Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Box Canyon revisited- Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument

I had  only done this hike once before about eighteen years ago. Over the ensuing years, I've only visited the Box Canyon Recreation Area a  handful of times even though it's so very close to Las Cruces. That nearness may be part of the reason I've shied away  because it brings city folk whose idea of outdoor recreation is drinking beer, shooting guns, and building fires- all of which the BLM now prohibits in this area. This is a shame because this little piece of broken country is wonderfully scenic  and it may be that the party people put off many folks( myself included at times) because with the exception of a few jeep enthusiasts and groups climbing Picacho Peak the area is frequently devoid of people. For sure the scale of things isn't jaw dropping, but that also makes it an easy place for the less experienced hiker to begin taking on some off trail exploring.
 I parked on the dam, but it's also available to park just below it.  I walked down the little trail. Water was flowing from  an opening in near the bottom of  dam and water in the desert always makes me happy.

I  continued on downstream noticing there were a few scrub oaks mixed in with the mesquite that lines the sandy creek bottom. There is also the non-native salt cedar as well, but it hasn't taken over here as it has in many places along the Rio Grande. Desert shrubs were blooming and bees were humming everywhere. It was a tolerable 80 degrees, so I didn't feel too weird about hiking in desert while the summer is still on. Soon, I entered the twisty little section of real box canyon, which was much nicer than I remember, with rough, protruding walls that were high enough to cast deep shadows in the early afternoon. I spied a couple of ancient grinding holes in the bedrock near where I'm sure seeps in the cliffs have caused a profusion of stinging nettle to grow.

A little further down there are remnants of an old road the will help you around a small dry waterfall( although it's very easy to manage if one wants to continue in the streambed). There is also a opening in the cliffs on the south side here as well.

 I turned to the north  where the canyon met with Spring Canyon and explored upstream for awhile before turning around. There are many pockets of teal colored rock through out this area which I'm sure would have interested old time prospectors,but no metal deposits have ever been confirmed. I was also curious about the many areas of gray and brown rocks and gravelly soil that  are completely devoid of vegetation. Is this result of persistent overgrazing, inhospitable soil types, recurring droughts or all of the above?
 On my return trip I ventured a short ways past the confluence so I could return to Box Canyon via the little window in the cliffs I has seen earlier. A barn owl was flying among the trees and cliffs,but like the owl that I saw a few years ago in nearby Spring Canyon's box, he wouldn't co-operate for a photo.

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