Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Canyon Next Door

 I did this little 5 miler on Saturday morning (12/7/2019). Since I now know it to be on State Parks, BLM and State trust lands, I decided to have look at the canyon next door ( to the the south) to the very well known and well traveled Slot Canyon. The scenery, cuestas and cliffs of conglomerates and layered basalt and banded rhyolite, was nice, but not spectacular. I  then moved on to the next canyon to the south. Scenery there wasn't much, so climbed up to the mesa in between and began working my way over hills and ridges back to the arroyo which contains the Slot Canyon. I had a look at the Slot Canyon from above, but didn't go in. I'm still  wondering if this narrow little wonder was created when the arroyo dammed by humans and the storm flow found passage through the easily eroded conglomerate it's carved in.
 NOTE: at the start of this hike I hacked off another bogus NO TRESPASSING sign from the gate.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Dry Canyon Trail ( FT 5774 ) - Lincoln National Forest

After purchasing my Christmas tree cutting permits at the Lincoln NF offices in Alamogordo, I had a few hours to kill before sunset. I decided on the closest forest trail I knew of : FT 5774, Dry Canyon.
 I have passed the access road to this trailhead many, many times while driving on US 82 to more lofty destinations in the forest, and I've always wondered what this trail would be like, but there are  more than a few reasons why it has never been high on my list of choices when visiting the Sacramento District. Even from the highway, it looks more like a desert hike than a forest one, and if I want to hike in the desert it makes more sense to stay closer to home. Near the trailhead there is a recreational shooting area. Beside the fact that I don't particularly care to be around folks shooting guns, I don't like listening to the gunshots the whole time while I'm hiking. There are frequently open bed trailers parked at trailhead also which means, as with many Lincoln NF trails, you will be encountering  motorized traffic during your hike.
Well, all of these were proven to be valid concerns before my 2 hour walk was over.  In addition, the scenery, while nice when scanning distant peaks and cliffs above,  when looking closer to the ground   was the typical desert shrubbery that takes over when an area that is over utilized by livestock.  " Meadow " areas were thick with cow patties and well cropped grasses.
 About 1 3/4 miles in  I went up a side road on the east and found the culprits lounging around in the dry stream bottom where the now contained and piped Dry Canyon Spring # 2 is located. Exploring this canyon ( Rock House Canyon) might be a more worthy destination at some later date, but not one I had time for that day. Back on the main trail I passed an old corral, and walked another 1/2 mile or so, crossing the gravelly creek a couple of more times before turning around.

 I met a local couple on the way back whom I chatted with briefly. Initially there were understandably surprised when they thought I traveled all the way from Las Cruces to hike " this trail ?" I explained about the permits which made it seem a bit more reasonable.
 I've hiked about a mile of the upper end of this trail in the forest, and now a couple of miles of the lower end. There is still around 2 or so miles in the middle I haven't seen, but they may not be worth it, or at least not from the bottom end going up.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Cedar Hills- Another Walkabout - Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

 I wanted to get out in the desert sunshine, even if just for a  few hours, a couple of Sundays ago. I settled on a backdoor route to the Foster Box Canyon. I went up over hills, looking at rocks. I went down towards arroyos, trying not to lose too much elevation against the next hill to conquer. Along the way were four deer and a few cattle.
 Large ancient junipers, and natural cisterns carved and made slick by storm waters rushing through the red rock canyon over millennia,  were the hallmarks of the box.


I explored two alcoves at the rocky top of hill nearby. The larger one had a low wall, and few bits of  grayish chert that could be evidence of long ago use of this shelter. Nearby was a strange hole, which was not a mineral prospect.

I moved to inspecting gray boulders that had tumbled down the hillside and then began hiking up to one of several saddles where cattle always seem to like to congregate in the desert, as evidenced by the abundant cow patties at nearly every one I cross.
 I kept on exploring rocky and rounded peaks on my return trip, and then finally descended to an old excavation with a side road leading to it; perhaps a marble prospect.
 I was back in the truck before the winds turned cold.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Slot Canyon Access Saga

