Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Slot Canyons

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 near 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. In the Robledo Mountains there are a couple of nameless canyons on the east side that get very narrow and deep right before they open up onto the bench lands that sit above the Rio Grande. I hiked one of these several winters ago. Like to try another maybe this winter. 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 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.

1 comment:

Ben said...

Awesome blog! I'm facing a possible transfer to the El Paso area and of course had to scout out the area from a distance. I'm definitely a fan of the nooks and out of the way places you write about.