Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Another Las Uvas Walkabout 2017- Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument

Here are some photos from a second walkabout done in the same territory as the most recent post. This area is very rugged, and although not too far from the paved Corralitos Road,  it quickly gives one the feeling of being somewhere extremely remote. There are no roads, or trails and with  the exception of pasture fences,  virtually no evidence of modern man.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Las Uvas Walkabout 2017- Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument

 The south facing escarpment of the Sierra de las Uvas is quite dramatic. From vast flatlands that extend for hundreds of square miles, peaks and mesas rise  an  abrupt 1000 feet.Dry mountainsides in alternating layers of orange and white are punctuated with steep boulder strewn defiles. It always feels like seeing a good friend as I rise  on the Corralitos Road up into the juniper and grass chaparral  of the central highland plateau where more peaks and mesas rise from the upper Valles Canyon headwaters another  1000 feet higher still.
 I've done  several walkabouts on the west side of paved road in this region, but this past Sunday I ventured out onto mountains and canyons on the east. As  before, it was a lot of up and down as the hike varied in elevation from little over 5900 feet to just under 4900 feet. Seamus and I sidehilled up steep ridges, dove down into rocky canyons too on the way out. On the way back in, we more sensibly tried a bit of contour hiking which led us more gently to our vehicle.
 Along the way we had several raptors screech in our direction, had our first encounter with Montezuma quail who seemed so unfamiliar at the sight of a human and dog they didn't know how to react, only taking to air when it seemed like I was going to be able to reach down and pick one up.
 Water and sometimes ice lingered in pools where the stream bottom was washed clean of sand and gravel to reveal a pinkish orange bedrock where we found a few ancient grinding mortars as well.
 One section of a canyon got so narrow, it was like a miniature slot carved into the gray rock. This was where we were stopped by seemingly deep, dark, pool  of what was surely very cold water. We climbed around it and then tried  coming back up from the bottom to see the lower end of the little slot, but were eventually turned around by an increasingly unmanageable collection of enormous boulders just below our destination.

 We did find two heavy iron miner's bits laying in a big, empty pocket of one boulder. As with our recent discovery of a mine in another part of the Uvas, I'm not sure what they could have been  used to mine for, and I doubt they realized much of return on their investment in those pieces of equipment.
 It was still early afternoon as we headed back, bathed in the sun, but with just enough wind to keep us from getting hot( in January!).  We stopped more frequently than usual and I enjoyed the variety of views from high places after so many canyon hikes of late.We crossed bedrock rills, weaved through the junipers and saw the largest all thorn plant I have yet see.

 A thorn that  has been lodged in the rubber of my boot worked its way up through the sole, as it is wont to do, and poked me painfully enough to make me angry. I realized I  had no means of pulling it out, so all I could do was shove it back down and  after a good rest I just hoped for the best on the last mile back to the car.

 NOTE: The low water crossings along the Corralitos Road are prone to filling with mud,sand and water after storms. Be very cautious if you are not driving a high clearance, four wheel drive vehicle.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Faulkner Forks- Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument

Went out for short hike to an area  that is the headwaters of Faulkner Canyon. Getting there was bit of an adventure because I was driving the Corolla not the 4Runner. Coming from the Corralitos Road  then onto the dirt road that branches off at a near 90 degree turn, I was really pushing the envelope a bit as the low clearance sedan was tearing up grass,dirt and weeds trying to avoid a flooded and muddy section of a road that's usually pretty benign. I made it to my planned starting point,but later I talked with friendly rancher who told me  I was "pretty brave" to come that far in car.  More like foolhardy.I started out at Hawkins Tank North, went down to the confluence with Indian Springs Canyon, and then  explored a different canyon on the north side. On way back in, I  explored the main canyon,before going overland  to my car parked near  the tank. There were plenty of plump bunnies and fat jackrabbits darting out wherever I went. I saw a coyote  trotting by. He looked well fed and I knew why. I looked at what I thought to be onyx deposits in one canyon wall that had been prospected. I also found a couple of walls attached to flat faced rock. I don't know how old they were,but they had to be older than the creosote bush that was growing between them.Not much else to report, although there are still a few spots I 'd like check out in this area one day in the future.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Hersey Arroyo, Rock and Horse Canyons- Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument

Hersey, Rock and Horse Canyons are three of the nine or so named watercourses on the east side of the Sierra de las Uvas.  Hersey Arroyo and Rock Canyon  run along the north and south  sides of the Barksdale Road ( Doña Ana County E006) respectively. Horse Canyon lies just south of Rock.
   Andrea, Seamus, Nessie and I visited Rock Canyon first on a cloudy  December 30th. We parked  at the first set of corrals one encounters on E006 when heading west from NM185. The canyon started off  shallow, but soon we entered the brief, but very scenic red rock box section. The narrows continue with cliffs of conglomerate that almost look like they're oozing. Eventually, the channel widens near where a very old remnant of a road comes down to the canyon on the south side. Past this point. it appeared the canyon had very little to recommend it, so we turned back. Back in the box section, I gave a closer look to the canyon walls and discovered a couple of petroglyphs.

