September 2014 – Tadpole Ridge

Winging It – Hiking Tadpole Ridge with birder Brian Dolton.

This hike is for the birds!

Earlier this year I contacted the local Audubon Society about a hike related to birding. I was soon in touch with Brian Dolton, a 53-year-old Englishman who is the Field Trip Coordinator. He has been interested in birding since he was a wee lad growing up in an English village where he walked the moorlands. For the past five years he has lived just north of Silver City, where he and his wife, Robin, enjoy hiking and birding.

We first did a hike on Signal Peak just days before the Signal Peak fire and the trail that Brian had chosen turned out to be right in the fire’s path. Our second outing was in early June when we drove up Hwy. 15. During these two hikes I learned a lot about birding. The first thing I learned was that I was calling it by a common misnomer: bird watching. The hobby is as much about listening and knowing locations as it is about watching, ergo: birding.

I was curious about why we were heading into the mountains, since I thought that the best place to find birds was near water. Brian explained (using that delightful accent), “Of course water is a good place to find birds, but the beauty of the mountains is it gives one the opportunity to gain altitude. You see, this is an excellent chance to view birds that spend much of their time atop trees.”

Brian showed me a new addition to his birding gear: an iPad with an app that is an encyclopedia of birds that actually has bird songs and calls so you can instantly verify what you are hearing, and verify sightings using photographs and much more.

 

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Name: Tadpole Ridge

Distance: Variable

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Directions: Starting at the intersection of Hwy. 15 and 32nd Street in Silver City, drive north on Hwy. 15 for 13.7 miles to the turn-off for Meadow Creek. Park here and walk across Hwy. 15 and walk up the dirt road you see there.Hike Description: This is an upward trek towards Scott Peak and beyond. You will travel through pine forests and open areas with loose rocks. At the 0.27-mile mark, you will see a cairn on the left. This is the trail that goes down to the Signal Peak parking area on Hwy. 15 (right near the cattle guard). Continue ahead uphill through the trees. At about the 0.57-mile mark, you will start seeing views of Scott’s Peak. Look back at Signal Peak behind you and view parts of the May 2014 fire area.

If you go far enough, you will observe maple trees and even farther up is a stock pond. This hike is a good one for observing succession vegetation from old fires (the aspens, ferns and oaks are all examples), as they are visible on many of the mountains around you, both nearby and far in the distance. When ready, return the way you came.

Notes: Along the way, we identified several bird species including: five turkey vultures, a broad-tailed hummingbird, a northern flicker, a western wood-pewee and an American robin. I was first to see an olive-sided flycatcher, to which Brian exclaimed, “Well spotted, well done!” It was a great introductory hike for a person new to birding. Now when I go on a hike, I am much more aware of the sounds of the birds and I thank Brian for that.

Can you give us a “Beginner’s Guide to Birding”?

    1. Your best chance of viewing the most birds is early morning.
    2. A set of decent binoculars is a must.
    3. Get a pocket-sized bird identification book. (Brian recommends The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Sibley.)
    4. Get a bird checklist (available for purchase through the SWNM Audubon Society).
    5. Attend Audubon field trips.
    6. Join the Audubon Society (either national or local chapter)

Tell us more about the Southwestern New Mexico Audubon Society:

Check out their website at www.swnmaudubon.org, or contact president Nancy Kaminski at artemis19492014@gmail.com, or membership coordinator Terry Timme at swnmaudubon@gmail.com, (575) 534-0457. The group has field trips, usually on the first Saturday of the month, a presentation meeting on the first Friday of the month at WNMU’s Harlan Hall (12th and Alabama Streets) at 7 p.m., and a “Birds and Brews” event on the fourth Thursday of the month at Little Toad Creek, Bullard and Broadway in Silver City, at 5:15 p.m. Details on the field trips and meetings are in The Ravens newsletter published five times a year. It is available on the website or various locations around town. Annual membership is $15. You do not need to be a member to attend any of these events.

In closing, I found Brian to be a first-rate hiking partner because he was knowledgeable not only about birds but about all things fauna and flora. It occurred to me that he would be equally comfortable in a science lab as he would be in a computer lab.

Please tell me I didn’t say “Bloody good show, mate!” to him when we parted ways!

To read more about Linda Ferrara’s 100-hike challenge, check out her blog at 100hikesinayear.wordpress.com.

See a collection of Linda Ferrara’s previous 100 Hikes columns
at www.desertexposure.com/100hikes.

August 2014 – Sacaton Creek

Up a Creek

Hiking with Nancy and Ralph Gordon along Sacaton Creek.

I’ve known Nancy Gordon since I moved here 14 years ago, but neither of us can remember when we met. It’s one of those small-town relationships where you know common acquaintances, have attended common events, and have just drifted into knowing each other. I recall passing her and husband Ralph during my 100 hikes. It was hike number 98 and we were climbing the back side of Tadpole Ridge, and Nancy and Ralph were coming down the trail. We stopped briefly and talked and then continued on. So when I saw Nancy at the post office recently, I asked if she would be one of my victims — er, subjects.