Back in May someone starting putting  NO TRESPASSING signs on the gate where most folks access the popular Slot Canyon hike. While most of the Slot Canyon itself is on BLM land, I wasn't totally sure to whom the land closest to NM 185 belonged.  Years ago there had been a small sign indicating it was the property of New Mexico State Parks. The sign is gone now.
  I had some concern that the parcel of land had changed hands. Some research turned up that the land had once been owned by the Trust for Public Land, but I couldn't get a response from that organization, so I was still unsure.  Earlier this month, someone had reported on my Facebook page for our book Exploring Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument, that there was now  some sort of substance on the gate that caused burning and irritation if touched.
 I found this new wrinkle more than just annoying and began contacting the State Police, the State Land Commissioner's Office, and the Doña Ana County Sheriff. I also went to our county tax assessors and determined definitively that the gate was on a 664 acre parcel that belongs to . . . State of New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources of which NM State Parks is a department. They are the ones who purchased the land in 2009, along with the Broad Canyon Ranch directly across the road.
 I contacted Patrick Nolan of Friends of the  OMDPNM right after first discovering the signs. He then went to work not only periodically removing the signs ( which always went back up), but also, believing the gate was on New Mexico State Trust lands( the State Lands are directly adjacent to the State Parks parcel and this mistake could be easily made), he negotiated a  recreation easement with  them. Two weeks ago we took a student crew( as well the  man who originally did the survey for the state when they acquired the land) from NMSU to survey a  definitive trail route, which is being required by our State Lands commissioner's office.  We also hacked off the NO TRESPASSING sign which had now been secured with a heavier wire.There is an application  and a three thousand dollar fee ( $100 a year for 30 years) to be dealt with in the coming weeks. This initial survey didn't quite work as the equipment in use that morning required a continuous cell signal, but we will be back to complete it in the very near future.
 State Parks has also contacted me and  assured that they are not the ones posting the signs and that they will be meeting with the BLM soon to hopefully workout access through their property as well. Wheels grind slowly, but they are in motion and hopefully the person who foolishly tried to discourage people from visiting their public lands will cease and desist before law enforcement has to get involved.  In the meantime please feel free to climb over the gate and do the hike as people have done for years now. We were glad to see several young families visiting the morning of the 16th who were happy to be photographed for the Friends of the OMDPNM Facebook page which we also hope will discourage the sign posting individual when they see the faces of real people who  are potentially being affected by their negative actions.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

West Potrillo Mountains

Visited a small mountain top to look at some rock rings, most likely made Apaches when constructing temporary shelters. Walked around the entire little flat-peaked hill, which is, volcanic, bu not a cinder cone as are many peaks in the area. Found more than a dozen of these structures, but little else in the way of artifacts, except for a more recent one: a very old Cuervo Tequila bottle.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Caballero Canyon ( Forest Trail 103 ) - Lincoln National Forest

I like visiting the trails off the West Side Road ( FR 90) in early November. When it's already feeling like winter up at the higher elevations of the Lincoln, in these canyons, ridges and mesas it still feels like the last of fall.
 I started out around 11:30. There is a primitive road off of FR 90 at the trailhead sign and very limited parking at the trail start itself. The " trail" is a very rocky old road that was  constructed to access the water pipeline in the canyon. The brown sandstone rocks that cover the path  are a bit too big to traverse easily, and my ankles were getting twisted this way and that, as the steep grade of the descent pulled me down and down over the first mile or so.

There was finally some relief as trail hit a wide grassy meadow on a plateau still well above the stream bottom. The views of massive Hershberger Peak were impressive. The trail skirted the edge of the meadow and then began to descend again alongside a dirt ravine. As I walked along I spied a huge pile of rusty pedestals or supports in the ditch, and had no idea what they were until I reached the pipeline itself later.

Further on the the trail turns sharply to the left at old concrete trough. There is a sign pointing the way Another rough road went to the right. It follows an upper branch of the canyon up to the waterfall near FR 90. Past the trough the trail begins a second descent, this time over slippery limestone gravel, and the pipeline, along with the sounds of trickling water inside, appeared, emerging from the ground and being supported by the same type of metal pedestal I had seen earlier.

The last bit of road is in two segments right before hitting the canyon bottom. One goes straight down following the pipe, the other goes wide to the left and takes a single switch back. I took the left route down and straight one on the way back up. Views of the riparian area's golden cottonwoods and scarlet sumac brought a smile to my face as I knew  that soon the best part of the hike would commence.
The creek,  though dry at the crossing, was shaded with large hackberry trees, the major branches like human limbs in a contortionist pose, the gray skin-like bark pocked with blisters.
On the other side the trail went up into  uninviting shadeless terrain with cactus and mesquite. It wasn't too difficult to decide to head down the creek itself, and lo and behold water appeared very shortly. It flowed for over a mile past cottonwoods and sumac, over layers of shale and sandstone bedrock, and under the pipeline itself.

 I came upon a few cattle giving me  the evil eye right near where a spring emerged in the gravel. I cut them a wide berth as I came across the trail again and then a wood and barbed wire section of fence with the gate lying in the grass. Now there would be just remnants of the trail on through the thickets of apache plume on the banks and most of the walking would be in the gravel of the arroyo itself. Grapevine clung to the limestone cliffs and few colorful ash trees popped out here and there, but now it was desert canyon zig-zagging down slowly to the city below. A rusty, smaller diameter pipeline of much older vintage clinging the rock walls followed.

I probably was a little less than a mile from the  where the Caballero Trail meets the Alamo Trail ( FT 104 ), when I decided to turn around. It was slow walk up, but not unpleasant and clouds and fading sun made for much cooler temperatures. I rested a few times, the water in the buried pipeline could be heard in the quiet afternoon, as I sat. Along the way I kept noticing the many pieces of bluish white chert on the road and ground along the roadsides and came across  a large piece of petrified wood as well. I was back at the truck a little after 4, the last autumn light faded quickly.  Perhaps many of destinations here in southern New Mexico aren't as spectacular as other parts of the southwest ( although some certainly are) but there is something else to be considered: it was a Saturday, during hunting season no less, with a town of  30,000 people just a few miles away, and I never saw another person for close to five hours.