Category Archives: Indian
Marilyn Markel – Nature Conservancy Land – Mimbres
If you want to meet fascinating people, I suggest that you start hiking and writing articles. Once again I got lucky and heard about this interesting woman who is an archeologist, is involved with the Mattocks Ruins in the Mimbres and who agreed to hike with me. Marilyn Markel is a native New Mexican who graduated from The University of New Mexico and currently keeps busy with The Mimbres Culture Heritage Site – Mattocks Ruins (MCHS), teaches at Aldo Leopold once a week, facilitates with the WILL Program, and is president of the Grant County Archaeological Society.
We hiked recently at the Nature Conservancy’s Mimbres land which is 600 acres of riparian delight. The property, which was established as Nature Conservancy land in 1994, includes 5 miles of Mimbres River and is home to the endangered Chihuahua chub (fish) and the Chiricahua leopard frog.
It has a diverse landscape including forest, savanna, grasslands, cienegas (marshes), springs and stream. It’s a beautiful place, even in the winter, so lace up those boots!
Hike Name: The Nature Conservancy – Mimbres Valley
Distance: 2+ miles
Difficulty: easy, but wet
Directions: From the intersection of 180 and 152, turn North onto Highway 152 north and drive 14 miles to Highway 35. Make a left onto Highway 35 north and drive for approximately 8.5 miles. There will be a steep, rutted driveway on the right. Pull in the driveway and park. If you pass 3448 Highway 35, you just missed it.
Hike Description: Start the hike by walking through the gate on the left. It is facing the barn, which dates to the 1890’s. Follow the path to the river. When you pass by the old saw, stop for a moment and realize that this saw probably cut the wood for the barn you parked near. Cross the river and maneuver (no trail visible here) through the trees and then the field until you pick up the old military road at the base of the hills. Walk on the road for the remainder of the hike.
Come to terms with the fact that you’re feet are going to get wet on this hike and prepare ahead. I suggest you place dry socks and shoes in your vehicle. Marilyn was smarter than me and brought old shoes in her backpack and changed before we entered the water.
The word ‘Mimbres’ means ‘willow’ in Spanish and I saw a few desert willows still sporting green leaves while we were there.
Before our hike, Marilyn gave me a tour of the Mimbres Culture Heritage Site.
The site, which is owned by the Imogene F. Wilson Education Foundation, contains a 1000 year old, 200 room Mimbres pueblo ruin which was built on top of an earlier pit house village. It is estimated that approximately 90 people lived here.
The property also contains 2 adobe buildings dating from the 1880’s which have their own interesting history including murder, insanity, and jail escapes. Over time, the site has been improved and now includes a small museum and a walking path with interpretive sign boards explaining the ruin layout and lives of the people who resided there. The museum resides in one of the adobe buildings, called the Gooch House. In addition to local Native American history, the museum also contains more recent history including mining and ranching in the area. Be sure to spend a few minutes looking at the photos from the early 1900’s.
It’s a great site for learning about Native Americans. Beloit College in Wisconsin, The University of Nevada – LV, The University of Texas, and Oregon State University have either conducted summer field schools where pottery and other artifacts have been excavated at the site or, they used MCHS as a base camp when they were working at other sites in the Valley. Local grade school kids come to learn the history and are encouraged to imagine how life was 1000 years ago. I really like that there are pottery sherds in the museum for the kids to inspect and touch.
If you go out to the Mimbres, plan to stop at the MCHS and check it out. It is open from 11:00-3:00 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. It is located between mile marker 3 and 4 on Highway 35, just past the Mimbres Café, approximately 5 miles south of the Nature Conservancy property.
Do you have any suggestions for visitors to the ruins?
“It’s important for visitors to leave artifacts where they belong. As soon as it’s moved or removed, the information that goes with them is lost.”
I have been hiking with Dora Hosler since we met in 2011. I love her story of coming to the United States because it is millions of immigrants’ story. She was raised in a small village two hours from Chihuahua City, Mexico where she and her siblings spent the mornings in school and the afternoons milking cows, feeding chickens and pigs, and playing.
After begging her parents to let her come, she moved to Silver City with a cousin and got a job. She has worked at various jobs in Silver City, a place that she loves for its’ small town flavor, friendly people and because “it feels like home”. In 2008 she achieved a hard-won goal of becoming a U.S. citizen. She is an especially pleasant and kind woman, and a strong, easy-going hiker.
I remember one hike when I tried to help her pronounce the ‘Z’ sound and I couldn’t understand her difficulty until she tried to teach me to roll my R’s and she didn’t understand how I couldn’t do it. The wildlife in the area must have been rolling with laughter listening to us.
When I recently asked her which of our many hikes her favorite was, she replied that she really enjoyed climbing to the top of Signal Peak because she was proud to complete a steep, difficult hike which that one certainly is. I call it the ‘knee-buster’ because afterwards, I limped for three days! She also enjoyed climbing the Forest Fire Tower and talking with the lookout on duty who was kind enough to give us a 360 degree tour of our hiking terrain, and explain how the alidade (fire finder) works.
For this article, we drove out to the mining district and hiked in the Georgetown area. It’s a good hike if you’re short on time but still want to get some soil underfoot.
Name: Georgetown Road – FR 4085I
Directions: Starting at the intersection of Hwy. 90 and Hwy. 180, take Hwy. 180 East to Hwy. 152 (7.3 miles). Turn left (north) onto Hwy. 152 and drive 6.3 miles to Georgetown Road. Turn left on Georgetown Road (a very well-maintained dirt road). Take this 3.9 miles to an intersection where the cemetery is. Make a right and immediately you will see FR 4085I. Park on the right.
