Friday, June 3, 2016

Cathey Canyon Trail ( FT 105A)- Lincoln National Forest

This past fall we did a shuttle hike using the Scott Able Trail and the Spiller Canyon Trail. The Scott Able Trail only  crosses the creek in Scott Able Canyon and then heads up onto the ridge never to return. The Spiller Canyon Trail isn't even in Spiller Canyon at all, but rather in a canyon once removed to the north of what is called Spiller Canyon on maps. The Cathey Canyon Trail( FT 105A) is a similar situation. It's not in Cathey Canyon but actually across the ridge, and it's not in a canyon at all, although it does weave in and out of the uppermost branches of San Andres Canyon.
 There is ample parking at the Cathey Vista trailhead off of NM 6563 about 14 miles south of Cloudcroft. We were the only ones there  although I could hear campers nearby. It had rained on us as we drove and the car's thermometer  read a  brisk 59 degrees, but as we continued we drove into blue skies and sun,  which was good because we didn't have enough rain gear to go around and I hadn't even bothered to bring a jacket. I didn't miss it. It was gorgeous mountain day for the rest of our trip.
 Cathey Canyon Trail is another foot and horse traffic only route. It would definitely be the preferred alternative for someone hiking the Rim Trail, which it parallels slightly to east for close to 2 miles  through this section. My plan, which we stuck to, was to do a loop using the Rim Trail as the beginning and ending legs,but a better alternative might be to use the trail head closer to Sunspot and to do out and back on the Cathey Canyon Trail using just a short section of the Rim Trail to begin and end the hike. The parts of Rim Trail we used were really just an old road that was rocky, open and unattractive, especially the leg north from the trail head where there has been cutting and clearing of dead and downed trees in recent times.
 Happily the Cathey Canyon Trail itself is a beauty. A rustic footpath winds along a ridge through old growth forest of huge firs and pines. Early it crosses an enchanting little bottom land with large aspens, and enough sun for grass, wildflowers and mountain spray  to grow. Near this area we saw the junction for FT 105 B.  It was also here where the first of several bits of downfall that had to be negotiated  was encountered.There was  more all along FT 105 A, but they were widely spaced enough, and not too numerous so as not to become annoying. Most of our walking was in the shade of the giant conifers  but the occasional clearing, or young aspen grove provided just the right amount of variety.

 Seamus went off chasing a deer herd, at about the halfway point of our journey, which injected an unwanted dose of anxiety into our carefree forest mood. Needless to say he remained on the leash for the final few miles. After a steady climb,  past some truly huge trees, we picnicked in the sun. Afterwards when we reached the junction with  the Rim Trail, I thought it would be too soon to end our hike by just heading back, so we extended it bit by walking north on the Rim Trail all the way to the San Andres Trail( FT 125) junction where we rested in a grassy clearing along FR 640. The Rim Trail was very rocky, and stuck close to the highway initially  which was  not exactly what I had been looking for, but it was alright for making our hike into lollipop loop( only with the stick coming about 3/4 of the way in) of about six miles. The last bit of the hike after intersecting with FR 5011 was the least appealing. We ended up bypassing some campers through a clearing( where perhaps the trail should go instead of following the road) which brought us to the short road leading to our parking spot.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Valles and Broad Canyons- Field Trip for ARARA

Last Friday( May 27th,2016), I took a group of 10 very nice people to Valles and Broad Canyons to look at the rock art. I was a field trip leader for the annual ARARA( American Rock Art Research Assoiciation) convention that was held in Las Cruces this year. Why they thought Memorial Day Weekend in the Chihuahuan Desert was a good fit, I don't really know, but at least on Friday the temperatures were blissfully cool for this time of year. It wasn't cool, mind you, highs were in the low 80's which in the desert sun feels much hotter,but my group and I were grateful we weren't hiking 4 or 5 miles with temps in the mid 90's which is more the norm for this time of year.
 We came in from the west, first on the Corralitos Road and then down the dirt, gravel and bedrock excuse for a road that tumbled us down along Choases Canyon, across Kerr Canyon a couple of times, past Chivatos Canyon and Alamo Well, ultimately to a spot just a short ways down the  east end of the Valles Road itself, where we parked our three vehicles. We hiked down the road and then into Valles itself, where, when we reached the rock art panels, I neglected to take any photos again. Somehow all those folks snapping away, made me feel like it was covered. As many times as I have been down here, I only have a few photos(  some taken with a film camera and a couple with a flip phone) of the place.The first or second time I came here I just made sketches of the petroglyphs, which still make me happy when I look at them all these years later.
 As we went downstream, I kept looking and looking for goggle-eyed figure I had seen four years ago,but couldn't find it. I realized later we were looking in the right place , but just couldn't see it. Some  of the petroglyphs here and at Broad Canyon are so obscured by lichen growth on the blackened rock that the light has be coming at just the right angle to create the shadows necessary to see them.
 We  continued down to the Broad Canyon confluence, where the many humanoid figures( " men in skirts" one of our group joked) were photographed , and then to the black cliffs on the south side of the stream, where some folks rested, while I lead the rest downstream to the eight foot goggle- eyed figure at the base of the very tall cliffs in this section of the canyon.
A lone hiker passed by us, mumbling to himself, as we rested in the shade of the canyon walls and hackberry trees. He may have been an ARARA conventioneer that couldn't attach himself to  any trip so he decided to go it alone. Someone said he was looking for an image called " the guardian." I  didn't know that any of the images here had names, so I probably couldn't have helped,unless he could've described it to me, but it appeared that he was not really interested in interacting at all. Strange. We later realized he must have walked all the way from Valles Tank. It was a bit worrisome because he was wearing way too many clothes for the weather and continued past us mumbling all the way to  8, 10 or who knows how many miles of desert hiking in the last week of May.
 We made our way back slowly.  I spotted a gate up the hill on the south side of Valles, where I had earlier made everyone crawl under the fence. They were happy to go through, but wondered if I had been" testing" them earlier. I sheepishly admitted even though I had gone this way twice before, I had never bothered to look for a gate.
 We were back by 12:30, so I took everyone over to the site at Upper Silva. Only about half of the folks  went  very far down past the first images in the rough little canyon. It was a bit hot by now, but a wonderful breeze that had been blowing at strategic intervals throughout the day kept our intrepid group's spirits up. It seemed that a good time was had by all, including myself, so I considered the day a success.