The Gordons have lived in Silver City for 22 years. Ralph has a master’s degree in teaching and most recently taught in Lordsburg before retiring. Nancy, who calls herself a professional job hopper, has a master’s degree in civil engineering/hydrology. They’ve been trekking together since their second date 40 years ago (don’t you just love it?). Their list of hikes is long and includes climbing Wheeler Peak (highest peak in New Mexico, coming in at 13,159), ascending Mount Whitney in California (at 14,505, it’s the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48), and hiking in the Grand Canyon and in Big Bend National Park in Texas. They’ve even backpacked in Australia and through Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand (after researching this one, I’ve concluded that the Gordons have hiked in paradise!).

 

 

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They are intimately knowledgeable about trails in this area, and so when they agreed to share one of their favorites, I was one happy hiker.

Name: Sacaton Creek

Distance: 4.0 miles, round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Directions: Starting at the intersection of Hwy. 180 and Little Walnut Road in Silver City, drive west on Hwy. 180 for 43.6 miles. On the right, you will see the Moon Ranch sign. Turn into Moon Ranch (it’s a county maintained road). You will see a sign that says, “Sacaton 10–729.” Stay right at the fork (the left is “729a”). At the 5.8-mile mark, there is a four-way intersection. Stay straight. Drive 2.3 miles to the trailhead.

Hike Description: This is a shaded walk along Sacaton Creek. Enjoy walking through the trees, stop to listen to the birds and look at the wildflowers and check out the old cabin. There are some short uphill climbs, a few downed trees and boulder fields to negotiate, and places to test your trail-finding skills — but other than that, it’s easy going. At mile two you will find large boulders and a good place to lunch next to the creek. Explore the caves in the area. On the way back, see if you can locate the mine.

Notes: As you traverse the creek, you will see evidence of the 2012 Whitewater-Baldy fire. When we went in late June, there was little water and the creek was easy to cross. If the water is flowing when you go, be careful with the crossings. I recommend you bring and use bug repellent. I also suggest you be careful where you step as there is lots of poison ivy (see photo).

I did some research on the name Sacaton. It turns out it comes from the New Mexican Spanish word zacaton, which means fodder grass. Guess who found a book called The Place Names of New Mexico by Robert Julyan at the library? Stay tuned to this column for more fascinating bits about our area.

Describe something unusual that happened on a hike: Ralph and Nancy have had close encounters with black bears on the trail, and both have accidentally stepped on rattlesnakes. Fortunately, all went their separate ways without tribulation.

Tell us what you are doing in retirement: Ralph has been playing golf and battling the bugs, birds, rabbits and deer to supply the neighborhood with vegetables. Both he and Nancy have been restoring the historic Silver City Waterworks on Little Walnut Road for the past four years. Rehabilitating it has turned into a community-wide project, bringing together non-profits, local businesses, more than 100 volunteers, youth conservation groups, town staff, and state and federal agencies. As you can imagine, it has kept Nancy busy applying for grants, organizing volunteers, and learning about historic preservation. Since starting to work on it in 2010, much has been accomplished including: the one-story roof was replaced, the historic front porch reconstructed, and the exterior stone masonry was repointed using lime mortar. The Wellness Coalition’s Youth Volunteer Corps and Aldo Leopold High School’s Youth Conservation Corps have done several landscaping projects and painted the “faux” doors and windows.

For more information about the project, check out the the feature article that appeared in Desert Exposure in January 2011 and Google “Silver City Waterworks.”

This article was originally  published in Augist 2014 issue of Desert Exposure.

July 2014 – Cherry Creek

Kids’ Stuff

A Cherry Creek hike even a 10-year-old can love.

by Linda Ferrara

Short and sweet — wait, is that describing the hiker or the hike?

Haylee Kelley is a 10-year-old Girl Scout I met about a year ago. She is of slight build and is sweet, inquisitive, smart and wonderful and will be in the fifth grade come August. She has lived in Silver City for most of her life and enjoys playing right and center field in softball, fishing, golfing, shooting, and playing on her tablet.

After I assured her that even if we saw a snake, the chances of us being hurt by one were slim, we went on a hike up Hwy. 15, north of town. It was a warm summer day and we talked about everything from wanting Barbie’s RV to whether we wanted to live forever or not. After much discussion we decided that we wouldn’t mind living forever as long as we could be healthy and active. We checked out a variety of flowers, leaves, bugs, and a horny toad that Haylee had no problem picking up. She even taught me a new word when she described fresh strawberries: “They’re amazalicious!”

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Here’s a description on the hike we went on:

Name: Cherry Creek

Distance: 1.6 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Directions: Starting at the intersection of Hwy. 15 (Pinos Altos Road) and 32nd Street, travel 10 miles up Hwy. 15. Park in the small pull-off on the right. Walk to the other side of the road and back up the road where you just came from. You will soon see a trail that goes into the woods. Follow this trail as it meanders along Cherry Creek.


