Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rincon- Palm Park

These are two interesting sites north of Las Cruces. Across the highway from the tiny town of Rincon there is an old barite mine which may yield some interesting specimens if you search diligently. You may have to dig as well. It also seems to be serving as dumping area.If you follow the road that parallels Rincon Arroyo and eventually climbs a small peak,you may also find jasper and some strange ,small,petrified twigs in a creamy matrix.Several trails lead away from the large pit ( barite mine) to smaller prospects. One can be followed  west to access an area with several dry waterfalls and small caves. It's here where petroglyphs are found, including several of the goggle-eyed Tlaloc.There are also grinding holes along the watercourse and one of the alcove/caves has a ceiling blackened by many fires. Exploring the nearby hills will reveal more sites that were most likely used as shelters by ancient peoples.
  Palm Park is several miles north, reached by taking the dirt road on the east side of the highway at the Hatch exit.There are no palms here ,and I've seen it referred to alternately as Palmer Park.The "park" aspect may come from the fact that it's a small almost entirely closed little basin in these, the southern reaches of the Caballo Mountains.There are a few petroglyphs here. Some interesting petrified wood, and other cryptocrystalline quartz is also found.There are old mines (maganese) and roads to explore. I've also met up with arrowhead hunters as well. One time while descending a little box canyon, I found ample evidence that mountain lions are resident in these hills. I also met an old man on foot,in another nearby canyon, who said( in Spanish) that he was looking for gold.This struck me as a bit odd not because he appeared to be in his late seventies, or that he was prospecting for gold,but because there were no other vehicles parked anywhere in the vicinity.  Could he have walked the dozen or so miles from Hatch? Update: to see my photos of the petroglyphs at the Rincon site see the Rincon Petroglyph Site blog from 2013.

Palm Park

Palm Park
 Palm Park

Thursday, January 26, 2012


This is the sunset view from Robledo Cave.First range is the Rough and Ready Hills. Behind is the highpoint of the Sierra de las Uvas, Magdalena Peak.

Iron Hill-Robledo Cave

Iron Hill is on the southwest side of the Robledos. It is so named because of the hematite deposits there. There are several shallow prospects,but it appears there was never any extensive mining. The massive botyroidal specimens of reddish brown hematite are of interest to mineral collectors. In the midst of this hematite collecting area there is Robledo Cave: a shallow shelter with grinding holes at it's entrance. It was most likely used by both ancient and relatively recent native peoples.Near the cave in small alcoves in the rock are blood red pictographs which obviously used the handy hematite as pigment.The southern end of the Robledos are long ridge of undistinguished low hills that hardly qualify as mountains,yet there are areas such as these of interest to rockhounds and rock art explorers that make them worth a visit. Access to this area is from the Corralitos Road and then proceeding on one of two dirt roads,depending on whether a crucial gate is locked. If it's unlocked, it's a pretty easy drive to the road that heads east to the hills. If it's locked, there's a much rougher road through the Rough and Ready Hills that will land at the same spot. The road to the deposits/cave is only a couple of miles long and very uneven and rough in places.If you don't have high clearance- just walk it. The road through the Rough and Readies is very rough and not at all suitable for passenger cars.This is a fun place.The first time we went was in the winter, but the photos are from 100 degree day in June when I visited with my step-son.

