Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Monday, April 29, 2013
Seamus and I drove up to Kingston, parked our car a short way inside the Forest boundary on FR 40 and began hiking.Where we would normally turn right to continue on the Ladrone Trail ( FT 127), we turned left, and began a bushwack up the main stem of Middle Percha Creek. It's pretty rough back in there, with rocks, downed timber and brush. It's steep as well. I was beginning to think my friend was wrong, but I decided to push on little farther. I had been keeping my eyes peeled to see the tell tale matching outcrops high on either side of the stream that usually indicate a waterfall just below. I finally spotted them, and in a short while I had found my waterfall, such as it was. There is first a 5 foot high cascade( which was dry). A 7 or 8 foot falls in two drops came next and had a trickle and a pool of water beneath it( Seamus the Scottie was grateful for that). Above that was, what in wetter times is mostly likely a twin 15 -20 falls. One branch had a trickle that created another small pool. The other has an enormous boulder wedged in it so that when water is flowing, it must flow around and mostly beneath this rock. I climbed up on top and saw some more enormous boulders in the stream, but nothing to indicate any more falls.
Well, I'd wished I'd gone about a month ago,because given the light winter preciptation and typical very dry spring this year, I was probably lucky to see the tiny amount of water that I did at this late date. In addition, these falls are almost at the very head of the creek( my GPS data put us at nearly 8,000 feet and close to the ridge line in this section of the Black Range) so it's peak run-off time is probably short lived.I'll have to try again( maybe with Doug if he ever makes it down here) in a wetter year( if we ever get one of those again). If you go, don't expect much at least not until the Gila gets some good, really good summer rains, or some decent winter snow pack. Our hike was about six miles round trip,but you can shorten considerably by driving further in on FR 40 depending on your nerves, vehicle and road conditions( see my 2011 blog about this road). IMPORTANT NOTE: This hike is within the Silver Fire burn area(June, 2013). IMPORTANT UPDATE: Forest Road 40 E has been extensively altered by flooding and other factors in the aftermath of the Silver Fire. I estimate less than 2 miles past Kingston, it becomes more or less impassable to vehicles. I know some folks will regard that as a challenge,but those of you that are more sensible, heed my advice( September 2015).
Monday, April 22, 2013
Bridal Veil Falls trail is directly across the street. As we began walking we could still see houses of High Rolls on the hills above us from some parts of the trail,so you're not exactly in the wilderness. The trail is almost entirely on the old railroad grade so it is wide, smooth and pitched at a moderate enough grade for the railroad engines of a 100 years ago, so it's easy walking. It's also without any significant shade. The vegetation is a mix of pinon juniper chaparral along with desert species such as creosote and all-thorn. Most of the area looks beat down not just by the disturbance caused to the land initially by the railroad,but also from years of over grazing and recent persistent drought. In fact if it weren't for the waterfall at the end, I would've wondered why we were on this trail in the first place, given that there are many more scenic places to stretch your legs in the Lincoln.
In the places where the absence of the trestle leaves the trail hanging high above a gully, bypass routes have been built to take you down to the arroyo or creek crossing. The first of these even has bridge over the perennial south fork of Salado Creek. Interpretive signs along the way had us imagining what it would have been like to actually see a train chugging up through these hills and contemplating the considerable effort in raw labor and engineering imagination needed to make this a reality back in 1899.
Close to the falls there are the ruins of an old homestead. It must have been an lovely place to live. There were apricot, apple and plum trees that were already leafed out and sporting tiny green fruits. We ate our lunch down below the deck of the main falls while a couple with young children enjoyed themselves. After they left, we took our turn. Our timing was perfect, just as we were done photographing and enjoying this lovely place, a troop of less than quiet Cub Scouts descended upon the scene.This trail is more than likely very popular being accessible, containing the attraction of a permanent waterfall and easy walking to boot. We just happened to get lucky for being there on a weekend.If you're really allergic to crowds, you might want to try a weekday.
Monday, April 15, 2013
There's a sub-division out where the turn-off to for the Bishop Cap Road used to be, and a sign announces that the Bishop Cap Rd. is now a dead end. I drove around this little neighborhood in the middle of nowhere several times before deciding to take the power line access road in the hope that it would lead to a road that would bring me to where I wanted to be. I ended up a little over a half mile from my Conkling Cave waypoint for starting my hike. There is another road that will bring one to within a 1/4 mile or so,but it's behind a fence now.
Anyway, I took off walking and was soon stumbling up the steep ridge( it was the one 2 ridges east of and parallel to Bishop Cap, or 2 1/2 if you count the truncated ridge immediately east of Bishop Cap). Any hike off road or trail in the Bishop Cap area requires jeans,boots, a denim or canvas jacket, and work gloves no matter what the weather. Not only is there cactus, catclaw, octotillo,lechugilla, and spanish dagger to contend,but the first time I fell and cut my hand open, I was reminded of why gloves are so essential. The limestone rock here is as sharp as knife. Well, I walked all over that ridge,but to tell the truth when you're up there everything looks the same and the photo I had as reference( from UTEP's quaternary fossil site index) didn't reveal much. I came within 13 feet on my hand held GPS which is about as accurate as the thing is going to get, but still saw nothing. I found a man- made wooden post that had toppled from it's cairn and a couple of other cairns as well. Most likely all of these were for mining claims, not to indicate the location of the cave.
I gave up and decided to try my alternate theory, which ran as follows: the topo map was wrong, and my recent experience at Las Uvas Spring bolstered this idea, and the cave was actually on the parallel ridge immediately to the west of the one I was on. I had seen some vague paths there years ago which had given birth to this theory,but had never tested it out. At first I followed some orange ribbons that marked the way at along the base of the ridge,hoping for no good reason that they were leading the way to the cave. They didn't.The "paths" on better inspection were an illusion- mere changes in the rock and soil type. I then proceeded to walk all over that ridge too, until, exhausted, I plopped down ate my lunch near the top. I looked over at Bishop Cap proper, and remembered that the written accounts of the location of cave say it is on the east side of Bishop Cap,not a parallel ridge to the east of Bishop Cap, but perhaps on the east side of Bishop Cap itself. This is my new theory.
The UTEP photo with some higher peaks in the upper left hand corner may lend strength to this idea. Although I'm willing to test the initial one with a few willing extra sets of eyes. My alternate, I've discarded. I know this must all seem a little ridiculous to someone who knows exactly where it is. I also wonder what I would do if I found it. It goes straight down and one would need a ladder or a climbing rope to enter. It has also occurred to me that it has been backfilled, concealed or even capped and that I may have indeed walked very close to it without knowing. Most people who know me, would probably tell you I'm good at finding these type of obscure places with very little to go on. This one is beginning to stick in my craw little.