Hike Description:
This is an easy, shady hike for a warm summer day. It is mostly flat with a few small hills to climb, sheer rock surfaces that are easily traversed and several downed trees to negotiate. Be sure to look up through the trees and enjoy the interesting rock formations high above. Along the way, you will encounter small ponds and waterfalls. At the 0.7-mile marker you may even be tempted to climb and explore some of the boulders. At the 0.8-mile mark, the trail ends (or at least I can’t find the way through). When you get towards the end, the trail forks and is occasionally hidden. After a little searching, you’ll find your way. (Remember, you’re walking along a creek with steep walls — just keep near the stream and you’ll be fine.) If you go during monsoon season, please be careful as there are many creek crossings.

Would you recommend this hike to other kids? Haylee answered slowly, “Well… yeah, it’s a lot more fun than playing video games!”

Columnist’s Note: I originally had another hike planned for this month’s column. On May 6, 2014, I hiked on the CD Trail off of Signal Peak with a member of the local Audubon Society who taught me a lot about birding in the area. I eagerly went home and wrote up a delightfully interesting article about my experience. Five days later, the very trail we were on was engulfed in the Signal Fire that burned 5,485 acres in the Gila. I felt sick thinking of the forest I love so much burning. I’d spotted a western tanager (a beautiful yellow and red bird) on our hike, and when the fire was raging I kept wondering where that bird ended up (sigh).

I will write a new article in the future about hikes for birders, but in the meantime I thought this might be a good time to share a few resources regarding fires. You can follow Gila National Forest fire incidents at: inciweb.nwcg.gov/unit/3178.

There was a Facebook page set up that shared information and photos of the Signal Peak fire: www.facebook.com/SignalFireNM. So if there’s another fire, you might search on Facebook to see if they have a page for information.

If you’re interested in learning more about fire management, I suggest you read “Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout” by Philip Connors. It discusses his experiences as a fire lookout in the Gila National Forest. If you’re a nature lover, this book will remind you of why you are. It explains a lot about the life of the forest and the cycles it goes through. The Silver City Museum has copies for sale, and the Public Library of Silver City has a few copies to borrow.

This was first published in Desert Exposure – July 2014

See a collection of Linda Ferrara’s previous 100 Hikes columns
at www.desertexposure.com/100hikes.

June 2014 – Mogollon Box Loop Hike

In the Loop

Hiking a loop around the Mogollon Box with Kathy Whiteman,
director of WNMU’s Outdoor Program.

Kathy Whiteman, director of WNMU’s Outdoor Program, has lived in rural settings for most of her life. She was raised in northwest Pennsylvania, has spent time in Washington State, and made it to New Mexico in the mid-1990s. Her credentials include a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Edinboro University, a Bachelor of Science (botany) from Western New Mexico University, and a Master’s and PhD in Biology (plant ecology) from New Mexico State University.

She is exceedingly knowledgeable about the plants, animals and terrain of our wilderness backyard, which made her an excellent hiking partner. She has traveled throughout the Gila on foot and mule for almost two decades. Clearly, she is especially competent to run the Outdoor Program for WNMU.

You can tell she has hiked with inexperienced hikers before. She reminded me to bring a snack, water, river shoes and a hat. She also sent me a link to a Google map that showed where we were going. This is my kind of hiker!

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Name: Mogollon Box Loop Hike

Distance: 4.25 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Directions: Starting at the intersection of Hwy. 180 and Little Walnut Road in Silver City, drive 28 miles to mile marker 84. Make a right onto S211 and drive 1 mile to a fork in the road. Stay to the left and drive 6.9 miles to trailhead. Park in the Mogollon Box campground.
Hike description: Keep in mind that the flood we had last fall re-structured parts of the river so that some of the trails/markers are not immediately obvious. Go around the brown gate and walk on the road. Just before the green gate (a minute or two of walking), on the right, you will see a brown Gila National Forest trailhead marker. Take this trail through the trees and after one or two minutes, look for a trail on your left. Now trek through a dry river bed until you pick up the trail again (as of May 1, there were blue tape markers hanging in the trees showing the way). You will soon see the trail. Take it to your first river crossing. You will see the trail on the other side of the water.

This is a loop trail that crosses the Gila River five times and works its way over a mountain. You will pass the Gila USGS gauging station along the way. Walk past the gauge equipment and follow the two-track road back to the car.

We saw six desert bighorn sheep along the way, a gopher snake, and a hiking fool who fell in the water twice (it’s not necessary to name names).

Notes: If the river is flowing when you cross, be careful. The rocks under the water are slippery and the water is flowing faster than you think!

If you prefer an easier, drier hike, at the green gate, keep heading northwest on the two-track road and follow it all the way to the gauging station. Return the way you came. No river crossings for this modified hike, but take plenty of water with you, as there is very little shade.

