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.

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