Monday, September 17, 2012

Mattocks Site, Mimbres River Preserve

 We visited the Mattocks Archaeological Site about 2 miles west of the San Lorenzo School on NM 35. There is prominent sign indicating the turnoff. There are two territorial houses on the property, both of which were closed when we visited. There is also a three dollar fee to visit the Mimbres Pueblo site. There was no one there to collect,but we put ours in one of the envelopes and slipped it under the door. The walking tour is immediately to the west of the houses and has large informational plaques explaining what was found on the property during archaeological digs done  by faculty and students of Beloit College many years ago ( 1930s?). There are no excavated ruins,but some depressions that were known to be kivas are visible, as well as some mounds that were once building walls. There are many pottery sherds laying about. If you look closely, you'll see a few. We did, and I photographed  a nice one.The road that brought us to the Mattocks site continues on down to the New Mexico Game and Fish Mimbres Reserve on the Mimbres River. This is a very,very lushly overgrown riparian environment, perhaps reminiscent of what the river looked like in the days of the Mogollon people. It is supposed to be  there to preserve habitat for the Chihuahuan chub which is found nowhere else in the USA. We saw some  small fry fish,but we didn't know if they were chubs or not. Our scottie Seamus was in pursuit of some sort of smelly animal, and the scent  seemed to rub off. Either that or there was some  very skunky  smelling vegetation that he was tromping through. It wasn't skunk,because it dissipated too quickly and was too easily remedied by a bath ( for him) and a good cleaning of the truck. This  beautiful little area  is part of NMDGF's GAIN( Gain Access Into Nature) program, which does require a fee,but there is no way to pay on site.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Railroad Canyon Campground- Gila National Forest

Along I-25 there wasn't much rain falling on Friday evening,but we could see as we drove along that the Sierra de las Uvas and the Caballo Mountains were getting hammered. Nonetheless we continued on to  the Black Range. We already had decided we wanted the "luxury" of  pit toilet, so the option of boondocking out on Carbonate Creek or Sawpit Canyon on the east side had been eliminated( digging at "cat hole" in the cold and rain is not as fun as you might think). So, up we went over Emory Pass and down the other side. Iron Creek had quite a few campers, and the one spot we looked at had the feel of camping in a parking lot. So we moseyed on down to Railroad Canyon,saw that it was empty, and in our desire to set up camp before both the rain and complete darkness fell, stayed.  It did rain all night,but it's been so dry this year there was absolutely no danger of creek flooding.
    Railroad Canyon Campground isn't much: three indistinct "sites" with tables and fire rings set along Gallinas Creek. There are some very tall pines that grow in the center of the area that's been worn down to dirt by vehicle traffic. The trees provide some shade over one of the sites. There's a one holer toilet,some critter proof trashcans, and that's about it. If you follow the road past the campsites  there is an unattractive quarry area and then the road dead ends at some huge boulders,placed there to prevent vehicles from driving  any further.. Many years ago when we first came here, it was possible to drive across the creek to a couple of much nicer, more natural sites, and this could still be considered a "walk-in" camping area, I suppose.We had periodically thought about camping here before, but usually there was someone there,so we moved on usually to our favorite spot at Upper Gallinas, where it is still possible to drive across the creek to some good spots without tables or fire rings, as opposed to camping in the gravel parking lot on the other side- where I have never seen anyone camping. Our favorite spot there has been compromised by the installation of  metal corral- and has lost its charm in my eyes. Still, we might  have been better off.
      After our hike to Rabb Park on Saturday( see blog), we went to La Esperanza Winery and had a very  enjoyable tasting and a bit of conversation there. We also visited the Mattocks Ruin Site and the NMDGF's preserve for the Chihuahuan Chub on the Mimbres River( I'll blog about these later). We got 20 dollars worth of gas at the newly reopened store and gas station there in San Lorenzo and headed back to our camp.When we got back to Railroad, I was little dismayed to see what I refer to as a compound had been set up about 10 feet away from our campsite. There were four vehicles, three or four large tents, at least 10 people and several small dogs. Their  music was echoing down the hillsides. To be fair, it wasn't blasting, and these seemed like decent enough people. I just don't understand people such as these sensibilities and their lack of sensitivity regarding their fellow campers. I always wonder what would happen if I were to just start playing some music that I prefer at equal volume, what would they do? It's not that they don't have the right to listen to the music, it just doesn't make sense when they've chosen to camp in such close quarters to those who may not want to.  It's just about common sense, which isn't that common anymore. I've begun to understand, especially after seeing the crowds at Bonito Creek over in the Lincoln last year, that outdoor recreation, camping in particular, is really a social activity for many people. We've gone camping with other couples before,but not with everyone we know and their cousins packed into a campground about as big as my backyard.These folks that set up these compounds aren't really interested in sights and sounds of nature at all. It's all about the party,even a fairly subdued one such as this one was. What was even stranger about this situation was, I believe that there was no one camping  at Upper Gallinas, less than a mile away, at all. So, when they could've easily chosen a more spacious  and  isolated spot, why would they choose camp right next to someone? I've had this happen before at Riverside Campground at Caballo Lake State Park, when even though there were  six or seven empty primitive spots along the river where we were camped, a couple decided to camp right next  to us. Are this people lonely? Does being in close quarters  remind them of home and make them feel safe?
     The corridor in the Black Range is getting too popular on the weekends.The problem with these type of free campgrounds is you're getting the worst of both ends of the spectrum of car camping.  On the one side state parks and other fee campgrounds  have a lot of conveniences( electricity, water, showers,campground hosts) and  usually have lots of people, but there are lots of rules( such as the number of vehicles at at site) and enforcement(usually) to make sure everyone gets the opportunity to have a peaceful, hassle free experience. Dispersed camping on the other hand has no conveniences, but you can usually get far enough away from other folks to do your thing, without bothering or being bothered by other people. These free forest campgrounds like Railroad Canyon have almost no conveniences, no enforcement of rules and lots of people acting any old way they want without acknowledgement or regard for the people that are 15 feet away from them. Well,I've gone on long enough. Bottom line: we packed up, hooked up and were out of there in 10 minutes. I really didn't mind leaving in this particular instance- we had  a nice day, it was going to be cold and damp and we hadn't brought any firewood, and we were probably going to leave right after breakfast Sunday anyway. If it had been a longer trip, it would have been a much larger inconvenience. Still, the world is getting to be very small place for sensible people. It might be digging holes or shelling out the cash next time out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rabb Park,Gila National Forest- more photos

