Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pointed Arch- Doña Ana Mountains

   A little disappointed with my Sunday hike, I set out on Monday afternoon( 2/16/15) in search of the arch I'd glimpsed in the Doña Ana Mountains back in December. This one I'm calling Pointed Arch because from some angles it appears pointed like a jagged arrowhead, but any number of  names might apply. I thought about Ridge Arch, because unlike the nearby Doña Ana Arch which sits detached and more conventionally arch-like on a hilltop, Pointed Arch is more of hole in a long rocky outcrop along the ridge of a hill. Many other mundane names came to mind as well. If you go, let me know of the ones you thought of.
 This was short hike. I went at it cross country after parking under the power lines a short ways down from where County Road D-53 makes a big bend( either toward I -25 or the Doña Ana Transfer Station depending on which direction you're coming from). Forgot the SD card for the Pentax again( it was back at the house in the laptop), but at least this time I remembered while preparing to take my first picture, which I suppose was  better than what happened at Frying Pan Canyon,but it would have been even nicer if I had remembered sooner so as to  prevent me from lugging the now useless camera around on the hike. Had to rely on the I-Phone again.
 After visiting the arch, I figured I had a little more time to kill, so I wandered over to an interesting formation of  bare orangish, brownish rock , I decided to call the Blob. I circumnavigated it, finding two large openings, that may or may not be connected  on its north side. On it's south side is a wonderfully constructed little dam( perhaps more CCC work). The area behind is now completely in-filled with gravel, atop of which was the dried remains of some very lush growth of summer grass. I used roads to get back to the truck, where I decided I 'd pick up the hundred or more shotgun shells( including one live one) that lay on the ground. It was relatively peaceful day in the Doña Anas. I only saw one vehicle, a jeep, climbing a steep stone hill. I could still hear gun shots for much of the time, but I was heartened to see,  as I was leaving, a couple who had been shooting( at a berm, and not just in random directions out into the desert) cleaning up after themselves. Note: this arch is visible for about a half second while traveling south and maybe a little longer while traveling north, on I-25.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Arroyo Angostura- Sierra de las Uvas

I thought I'd check out the Arroyo Angostura near Hatch this past Sunday( 2/15/15). It's name, which means "narrow passage," and the images from Google Earth and topo maps  showed me it had at least one interesting box section. I also thought that it had good potential for rock art as well.
 We drove out on the Spring Canyon Road( County E-05) passing a couple of spring areas ( in Spring Canyon and a tributary)with cottonwoods early on.  We parked near a dry tank close to Peloncillo Peak. Starting  down a rocky tributary we shortly made it into the main arroyo. Initially, it was shallow, rocky and not particularly exciting. The most interesting aspect was the abundant loose agate in the streambed and the agate laced andesite  bedrock.
 Eventually we came to an area of high conglomerate cliffs in the bends of the wide wash.  We rested under an overhang. It was quite warm for mid- February. I thought glumly about how the season for winter desert hikes may already be done. We continued on, happening upon a section of road that was welcome relief from the uneven terrain. Soon we spied  a long abandoned homestead in the now deep canyon bottom. There was a rotor-less windmill, a large rusty water storage tank, a stone ruin and a nearly melted away adobe ruin.


Beyond the ruins was the box section, a narrow defile between cliffs of volcanic rock spilling boulders weathered to deep, desert varnish brown. It was very scenic, but short. Beyond, I could see a few more cliffs, but mostly the arroyo looked wide and shallow again. I wished I could've investigated  to see what reaches further down held, but a late start meant it was time to turn around. The  steady hard wind made the trip back a trudge.

All in all, I can't really recommend this hike, unless you are interested in absolute solitude in mostly average desert scenery.  There could be rock art past where we stopped, but that area would be better accessed from the mouth of the arroyo. Note: the homestead area is posted Private Property- No Trespassing on the road coming down from the mesa. It is not posted in the arroyo itself.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Frying Pan Canyon-2015

Massacre Peak

 Looking toward Fluorite Ridge

 I wrote about this place a couple years ago( check the archives) which is when I realized that I didn't have a single photograph of the wonderful rock art site here.  This past Sunday(2/1/15) we came back. This was the fourth time we'd been here, but the first time in more than ten years. Nothing much has changed. Driving over the dam across Starvation Draw was  a little more sketchy, and in not too many more years I could see it not being usable at all unless repaired. We parked a little bit beyond the dam, right before a rough patch on a steep hill.. In the past we've driven the low road on the southside  which follows the arroyo more closely in the flatlands. On Sunday we walked the ridge road that runs on the north side( stay left after crossing the dam) out to the Frying Pan Canyon dam.This is probably the preferable alternative as it stays dry high above the wash, although it eventually connects to the low road probably a half mile or so before the dam.  At the point of the stream crossing, we started walking a more direct route east toward the Frying Pan dam and the adjacent rocky hill on its northside( our destination).  It was easy walking between the creosote and mesquite along the cow paths. The hike was probably two miles or so from our parked truck( near the Starvation Draw dam) to the  Frying Pan dam( one way).
 We picknicked at a flat spot of sandstone ( or volcanic rock that very closely resembles sandstone) near a large juniper, with several ancient grinding holes right beside us, and then we started up the hill to where the petroglyphs lay. One thing different about this rock art site is that although  there is the patina of desert varnish, the rock is not smooth at all,but ribbed and gritty. We wandered around, on top, and even  under and in between the maze created amongst the huge( house sized) boulders. There were shelter alcoves, more and more grinding holes, narrow passages,and in every conceivable  lie hundreds of petroglyphs. Going through a tunnel of some scrub oak, I emerged to find, the site's most well known glyph: a wonderfully convoluted image of Tlaloc. There is abundance of foot glyphs here: human, cat, bird, bear and others. There are fish renderings , lizards, many snakes, antelope and the human/ animal  that is the horned serpent.  There are also many delightfully small masks in several out of the way spots, which had the feel of being rendered by the same artist. There are many crosses  as well,which may have been after contact or observation of the Spaniards ( some say these are not crosses at all but images of the western star, the planet Venus),  although there  are no etchings of horse and rider as at other sites.
  The  unseasonably warm February weather and light were perfect, and I had wonderfully mellow feeling until, after photographing one last panel at the bottom of the hill I realized I hadn't put the SD card in the camera. In a bit of Groundhog Day comedy, I ended racing back up the hill and retracing my journey snapping photos at breakneck speed. The light wasn't the same, but it all worked out. We made it back to the car along the same road . Eyes on the ground, I noticed the myriad of colors  in both crystalline and the cryptocrystalline  samples of quartz that lay everywhere.