Monday, September 26, 2016

Kemado Canyon Box - Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument

This heretofore nameless arroyo and canyon that runs between Broad Canyon and Horse Canyon, I am christening Kemado Canyon because it starts its run as grassy troughs, rocky ravines and sandy stream beds gather on the west flanks of Sierro Kemado Mountain. It continues east gradually cutting down into the plateau for a little over three and a half miles. It then boxes up for about a half mile in a tight little canyon before opening up into some horseshoe bends after which it becomes a wide multi- channeled wash as it makes its way to the Rio Grande.

 My hike consisted mainly of exploring the box.  I had intended to check out  the bends just beyond,but it was a little too warm and time was running short. Perhaps I'll get back there this winter because it really is a neat place.
 Getting there is relatively simple, although it would be much easier just to walk upstream from NM 185. Unfortunately, it looks like that route is blocked by private property. So, I had to take the Barksdale Road ( E-006) for about 7 miles and then take a left onto E-006A. After about  three and a half  miles, there is a  fork where a  sign says  that the county maintenance ends. I continued straight( left) onto a primitive,but decent road for another mile or so and parked where it comes very close to the edge of Kemado Canyon.
Down the rocky hillside I went, and then into the arroyo itself. Initially the bedrock and cliffs were  the pebble, cobble, boulder conglomerate mixed with crossbedded sandstone layers that is so common around the area. But as the strata changed to igneous, the exciting little box began.
It is similar to the narrow passages in Angostura, Valles and Broad Canyons that cut through the same type of rock, but this one has that truly closed in feeling that made it special. It also has 5 or 6 dry waterfalls that must be negotiated. Happily, all but one can be safely managed by either going left or right. The highest one, I had to go down the long chute itself but it really was a minor scramble in both directions.

 In the canyon bottom were hackberry and soapberry trees, lemon verbena and apache plume which softened the  rough appearance of the canyon walls considerably. Water lingered in natural cisterns carved into the gray basalt with streaks of white agate which looks uncannily  like someone has tossed paint onto the rocks. A good sized mule deer bounced up the hills above me. Nests of large twigs were set on a ledge in an alcove and hawks circled above. No snakes were encountered,but lizards did hurry to and fro.

 When I had approached the trailhead, it was overcast, but as soon as I had started hiking the clouds parted and the sun beat down. When the box opened up, I only walked a few shadeless steps before deciding to turn around. Then, as I got to the car, the blanket of  clouds returned. Oh well, so will I, but in the winter months.

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