Saturday, September 29, 2018

Sleeping Lady Hills Walkabout-Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument

 I went for a little hike up a canyon in the Sleeping Lady Hills this past Sunday (9/23/30). It was a little warm, but still pleasant. The summer rains had the place seeming almost lush especially when compared to winter time hikes I've done there. Grasses on north facing slopes were thick. Junipers and prickly pear were plump.

  I saw red tail hawks, lizards,  a jack rabbit so big I though it was a fawn and many tiny birds flitting about in the shrubs. I also accidentally put an owl out of his or her daytime perch. Cliffs and boulders were inspected up to and along the ridges in all three upper branch of the canyon. But all that was found was an old, but well preserved can of luncheon meat in the shelter provided from a leaning boulder.
 I call this a walkabout as I have other hike in the area, because the Sleeping Lady Hills have only one named feature Reichey Butte and I wasn't particulary close to it, but rather just wandering on nameless canyons and hills.

I did happen upon a good horse/cattle trail that may used for rides out from the Corralitos Ranch which I had good views of from the saddle at the back of the canyon.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Silver Creek Canyon-Gila National Forest

claim marker

Last year I visited the lower falls and box canyon of Silver Creek by hiking up from its confluence with Bear Trap Canyon. This year I wanted to visit the upper canyon above the Silver Creek Road to check out the falls there. It's a long drive to get to the start of this hike. I left the house at 8 and wasn't hiking until 10:30 or so. The Silver Creek Road ( FR 523) has a couple of bad crossings over Little Gallinas Creek, but otherwise is quite drivable.  I was glad to see the old cabins we had visited 8 or 9 years ago had not burned ( see "Silver Creek Road" in this blog).  The large Columbia Mine nearby which previously was concealed in thick forest was easily visible amongst the burnt trees.
About a quarter mile from  Silver Creek crossing, there are berms that prevent vehicles from traveling any further, but there is a large turnaround/parking area. This was all put in place, I'm sure, because where the roads meets Silver Creek, it is completely washed away. There would be no way to turnaround at that point either.
 There is a little bit of a mine road to follow up initially on the north side of the stream. Most people would not notice it. Past the mine there are a few old blazes on ponderosa pines, but the trail is mostly invisible.
Not to worry though, because the flood has left many parts of creek scraped clean to the bedrock which makes for easy walking. I continued up with my only companions the little yellow warblers darting in and out of the shrubs and bushes. There is one tough section of boulders and fallen snags, but after that comes the falls which are over bare limestone bedrock.

 Unfortunately there was just the barest of trickles when I visited. I plan to come back when the flows are better though, because this series of steep slides, cascades,  and drops will be quite a show. The whole section with cliffs and alcoves on the north side is very rugged and still quite scenic despite the damage done by the Silver Fire back in 2013.

At the top of the falls section there is fifteen foot drop. I tried to climb up the rock on the north side, but really couldn't get a good footing. I then decided to ascend a narrow break in the bedrock with small oak trees and their protruding roots, both of which I used for leverage.
  I got up on top and was now standing where I stood nearly six years ago ( see " Grandview Trail FT 146- Gila National Forest" in this blog). The forest here was as green and beautiful as it's ever been, even though I was only short distance from ground zero of the Silver Fire. A short ways upstream  the entire mountaintop had burned.

  The ascent up the canyon had been a little slow and a little warm but now the descent was quick and easy. Back at the road, I decided to explore to north on the closed section of the road which was  rapidly returning to a natural state with fallen  trees concealed in a thickets of wildflowers.
 I was looking down into Rustlers Canyon, when I decided I had enough. The road still continued for perhpas a 1/2 mile down across the drainage and then up on the other side. I could see the Mineral Mountain Mine and the plateau where it dead-ends across the way.
 I now began hiking back to my vehicle.  Squirrel-sized lizards ran out of nooks in the crumbling chalk like rock beside the road, and then seeing me, ran back in. I looked over to the rock bluffs of Haystack Mountains and down the bleached bedrock of lower Silver Creek. I enjoyed long distance views  to all of the western lands of the Gila. There were a few isolated thunderstorms well off in the distance, but just scattered, fast moving clouds and blue sky over my head.

 On my drive back. I saw a cinnamon colored bear right along the Royal John Mine Road.   It didn't really register with me at first that I was seeing a bear. The way he stared at me for a few moments  was more like something a big goofy dog might do.  I was wondering if the the hunters a hundred yards behind him had noticed our encounter when he ran off.
  As   I continued to drive down and down on the narrow and winding, but well maintained road,the rolling hills of green grass, with oak, piñon and juniper in the folds  along the lower reaches of Cold Springs Canyon warmed my heart the way only a Gila landscape can.