Monday, March 9, 2015

Wicks Gulch Slot Canyon

This is the first part of what I think will be  three posts dealing with this one  hike in Percha Creek Canyon.
  My friend Doug Scott and did semi-epic walkabout on Saturday(3/7/15), exploring the Percha Box, several of its side canyons, finding springs, slots, almost slots, and even a few natural arches. The impetus for this entire adventure was that Doug come with me to check out the Wicks Gulch Slot Canyon, which I had seen Bob Barnes of Hillsboro blog about in his online newsletter The Black Range Rag. We then both went into a frenzy of research using maps and Google Earth to see what else could be found in the area. We saw several other potential slot canyons, with one that even seemed to contain a natural bridge formation.
  Doug's excitement for the area was contagious and we were first on, then off for a hike on Saturday. I was disappointed  we weren't going to get together, but I decided to go out anyway. Little did I know that Doug was e-mailing me Friday night and Saturday morning trying to to tell me to meet him at the Wicks Gulch pull-out on NM 152. I was very,very surprised and very happy to drive up and find him waiting there. Serendipity is real.
 We decided to do a car shuttle. We left one about a mile and half in on the Ready Pay Gulch road, which is the standard route to get to the area called the Box. I had walked this route about 7 years ago  on an early spring hike down to the stream( see Percha Box in this blog's archive). The other car we were able to drive about a mile in on very little used " road" on the mesa above Wicks Gulch. Then off we went down into the canyon.
 Early on there was short section that was boxy, but no slot. Doug, who had driven down from White Rock and lived in Taos for many years,kept being reminded that he was in the desert now, every time the catclaw grabbed him.We rousted a couple of great horned owls, and we kept seeing them  as we moved down the sandy gulch.

     Soon we began to enter the slot and it was a beauty. Once again, like all the other slots I've visited down in the southern part of our state, it was carved in a poorly sorted grayish, pinkish, conglomerate, not the typical sandstone that people associate with slot canyons. The difference here was, unlike the slots closer to Las Cruces, this has had enough water flowing through it periodically to smooth down surfaces to a much greater degree.
 Well , we made the most of enjoying this little gem. There were three slides, the tallest of which was about 10 feet and pretty sheer, to add to the adventure, as well as some thick mud and wet sand and  a couple of puddles  of cold water that had to be negotiated as well. Soon I could hear the rushing water of Percha Creek and quickly thereafter we emerged, into a narrow section of Percha Canyon bound by 30 foot plus cliffs( we're calling it the Percha Narrows to distinguish it from the area upstream labeled the Box)and we were right onto next  phase of our trek,sloshing downstream in the cool, clear waters of the creek. Important Note: The hike down Wicks Gulch and into its slot canyon is entirely on BLM and state land. However, although it is not posted, the stream bottom of Percha Creek in this area is shown as  private land  on  official maps.

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