 On Monday, I hiked Horse Canyon with David Soules. We did a loop  with the huge nameless arroyo  to the south, which I dubbed Kemado Canyon back in September. Horse, below Ward Tank, other than being deep, had very little of interest to offer us. We hiked out after exploring an equally uninspiring tributary and began crossing the rock strewn mesa above, heading south toward Kemado Canyon.   Walking over to the Horner Tank  dam  to avoid  the deep ditch just downstream, we then  walked east down into a side canyon just below the box section of Kemado Canyon The side canyon was a rugged,little detour and then we were off into the box. I was glad we were going back through this fun, rough little wonder, for both our sakes, as much of the hike had been a bit dull so far. Once out of the narrow section we found an old mine shaft that I must have walked right by the first time I visited here. As far as I know, the Uvas are not known for any deposits of minerals of economic significance, so  I am very curious as to what they were mining,  or what they were looking for.
 Soon we were hiking up above on the mesa  where the  road that is an extension of County Road E006A took us back to David's truck.
  Back at the corrals on Tuesday, Seamus, Nessie and I  parked and started off for the box section of Hersey Arroyo, while two free  roaming horses watched.  This certainly seemed like it would be the most scenic of the three( partly due, I'm sure, to the sunshine) almost immediately. Right below Hersey Tank was a collection of giant black boulders, every one shot through with veins and pockets of the blue, white and gray agate that is found all over the Uvas Range.

Further down, cliffs of deep brown and bold orange  rock edged the mesa ridges above us as the canyon deepened.Large bare desert willows were all along the  gravel banks. I eyeballed every likely looking boulder on the shelves between the channels, and every flat cliff face for rock art,  as well as the few bedrock shelves for grinding mortars, but alas, found nothing.
  I did find a rusty bandaid box though. When the canyon began to open up into a wash, we turned around. Seamus led us up side canyon that had deep pools of green water.

We climbed up on the hilltop to the south, then back into another bedrock side canyon, with a few junipers on its grassy hillsides, that led us back to Hersey Arroyo where we backtracked to the 4Runner. It was three good days in the desert

Apache Flats revisited- Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument

My wife, her parents- Dennis and Carol Hermes-, Seamus, Nessie and myself went out  to one of the Apache Flats petroglyph sites a couple of days before Christmas.  Although I knew I could drive right up to the site, my plan was to park and do a short walk across the desert grasslands to reach Apache Tank and the rock art. Well, I haven't been there in over ten years and as we all walked, all except Seamus who was chasing jackrabbits, I realized after about a mile and a half that I had parked about a mile short of where I wanted to be. I told everyone to wait, went and retrieved the 4Runner, picked everyone up and drove right up to the site. We got our walk, and we got to the petroglyph site , just not quite like I planned. We spent quite awhile roaming around on the boulders taking photos until we'd all had our fill. It was a nice day at a site that's easily accessible if not as impressive as others in the Monument and nearby areas. See my earlier blog- "Apache Flats, Pine Canyon" for  more photos.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Basin Tank Escarpment- Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument

 I made two trips out to  the Basin Tank area of the Sierra de las Uvas in December. The first trip, with David Soules, was an all day exploration in and out several rugged canyons, through a boulder field, around a mesa , and down a long sandy wash. Always on the lookout for any signs of ancient people we found none, but it was fun trip nonetheless.
The Basin Tank Escarpment is the rugged transition area from the highland areas  of Bell Top, Tailholt Mountain, and the high ridge east of Valles Canyon  down to the arroyos and washes that collect and flow towards Broad Canyon. The environs near the tank that are almost completely devoid of vegetaion told us the area has obviously  had a long history of overgrazing and erosion.  The check dams  we found, made of volcanic rock, that were perhaps built during the CCC era  in an eventually unsuccessful attempt to help  combat  these problems  were further evidence.
 Seamus and I first headed up and into a huge field of dark volcanic boulders while David explored some steep canyons. After Seamus spotted some javelinas, but did not chase, I leashed him up temporarily. We  then met up with David and all made our way down a canyon that I thought could hold water and perhaps rock art or grinding mortars, but found none. We headed further west over a low saddle and then began exploring up a very rugged canyon which did hold water among it's huge orange boulders. Above the rock fall, the canyon took on mellower aspect surrounded by grasslands  punctuated with sparse juniper and low live oak. Above us were many alcoves. David explored one of the larger ones but it held no evidence of human use.

Before we departed, we explored a short distance up one more canyon close to where we parked and then we were off. It had been long day. There was one more canyon I wanted to see, but the darkness was coming fast.
 I returned a few days later to explore that last remaining canyon. Directly above a dry waterfall that I had to backtrack and climb around, I found a couple of grinding mortars.

All along the upper canyon were pools carved in the  gray bedrock that held water from the rains 5 days previous. Some were over 2 feet deep, a situation that surprised Seamus when he got into one to take drink. We continued up and up to the top of the mesa that overlooks Broad Canyon to the east. I wandered around a bit on a bench below the rim, and then made my way down into Broad Canyon to head back to my vehicle and complete my loop. Afterwards I drove down to the corrals near Hersey Place where Broad Canyon cuts through and obvious dike of of harder volcanic rock. I climbed up top to look around for evidence of the spring that once flowed just downstream from here but could see none. The windmill  at the corrals, however, is still putting out water  here and Seamus got in the disgusting pool to make sure he would be nice and filthy when he got back in the car.

UPDATE: In April(2017), I explored the top end of the canyon that David and I  went a short distance up. This time I came around from Broad Canyon  using a combination of canyons, cross country and an almost vanished road that begins across from Silva Springs Canyon. The upper  streamcourse had a lot of bedrock,boulders,  and cuts through a layer of basalt. It also had one large and several smaller dry waterfalls,some good sized junipers and some huge octotillo just beginning to bloom. What it didn't have was rock art or grinding mortars, but it was fun.

 NOTE- After leaving the county roads E006 and E006A, the road down into Broad Canyon is in very poor condition. After  a boulder strewn crossing of Broad Canyon, the road to Basin Tank is rapidly moving toward oblivion.