This is one several old telegraph poles along the trail.

 The " bowl" area I mentioned in the previous blog.

 Seamus in Rabb Creek

Here are a few more photos of our lovely eight mile round trip hike to Rabb Park in the Gila National Forest's Black Range.

Rabb Park- Gila National Forest

 I'd been wanting to get to Rabb Park on the west side of the Black Range ever since our unsuccessful attempt at the hike about 5 years ago. It was just too hot that day in July for this mostly open hike in chaparral terrain. We were blessed with a cool( it never got above 60 degrees) overcast day  last Saturday when we woke up after a rainy night at Railroad Canyon campground, so this hike, only short ways down NM 152 seemed like a perfect fit. We hiked down the old road to Noonday Canyon, crossed the flowing creek and followed the road( heading northeast) that follows the creek on it's west side. Soon enough we saw the trail sign for the Rabb Park which takes off to the northwest. The trail is steep and rocky, and in couple places hard to see in this section. When it topped out on the ridge we had great views into Noonday Canyon and of the clouds clinging to the high peaks of the Black Range.

     On a first rest break I noticed an old, not very tall, telegraph/ telephone pole with some cable still attached.This seemed very odd to me that there would have ever been lines strung through this remote area of the mountains.

There was some pleasant level walking for awhile, a few up and down sections, and then we descended steeply into Rabb Canyon. The stream was flowing(don't count on it the year round though),the wildflowers blooming and the grass was high and green in this park-like  valley. The trail followed the creek in the "park" until a short ways past an old corral where the black-eyed susans grew in profusion.

We then crossed a small, dry, tributary branch and  followed an even smaller gully up to  a sort of flat-bottomed " bowl" where we found the remains of an old shack( really just a frame, it may have covered with canvas at one time). There were pieces of an old stove lying  on the ground and many clusters of gray quartz lying about. We ate our lunch here. Afterwards, we continued on the trail a bit as it climbed its rocky way out of the "bowl" along the side of a ridge.
 We came across a mining claim marked with a cairn and piece of pvc pipe. I must admit, I had mostly forgotten about the fact that this is a moonstone collecting area throughout the hike,being preoccupied with watching the weather( it had been lightly raining on and off), wondering where the park was, and just enjoying hiking. I didn't have any of my mineral collecting books, and couldn't really remember where they recommended for the best collecting. My wife picked up some pieces of what turned out to be smoky quartz,but I would like to come back and hunt the sandy creek for some good moonstone specimens.
     On the way back I noticed that were several more telegraph/telephone poles I hadn't seen on the way in. I may have to contact the Forest Historian to get the scoop on these. It was nice to hike when it was so green.The opportunity doesn't come up that often, and we were grateful to stroll in the pinon-juniper forest and and the grassy canyons without making ourselves or our dog miserably hot.Update: Parts of Rabb Park suffered in the Silver Fire,but it appears to have fared better than many other areas nearby.