Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Apache Creek Interpretive Trail, FT 16 - Gila National Forest

 We went out to this site a couple of weeks ago (7/3/24). It's a lower elevation hike for the area so it was already getting to be a bit too warm. I'm sure it is too hot right now. The sign for the site, right at the intersection of the primitive road (4177 R) and the well maintained  FR 94, was completely obscured by a huge section of a huge ponderosa pine that had fallen across the road to the parking area.  At first I wasn't sure what to do. I didn't want to just start walking down the road because I didn't want lengthen the hike any with the morning warming up rapidly and me with two black scottie dogs. Another section of the tree had fallen the other way which seemed to block going around the rather considerable stump. Looking closer though, it seemed that we could just squeeze the 4Runner in between the standing snag and the fallen section, which it what we did. 

 After parking we started to the left where the trail quickly got rough and steep. Luckily, our older dogs seemed up for the adventure, although they didn't quite understand all the switchbacks.

Soon we were at the  cliff face where the trail leveled out and the scrub live oaks provided welcome shade. It was mostly easy walking that had a sweet cozy feel as we looked for petroglyphs and listened (but didn't hear any) for snakes.

The rock art here isn't the best, certainly not in league of the site along the Tularosa River that we visited last year.  There isn't a whole lot of it either so you have to keep your eyes peeled if you want to see what's there. Just as I was wondering why the all of the petroglyphs were on the cliff faces and not on any of the abundant broken-off boulders, we came upon two marvelously clear ancient spirals on a large gray angular rock. Unfortunately, immediately adjacent, were someone's painstakingly scratched initials of a much more recent vintage.

 There were lovely views of the pine clad mountains the grassy valleys from up top. The descent offered a little more shade than the ascent. All in all it was a nice, but very short, hike. If you go in the summer, get there as early as you can.

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Saturday, June 29, 2024

Gila National Forest - Berrenda Creek, Pierce Canyon area


Looking back toward Berrenda Creek

Volcanic rock with many nodules giving it the look of fossilized limestone.

Sotol forest

Dummy bomb like the ones I've found at Doña Ana County target sites

For some reason I completely spaced out and didn't put this trip on the blog. Well, maybe not for just some reason. Maybe I was subconsciously blocking it out because it wasn't the best of days in the outdoors. 

 I had been trying to figure out a way over into Macho Canyon from Berrenda Creek (while avoiding trespassing on any of the several private inholdings in the area), but let me say before I get too far into this  that the route we started out this day on is definitely not it. We parked  on the right very shortly after entering forest service land. At first we followed a livestock/wildlife trail back along the little side creek headed west. Easy stuff except for low branches and loose soil and gravel. Pretty quickly though the mostly dry creek became a steep-sided gully cut into the whitish-gray (volcanic ash?) bedrock. Then it branched, then it branched again. The side branches were much the same as the main one with only the narrowest of little ridges in between. We would go out of ravine to avoid a small drop-off only to realize the ravine was way safer than the loose gravel and steep slopes above. It  became more than chore, especially given we had to keep lifting our short legged dogs to get them up to the next level of the tight canyon. We weren't making much progress, or having much fun, and we couldn't see where we were going. 

Narrow passage below a waterfall

We got up out of the canyon to look up at a maze of formations in front of us with absolutely no clear cut way to proceed. This whole little boondoggle reminded me once again of folly (sometimes) of letting  satellite images be my guide to unknown places. Google Earth images compress the verticality of any terrain and can't let me see through trees. Elevation changes of less than 25 feet can't really be discerned either and can be mighty inconvenient on the ground when confronted with a 15 foot drop-off in a canyon that's only six feet wide.

 The formations of white and orange were pretty cool though and we took our pictures and began our treacherous descent. I had a back up plan though. We drove a little further down Pierce Canyon, past where we had parked on our last trip out here  to where I had seen an old road following a side canyon.

Cool rock formations.
The kinder, gentler terrain of my back-up plan.

