I'd been thinking for a couple of years about visiting a couple of canyons on the southwest corner of the large basin that lies south of Tonuco Peak. The reason why: on Google Earth they strongly resemble some of the slot canyons I've visited near Lake Roberts. Unfortunately, since NMSU has locked the gates that would have allowed closer vehicle access to the entire Tonuco, Selden Hills region, getting to these canyons means a long approach hike over less than scintillating terrain. So, I've continued to put it off. Well, on Monday afternoon, I just bit the bullet, and headed out at a blistering pace from my parking spot across NM 85 from the Broad Canyon Dam.
I crossed the river and hiked up Flying V Canyon. Staying to the left, I angled my way up arroyos and down ridges to the upper end of Lytten Canyon. I then pushed my way, with one hiking pole and one yucca stalk for leverage, up on the ridge overlooking the basin, with the canyons that were my objective lying directly below me.
Let me say right now that the canyons were a disappointment. They were very small and only mildly slot -like. One was thick with dwarf hackberry trees which would make it bit more attractive come spring, and the alcove pocked sandstone and conglomerate cliffs had a modicum of charm, but that hardly made the two mile approach through monotonous sand and shrubs worth it.
Afterwards I went back through Dancing Man Canyon, where I found a couple more petroglyphs I hadn't spotted last year.
This canyon is deep, peaceful and secluded and made me feel happy to be there despite the wind which had begun its steady, forceful afternoon blow. Rhyolite boulders, and boulders of a conglomerate made of boulders line the sides and lie in the canyon bottom of gray pebbles and sand. It's rough and narrow, even if the grass covered north facing hillside softens the scene and left me wondering why ancient folks would venture up there in the first place. I was reminded as I listened, to cars driving along NM 85, how close I was to the river and that it wouldn't be much of venture for those who lived along the river in ancient times, more like a walk in the backyard.