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.


Clay Sensiba said...

i have lately been really fascinated with hiking areas around las cruces. i have really been going crazy just wanting to go and explore my beautiful home area. and i am always trying to find new places to go. im glad i found this blog. do you ever take other people on hikes with you? id love to maybe tag along on one if at all possible and learn from an expert as much as i can about exploring.

devon said...

I have been leading hikes for Las Cruces Public Schools employees for the past 5 months. It's supposed to be for LCPS employees and families. However, I believe it would be alright if I invited a guest. The next one is on January 28th to Box Canyon. I can give more of the details if you like. The Southwest Environmental Center does their "back before noon" hikes throughout much of the year as well. I haven't led any so far,but I have friends who have. They are open to everyone,but require a donation. There is also the Octotillo Hikers group, which is mostly made up of very hardy retired folk who hike 2 or 3 times a week to many of same places in my blog. I frequently hike alone(or just with my Scottie Seamus),but my wife joins me sometimes, and I do go out with a couple friends as well.

Polly Mayuric said...

Hi Devon, My wife and I met you on your LCPS hike January 28th back near Box Canyon. We're the folks visiting from Pennsylvania.
If you recall we asked you how to get to Deer Canyon. I believe that it is the same place as you refer to as Middle Canyon out on Valley Road. We tried to find it and had no luck. I remember that you said we would have to park on one side of the river and then cross the Rio Grande on foot. We tried but could not find the spot.
Would you be kind enough to spell out those directions for us again - perhaps in a little more detail? Like we told you, we really enjoy your blog and have been following you for years. It was great to meet you the other day. Keep up the great work.

Jim and Polly

devon said...

I'm sorry I didn't get to you sooner. I've been out of town. I can email you a google earth image if that will help. I don't always find the same way up onto the west bank,but from wherever you make your crossing keep in mind that the first really large arroyo is almost directly across from the recommended parking area. It will take you back to either Deer Canyon( which I call Big Canyon) on your right( north) or Middle Canyon on your left(south). Here are the driving directions from our upcoming book:Beginning at the intersection of US 70( Picacho Avenue) and NM 185( North Valley Drive), head north on NM 185 for 9 miles. Turn left( west) onto a dirt road that will take you up on the levy road. Turn right on the levy road, where you will quickly take the road on your left leading down and off the levy and park.