Tell me about a particularly memorable hiking experience: As I click my camera overlooking the Gila River, Kathy shares a story. “Not surprisingly, one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done involved alcohol. I was in my 20s and spending a lot of time backpacking in the Gila. One afternoon a friend of mine dropped me and another friend off at a trailhead. The two of us hikers had been drinking and were pretty toasted when we started down the trail. We had very heavy packs and were planning to make it to a base camp we’d set up 12 miles away.

“We were having a great time, drunk as skunks, when it started to snow. It was one of those big snows with heavy wet flakes that stick. It was beautiful and we were like kids, throwing snowballs and me, making snow angels. Before long, I was soaking wet and cold; I wasn’t dressed for the snow.

“Not surprisingly, by the time it started getting dark, we were a long way from our intended camp spot. We had enough sense to make camp before the light was completely gone, but our hands were so cold that we couldn’t light a match or use a lighter. We had trouble putting up the tent. We only had one sleeping bag.

“When I look back on this experience, I realize how lucky I was, and how embarrassingly stupid. The Gila’s ‘gentle seasons’ can be unforgiving; nature is not sympathetic to human ignorance. Getting sloppy drunk out in the wilderness is about as dumb as it gets. Thankfully, I learned from this experience.”

What is the WNMU Outdoor Program all about? “The Outdoor Program (OP) allows students of WNMU to take classes for academic credit. Classes include Outdoor Leadership, Foundations in Experiential and Adventure Education, Introduction to Rock Climbing, Introduction to Backpacking, SCUBA, Fundamentals of Search and Rescue, Mountain Biking and more. This fall the OP is teaming with the Art Department to offer a wilderness photography course. Participants will learn photography and practice skills on a four-day horse-packing trip to photograph elk. The university Outpost has gear for rent to students and the public as well as maps and other information.

“Students (and WILL members) may also attend trips (not for credit) that the outdoor program leads. Previous trips have included: Carlsbad Caverns, scuba diving, skiing/snowboarding, White Sands National Monument, whitewater rafting, and wilderness horseback riding.”

Want to know more about WNMU’s Outdoor Program? Check out their website: www.wnmuoutdoors.org.

 

To read more about Linda Ferrara’s 100-hike challenge, check out her blog at 100hikesinayear.wordpress.com.

 

See a collection of Linda Ferrara’s previous 100 Hikes columns
at www.desertexposure.com/100hikes.

May 2014 – Saddlerock Canyon area

Trooping Along

Tackling Saddlerock Canyon with Boy Scout Troop 930.

You don’t need a professional trainer to get good aerobic exercise — just hike with six members of local Boy Scout Troop 930 out in the Saddlerock Canyon area. Recently, on a sunny Saturday morning, I got such a workout. The group included: Kagen Richey, birthday boy Will Kammerer, Steven Cross, Richard Gallegos, Oscar Lopez, Aaron Lopez and Scout Leaders Ryan Cross, Brian Richey and Jamie Lopez, along with a golden retriever named Lego. These “Boy Scout Tenderfoots” were filling a requirement of a one-mile hike for both their Second and First Class awards. The leaders let the boys choose the trail and had them lead the way. With unending energy, they treated every rock outcropping like nature’s jungle gym.

hiking 1

Throughout the morning hike they told me about many Boy Scout activities. Their favorites include cleaning the Big Ditch, camping in Meadow Creek, and spending a week at Camp Wehinahpay near Cloudcroft. At the camp, they can earn badges by learning such things as leatherworking, basket weaving, wood carving, knot tying, Indian lore, compass and map reading, swimming, fishing, rifle, shotgun, first aid, climbing, environmental science and fire building.

They have also assisted the Forest Service with erosion issues by playing a game called “Gold Rush”: The boys are divided into two teams (Prospectors and Indians) and they have to move rocks from one spot to the erosion area; whoever gets the most rocks over to the erosion area wins. Their most recent such project was last year at the base of Signal Peak.

During our hike, they scampered up a steep incline in moments, while I huffed and puffed, stumbled and fell, sweated and clawed my way to the top (all worth it, my friends, all worth it). I’m proud to say I came home dirtier than on any other hike. I admit I was the last one up to the top; I was not going to be the last one down. How did I accomplish that? I pointed my finger at the troop and told them, “No one goes ahead of me!” Call it “grandma intimidation” if you must; it worked.

