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.