|view to the high peaks of the Dona Ana Mountains|
I'm christening this longest,deepest canyon that pierces the eastern wall of the Robledos, "Robledo Canyon." If after describing it here,you recognize the canyon of which I speak and know it by another name please let me know.
I drove out onto levee road right at its closest approach to Valley Drive( NM 185). I parked in the usual spot when exploring these east side canyons ( see " Big " and " Middle" Canyons in this blog)and made my way across the puddles and mud that we call the Rio Grande. I shouldn't be complaining about the situation with our river. If they didn't let it go dry every winter, it would seriously mess with my access to many hikes. Still it's always a little sad to behold. Be careful when crossing after winter rain or snow and the first few weeks after the end of irrigation season, the mud is thick and very slippery.
Unfortunately ,because of private property on the west side of the river right at the mouth of the canyon that must be avoided,my approach was going to be long, not particularly scenic, and involved crossing two deep arroyos. I began chugging along trying to chew up the distance, thinking this bit of the walk as pure drudgery. But, as always, there is something new to see that will lighten my mood. In these case, it was the tiny leaves of the ocotillo showing their fall color, a sight I have no recollection of seeing before.
It's always harder when I can see my destination far off in the distance. It seems to take forever to get any closer. I was also worried about the weather holding out. It did, with the exception of the cold wind that chilled my ears toward the end of the hike As I did get closer, I could see many holes in the far off cliff walls that once again got me wondering if this area has really been thoroughly explored for caves by those folks who do that sort of thing. Down in the second arroyo, I opted for going straight up the canyon just to north of the one I was after. It was mostly boulder hopping, with one larger dry waterfall that had to be climbed around. There were some enormous desert junipers back here, that put in mind the bristlecone pines out in Nevada and California, where the majority of the tree appears dead. This canyon shallowed up pretty quickly, and I climbed the now low canyon side up onto the ridge which was more like a huge plateau.
I wandered around to the west on the high ground, eventually climbing down past where Robledo Canyon makes a big turn to the northwest. A large tributary that comes in from the west, where I explored many years ago, looked inviting with large junipers in a narrow, winding box, but I stuck with the main branch heading northwest. As I walked, I kept an eye out for fossils, mortar holes, rock art, but mostly what I saw was scat, lots and lots of scat some of it the exact color of a red velvet cake left by an animal very fond of the tiny red berries that that proliferate on a couple of different desert shrubs( one is the lemonade bush, I think). If anyone out there knows the likely culprit of these deposits, let me know.There was also the usual assortment of desert shrubs including some javelina bushes that were almost taking on the characteristics of a small tree.
The nicest part of this upper canyon was a straight walled little corridor that I'll call the upper box. Past this, many tributaries began coming in, and eventually the streambed I was walking was just a small rocky tributary itself. I sat down and snacked. I could see the high ridge of the Robledos off to the northeast.
The return trip was a bit of trudging. I hoped to see some artifacts, but saw none. I did contemplate the usefulness of the friendly creosote, which, although it is sometimes indicative of environmental degradation, can be used safely to pull oneself up a steep arroyo bank, and can also assist in braking while traveling down the same. Eventually, I was back at the recently installed metal post and barbed wire fence and found a gate to go through. Since it is impossible to see through the salt cedar on the banks of the river to get a visual bearing, I was happy to come out just a short ways north of the truck, which I was back to in due time.