Monday, October 17, 2016

Apple Tree Canyon Trails( FT 5601,5601A) Fall Hike- Lincoln National Forest

 I visited Apple Tree Canyon in the the spring of  2015, and decided then it would a wonderful place to revisit in the fall because of the big tooth maple trees. Well, I went back this past Saturday, and hit it right at the peak of color. I don't know why,but I get positively giddy when this happens, perhaps due to a nostalgia for my Connecticut upbringing that is less consciously cultivated but  rather something more primal.But who knows?
 The maples( at least the big tooths) seem to be more prevalent on the west side of Sacramentos in west flowing canyons and ravines as far as  I can tell,but I've seen a few here and there all over the range. Another great canyon that is loaded with them is San Andres Canyon which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.  Funny thing is many people don't know the maples are there in the forest in great numbers, even in fall, because they are only rarely seen along roads, and don't grow in solid stands like aspens so the tall evergreens block them from view.
Anyway it was a perfect fall day that gladdened my heart and sent all the bad things away to hide as my dogs and  I marched through this forest that is nothing if not a precious gift for all who enter it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Cañoncito Seco in Fall- Santa Fe National Forest

When we visited the Cañoncito Seco house in the summer, I thought it would be an awesome place, because of all the deciduous trees, to  return to in the Fall. So we did, and it was. Besides a lot of walking around the beautiful environs of the property itself, we once again ventured up Cañoncito Seco onto national forest land. There, the oaks,aspens,maple were all in full autumnal hue. We probably got about a mile farther than our hike in the summer. We stopped where the trail began to be very marginal in the increasingly thicker vegetation in the narrow stream bottom.

Forest Roads 76 and 171- Santa Fe National Forest

We took a little detour for a picnic on our return trip from Canõncito Seco back to Las Cruces. Just east of Gallina, New Mexico we turned off of NM 96 onto Forest Road 76. This is a well maintained gravel road suitable for any vehicle in dry weather. The fir and pine forest that lined the roadway was beautifully accented by bright orange and gold oaks.
 We turned to the north on Forest Road 171 and quickly crossed over the rushing little Rio Capulin as we headed to the Cecilia Canyon trail head for a little picnic. The road  went up and down through green, closely cropped  meadows until bringing us to the shady parking area for Forest Trail 451, which heads up into the high country of the San Pedro Parks wilderness and is also part of the Continental Divide Trail route in New Mexico. There is information to read here about the habitat restoration on Cecilia Canyon. We moseyed on down to the tiny,but flowing, stream to have our picnic. Even though it is evident that this area was heavily logged at one time,it's beauty has returned.
There were metal plates tacked onto a nearby fallen log that said not to cut and or remove,because it was helping to improve fish habitat. This seemed odd because the stream looked to be about an inch deep, but sure enough just before we left I spotted a couple of what I presume to be Rio Grande cutthroat fingerlings in some slightly deeper water. It was nice to see them, especially because on these two trips to Cañones Creek, I've yet seen anything resembling a fish, although I talked with some locals who insist they are there, however small in number and size they many be.
 After leaving the trailhead and FR 171, we continued on to the west on FR 76.  Immediately, there were wonderful views of the high country where brilliant yellow aspens were splashed across the deep green of the spruce and fir forest.After going over a divide, the road crossed the strongly flowing Rio Gallina( where I have hope that fish are present too) and then follows the little canyon it has carved most of the way back to NM 96. Colorful willows and cottonwoods were abundant as well as the aforementioned oaks and even a few aspens. Just before reaching the highway there was a rural scene that had me thinking about Vermont. Anyway if you're traveling out here and have a few extra minutes by all means get off NM 96( which is very scenic itself) to enjoy a little bit of this remote backcountry.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tsi-p'in-owinge( Mesa del Pueblo)- Santa Fe National Forest

Pottery placed on building stone by a previous visitor that
I photographed. It is advised not to move any artifacts.

This hike is near Cañones, New Mexico. You will need to get a free permit, directions and interpretative information from the  Coyote Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest.  Do not do this hike or visit the ruins without  a permit. Unlike many of the more well know pueblo and mission ruins that have easy access and sometimes crowds of visitors, this journey is more of an adventure and on the Saturday of a long weekend we were the only people there.
 Similar to our hike on the Cañones Creek in the summer, this one  was only about 1.5 miles as the crow flies from the house we were staying at on Cañoncito Seco, yet, we had to drive the long way around to get to the trailhead. Much of the  hour long trip  was on the  very rough FR 27 as it climbs around the south side of Cerro Pelon, down to Polvadera Creek and then back up onto Polvadera Mesa. An un-marked forest service road took us the last couple miles to the parking area. From there we began, on a the cool, cloudy morning. We quickly were at the edge of the mesa and began working our way down slowly on the many switchbacks that cut roughly through the pinon,juniper and oak forest on the steep hillside. The views that occasionally opened up to Cerro Pedernal, Cañones Creek, Polvadera Creek  and all the way out to the cliffs of the Chama River valley were incredible,but we had to keep our eyes more on our feet to negotiate the rocky trail.

I couldn't really figure out where we were headed at first  because our destination was initially obscured by the trees, but finally I caught a glimpse of the trail off the in the distance where it crosses a  narrow, little land bridge that connects Polvadera Mesa to the Mesa del Pueblo. The look of it, because it seemed to skirt a sheer cliff on one side, made my wife uneasy,but when we got there it wasn't all that bad. We later learned that section was part of an original trail used by the ancients.

 Now we descended as we circled around the highpoint of the smaller mesa where there were some amusing  rock formations. Finally we caught sight of some crude rock walls ahead and we knew we were close to  our destination. At the walls,  where we rested a moment, there were fantastic views looking upstream of the Cañones Creek valley with its green fields and golden cottonwoods. We followed a footpath worn in the soft volcanic tuff  as it wound through the towers of rock left standing in the wake of the prehistoric quarrying operation that went on there.

Soon we were in the midst of the huge piles of cut and shaped stone that are the ruins of what was once a substantial pueblo of 1500 rooms that may have housed as many as 1000 people. Painted black on white pottery lay everywhere on the ground, which was fascinating for both of us as we a had never visited a site where it was in abundance like this.

We soon came upon one of many smaller kivas that were carved in the bedrock. Once used for ceremonies but now filled with dirt,shrubs and weeds.

Good sized piñons grew with tufts of grass in what was once the open plaza. Stones set in square shapes had trees growing out of them that weren't there hundreds of years ago.
Very few room walls  are standing,but each time we found one of the few that are, it seemed like witnessing a minor miracle. They were good masons back then nearly 800 years ago,but the mortar made only of mud did not preserve their handiwork.


Off by itself, separated by more than a hundred yards from the rest of pueblo structures was the great kiva which was partially carved, and partially built with large mortared,but only crudely shaped stones, unlike the careful bricks of the rest of the pueblo. Cerro Pedernal,perhaps the source of the agate, chert and flint that lay on the ground  was in view directly to the west. On our way back through the pueblo, we came upon some stairs carved into the bedrock, that would have led down to the lower rooms of pueblo which sat on a bench just below the flat mesa top. At the edge of the bench were sheer cliffs of pock marked volcanic rock that are found all over the region.

We could see storm clouds forming over the high country to the south, and thought it prudent begin our return trip even though both of us wanted to linger at this fascinating place. It definitely exceeded both of our expectations and though I won't bore you with all the questions we thought of while wandering the ruins left behind by people not so different from you and I,  I will say there is certain lightness of being that comes with the magic of perspective.