Category Archives: Fort Bayard
By Linda Ferrara
I sometimes consider hiking and being in nature to be a spiritual activity. When a friend and I used to hike on Sunday mornings, we would call it “going to church.” So, last year when I witnessed Pastor Tyler Connoley and members of his congregation hiking silently as part of a church service, I knew we were destined to hike together. Happily, my opportunity came one Saturday morning a few weeks ago. Tyler, who was ordained in October 2009, was most recently a hospice chaplain for five and a half years. Three years ago he became the pastor for the newly started Silver City United Church of Christ, which is an inclusive and progressive Christian denomination. Silver City UCC meets in a circle, and begins each meeting by sharing what they are thankful for that week.
Then they discuss opportunities they’ve had to be of service to others, followed by areas of concern.
After praying together, and a break ( which usually includes eating and listening to music), they have a spiritual discussion instead of a sermon, and then end with Communion.
Tyler, who is “half of 90 years old” (don’t you just love it?), hikes a variety of trails; however, he enjoys walking the same trail repeatedly to see the subtle differences the seasons bring. As we discussed this, it reminded him of his faith. “Christianity, for me, has been a matter of finding a spiritual path and walking it every day.” Daily walks give him a break from responsibilities and give him the chance to feel his feet on the ground. He never hikes without two important items: his two dogs, Lexi and Lucia ( pronounced loo- CHEE- ah). The following trail is a favorite because it reminds him of the Zambian savanna where he grew up.
Describe one of your favorite hikes that you’d like to share with the readers.
Name: Fort Bayard Cross Country Course #722 Distance: 2.5 miles ( or more)
Directions: Beginning at the light for U. S. Highway 180 and 32nd Street Bypass, drive 4.4 miles to the “Santa Clara City Limits” sign. It is between mm 119 and 120. Turn left and cross the highway to a pull- off / small parking area. Walk around an old locked gate to begin the hike.
Hike Description: This is a short, fairly level hike. At the .25 mile mark, you will come to an intersection of trails. This is where the loop begins.
Start by going to the left. Stop for a photo op of the Twin Sisters at the .75 mm. At 1.16 miles you will reach a signpost pointing to various trails.
Stay on the main trail, to the right. There is another trail intersect at the 1.88 mm. For this hike, stay to the right. ( If you go to the left, you will cross Twin Sisters Creek and swing around to the same trail, making a larger loop.) At the 2.1 mm, you have completed the loop and should take the spur ( to the left) back to the vehicle.
Notes: There are several side trails to explore in this southernmost section of Fort Bayard Game Preserve. One of the side trails will bring you up Twin Sisters Creek; another will bring you over to the parking area off of Arenas Valley Road. You may also reach the Memorial Park at Fort Bayard from this trail system.
While walking, Tyler tells me why he fears snakes. While his family lived in Zambia performing missionary work, his baby sister was left alone in her crib for a few moments one day. When his mother returned, a black mamba ( an extremely venomous snake endemic to sub-Saharan Africa) was in the crib with his sister. His mother’s screaming scared the snake away and his sister was safe, but the memory stayed with him. It is one of the reasons he always wears long pants and close-toed shoes while out for his daily walk.
Pastor Connoley can be reached at johntyler@ connoley. com. The congregation meets every Sunday at 11:11 a.m. at the Woman’s Club in Silver City and anyone is invited to join them.
Hiking the Dragonfly Trail with Silver City native Jeffrey Carrasco
On a crisp fall morning, I tied up my laces and drove over to Fort Bayard Game Reserve to meet Silver City native, Jeffrey Carrasco. I never fail to learn something when I hike with a new person and my hike with Jeffrey was no different.
During the walk he explained what the small ball-like ‘pods’ were on the scrub oaks we saw (don’t mind this east coaster; I thought it was a seed pod or eggshell of some sort). “Those are galls,” Jeffrey said. “Gall wasps inject fluid into the tree causing the tree cells to multiply and a gall is formed. The wasp larvae grow inside the gall.”
Naturally, I asked Jeffrey to describe one of his favorite hikes, and he picked the Dragonfly Trail.
