Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Tilted Rock Canyons- Tonuco Uplift

Well, we were blessed with a windless, sunny day on Sunday, something that's been short supply over the past few weeks, so I headed out to do the hike I had intended to do a few weeks ago over in the the large basin area south of Tonuco Peak( San Diego Mountain). You can read about the troubles I had with that first attempt in the " Tonuco Uplift" blog from December 15th. Anyway, this time  I parked safely up on the mesa and began hiking over pebbly hill and sandy dale heading straight for the  little shortcut canyon that's just past the barbed wire  fence  on west side of the big arroyo. I took hard tumble back in that shady little defile where  a thin coating of ice, all but invisible, still covered the many boulders I had to walk upon. A bruise on my left leg, and the bent wire frames on some cheap sunglasses were the only damage, but hopefully  the newly stored information will prevent a future similar mishap.

 Up and over the hill we went and down into the first of the two little boxy, slotty arroyos I wanted to explore. Both of them sit oddly perched on a mass of higher ground that extends out from the hills, surrounded by parallel arroyos that are much larger and deeper. At first there were  few highlights as we walked down, but then I  climbed up the low lip of the north side  to peer down into  a huge valley bordered by cliffs and eroded hillsides in shades of purple, orange,  and red, with the massive Tonuco Peak looming just behind.

 Soon after negotiating  a small dry waterfall, we were in the narrowest part of our little red rock canyon which was cut through steeply tilted beds of mudstone, sandstone and pebbly conglomerate. It wasn't spectacular like iconic locations in  our four corners states, but it was a fun and uniquely scenic location down here in the southern desert, that  to my way of thinking could make a nice little state park someday.

At the bottom,  I looked up the big wash on the north and then took  opportunity to photograph the formations now in evidence on a larger scale that formed a rim around the sandy coalescence of several washes. I wanted to linger, but decided to keep marching on over to our second canyon and the return leg of our trip.

 We  crossed over a low saddle among other tilted beds that were tan rather than brick red. We hiked around a dam and through the bunch grass behind it. At  a large  dry waterfall, I thought I spied some rock art and went to investigate. No luck. Now we were walking upstream in the second canyon,whose box section was rather  short. At the very back, the very head of this little arroyo, we looked over the lip to another much larger valley that heads south and then turns east. Across from us was a purple hued mountain where there were some interesting looking cracks and crevices, but they would have to wait for another day. We made our way, always on the look out for signs of ancient peoples, but only finding abundant rocks of dark volcanic breccia at our feet, uneventfully back to the truck.
Note: This hike crosses state trust land and NMSU's Chihuahuan Desert Research Center land( technically also state,but on land ownership maps is designated No Trespassing).

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