Sunday, November 27, 2016

Lower Faulkner Box Canyons- Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument

 We hiked in these canyons many years ago on very long outing to Lookout Peak. This time I did a much more reasonable 3 mile loop.  I parked the 4 Runner under some desert willows after driving a little less than a mile and a half on Faulkner Canyon Road. Past the gate there is some deep sand, so 4 wheel drive may be desirable. At first I got off into the canyon that was one over on the west by accident, but I realized it pretty quickly and climbed a hill and went down the other side to reach the one I wanted. The "big" box  canyon with the high waterfall is the very first one on the south side of Faulkner. This northernmost part of the Robledos, in contrast to the sedimentary limestones and mudstones that make up much of the range, is made up of  thick layers of volcanic rocks: andesites, rhyolites and welded ash tuffs.
 I noticed some vehicle tracks in the sand at first,but soon, around the time I saw the "wilderness study area" sign,boulders and brush made it impassable to any sort of vehicle.The first larger waterfall has a noticeable, and useful trail  that goes around the east side.  The canyon soon took a turn and was bounded  on the west by a  two toned( red and gray) wall of cobble and earth deposits overlaying the gray tuff breccia. On the east were very steep slopes topped with pointed cliffs.

 It was dark in the narrowest reaches and pools of water lingered. Seamus got in and started drinking. I had to lift him up, and then scramble up myself to climb the two lower falls. Water does run through here. The smooth, almost slick surfaces of these slides attest to it, and I'd love to come in here when it is flowing. The big waterfall  with its jutting, angular, hard, and contrasting light and dark rock looks to be close to 100 feet  high and is a very impressive feature. It is definitely worth the little scramble to get back there.

 We backtracked to where there was an easy access point on the east side and climbed up onto the mesa of golden grass on gentle hills. It seemed so wonderfully remote and untouched in the bright sunshine, I just wanted to amble along for awhile, but it was Thanksgiving Day and I had promised it would only be a short hike. Some distant deer watched us briefly and then headed up and around a hillside. Luckily Seamus did not notice. We worked our way down into the very next canyon to the west, which has its own big overhanging waterfall where it cuts through a wall of rock that extends on either side. We had to climb up the hillside quite  a ways in order to go around and come down( very steeply) on the other side. From there it was mostly easy walking back to Faulkner Canyon, where we came out about a 1/2 mile west of where we had parked. The weather when we had started out was cloudy,cool and windy but then transformed into another gorgeous,warm(enough) fall day that makes me fall in love with my little corner of the Land of Enchantment all over again.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Rocotillo Box Canyons-Prehistoric Trackways National Monument

     These two canyons( North and South Rocotillo) were once a part of the annual Chile Challenge rock crawling( with heavily modified Jeeps and such) event, but now,since National Monument designation in 2009, are more of a destination for quieter recreation.  I parked about a mile  west of the trailhead for the Discovery Site. I probably would've gotten a little closer still but for a washout that I didn't want to try. From the car I headed southwest on the road and then south walking out onto an “ arm” that juts toward the confluence of the two canyons.  I discovered a rough" trail " back in the summer that took me down to the confluence.   Saturday, I met a quail hunter named Josh at the bottom, who was surprised to be meeting someone in the canyon. We talked for a bit and then went on our separate ways. I then headed upstream in the canyon on the left ( south canyon). In the late summer there was water running over the limestone bedrock cascades and the usually dry falls about 1/4 mile from the fork was dripping as well. 
The reason it’s best to start this loop in the south canyon is these sheer falls are more easily climbed up than down. I had no trouble but if you want to bypass the scramble, you will have to backtrack and find a way up onto the west side of the canyon. Once, above the falls, it  was easy walking. This very scenic canyon is carved into tilted fossiliferous beds of gray and white limestone and reddish brown mudstone.
After close to 4/10 of a mile, I took the road on the right( north) side of the canyon.  I was now steeply climbing, heading northwest, on the flank of the flat topped mountain that sits in between the south and north canyons. Just before the road disappears and plunges into a ravine, there is a trail that heads north (right).  At first I couldn't find it but then I realized it was above me. I continued up to the saddle just west of the flat topped peak. On this clear sunny day, there was just a slight breeze, but it wasn't warm enough to even work up a sweat, so I didn't miss it. From the saddle  I could see many of the old bicycle trails, one of which I hiked down many, many years ago. I could also see the road, the old gravel operation,plus the inviting upper reaches of both canyons.
 It was an easy pitch up to the peak from that point, and now I had views of the whole river valley as well.   I found  some old cairns and a triangle of boulders on the far southeast end of the  little mountain. I returned to the saddIe and slowly made my way down into the rugged North Rocotillo Canyon.
The canyon walls of rough conglomerate have shed many a boulder into the streamed here, so  it  was a much slower little scramble down canyon back to the trail that brought me in. Right where I had met Josh the quail hunter  about an hour and a half before, I flushed out 12-15 quail.This was a nice,quick hike on beautiful afternoon in desert. I  think next time I'll make it longer  by hiking further upstream in the canyons.