one old homestead. It eventually turns into a trail that weaves along the creek bed and then the trail is the creek bed. I'd like to have a look at Trujillo Park, a large, flat grassy area to the northeast of the creek crossing. The road to Tierra Blanca is off of NM 27 a few miles south of Hillsboro. The first part is a good county maintained road that passes several ranches.Watch for a small sign for FR 522 that takes off to the north. From here on the road is very rough and slow going. You're bound to see javelinas in the fall.IMPORTANT UPDATE: These hikes are within the Silver Fire burn area.Check with the Forest Service for conditions.

South Percha Creek, Gila National Forest




The old road down to South Percha Creek is 3 miles west of Kingston on NM 152. I can't be any more specific than that. The turnout looks just like any of the other turnouts along the myriad of bends as the road winds its way to Emory Pass. I've driven right by when I was trying really hard to be on the look out for it. Just watch your odometer and then look for gap in the shrubs( mountain mahogany I believe,but don't hold me to it). It may be easier to find coming from the other direction if you have a passenger who is diligently looking over the edge. They may be able to spot the road and tell you to slow down. Anyway it's a steep and shadeless trek down to the bottom. You'll remember both those adjectives on the way back up. Thankfully it's a pretty short as well. At the bottom is the confluence of South Percha( on the right) and Drummond Canyon. Both usually hold some water. Old boards and assorted mining debris are littered about,including a sizable cast iron boiler a short ways up Drummond. There are also several mines both upstream and downstream from this point on South Percha . I collected some nice azurite encrusted rocks from one of the tailings piles on one visit. There are many good sized bigtooth maple trees down in these canyons that turn brilliant red in October. It's a pretty easy place to get a dose of New Mexico fall color. Traces of paths going up Drummond Canyon and down South Percha are just unofficial use trails that don't go anywhere,just as far as your exploring wants to take you. Although if you amble far enough down South Percha you will hit private ranch property eventually.Going upstream on South Percha appears to be a bit rougher. I haven't explored very far up the canyon, but erosive forces have considerably widened the channel and scraped it down to bedrock in the lower end. At one time this place was obviously bustling with activity,but now is forgotten and remote despite being barely out of earshot of the cars negotiating the twisting NM 152.IMPORTANT UPDATE: This hike is within the Silver Fire burn area and may be significantly altered from the time that this blog was written (June,2013).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Spring Canyon Trail 721,Gila National Forest



This our fourth or fifth hike up the Spring Canyon Trail. It's easy to drive by the short side road that leads to trailhead. And I did it again. It's in between Railroad Canyon and Upper Gallinas with only a small brown sign indicating a forest trail.This is not nearly as popular a trail as others in the Emory Pass corridor,but it does look like it's been receiving more traffic lately including some horses,which I haven't seen evidence of before. There even looks like there's been some trail maintenance, which is highly unusual on all but the most popular trails in this section of the Gila. Perhaps it was the Backcountry Horsemen group doing it.This is a nice hike,mostly closed in by alders,boxelders, oaks and walnut along the narrow streambed. The stream was flowing in a few short stretches.Much of this creek flows on a contact between limestone and volcanic rock. There is abundant light colored limy mud and re-deposited calcite minerals in the stream course which gives it a different look from many of the streams in the area.There's a nice grove of mature aspens about 2 miles in,that I always enjoy seeing like old friends. We made it to the first saddle, then went through the gate to a second saddle, then down the trail a ways to where the views open up to the Sawyers Peak ridge and on out to the Mimbres Valley. We were tantalizingly close to the Silver Creek mining area,which I had wanted to get to back in the Spring.This hike is about 5.5 miles(if you make it to the Silver Creek Road) with about 1300 feet of elevation gain. I still would like to do a shuttle hike from Emory Pass along the Sawyers Peak trail, down the Silver Creek trail and then back up and over on the Spring Canyon trail. On a side note: there has been a corral built in one of our favorite dispersed campsites across the creek at Upper Gallinas. I guess it's alright.There had previously been no facilities for horsemen in this area of the forest.Who knows, I may use it some day if I ever learn to ride a horse.IMPORTANT UPDATE: This hike is within the some of the more severely affected areas of the Silver Fire burn area.  Flash floods have been frequent. Conditions are vastly altered.  Here are some photos from fall camping trip from 2007. As you can see, it was once a sweet little area to hike.