Name: Off Trail in Saddlerock Canyon

Distance: Various

Difficulty: 20% hard, 60% moderate, 20% easy

Directions: From the intersection of Hwy. 180 and Hwy. 90 in Silver City, take Hwy. 180 west 12.9 miles to Saddlerock Canyon Road (on the south side of the highway). This road is close to mile marker 100 and is right after Mangus Valley Road. Make a left on Saddlerock Canyon Road. Travel on this dirt road for 1.3 miles, which is where the Gila National Forest sign will be. Soon after the sign, the dirt road divides. Stay to the right. This is Forest Road 810. You know you are correct if you see cattle corrals on your left (a few minutes up the road). At the 2.4-mile mark, park. You are now at the base of Saddle Rock. It is on your left as you look up the road. For this off-trail hike, you are going to head up the short dirt road to the right. There are many other hiking opportunities here, of varying levels of difficulty.

hiking 2

 

 

Hike Description: After a short walk up the dirt road, you’ll see a campground. Continue walking up the gap (no trail here) in front of you. It soon becomes very narrow with thick brush. Make your way to the left up the very steep side of the hill. Climb to the top. If you’re 12 years old, this will take moments. If your knees are 53 years old, this will take 20 minutes. Once you get to the top, you will enjoy 360-degree views. Continue upward along the ridge and enjoy the many interesting rock formations and views. Spend some time exploring the rocks. Go as long as you dare and then head down the hill to the base of Saddlerock Canyon. Walk along the road back to your vehicle.

After the hike, I asked the boys what they carried in their packs. I got a long list: water, knife and knife sharpener, poncho, snack, first aid kit, cell phone, lighter or matches, and flashlight.

Several also gave me words of advice for my readers: “Think before you do.” “Stay together.”

Interested in learning more about becoming a Boy Scout? Troop Leader Ryan Cross encourages any boy between the ages of 11 and 18 to contact him if they are interested in joining the Boy Scouts. Call him at (575) 538-1694.

“Before joining, you can come and see if you think it’s fun and something you’d like to do,” adds scout Will Kammerer.

 

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saucer

 

The reveal of what the “Flying Saucer” from my April 2014 column really is: Russell Ward of the Gila National Forest explains, “The fiberglass dome is actually a water collection and disbursement device called a ‘Wildlife Guzzler’ [picturd below left]. Many were installed in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the Gila National Forest, mostly in remote areas that are extremely dry. Rain or snow hits the fiberglass top and runs down the sides and collects in a tank under the dome. Water is then disbursed to the trough on the side where animals may drink.”

April 2014 – Flying Saucer Hike

Are you coming here to record your guess? Put it in a ‘comment’ attached to this post. And thanks for stopping by!

 

Susan and Tom Lynch

My first impression when I met Susan and Tom Lynch was that here are two happy, in love people. They live south of town where they grow much of their own vegetables, raise chickens and enjoy retirement. They are creative people who hand painted their walking sticks and knitted their own warm, wool hats. When not busy in the garden, you might find them playing pool at the Senior Center or hiking on Boston Hill with their dog, Gus.

 

They also hike often in the Burro Mountains south of Silver City and since it’s one of the areas I want to learn more about, I was eager to get in touch with them through mutual friends. When I asked about one of their favorite trails, they offered this option if I agreed to keep the trail’s namesake a mystery and encourage hikers to get out and discover what it is for themselves.

Intrigued enough to go for this hike yet? Read on………

 

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Describe one of your favorite hikes that you’d like to share with the readers:

Name: Flying Saucer Trail, Burro Mountains

Distance: 2+ miles round trip

Difficulty: easy to moderate

Directions: Starting at the corner of Broadway and Highway 90 (a.k.a. Hudson St.), take Highway 90 south 11.3 miles to Tyrone Thompson Road (if you pass MM 30, you passed it). Make right on to Tyrone Thompson Road and drive 7.6 miles. On the left you will see a Forest Road sign for Forest Road 4090C. Pull into parking area on left.

Hike Description:  Take Forest Road 4090C for 1 mile to see the Flying Saucer. Please note that at the .66 mile mark, there is a road to the left labeled FR4248Y. Stay to the right for this hike and shortly pass by a green wildlife water tank. From there the road veers to the left and uphill. At the .96 mark there is a bifurcation (okay, I’m showing off the new word Tom taught me, it’s a fork in the road). Stay to the right here also. Soon afterwards you will see the “Flying Saucer” on your right.

The trail is a shaded, mildly sloping walk on a dirt road through pine trees and other low brush. You will enjoy glimpses of long range views and interesting rock formations along the way.

 Notes: If you would like to take a longer hike, there are several side trails to explore, or you can continue past the ‘Saucer” and hike further up the hill.

What piece of equipment can you not hike without? Tom explains, “Our 2 year old dog, a Coonhound / Catahoula mix named ‘Gus’ always wears a “Sport Dog” brand GPS Tracking System when we are out in the woods. It consists of a handheld wireless device that allows us to see where and how far he is from us, and a collar unit that is waterproof. It has a range of up to 7 miles, has rechargeable batteries and a variety of stimulation levels and types for training. We like it for our piece of mind. If he gets too far away, we can call him back verbally or with a tone transmitted through the system. We can see if he is stationary which would indicate he may be in trouble and we can get to him to help, like the time he got tangled up in some fencing.”

