Saturday, December 26, 2015

Selden Hills

 On three consecutive days( Wednesday- Friday), I did  hikes exploring the Selden Hills, a sliver of low desert hills bounded on the east by I-25, on the west by the Rio Grande, in between Radium Springs and the Tonuco Uplift( San Diego Mountain). After accidentally, discovering some rock art in a namless arroyo just to north of Buckle Bar Canyon last year( see Flying V Canyon blog in the archives), I started  looking on Google Earth for places that held some potential for finding more.
  On our first hike we crossed the river at the mouth of Buckle Bar Canyon, and then stayed to the right in one of it's larger tributaries. Near the terminus of this sandy wash,there was a convenient road that took us up and over the ridge and down into a larger canyon to the south. Here, we explored a couple of  very small box canyons carved in, and zig-zagging through layers of dense volcanic rock. Climbing back  top of the hill, we had a wonderful 360 degree view of all the mountain ranges that surround Las Cruces.

Most of the area, like the towering cliffs in Buckle Bar Canyon is made of a crumbly,boulder conglomerate, so these areas of harder rock stand out.They had the perfect dark brown patina, and many flat faces  that  seemed to call out for some ancient artist to do his handiwork. Alas, there was none to be seen, but I was lucky enough as we returned to catch Buckle Bar Canyon's cliffs  with that magic light that so often evades me.

The second day, we went  out  to look at some canyons on the northeast side of the hills. We went up one squiggler and down another. No rock art,but I did find an old prospect( or maybe a dig by some rockhounds) in one of those seams of black and clear quartz crystals that are seen throughout much of the  area( I've seen similar veins in Green Canyon and in tributary of Buckle Bar Canyon). We did come across a  nice mano in the big arroyo that runs on the  south side of the hills. It was only the third one I've found in  the many years I've been hiking out in the desert. Seamus chased bunnies and jack rabbits.  The wind was in respite. It was warm, warm enough that that snakes were still leaving their  paths in the sand,  and I wished I had more time to explore down the big arroyo but had to return. I saw when I got back that I had miscalculated and explored two different canyons  than the ones I had intended.

 Friday( Christmas Day) we went out again in the wind and sunshine finding two little twisting,turning wonders: one with dwarf hackberry trees and conglomerate cliffs, and the other with tight bends in the bright sand. No rock art again,but another good walk.So far I've had good luck finding rock art sites when I was looking for something else, and zero when that was the focus of search.

 Note: The Selden Hills are almost entirely within NMSU's Chihuahuan Desert Research Center land. The property is not posted in Buckle Bar Canyon,but is at intersections and entrances that are along dirt roads on the east side of I-25.This is not public land and although the land was once open to public use and roads along the mesas and in the canyons obviously receive use( we saw many recent vehicle tracks and a dune buggy along the power line road on Friday). Entering without permission  should be considered trespassing.

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