Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Toby Hole - Mcleod Hills( Caballo Mountains)


My original idea for this hike, after scanning topos and Google earth, was to climb up to the ridgeline of the southern section of  Mcleod Hills.  Several roads seem to go up from the main arterial that runs in the valley between the Mcleod Hills and the eastern  branches of Redhouse Mountain.  I drove out on the Upham- Engle Road( Dona Ana County Roads  E 72 and E 70, I believe), turning west just past where it crosses the upper reaches of the Rincon Arroyo. This is Dona Ana  E 75 ( Google Maps says this is EO 94 and my atlas says it's EO 77, go figure).   I had to open and close  a gate here where the road went around a large corral. I then had to open and close two more on either side of the railroad crossing. Somewhere in this vicinity I passed a sign for Dona Ana  E 94 which heads off to the southwest. We drove on, on this mostly good( high clearance is still recommended)  gravel and dirt road for probably 6 miles or so. There was one turn off to the north. As I approached my destination, I was bit disappointed. The Mcleod Hills were a low ridge of layered limestone reminiscent of  Little Anthony's Nose or the East Potrillo Mountains, only  more flat and two dimensional looking. They were certainly less impressive than Bishop Cap Mountain here near Las Cruces or Redhouse Mountain a short ways to the west. The whole place looked better in maps and on Google Earth.

 We drove around the southernmost tip of the range( past Hayland tank) and then headed north for a few miles. In a couple of spots I could see how deep and steep the arroyo on my right was. It brought to mind the deeper and much wider San Vicente Arroyo south of Silver City. We parked just before where the road steeply crossed the arroyo. I was a bit wary to drive through,but on closer inspection I believe it would've been manageable. We did cross on foot and then headed back south toward the tank called Toby Hole. There was still water behind the long red earth dam. A nearby fenced area had a small sign that proclaimed it to be a New Mexico Game and Fish Habitat Stamp project. What species was being helped, I don't know. We walked around the little lake, and began looking for road that should have taken off up the east side of the mountain( hill). Didn't find it. It may actually be there, but at that point the hills seemed much less interesting than the box arroyo/canyon that I could see lay downstream of the dam.

 We headed off, skirting along the eastern edge.Where I was continually terrified that Seamus( my Scottie dog) would take a mad leap over the frequently concealed edge. We ended up finding a side branch that would take us down( gradually) to the main arroyo. In the bottom were willows,larger than average mesquite trees and only the occasional salt cedar. The dirt walls rose up close to 30 feet and the side branches we explored took on the aspect of slot canyons. They were a few spires, a window rock, and even a small natural bridge, all carved out of the hard packed red dirt. Only the lowest foot or so was carved into bedrock. It really was a fun place to explore, although perhaps a bit bittersweet as I pondered that it's very existence( due to accelerated rates of erosion) was owed to the miserable overgrazing so prevalent in our desert. I may be wrong about this, which would help me to recommend it. Still we ( Seamus the Scottie and I) had a  good time, and I was glad to have found this unexpected place. We made our way back upstream, squeezing through the narrowest part of the trench, climbing out and heading  back to the truck Note: The Mcleod Hills have some very interesting and easily visible structural geology. Unfortunately I never got around to taking my basic structure course( while a Geology major at UT Austin) before switching majors.  I would have loved to have had a geologist who knew the area along for the day.

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