Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Robledo Mountains Wilderness - Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

First drop

 I've been out to Split Rock Canyon a half dozen times. It's the best of the several " pour-off " canyons on the east side of the Robledos.  I've been to a couple of other ones further south, and several further north as well, but it struck me as strange that I hadn't even looked at the canyon that is immediately to the south of Split Rock until a very recent Google Earth session spying for new hikes. Stanger still, is that it, while  definitely coming in second to Split Rock for dramatic impact and scenery, appeared more than worthy of an investigation. This happens sometimes, the hiding in plain sight phenomena, as thorough as I try to be. Neglected no more, I set out on last Monday (4/13/23) afternoon initially utilizing the Ridgeline Trail of the Prehistoric Trackways NM, before descending down into canyon.

 Oddly, initially there were a series of cairns that appeared to guiding me down the hill. I'm thinking these are leftover from the bicycle trail days of the Robledos. 

There didn't seem any two wheeled traffic utilizing the route now. Eventually, as the cairns headed right, I continued left and entered the canyon. This is a much shorter canyon than Split Rock and the effects of erosion are much less pronounced. While the hike in Split Rock is easy stroll on a mostly flat stream bed. This canyon, which I'm dubbing  either Juniper or Prospect Canyon, is more like giant steps roughly carved out of the massive limestone bedrock.

Along the way are a few of the ancient and mighty junipers that somehow survive, for at least hundreds (as much as a thousand?) of years I would guess, in the inhospitable conditions of these steep ravines that pierce the east side of the range. 

In a short distance, I was at the precipice of the first drop off. I could see two more as the canyon curved and then straightened on its brief trip to the Rio Grande. 


I walked up and out to the north side where there several holes in the hill, with meager tailings, that are the mining prospects. 

The rock they were digging in, a strange looking mix of purple, red, orange white,  was apparently all gangue with no ore. This rock runs in a seam along the east face of the mountains for quite a distance. It is in sharp contrast to the grayish marine limestone and doesn't appear to sedimentary in origin, though I don't know what it is.

 I didn't return quite the way I came. I headed back down  and then in and out of the canyon following old bike/cattle/wildlife trails (of which there myriad in this part of the Robledos) circling around, crossing a few smaller drainages, until I was back at the cairns that had led me down off of the Ridgeline Trail.

 NOTE: while most of this hike was in the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument, Prospect/Juniper Canyon is just over the boundary in the Robledo Mountains Wilderness, part of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks NM, BLM lands, NM State Trust Lands - Winter Hikes


Sleeping Lady Hills

Good Sight Mountains

Sleeping Lady Hills

Sleeping Lady Hills highpoint

Good Sight Mountains

White Sands National Park

Small rattler in the Doña Ana Mountains

I've done several hikes this winter that haven't ended up in the blog. One was to the Good Sight Mountains. There was a couple of LCPS hikes. The first was to the Doña Ana Mountains. A second one was to the Sleeping Lady Hills. Both of those hikes followed the routes described in our book, and covered no new territory. Just last week I visited Spring Canyon in the Robledos for the fourth of fifth time. That hike and the Good Sights hike were mostly over terrain I've covered before as well, which is usually why I don't end up blogging about hike. Good weather was had for all of them, whether it was enough clouds to keep things cool, or enough sun to take the chill off. 

As the temperature was nearly eighty degrees today, I'm sad at the passing of another winter hiking season. Especially, when it seems to come earlier each year. I'm sad that so little new desert territory was explored as well. Oh well, there's always next year. I still may try to get in a few more outings if we get some cool days. Otherwise it's off to the forest.

Spring Canyon (photo by Anne Peslier)

Spring Canyon (photo by Anne Peslier)

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Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Gila National Forest - Pierce Canyon, Cottonwood Creek

Pierce Canyon

Cottonwood Creek

Berrenda Canyon

PA Mountain

Berrenda Canyon

Pierce Canyon

We had a very warm weekend for February. Too warm for walking black dogs in the desert, so we headed up to the Gila National Forest as we do occasionally in the winter. I have had my eye on hiking in Macho Canyon, but at this point it seems like the only public access is to climb over a ridge from the road along Berrenda Creek ( known as the Berrenda Creek Road, CR BO-116, or FR 888). That hike will prove to be a tough one and not the kind of thing we were looking for that Sunday (2/5/23). One of the problems with hiking in the third of the Black Range (aka the Mimbres Mountains )south of NM 152, I've discovered, is that vehicle access to many tens of thousands of acres of forest land is blocked both up to the forest boundary and inholdings beyond, by locked gates across roads on private land. It's a shame, now that almost the entire middle section of the Black Range ( 90% of the Aldo Leopold Wilderness) has been burned severely twice in the last 10 years, that this southern section is not a little more easy to visit. 

Last year I did a couple of hikes starting off from the Tierra Blanca Road (FR 522) and they were wonderful. This day we used the only other access route into the forest on the southeast side to do our little hike up Pierce Canyon and then on up Cottonwood Creek. Getting there was relatively easy, although once we crossed the Forest Service boundary the road conditions weren't the best, especially at the many creek crossings and where side gullies had gouged channels across the road. Still we made it to my trailhead, where the main route dead-ends at a private inholding and a side road (sometimes called FR 889 on some maps) headed off northeast up Pierce Canyon.

We walked along the road (which is quite drivable, at least in dry conditions it would seem, and could be a nice car camping destination) admiring rock formations and the ponderosa pines that grew in pockets on shady north facing slopes. We actually ended up walking past the rather small and inconspicuous mouth of Cottonwood Creek initially ( it empties into an alternate channel of Pierce Canyon right where an enormous rock tower sits along the bank),  but got back on track in short order. 

We found some deer carcasses early on that our dogs were very interested in, and then very quickly found water running in the creek. It seemed a little paradise as we walked on along grassy banks and through narrow, rocky passages. Eventually we came to the bare namesake cottonwoods, and immediately after entered one of those bedrock passages with little waterfalls and cascades that are common to many streams in the Black Range. 

Water ( and a little ice) in Cottonwood Creek
Seamus and Nessie
Bedrock section

I hiked through this section with the dogs while my wife stayed behind. The landscape opened up into even wider meadows and the stream flowed through grass in places similar to the lower end of Rabb Canyon.When the rock formations of Pine Spring Mountain came into view, we turned around.

Pine Spring Mountain in the distance

 It was shirt sleeve weather throughout day, with blue skies and only a very modest amount of wind. This area has some potential for more exploration. Certainly, Cottonwood Creek could be  followed all the to the saddle east of Pine Spring Mountain (where I ended my hike last year), but also if one wants to walk around fence lines ( and has an app like On-X to insure one is not trespassing) several other not too difficult day-hike options come into play. Of course, even a short backpack, could make much more of the area available.

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