Tuesday, January 9, 2018

West Fork Robledo Canyon- Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument

 Believe or not  I was already on the road by 7:00 AM on New Year's Day heading out to the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument. I was going out to meet friends David and Nancy Soules who were doing an overnight backpack/ through hike of the Robledos. They had been dropped off near Robledo Cave and had hiked up Indian Springs Canyon. I was going to provide their ride back and to do the last leg of their hike with them.
 The sun wasn't quite up yet when Seamus and I got out of the 4Runner. It was clear and cold, maybe low to mid twenties. I was sufficiently layered up,but my gloves were thin and my hands quickly chilled down and would not warm up as we began our hike on the mesa. I was walking in a headwind as well, and I was hoping it wasn't going to last all day. It brought to mind childhood times when out sleigh riding or playing football in the snow when my hands and feet would be nearly numb despite heavy exertion. In the present day, all it took was climbing a couple of steep hills to really get the blood flowing  and freezing hands were no longer a problem.
We took the old road toward Split Rock Canyon, just as I had done with my LCPS hiking group a few weeks earlier. When we got to the crossing, I took the north branch of the canyon instead of continuing on the barely visible road. Eventually, we went up on the ridge to the north and very steeply down a rough tributary that was entirely in the shade and still quite cold. Near the bottom were some dry pools and falls carved in the bedrock that we had to hike around. Soon thereafter we were in huge  Robledo Canyon just downstream from where it splits into its two major forks.
The plan was  I would meet David and Nancy somewhere along in the west fork. So, Seamus and I began  a light-hearted march through the first of the curves  that twist at the bottom of this deep canyon, inspecting limestone walls and  admiring massive junipers both dead and alive.

Seamus had chased a couple of jackrabbits earlier on with no great enthusiasm, but when three deer materialized at the edge of the canyon ahead of us, it was off to the races. Two went up the very steep hill on our left and Seamus pursued. They were long gone in seconds, but my Scottie had a hard time giving up, going higher and higher still, even as I called repeatedly after him, breaking the near complete silence of the winter morning. He did negotiate his way back down for a treat and drink. My tired, but exhilirated companion only rested momentarily before we continued on.
In a wide section of stream with a row of trees and brush in the middle, I was going up one side when I realized David, Nancy and their dog Hank were coming down the other.
They told me about their long winter night in a tent as we began to walk downstream. We checked out a couple of little alcoves in the cliffs and then continued on as we both expressed admiration for the beautiful little canyon we were in, and  a bit of disappointment at its lack of rock art, or other evidences of ancient peoples.

David did find a very old trap, and I found the same evergreen sumac  bush that had puzzled me( due to its full green foliage in January) on a similar winter day many years ago.  I couldn't interest them in going down to the box section of Robledo Canyon, so we took the almost completely invisible old road out of the canyon, a steep 250 foot climb and began follow it as best we could on the hilltop.
Hank went after a jackrabbit up there and got very close to catching it. The abrasive limestone he was running on was tough on his pads though, and he seemed a little tender footed for awhile afterwards.
 I did convince Nancy and David to at least go down to the dry waterfall in Split Rock Canyon. We all snacked and rested there a bit, with the incredible views laid out before us. I was glad when they both told me it was definitely a worthwhile side trip.

 Now all that was left was the trudge up and down a few more steep hills on the Ridgeline Trail to get back to the trailhead. Seamus was dog- tired. This was the longest hike he had been on in awhile, and I'm sure chasing deer up that hill didn't help much either.
Somewhere along the way I left my REI binoculars on the trail. I'm not really a binoculars person. I rarely bother to get them out of the backpack, and I don't really want to wear them around my neck , so it didn't seem like too big of a loss,but if you are out hiking somewhere between Split Rock Canyon and the Discovery Site Trail( Trackways) and you find them in their little cloth sling. They are mine.

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