Monday, June 10, 2013
Fresnal Canyon- Lincoln National Forest
One quick slide on our backsides and we were in a different world. The water was flowing,clear and surprisingly strong given the extended drought we're in. At one of first trickling waterfalls, we were amazed at the depth of the pool beneath,but as we continued down past several good flowing springs, the waterfalls got higher and pools bigger and deeper. The largest one,below a thirty foot waterfall was probably 50 feet in diameter and easily over our heads. Down in this dark, narrow little canyon, densely shaded by its namesake ash trees, the creek runs cold. Canyon grape tangles are everywhere. Thick green moss grows on the limestone rocks in the cool of the canyon, while high above, immense cliffs of the same limestone bake in the summer sun.
We continued to be amazed with each new discovery( tiny travertine terraces, grotto like overhangs . . .), and scarcely noticed the not too shabby bushwack we were involved in to get to the bottom. Lower down, the stream leveled out into a peaceful, cottonwood shaded brook with the thorny, dry desert just a few steps from the banks. The length of our hike revealed an amazing oasis.This place would be a destination, and fiercely protected were it near a major southwestern population center( like Albuquerque or Tucson). El Paso is close,but in a different state. If this canyon were in Texas, I'm sure we would've needed a special permit and had to pay to get in there( as at Hueco Tanks). Since this place is barely acknowledged by the Lincoln National Forest or the City of Alamogordo, there is trouble in paradise.Fresnal Canyon's box is little too close to civilization and US 82 for its own good. Those big pools of cool water are magnet in this desert we live in , and in the section right below the Tunnel Vista parking there is ample evidence that people do visit this canyon to swim, and perhaps for other less innocent activities. Beer cans, blankets, and other forms of trash have been left behind. In addition, some feel the need to leave a more lasting residue of their time spent in the canyon: graffiti, some in garish neon colors, is plentiful on the cliffs and boulders in the choicest spots. It is mostly invisible from above, and likely to be seen by very few people. Truth be told, jarring as it was, it didn't have much effect on my experience. Still, it shouldn't be there and should be remedied somehow. More concerning were the few campfire rings we saw, not just because of the wildfire danger,but because people had actually started hacking away at live trees in pursuit of wood. It's strange to now to know this little jewel exists. I have taken a keen liking to it, and want to proceed to ensure it is not abused. Note: Some things have fallen or been washed into the canyon, not deliberately left behind. A partial list includes: tires, highway signs and the scattered but nearly complete remains of what we think was 40's or 50's era milk truck.