Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Lytten Canyon

 On Sunday we continued our exploration of the side canyons on the east side of the Rio Grande in the Selden Canyon area. We parked across from Broad Canyon dam again, and crossed the Rio Grande and accessed the east bank at the outlet to Flying V Canyon( see my blog about it) where a where a wedge of boulders extends out into the river. We began our long trudge along the railroad tracks heading north.  High above us, a large hawk screeched at our presence. Closer to the ground, a much smaller raptor, flew out from the brush along the tracks to disappear into the bare salt cedar along the river.
   I had originally wanted to do a loop using Lytten Canyon and the large canyon just to it's south( more on that later) but  as I approached to where the mouth of the canyon should be,  I despaired of accessing it at all due to the thick dessicated brush and mesquite that grew all along the double barbed wire fence line. I continued on hoping that there would be an easy  avenue of progress up the one of the canyons( I was no longer sure of which one I was close to), but it was only more of the same. I backtracked to a spot where it seemed like the mesquite could be negotiated without too much risk of injury and where my dog could follow, and  proceeded to go under one fence and climb the other. Without too much trouble found we found ourselves marching up a wide sandy arroyo.
 Up ahead there were some formations of pink rock pocked with many alcoves that reminded me of  buildings on the Flintstones,  and of the cliff sides at Bandelier National Monument.  Upon closer inspection, the alcoves were too small to house real or fictional ancient peoples. We checked out likely looking boulders in a small tributary  for petroglyphs  but found none and proceeded on to the heart of the canyon.
  The deepest part of the brief box section is wonderfully scenic with a  beautifully craggy rock tower taking center stage. Red  rock cliffs blistered out of the hillsides, and globular formations and boulders  bubbled from the descending ridges( one looked very much liked the traditional adobe oven called an horno).  We walked by a road that went off, I presume to the southwest toward Lytten Well which we had passed earlier while walking along the railroad tracks. Tire tracks  that continued in the sand let me know that vehicles still  use this canyon itself as a road despite NMSU's prohibitions. I looked for petroglyphs and mortars in the rock, but found none. Exploring up another  forked side canyon,  in one branch we found something akin to a slot canyon - only for the very short in stature.


      Out of the box section we followed the right( southeast) branch, finally climbing a low hill to get the lay of the land. To the north, in shades of red and black, was the solitary Tonuco( San Diego) Peak. The Las Uvas and adjacent ranges were  in the distance to the west. In front of us many small arroyos funneled toward the Rio Grande. There was also a long abandoned road. We walked on it for a short  distance bearing northwest, before turning and heading southwest, and downhill on a long ridge. If I had done a little more careful research, I would've known that continuing on the road would have brought me to the canyon just to the south of Lytten,but I'll have to explore that one another day.


    I hadn't been completely sure what  canyon I had been in , although I was pretty sure it was Lytten. Now, on my return leg, I believed I was back in Flying V Canyon, but wasn't entirely sure until I saw my own footprints from last week in the sand.  I didn't really mind covering this ground again so soon, it was good to know we would be emerging right at our crossing point of the Rio Grande and would not have to walk alongside the railroad tracks. I found a couple of more petroglyphs on a boulder right next to one I had found a few  on last week. How I didn't see them before I'm not sure- but it's frequently case when revisiting rock art sites that overlooked images will magically appear.

 I had been wondering if we would see yet another desert deer this week, when I realized  a couple of javelinas had walked up to within 10 feet of us. Seamus was off  leash,and the last thing I wanted was for him to have a scared javelina turn on him. Luckily, I got him on the leash and the javelinas high tailed it -an adult going one  direction, and a toddler the other, running around us and heading down to the river. We saw them again drinking from the meager flow of the Rio.When we got to the truck we watched the freight train coming through where we had just been walking.

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