Monday, September 11, 2023

Horse Mountain Wilderness Study Area - three hikes

Higher ridges and peaks of Horse Mountain

Twin junipers

Top of the ridge

Mangas Mountains

This juniper was still living.

The cabin

At the top of the peak

Mangas Mountains and Escondido Peak

Little Alegres Mountain

NOTE: Even though I accessed these canyons and ridges from private property, they can be reached ( albeit through longer, but not too long hikes) from the public entrance point on the west side of Horse Mountain.

I love this beautiful, remote and peaceful mountain that we've chosen to build a little cabin on. Out our back door is 10,000 acres of BLM land, much of it part of a wilderness study area. We got an early start on Saturday morning and crossed over a ridge at the old wire corral that is in the canyon directly behind the cabin and into the canyon to the east. Big pines greeted us in the little valley, which soon opened up into a series sparsely treed meadows (or parks as they are sometime called). 

We encountered a very vague impression of an old road as we went up,  and I believe this canyon was logged at one time. By the looks of the stumps, and by the very mature existing pines, I'm guessing it was a very long time ago.

 I made it all the way to the ridge with one of our Scotties and my wife stayed below with the other. On top there were views to the large, rugged canyon that drains eastward, as well as to the high higher ridges and peaks of Horse Mountain.

Higher peaks of Horse Mountain

 It was beautiful day with wildflowers, abundant sunshine, cool breezes and the company of many nuthatches flittering about in the trees.

 The next day, we used the Log Canyon entrance to the WSA and hiked along the ridge on the west instead of entering the canyon. Eventually we descended into the nameless canyon just to the west ( which lies in between Nance and Log Canyons, the only named valleys on the mountain). It was another beautiful pine park, with few mature oaks and oak copses thrown in for good measure.

Oak copse

 The only thing missing was a trickle of water in the creek bed. We detected signs of road in this canyon too, but I surmise that this one as well as the other has its origins from the cluster of roads at the hear of Nance Canyon and never ascended the drainage. We crossed back over to Log Canyon to finish the hike.

 A few weeks ago, I made up my to climb the peak ( really more of a high point on a ridge) directly behind our property. I estimated it would take about an hour for 600 foot climb and return. Got it right. It was a steep pull up to the top and places where you could get decent long distance views were a little hard to come by, but it was fun and a nice way to kick off a Sunday morning.

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Friday, June 16, 2023

Gila National Forest, FT 616- A Walk in the Past


 I've know about this hike for a little while.  It's been on my list for day trips from our property at Horse Mountain. Last Sunday we got the chance to do it. The drive itself was beautiful: skirting the edge of the vast Plains of San Augustin, passing through ghost and semi ghost towns Horse Springs and Aragon and finally descending down into the tiny Tularosa River valley with its ranchitos and the tiny towns of Cruzville and Apache Creek. Past the store at Apache Creek, there is just a sign for a hiking trail on NM 12. That was our turn-off. The gravel road is good and more signs lead you right to the trail head.

 It was a little bit later than I wanted to arrive and a little bit warmer than I would've wanted since we were hiking with our dogs. There was adequate shade for rest stops from the piñons and junipers as we marched the switchbacks that brought us to the top of a small mountain. The downhill leg was more of straight shot, with long stretches in the open, which had me worrying about the return uphill in the sun.

Eventually, when I was beginning to wonder if this trail had any intention of bringing us down to the river, we descended quickly down to the streamside meadows, passing the partially restored remains of the Tularosa Ranger Cabin, built over a century ago. 

We continued on the to the river crossing where the abutments are still in place but the bridge lies on the far bank, a testament to the power of the tiny river when it's in flood stage. It was easily crossed without the stout metal span's help on this sunny day. I rock hopped and my wife just waded through the few inches of water. Our dogs drank and splashed.

 The petroglyphs were further along against the cliffs of volcanic rock. The site is well worth the hike. Many images were so similar to ones here in Doña Ana County where I live, that I couldn't help but contemplate the connectivity of the widespread Mogollon Culture here in southwestern New Mexico.

The river in these Forest Service sections is getting to be in a more natural state here with willows, walnut trees and un-grazed meadows on the banks. The water isn't all that cold and free-floating algae continually floats by,but I know this was once a fishable stream. I didn't see any trout but I wondered if a few may still be surviving in the deeper holes. A bit further downstream from here is another FS section that runs through small box canyon. I'm thinking that might be  a good place to check it out. 

 It was nice to have a least part of our walk on the creek. It had been awhile since we did a hike with flowing water. The dogs played. I wet my shirt and hat. I found a few more petroglyphs on the cliffs on the opposite side of the  river. We poured water on the dogs and then began the hike back up. The pups seemed revived from the water and had good energy for most of the trudge back up and once we began going downhill, it was all good.

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