 The walking was pretty easy for little while, but when it started to get steep we retreated. I explored up another road that was barely there that appeared to go to a mining prospect, while my wife and the dogs stayed put in the shade of juniper. High on hill that seemed to be extraordinarily  proficient at growing agave, I realized  the mine tailings were farther away than I expected. I gave up and descended.  In the end the day amounted to a weird outing that was teetering on the edge but luckily didn't fall completely into disaster.


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Monday, June 17, 2024

Apache (Gila) National Forest - Mangas Creek (San Antone Canyon)

Mangas Creek

JD Pit Tank

The spring

Church ruin at Mangas NM.

It was going to be another hot one, but I didn't want to hang around the cabin all day, so this ( what turned out to be) all day adventure to Mangas Creek and beyond ended up filling the daylight hours very nicely. We headed out from the cabin on Horse Mountain and after about a half hour turned off of NM 12 onto  Catron County Rd. A0 95. It's narrow, and once we started heading up and up out of the flatlands, a bit rough. It's also a very scenic drive as it follows the twist and turns of Patterson Canyon. At the top is a large meadow area where we drove past a couple of bicyclists on the road. We saw one camper at Valle Tio Vinces on this Thursday morning among the huge ponderosa pines. Soon after we pulled off onto the road that mostly parallels Mangas and then parked at a dispersed camping area.

 I could already feel the the warmth even at 8200 feet when we emerged from the car, but as began walking we were happy to see water as we passed JD Pit Tank. On the first half of this hike before reaching a second larger tank it was pretty easy to stay in the shade even though Mangas Creek is very much a wet meadow type of stream and similar to the many drainages of the Lincoln National Forest in that there are few trees growing in the middle of the canyon. There were many pale purple and variegated wild irises everywhere though. The very narrow actual watercourse, 1-3 feet wide in most places had no flow except a meager amount in a few short stretches but we could tell it had been flowing nicely earlier in the spring.

Aspens began showing up as we kept a slow pace up the trail-less canyon. It had been awhile since I had laid eyes on any and they were a sweet sight and kept our spirits up even as the heat of midday settled upon us. 

Approaching the second man-made pond (tank) the stream had a bit of flow in its channel and there were areas of saturated grass as well. Just past the tank we rested for a bit and ate some snacks. I was still hoping to get to at least the first of two springs that are indicated on maps. The problem was now the canyon was much wider and very open. We clung to the tree lined edges as best  we could but it was hot and the stream was completely dry now.

When we arrived at where the first spring should be, we had some difficulty at first finding it, but I eventually located it emerging from the dry hillside and flowing very weakly across the old road for  about 25 feet  before completely disappearing under and old fallen log. It was hard to even fill two small water bottles for my dogs for the hot return trip. We used the somewhat shaded road for the first leg of our return trip. At the larger tank where I wet my older scottie down, which gave him new life for the rest of the walk.

A couple of things I noticed about Mangas Creek. It is not currently being used by livestock and doesn't appear to have been for a while. The tanks were fenced, I believe, to keep straying cattle out while continuing to be a source of water for wildlife. The old road does not appear to get much use. 

We decided after getting back to the 4Runner that we would drive north instead of  going back the way we came. The road followed Mangas Creek in a more or less straight shot eventually passing the  forest service work center just before leaving  national forest lands. Shortly thereafter, we encountered a couple of tumbledown buildings next to two small ponds. Across the road was the stone and adobe ruin of a church. Further down the road an abandoned tin roofed house stood sat on a treeless hill. This is what remains of Mangas, NM.

Beyond Mangas were a few more very old stone and adobe buildings along the road with the more modern ranch houses and sheds back behind. Miles and miles of low rolling hills followed, populated with sagebrush, weeds and maybe a bit of grass. The only trees were tucked against the lonely ranch houses or shading a livestock first, via the South Pie Town Road, which is twenty miles of roller coaster country road, before turning onto the more reasonable Green Gap Road.

UPDATE (6/7/24): Within hours after we left Mangas Creek, a lightning strike on a nearby ridge started the Antone Fire.  It is being managed  for beneficial effects within a contained perimeter. Where we hiked is currently closed. The area may look quite different from what is pictured here.

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