Apache Flat - Pine Canyon, Sierra de las Uvas

Apache Flat
Pine Canyon
Apache Flat is a petroglyph site near the Massacre Peak of the Sierra de las Uvas,very close to the Dona Ana-Luna county line. There are actually 2 groupings( that I know about) about a mile apart. Despite the fact that one is right on a road and the other in close proximity to a large cattle tank these sites were not well known until recently.There is another site about 5 miles to northeast at some natural cisterns that I found by accident while hiking to the back entrance of Pine Canyon. Nearby  in a small, parallel arroyo are a few more images. I was looking for pinon trees not rock art that day.   In addition  to the rock art, I also stumbled upon a strange area with many alcoves in the volcanic rock. I have found a few more of these areas over the years since that winter morning. No navigable or open road( that I know of) comes within  a couple miles of that site and probably very few people  have taken the trouble to visit it. I don't know if I would again.I did find one of  the very few,or perhaps even the last of the piñon pines that are left in the Sierra de las Uvas in Pine Canyon. So in the end it was a happy day despite a long, off trail hike.
  At Apache Flat there is one quite stunning geometric design plus the usual assortment of Mogollon abstracts,animals and occasional humanoids.More naturalistic images of  horses and men plus a few crucifixes( Venus?) were probably left by Apaches and or colonial era Spaniards.Then there is the modern,but still quite old graffiti pecked into the rock near and on some of the petroglyphs, some sobering, some good for laugh. Happy wandering.UPDATE: It has recently come to my attention that at least one and probably both of the petroglyph sites north of Tajaino Pinto Tank and south of the Pine Canyon Saddle are on  private property.Though it is un-posted at this time, there is the risk of being considered a trespasser. NOTE: forgive the image quality here.  Many of these photos  were either taken with an old Advantix film camera, or an early digital camera that had less than 1 megapixel of resolution.

The alcoves

Massacre Peak

Petroglyph site is in this small canyon north of Tajaino Pinto tank

 Only pinon tree I've found in the Sierra de las Uvas

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Florida Mountains- Three Little Hills,Baldy Peak Area

This was our most recent hike in the Floridas. My original plan was access the mines along the high ridge between Gym Peak and Baldy Peak, or climb Baldy Peak itself. I pulled a few waypoints off my AllTopo software and hoped for the best. My starting point for the hike was right at the Three Little Hills. This area is reached with the same road used to reach the Windmill Canyon hike. The road is not of the best quality past Windmill Canyon. It's very narrow,sandy and uneven, and requires a high clearance vehicle and most likely 4-wheel drive if it's wet.It probably took 40 minutes to drive the 10 miles from Rockhound State Park.
 We walked down the old ranch road through a corral,until it unceremoniously ended near the intersection of 2 arroyos. We chose the one on the right and started steeply up without even a deer or cow trail, for the first ridge. Near the top we saw 5 or 6 mule deer moving along. We watched them as they watched us. Our Scottie,Seamus, would have much rather been chasing than watching. We then followed the deer path first to the high point of the ridge,where we found a favorite defecating spot of the local mountain lion( makes sense), and then to the other side,where we descended to a wide grassy saddle.
After that it was up through the abundant pinons and junipers on a north facing hillside.We found a small flat clearing among the trees to eat our lunch. It was sunny and pleasant and the wind had not become a factor yet. Still, when we saw the steepness of the climb we needed to make to reach our next waypoint,coupled with the prospect of being blown off the mountain the higher we went, we turned around. We chose to return via an alternate canyon rather than our original route- a mistake in hindsight- as it was brushy,thorny rocky and narrow, with one drop-off that had to be negotiated around on a gravelly slope that was more conducive to sliding than walking, in short, everything you'd expect from a typical desert defile.Looking at the topo map at home ,instead of the BLM map that I had, there were two nice north facing canyons that would have made much better choices for our loop. We did come across an old tail-blade from a windmill,which could only have arrived there from being blown in from who knows where. We made it back in one piece.
 Most places I go, it seems that a road or an old trail or even a good deer or cow path shows up to help me along in those place where the maps show no roads or trails. Don't count on it in the Floridas. The core of this range is a small,but true wilderness.Note: I haven't been there but it appears that the high ridge of the southern Floridas,anchored by massive Gym and South Peaks, is accessible by jeep roads and trails from the Mahoney Park area.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Florida Mountains- Windmill Canyon

