Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Picture Rock Canyon revisited- Tonuco Uplift

 I went out with the LCPS hiking group to the Tonuco Uplift on December 17th, one of the worst weather days in recent memory. Around 8 AM, it was warm, partly sunny and I was hoping for the best as we headed out to the site. By 8:30, dark clouds rolled in,  and the wind which was only supposed to be in the 20-25 mph range was  more like 35-40 mph and gusting substantially higher (winds at St. Augustine Pass in the Organ Mountains were over 100 mph). The Border Patrol stop on I-25 was closed for the first time ever in my experience, and just up the highway an 18 wheeler  heading south had been blown completely over.  A huge rainbow appeared to the northwest as we parked our vehicles above the big arroyo, which some took as a good sign.  The clouds were breaking up when we emerged from our vehicles, but the wind seemed to be at hurricane force as the leader( yours truly) gave everyone the option of cancelling.
To my surprise everyone still wanted to go. So down we went where the thick sands of the big arroyo  were blown by the cold wind into our teeth. We shouted  at each other as we walked in a ridiculous attempt at light trail conversation. I told everyone the winds would surely subside in the narrow little north-south canyon where we were headed,but time seemed to stand still as we pushed westward against the wind blowing from west to east.
 We did make it,  and all was quiet again when the rain began to fall. By this time we had blue sky overhead, so all I could figure was the rain was blowing in from distant clouds perhaps a mile or more away. The precipitation,though not intense, made climbing up and around  the smooth rock of the two dry waterfalls even more tricky. We made it to the petroglyphs, where the wind gained access to us again. Unfortunately, this, and the rough terrain of the boulder field,  severely curtailed  people's exploration of the hundreds of images here. On we persevered. This time going up the canyon  that heads east at the confluence. I had not been up this side canyon since the very first time I visited this site on a warm June day that I  had no  business doing a desert hike on.  Back then, I had the idea to make a shortcut across the upland and ended up going down a crack in the cliffs that I had no business descending, rather than go the long way around in that heat.
 I took the group this way because, I wanted them to see the huge fish petroglyph in this canyon,  and to see a mini- arch I remember from that hike long ago.  And I wasn't planning any shortcut this time, but  was going to use  the old road eventually for a strategic leg of our loop.Well, the wind was blowing so hard I could barely keep steady to snap a picture of the fish.Plus, the light was entirely wrong at this time of day rendering many details of the image all but invisible.
There were actually 3 little arches further up the canyon, but I forgot to get a photo of any of them. We were mostly out of the wind again in this canyon, and happily the group was fascinated by all interesting rocks and minerals at their feet.  I had the idea to stay in another arroyo( that paralleled the road) and off the road  until we absolutely needed it( to stay out of the wind) and bypassed our first opportunity to  get on it. Eventually we had to use it  to get down through the cliffs,after which we took the most direct line possible,battling the wind the entire way.  Although, all of my trips to this wonderful place have been memorable, this may end up standing out for the wonderfully ridiculous persistence of having forged ahead on a day when most sensible folks  all over the region were hunkered down waiting out the storm.
UPDATE: I returned on a much, much milder(almost too warm) late October day this year (10/28/17) with photographer friend David Daniel and got a much better picture of the fish.

1 comment:

Jean-Claude Linossi said...
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