I did some investigation into this product and find that there are numerous brands, options and price points for these. It can be as simple as a beeper system (price around $100.) to a deluxe system with beacon lights, expansion packages for multiple dogs, waypoint storage capabilities and more for $400-500. There are smart phone apps also available. These units are used for training a dog, tracking a dog and hunting with a dog.

Want to know what the Flying Saucer actually is? Come to: http://100hikesinayear.wordpress.com/ on May 1, 2014 to find out. It will also be printed in the May 2014 “Desert Exposure” at the end of my 100 Hikes article.

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 THE REVEAL

saucer

 

The reveal of what the “Flying Saucer” from my April 2014 column really is: Russell Ward of the Gila National Forest explains, “The fiberglass dome is actually a water collection and disbursement device called a ‘Wildlife Guzzler’ [picturd below left]. Many were installed in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the Gila National Forest, mostly in remote areas that are extremely dry. Rain or snow hits the fiberglass top and runs down the sides and collects in a tank under the dome. Water is then disbursed to the trough on the side where animals may drink.”

 

 

March 2014 – Table Mountain Trail – City of Rocks

Now don’t be jealous, fellow trekkers, but this lucky hiker got to spend a sunny winter day with Marc Levesque hiking a stellar trail, hearing stories about adventures in Maine, New Hampshire and Antarctica, and listening to firsthand accounts of local area search and rescue missions.

Marc and his wife, Susan Porter, have been exploring the trails in this area since they moved here in 2005, and have been avid hikers for over 40 years, mostly in the mountains of northern New England. Marc was a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, where he was involved in winter ascents, rock climbing, leading hikes and directing the AMC Mountain Leadership School in 1979-1980. Here in Silver City, he is a battalion chief with the Pinos Altos Volunteer Fire Rescue, teaches “Fundamentals of Search and Rescue” at WNMU’s Outdoor Program, and is president of Grant County Search and Rescue. Was I a little intimidated hiking with the president of Search and Rescue? Sure was. Did I have a ball hiking with him? You bet I did!

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He suggested we hike a newly created trail that he described as “a gem.”

Name: Table Mountain Trail, City of Rocks State Park
Distance: 2.0-6.0 miles
Difficulty: 70% easy, 20% medium, 10% difficult

Directions: Starting from the intersection of 32nd Street By-Pass and Hwy. 180 in Silver City, drive 24.8 miles southeast on Hwy. 180 until you reach Hwy. 61. Turn left onto Hwy. 61 and drive 3.0 miles to the entrance of City of Rocks State Park.

Hike description: I suggest you stop into the Visitors’ Center and check out the history and geology of this wonderful park. Be sure to chat with park volunteers, who are extremely knowledgeable, helpful and pleasant. They have a map of the park that will assist you. Here is more info about the park for those of you who want to do some homework before you go: www.emnrd.state.nm.us/SPD/cityofrocksstatepark.html.

For a shorter hike, park in the northeast corner of the park near the Pegasus Campground. Walk 0.22 miles on the trail that heads east. Turn right (south) onto Hydra Trail and then turn left (east) onto the trail that takes you up to Table Top Mountain.

For a longer hike, park at the Visitors’ Center Parking lot and take the Hydra Walking Trail for 1.0 mile. Turn right (east) onto the trail that heads up to Table Top Mountain.

When you go through the gate, the trail starts the ascent uphill toward the first bench of the mountain. It gets steeper still until you finally reach the top. Look down and see the 557 feet you just climbed. Now walk around the mesa top, have fun boulder jumping, and enjoy the scenery. Return the way you came.

 

City Of Rocks Map

 

Notes: This is a newer trail that volunteer Tim Davis has been working on for the past few years. We met Tim on the trail; perhaps you will, too! City of Rocks State Park requires an entrance fee of $5 per car. Gates are open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Why not bring a lunch and spend the day? Enjoy this trail in the morning, check out the rocks in the early afternoon, and then head over to Faywood Hot Springs for a soak to end the day just right! Or bring camping gear and explore for several days.

Tell us about a particularly memorable hiking experience:

“I was 34 years old and had just returned from a contract job at South Pole Station in Antarctica, where we had set a temperature record during the year I was there of minus-117 degrees,” says Levesque. “I had lost 22 pounds during that time and had virtually no body fat. Upon returning, I decided to get out and enjoy the White Mountains of New Hampshire on a solo day hike in 20-degree February weather. My body had not adjusted to the loss of body fat, and when I reached a spot just below the summit, I realized I was deeply shivering. I knew this was the first stage of hypothermia and probably should have turned back. But sometimes one’s testosterone level exceeds one’s intelligence quotient, so I just stopped, ate something, put on all the clothes I had with me, and continued on towards the summit.

“It all turned out okay, but between the clouds, the wind, the deep snow and the temperature, I could have easily found myself in serious trouble.” The rescuer in him comes out as he adds, “It’s really not a great idea to hike alone in such winter conditions.”

In closing, Levesque has a final comment: “Always let someone know where you’re going on a hike. It will make it much easier for us to find you if you get lost or injured.”

