Wednesday, April 19, 2017

North Percha Creek (FT 757) - Aldo Leopold Wilderness( Gila NF)

It's probably been close to 10 years since we hiked here last and this was either the third or fourth time we've done this trail. The last time we tried, there was no place to park past the private property and before the first creek crossing which we did not attempt in our two wheel drive truck. There was much unhappiness backing up the narrow road and turning around that day( read about it in this blog's entry for April 21, 2014 " Black Range East Side"). The first part of road was clear this past Sunday( April 17,2017) and there was enough room to park  a hundred yards in or so,but I had forgotten completely about the treacherous first crossing and even though I had four wheel drive this time, I ended up doing the backing up trick again. I might've gone for it at the crossing, if my wife hadn't been with me. There is a fairly large camping and parking area on the other side, which would be the main advantage,because shortly afterward there is the second crossing which no one appears to be crossing at all, so  hiking time  added round trip amounts to something less than 10 minutes.
 Off we went with Seamus and Nessie. The creek was flowing nicely still, which was great for Seamus who loves to get right in, but bad for little Nessie who would rather not get even her feet wet.
 The streamside was delightfully overgrown with bright green bunches of willows and alder saplings, so sometimes it was easier to  just step from rock to rock in the stream rather  than look for a trail that wasn't there.  The Silver Fire did not touch the first couple of miles.It was nice to see all the firs and pines doing well on the steep hillsides. Along the stream besides the willows and alders were fully leafed out chokecherry, box elder and walnut. At the big horseshoe bend where you realize you're in canyon about a 1,000 feet deep there is small waterfall and every pool above it,as elsewhere in the stream, was alive with insects both on and below the surface of the crystal clear water.

 Past the  Virginia Mine the old road becomes easier to  follow  on the benches in the much widened stream valley. It was easy walking on  rapidly disappearing tread  that continued through grassy clearings and shady conifers.

There is nothing left of the large wooden building that I photographed almost 20 years ago, except for the sheets of tin that were once its roof and parts of an old woodstove.  It had collapsed on subsequent trip, and now there's not even a a trace of old  dried lumber which was surely instantly turned to ash and blown on the breeze as stringers from the Silver Fire made their way down the mountain.Another nearby  building that's built into the hillside and still had its glass window and tin roof back then is just the cobblestone walls now.

Effects of the fire are most obvious as we approached the gorge. Where once a lush forest concealed all but the tops of the 500 foot high cliffs of bare igneous rock from view, now the entire  buttress of stone  that is the north wall is visible from quite a ways back. There are surviving trees however, so the view isn't entirely bleak ( see my blog " North Percha Creek" from 5/26/10 to compare images).

 The gorge is one of the most spectacular places that I know of in the Black Range,and  making it even better, as if  in confirmation of how special this place is, are ancient pictographs on the overhanging walls at the base of the cliffs.

As we walked further up the narrow canyon, I spied a tom turkey walking up the steep hillside on my left. Seamus clued in, and even as I tried to discourage him, went in pursuit. Well, we were all more than a bit surprised when this huge bird took to the air and flew over our heads back down the canyon. The stream runs over bedrock  through most of this section and I was hoping to see a little cascade further upstream  I  remembered from years ago but, we turned around before finding it. Walking back, with our necks craning at the immense rock towers on either side of the canyon, we took many photographs, but I knew that none would really do this place justice. You would need much better photography equipment,  but really it's better to just be there.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Diablo Canyon-BLM Taos District, Santa Fe National Forest

We went out to hike this canyon west of Santa Fe last Saturday (3/25/17). Rock climbing on the  towering columns of basalt seems to be the main draw here. Folks with ropes and helmets easily outnumbered the handful of day hikers we met along the way, even though it was a very pleasant first weekend of Spring.

The short box section is the real attraction here, and it had us craning necks with the requisite amount of awe. Unfortunately,once past the box, the hike became a rather monotonous trudge in the much widened, thick sands of the shadeless Buckman Wash.

We had planned to hike down to the river which would have made a roundtrip journey between 5 and 6 miles,but the bright sunshine and open terrain had us taking our black dogs for refuge under one too many scraggly juniper, so we made the decision to turn back with about 3/4 of mile still left to go.The clouds came soon afterwards which made our walk back much more pleasant.

 On our return we saw many chains dangling from one overhang, and I wasn't sure I entirely I approved of the practice of installing permanent anchors.
 After arriving back at the parking area, we drove the remaining couple of miles of the Buckman Road down to the river, where the wash creates a break in the rugged cliffs. It was high, brown,  and foamy with a large rapid that was running backwards just downstream from us. A very raw and uninviting time and place to contemplate our beloved Rio.

The Taos BLM website had great directions to the Diablo Canyon and other attractions on BLM land in the northern New Mexico. Check it out.