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 in, we more sensibly tried a bit of contour hiking which led us more gently back 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.