Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Lower Gallinas Campground, Dry Gallinas Canyon- Gila National Forest

We went on Sunday to look at the snow at Iron Creek Campground in the Black Range, something we've been doing for years.  The warm weather had melted most of it,but there was still a little  left on the north side of the canyon. We had a picnic and did a slippery little walk on the road there.  We drove the couple miles down NM152 and parked across from the closed Lower Gallinas Campground at the mouth of Dry Gallinas Canyon. The road in that canyon continued for a short ways, transforming into a vague trail through a rather generic,but still lovely swath of untouched( by fire) forest of junipers, pines and both deciduous and live oaks, which is nice to find these days since the 2013 Silver Fire.  We found a more obvious trail on the west side of the canyon created by cattle, horses and wildlife. The dry gray boulders attested to the canyon's name,but I was still hoping for trickle as we hadn't brought a bit  of water for ourselves or our dogs.Happily, as I later discovered looking at Google Earth, we turned around after less than a mile out, right before the canyon was about to change into a particularly severe bit of scorched earth.
 We turned around walked back and then across the highway to the closed Lower Gallinas Campground to let the dogs drink from the creek. It was wonderfully( and unseasonably) warm December afternoon so we strolled along the creek to the end of the road. The golden grass was high among the huge junipers and we wondered if this pretty spot which has been closed since the fire would ever be open to camping again. It seems that there could be a liability issue that the Forest Service would just as soon avoid due to the area's increased susceptibility to flash flooding.
The whole Gallinas, Iron Creek corridor is still beautiful,but could really be the best of the Gila camping areas with a few improvements and probably should  be changed into a fee area with a campground host to prevent further degradation and to keep it family friendly.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Purple Hill- Tonuco Uplift

View of Tonuco peak from the hidden canyon that cuts through the hill.

 I've named this little mountain that's about 1.25 miles long by .25 miles wide with 400 feet of relief (maximum) Purple Hill, well, because it looks purple. It gets its color from the extensive coating of gravel that is  a weathering product derived from an underlying layer of very purple andesite. Lying just southeast of Tonuco Peak( San Diego Mountain),  it is part of the Tonuco Uplift.
 We started out from the locked gate on  the power line road, after driving in from the Upham exit  and heading south. We began by walking cross country toward a little gap carved by a sandy arroyo at the very southern tip of the mountain. It's always interesting to keep an eye to the ground out here. The ancient river lain sedimentary rocks have been eroded and reduced to sand and a dizzying variety of stones,pebbles and gravel.  Crystalline  and cryptocrystalline quartz of many colors are the most eye catching, but it would interesting to  sift out a few square yards just to see what can be found.
 After passing through the little gap, we explored the valley on the west side of the hill. There, isolated mounds of the same conglomerate that have not been washed away completely( yet) give rise to sphinx like formations.

The cliffs  of the distant mesa have been dissolved into badlands.We followed the arroyo back into a narrow passage, where we were stopped by a dry waterfall. It might have climbable,but we went around and came down into the hidden little canyon from above on the north side. Following it back, we climbed out and went around its head and then proceeded north and then east off of the mountain, heading back toward our vehicle. We briefly walked  on  couple of  very old roads that see little to no vehicle use these days, to get us back. We saw blue birds flitting about in the creosote and mesquite, one joy of hiking the desert in the winter that I had forgotten about, but was happy to be reminded of.
Nothing to report as far as rock art, but this area is very scenic would definitely be more of destination were it not for the vagaries of property "ownership", albeit in this case by a publicly funded entity.
 Note:  Purple Hill and the surrounding basin are almost entirely within NMSU's Chihuahuan Desert Research Center land. The property is not posted along every fence line,but it is at intersections and entrances that are along dirt roads on the east side of I-25 and at the north and south entrances along the power line road.This is not public land, although the land was once open to public use. It appears that roads and arroyos  along the mesas and in the canyons still receive some use( we saw a few recent vehicle tracks),but mostly likely these are people that are coming from private property along the east side of the river. For the present, entering without permission  should be considered trespassing.
Tomato like fruits hanging from a vine growing on creosote bush.