Name: Dragonfly Trail #720
Directions: Starting at the corner of Highway 180 and 32nd Street Bypass, drive east on Highway 180 for 3.3 miles (between mile marker 118 and 119). Turn north (left) onto Arenas Valley Road and drive one mile straight to the parking lot and trail- head. The last tenth of a mile is dirt road. There are signs on the highway pointing to the turnoff for the Dragonfly Trail.
Hike Description: This is an easier, well-marked walk that offers many hiking options. Here I describe the trail we took to the petroglyphs 1.5 miles away. After parking in the second lot, enter through the green gate and past the information board. You will soon reach a fork. You can reach the dragonfly petroglyphs either way; we went to the right. At the second fork, stay to the right. At the third fork, stay to the left. From this point, brown trail markers clearly guide you right to the petroglyphs. When you see a Forest sign on a tree that says, “Who passed this way?” you’re there. The petroglyphs are among the boulders to your right and up the small hill. Enjoy exploring them but please don’t destroy or compromise the area in any way. Continue past the sign and return to the parking area using the loop trail. Walk about five minutes and you’ll come to a wooden sign that describes a few hiking options. If you go to the right here, you will travel north and meet Sawmill Wagon Road. Hike and explore to your heart’s content.
Notes: The entire area is mostly flat with a few easy hills and sometimes travels near or through Twin Sisters Creek, which may (or may not) contain water.
You will likely encounter other hikers, their dogs and possibly horses and their riders.
The Gila National Forest Service has a map of the trails in this area. They are located on 32nd Street Bypass.
I spoke with Elizabeth Toney of the Forest Service and she shared some information with me about the Dragonfly Petroglyph Site.
“The Dragonfly Petroglyphs at Fort Bayard were formally recognized and recorded as an archaeological site in 2003 through a joint effort by the Grant County Archaeological Society and the Gila National Forest,” she said. “The site is monitored by the New Mexico SiteWatch program. There are at least three dragonfly petroglyphs at that location along with numerous other petroglyphs. There are many different interpretations for what the dragonfly might mean. Some Archeologists have interpreted the dragonfly in Mimbres culture as a symbol of water and fertility. Archaeologists sometimes use ethnographic analogy to also interpret what the dragonfly petroglyph might mean. There are stories that describe the dragonfly as a creature that brought food to people in times of famine. The dragonfly is also thought of as a shamanistic creature that are messenger-type beings sent to open up springs.”
Buildings, days gone by
Jeffrey’s family has been in the Silver City area for generations. I asked him to tell us about the good old days.
As we walked, Jeffrey shares some remembrances and family history. First he describes how Silver City has changed.
“JC Penney was on Bullard Street where Workshops of Carneros was,” he said. “TG&Y (a five-and-dime) was where the Billy Casper Wellness Center now stands. Smith’s Music was on Bullard where Manzanita Ridge is currently. There was a store called “Sprouse-Reitz” (five and dime) where Sun Valley is today. Piggly Wiggly (supermarket) was where Family Dollar (corner of highways180 and 90) is today, and next to that was Anthony’s Clothing. The first Walmart was where Ace Hardware is now. On Highway 180, where the County Administration building now stands was a variety of department stores. Bealls used to be a Kmart.
Then he tells me about his family.
“One grandmother was born in Catron County and another in Cleveland Mine. My mother was born in Santa Rita. In order to visit family in Pinos Altos, they would travel from Santa Rita in a wagon. She told me it took three days.”
Then Jeffrey described some memories of his childhood. He attended the Sixth Street School until, in second grade (circa 1984), someone set it on fire. At that point they went to classes in the library at Jose Barrios until portable classrooms were set up at Harrison Schmitt School. That chain of events caused him to miss out on an experience he had looked forward to as a child.
“Miss Packard was the third grade teacher at Sixth Street School and every year around Christmas she invited her class to her home on Broadway (now “The Inn on Broadway”). I remember my cousins describing how they slid down the banister. Because of that fire, I never was able to do that.”
“You should put that on your bucket list,” I told him.
“I actually was at a meeting at the Inn on Broadway” once,” Jeffrey said with a laugh. “And I was so tempted to do it!”
This is a repost of an article that was originally published in December 2014 in Desert Exposure.