This is the best hike we've done in the Floridas. It's from Greg Magee's Day Hikes and Nature Walks in the Las Cruces-El Paso Area.Its start is about 3 miles south of the Rockhound turn-off on the gravel road that runs along the eastern flank of the Floridas. There's an easy to miss turn-off to the right. A passenger car is okay to this point. We parked at the very first pull out and started walking up the road. About a mile in, the canyon narrows at what I call the "gates" of Windmill Canyon: two towering peaks with turrets,spires and other erosional forms carved out of the soft,tan,volcanic rock.Soon after, the road turned into a trail. There were views of the twin high peaks of the Floridas, the large Needle's Eye arch, and two other smaller arches as we climbed higher.In the canyon bottom were large pinons,oaks and ash trees. Water burbled up from springs and even flowed for short distances ( it was early April before the Spring dry-out so water may not be here year round).Eventually, there was no more trail and we bushwhacked in eye-level shrubbery for short while before turning around still 500 feet below the high ridge. Our hike was about 4 miles roundtrip with about 1800 feet of elevation gain. On our way back we saw several ibex high up on one of the "gates." We just stood and watched for several minutes from far below, as they demonstrated their extreme agility moving from one rocky perch to the next: one of my favorite moments in all my years of New Mexico wildlife watching- even if they're not a native species. Windmill Canyon is the standard route for climbing the Florida Mountains high point, the 7448 foot Florida Peak.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Spring Canyon State Park-Florida Mountains

Spring Canyon State Park is a day use area in the Florida Mountains a couple miles south of Rockhound State Park. It has picnic tables and shelters.There is a day use fee.It may have once had camping and it would be nice if it could once again, offering an alternative to Rockhound SP for smaller trailers,pop-ups and tent campers.It looks as if the area has been washed out by floods in the past: chunks of old black top and concrete used to be seen in the arroyos that run through the picnic area. In steep mountains such as these, this can still be a problem even in driest part of the state.Perhaps that's why there's been a minimum of investment here.
There are two "trails" that leave from the state park onto BLM land. One is in Lover's Leap Canyon. The other is in Spring Canyon.The one in Lover's Leap Canyon, the better of the two, starts out past the last of the picnic spots. We've hiked it a couple of times up to a saddle that overlooks to the other side of the Floridas and beyond to the Cedar Mountain Range.Total distance is about 1.5 miles. Elevation gain is 600 to 800 feet depending on where in the picnic area your hike commences. It is very steep and slippery the last 1/4 mile or so.We've lost the path both times we've walked here. Just keep going till you find it again. It stays close to the stream bed on one side or the other. There is enough moisture here for pinons, scrub oak and the occasional ash tree, but the real draw here is the many formations in the friable volcanic rock on display on the north side of the trail.
    Lover's Leap Canyon is to your right(southwest) as you enter, Spring Canyon is straight ahead(south).Since it runs almost straight north, it retains even more moisture. There are some very large pinons along the way and the stream bottom is very dense with vegetation, which eventually blocked our progress after only a mile or of steep hiking.This trail is harder to follow with very rocky sections along the steep sides of the canyon.I looked and looked for some kind of continuation along those grassy hillsides but saw nothing.It could be there. I don't know. I do know that the bushwacking in the stream bottom was not at all practical or enjoyable,so we turned around.This experience with lightly used use trails repeats itself in other areas of the Floridas. It strikes me as strange that a very scenic mountain range with good sized town nearby has no official hiking trails. These two,the one in Windmill Canyon,plus a few old mine and ranch roads will have to suffice for the present.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Little Florida Mountains

There is a wide trail along the lower slopes of the Little Florida Mountains. It can be used to make a short loop hike around Rockhound State Park. It also connects to several use trails that go steeply up between the cliffs. We hiked on one of these a few years back,getting to the top with a minimum of mishaps.Be forewarned though- these are definitely not official trails. They are on very steep slopes comprised of slippery soil and loose rock.Up on top, the terrain was open and grassy.We wandered around eventually finding the well maintained road that leads to the many communications towers on the summit.We found another use trail to bring us back down. It was fun exploring and an easy way to get some fantastic unobstructed views of the main ridge of the Floridas across the valley.