For more information about Grant County Search and Rescue, go to: gcsar-nm.org.

 

This is a repost of an article that originally appeared in Desert Exposure.

Check them out at: http://www.desertexposure.com/100hikes/

January 2014 – Little Bear Canyon–Trail 729

A Hike with Julian Lee to Little Bear Canyon,  near the Middle Fork of the Gila River.

Being a herpetologist (study of amphibians and reptiles) and an avid bird watcher, it’s not surprising that Julian Lee has done his fair share of hiking. He relocated to Silver City from Florida in 2006 and has been exploring the wilderness in this area ever since. He most frequently hikes with a group of four friends on either Thursday or Friday. When he describes their adventures to me, I often find myself begging him to show me where they went. Don’t miss the opportunity to take one of his WILL classes; he’s an amazingly interesting and talented orator!

We got together in the fall and hiked a trail he recommends.

Name: Little Bear Canyon–Trail 729

Distance: Eight miles, round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Directions: Starting at the intersection of Hwy. 15 and 32nd Street in Silver City, travel 23.6 miles north up Hwy. 15. Turn left towards the Gila Cliff Dwellings (not the Visitor’s Center). Approximately .5 miles up on the right is a brown Forest Service sign pointing to T.J. Corral. There is a parking area, bathroom, corral, Forest Service Bulletin Board and trailhead here. Travel time: 1.5-2.0 hours. The hike begins at the trailhead, where there is an old sign that says: West Fork Trail 151 / Little Bear Canyon 3 / Middle Fork 4.25. Head towards the Middle Fork on this trail.

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Hike Description: This is an eight-mile out-and-back hike that passes through a portion of the 2011 Miller Fire area. Enjoy a wide variety of landscape including open fields, scrub oak and juniper, long-range views, tall pines along Little Bear Creek, slot canyons and spires. The first 2.5 miles is a gradual climb along the side of an arroyo. The next 1.5 miles is decidedly downward as it drops into Little Bear Creek. In the spring you will see columbines along the way. At the four-mile mark, you will meet the Middle Fork of the Gila River. This is where you will marvel at dramatic vertical rock formations on the far side of the river. After enjoying a break, return the way you came.

Notes: There are several hiking options in this area. Consider exploring the side trail at the two-mile mark (you will see a forest sign pointing towards the Lilley Park Trail #164). Or, at the convergence of the Middle Fork, you can head west towards Big Bear Canyon or Jordan Hot Springs, or east onto Middle Fork Gila Trail #157.

Describe something unusual that happened on a hike in this area: “Back in June 2013, we were hiking in the Meadow Creek area,” Lee recalls. “As we traversed steep slopes through an arroyo, on the right-hand side, I observed a pale, beige animal moving up the steep incline through the trees. A deer perhaps. My dog, Orfa, alerted to it and started pursuit. A few seconds later, a second animal, moving fast, came from the left side of the drainage, crossed the drainage in front of me and followed Orfa, who was in pursuit of the first animal. My immediate thought was coyote. I was apprehensive, for I realized that my dog might get entangled with a pack of coyotes! I called for her, with no response. Luckily, within five minutes she came happily back, unharmed. The consensus of the hiking group was that they were either coyotes or young wolves. It seems that some hikes go from quiet and peaceful to bedlam and back to peaceful in a short span of time.”

Any hiking equipment tips? “I need a boot with more support around the ankle and arch. The lighter, nylon ones that are popular just don’t work for me. More support means less chance of twisted ankles, etc.”

Do you have any observations from all the hiking you’ve done? “We have come across people hopelessly unprepared with a pint of water, and wearing impossible footwear. I’m not talking about a walk through Fort Bayard Game Preserve; these people are way out in the wilderness!”

“Another observation is that after you hike eight miles, then get back in the car and sit for a one-to-two-hour ride home, you feel old getting out of that car once the muscles and joints have stiffened up. That’s a relatively new experience for me!”

Recap: At 69, Lee is able to hike farther and faster than I can; I can just imagine what he was like as a member of the California-based El Cariso Hotshots back in the 1960s!

This is a repost of an article that originally appeared in “Desert Exposure”. Check it out at: http://www.desertexposure.com/100hikes/

February 2014 – Purgatory Chasm

A beautiful hike with Bob Pelham, Photographer

Silver City is full of fascinating people and Bob Pelham is certainly one of them. He leads tours to Latin American destinations such as the Amazon rain forest, is an accomplished photographer, owns and operates Pinos Altos Cabins, is extremely knowledgeable about border security, seems to know every secret natural wonder in a 100-mile radius, and has a cunningly corny sense of humor. I have always enjoyed his nature photographs that he regularly posts on Facebook, so I was pleased when he agreed to talk to me about hiking.

