Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Skates Slot Canyon- Gila National Forest

Heading  back downstream in Skates Canyon now, happy with the place, happy with the day, no longer rehearsing telling my wife I had lost the sunglasses( an expensive  Xmas gift), I didn't really even realize that I had saved the best for last.
   But first things first. I figured on this bright day that I had probably taken off my sunglasses in one of the dark places I had been in earlier in the day( the notion that they had fallen out of my pocket without me noticing had already been banished from my mind). I checked the side canyon where I had first noticed they were missing just for good measure, but then moved on. Sure enough, in the dark, wet, little canyon, I'm calling the Mossy Slot, there they were sitting on ledge chest high.  I was grateful for this good turn of events, and unknowingly was now prepared to receive more.
 On the west side I began to walk up a gravel stream bed, larger than most that I had been investigating. It was shady,  and getting narrower, but still let in enough light for trees and shrubs. I could see ATV tracks in the sand and honestly wasn't expecting much, when I turned a corner  and the wrinkled walls like the rolls of fat on the Happy Buddha rose up, the  brush disappeared, and the darkness and quiet invaded my senses as I realized I was in an utterly enchanting slot canyon. I know that word "enchanting " gets thrown around a lot here in the Land of Enchantment, but this place really fits the billing. I wandered on through twist and turns, and became equally amazed at the way it  just kept going and going. Water flowed here and there and we had to climb up one easy falls, but another amazing thing about this place was that it was easy walking, which made it even more charming given my experience at the Lake Roberts slots and couple of days earlier
 My mouth was in an unstoppable smile the whole time. Nothing could have me happier at that moment except perhaps finding a remnant population of Gila trout or an undiscovered  cliff dwelling. I took photograph after photograph. The light was perfect in the late afternoon. I wished everyone that I know  could experience the  awe and the deep feeling of peace that this canyon was giving me.
  Eventually I knew I would have to turn around, or get back much later than I had planned. At a six or seven foot waterfall( with water), where it looked as if the terrain became much more open above us, Seamus and I turned around. On the return walk, I took more and more photos, wonderfully letting me linger,but eventually I made my way out, reeling slightly, like I often do, that I  had  been privileged  to visit this beautiful place that seems to fly under everyone's radar( later when I googled it, I only found one set of images from two out of state hikers that visited in 2006). I know people must visit here,because of the ATV tread I saw earlier, plus the fact that Continental Divide Trail skirts the upper reaches of this very canyon. And yet, I only came here on speculation fueled by maps and satellite images, no other information.
 Afterwards we walked up another  gravel stream bed to the north. Instead of a slot there was a tall dripping waterfall, and some alcoves with blackened ceilings. All hidden from view from the main canyon by large trees and brush. I puttered around a little hoping  to see some artifacts,but left for the main canyon again and the bright sun. We were now nearly back to  the windmill and I could see our red truck parked in  the  tall chamisa.

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