I asked him to describe one of his favorite hikes that he’d like to share with readers:

Name: Purgatory Chasm
Distance: 2.2 miles, round-trip
Difficulty:
Easy  

hike

Directions: From Silver City, drive north on Hwy. 15 until you reach the intersection with Hwy. 35 (just past mile marker 25). Turn right onto Hwy. 35 and go four miles. You will see signs for Lake Roberts on the right and there is a brown forest sign on the left saying “Purgatory Chasm Trailhead.” There is parking just past the sign. You can either walk on the highway to the sign and begin at the trailhead there, or, if you look closely, you will see a trail on the west side of the parking lot.

Hike description: The trail begins by walking through forest and arroyo scenery. Soon after you start walking, the trail splits. You may take either direction as it is a loop trail. We started to the left since that’s the quickest way to the chasm. You will soon enter the chasm and wonder at the steep walls and interesting twists and turns. Stop for a moment and notice the echo your voice makes. Cairns guide you along the way and are markers for side trails to explore. At the end of the chasm, there used to be a wooden ladder that you would climb up, but on our visit on Dec. 19, 2013, it was not there.

Look up and see a cairn. Scramble up, being sure to look back and marvel at the sharp curves of the canyon before you continue on the trail. From here, the trail continues through the woods and starts a gently downhill walk back to the car.

Note: The “Flash Flood” sign should be heeded; we saw evidence of flooding as we traversed this trail. Also, remember that cairns are temporary markers and may or may not be there when you visit.

Tell me about a particularly memorable hiking experience: “About 20 years ago I did a lot of hiking in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve, near Naples, Fla. It is a swamp forest, densely foliated with bald cypress, royal palms, bromeliads and endemic orchids. I hiked there many times, often in ankle-to-knee-deep water. One day I led a photo tour of about 17 students from my photography class through the swamp. As we waded through the water taking photos of foliage, frogs and snakes, we suddenly spotted a poisonous cottonmouth (a.k.a. water moccasin) snake, curled up on a cypress stump protruding above the water surface. All 17 people wanted a picture and we slowly surrounded and moved in on him. Suddenly, the snake sprang into the water (did I mention it was murky, dark water?) and disappeared. Imagine the splashing that 17 people made leaping away from this stump all in different directions!

photographer
Purgatory Chasm (above) and hiker-photographer Bob Pelham. (Photos courtesy Bob Pelham)

“Looking back, I am surprised that I never got lost in that swamp. When you’re knee-deep in water, there’s no trail to follow, no footprints or markers. I guess I have a good sense of direction with this sort of thing.”

Do you have any observations you’d like to share? Pelham looks out the window towards the mountains near Mexico. “When I moved here, friends in Florida asked me if I would miss the ocean and beach. But I have found that the desert resembles the beach…. Both have long-range views, and a rolling landscape. Driftwood resembles dead cholla and aged juniper.”

He adds, “The interesting wildlife of the Gila is a good substitute for the alligators and other critters of Florida,” which is why he visits Florida frequently to reconnect with them — and family and friends, of course.

Before we part, Pelham mentions that he always wears one of his ever-present Aussie-style hats, never wears shorts while hiking (he is often down on his knees taking photographs), and rarely uses a GPS.

Try to meet him if you get the opportunity; you may be able to get him to tell you about his 50-plus trips to Costa Rica and other Central and South American countries.

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This is a repost of an article that originally appeared in “Desert Exposure”. Check it out at: http://www.desertexposure.com/100hikes/

December 2013 – Sheridan Corral Trail #181

Distance: Various
Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult
Directions: Beginning at the intersection of Hwy. 90 and Hwy. 180 West in Silver City, drive west on Hwy. 180 for 51.9 miles. On your right, you will see a dirt road labeled CO54 (it is just after the Aldo Leopold turnoff, which is on the left). Turn right onto CO54 and drive 3.8 miles to the end. You will see a Trailhead marker and other Forest Service signs there.

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  Hike Description: This trail is well worth the drive. You will enjoy amazing views, a pleasant walk along Sheridan Gulch and a section of the 2012 burn area. When you first get on the trail, you will see a sign that says, “Trail not maintained difficult to find.” You will experience sections of loose, slippery rock and erosion of trail. A few spots have loose rock along steep ledges. Please please please be careful. This trail is for the sure-footed. If you’re like me, you’ll take this as a challenge and you’ll go and discover this gem.

Up approximately two miles you’ll come to an intersection of Trail 181 (left) and Trail 225 (right). Trail 225 will take you uphill and on to Skunk Johnson’s cabin. Enjoy exploring this area of our great wilderness.

Notes: You will spend some time picking through the creek bed, so be patient and enjoy it. I spoke with the Reserve Forest Ranger and he said there are no plans to maintain this trail in the near future, so you should expect to climb over dead trees and such. If you want to go to Skunk Johnson cabin, it is a 10.6-mile round-trip hike. Several guide books and websites describe it as “difficult.”

Helpful Hint: If you brought it in, bring it out!

 

This is a repost of an article that originally appeared in “Desert Exposure”. Check them out at: http://www.desertexposure.com/100hikes/

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