Hike Description: This is an easy walk along Lampbright Draw. The road may disappear now and then, but is easily picked up again. Look closely to find evidence of this area’s history, primarily mining and ranching. Once you walk past the corrals and windmill (approximately ¾ of a mile), the road is harder to find. We walked along an arroyo to complete our days’ exercise.
A little about the town of Georgetown: The town grew out of silver mining in the area in the 1870’s and at its peak, had 1200 residents. Imagine churches, schools and adobe brick homes on the north side of town, a business district in the center with general stores, a butcher shop, a harness shop, restaurants, a hotel, a billiard parlor, and more, and then on the south side were miner’s shanties, saloons and ‘bawdy houses’. Military from surrounding forts would periodically be seen to keep the town safe from Apache attacks.
There’s some discrepancy about how the town got its’ name. The Magruder Brothers were mining here and they had come from Georgetown, Washington DC so that is one theory. But George Magruder was killed in a milling accident on the Mimbres River so some believe that the remaining brother named the town for his brother George.
Enjoy hiking in the area and contemplating how life may have been a short 140 years ago. For more details about the Georgetown area, check out my blog post:
Fun fact: oro in Spanish is gold; plata is silver; cobre in copper. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve lived here 15 years and didn’t know that until recently………
This article was originally published in: “The Independent” on November 26, 2015.
Hiking Apache Mountain with Russ Kleinman
A sprained ankle and knee delayed my hike with retired surgeon, Russ Kleinman, but when I finally made it a few weeks later, it was fantastic!
Russ has been enjoying the outdoors since about the age of 4 when he roamed land near his home and later explored the San Gabriel Mountains outside Los Angeles.
Nowadays, he enjoys many outdoor-related activities including shortwave radio operation, dog agility training, hiking, camping and botany. He teaches a plant taxonomy class at WNMU (the science that finds, identifies, describes, classifies, and names plants). Mosses are his current interest, which he demonstrated along the hike by regularly crawling beneath brush and boulders. He wore a magnifying loupe around his neck and showed me the mosses up close. I was surprised to see the different varieties, which looked the same at first, were vastly different when inspected through the magnifier.
If you’re interested in the vegetation of the Gila, a wonderful resource is gilaflora.com, a website by Russ with more than 16,000 photographs, locations and information about the plants in our area.
Describe one of your favorite hikes that you’d like to share with the readers…
Name: Apache Mountain
Distance: 2.6 miles round trip
Directions: Starting at the intersection of highways 180 and 90, drive south on Highway 90 for 30.4 miles (it is just after mile marker 11). Make a left onto WD Ranch Rd. There is a brown forest sign for Forest Road 841 to verify you’re on the right track. The first mile of this road is public access over privately owned land, so please stay on the road and don’t trespass. At the one-mile mark, you will go over a cattle guard and enter National Forest land. When you reach a fork in the road, turn left. Shortly, (a few hundred yards) you will come to a turn-off on the right hand side. Look through the grasses and find a brown forest service marker for Forest Road 40910. Pull in and park (do not block the road).
Hike Description: The first part of this hike is a gradual climb on an old dirt road alongside of Monarch Canyon. At the one-mile mark, you will reach a saddle where you can look down the other side into Apache Canyon. Here is where you leave the road and follow the fence line upward. There is a trail in some spots; when in doubt, I suggest you head upward.
Notes: Don’t try to drive up FR 40910; it is heavily rutted in several spots. This is a short, steep hike up to the top of Apache Mountain. You will climb 1,383 feet up and be rewarded with unbelievable views. On the day we went, we actually looked down at clouds and had one move past us while sitting on the summit.
Along the way, you will see several large boulders and long veins of white quartz, something I’ve not seen often in this abundance in the Gila.
During the hike, Russ told me several hiking adventures, including this story:
“I enjoyed snow camping for a long time and one trip included crossing the Gila River. I knew enough to sleep with my water bottle underneath me in my tent to avoid having ice the next morning. But this trip, I learned another lesson. I took off my cold, wet boots and placed them outside the tent. The next morning, I found them frozen rock solid. A harsh lesson was learned that morning as I hopped barefoot around the snow, looking for dry wood to start a campfire. Thawing my boots was a bit like toasting marshmallows; I didn’t want to put them too close to the fire or they’d burn, and too far away and they’d never thaw.”
After I expressed my aversion to the thought of camping in snow, Russ responded, “Snow camping isn’t for everyone; it leaves a very narrow margin for error.”
Do you have a piece of equipment that you use often when hiking?
Russ shows me his map app called “Backcountry Navigator Pro.” It’s an Android mobile mapping application where you can download different types of maps including topographical, color aerial, street maps and more. You can mark waypoints, record tracks, compute trip pace, utilize a compass, keep waypoint lists, record trip stats, save, export, and import trip notes for future reference and more. I’m not the most technically literate person, but this new stuff is excellent so I guess I’ll get dragged into the tech age, hiking and climbing the entire way!
In order to intrigue you, I’ll share some hearsay about a mystery in the area. Through much digging, and an interesting conversation with local rancher Jimmy Stewart, I learned the following:
The WD in “WD Ranch Road” stands for Will Dover, who was one of about six ranchers who owned property in that area. In the late 1800s/early 1900s he ranched in the Apache Canyon area, including the peak. It is rumored that he got into a dispute with one of the other ranchers and disappeared … never to be heard from again.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
Name: Allie Canyon
Distance: 5.5 miles round trip
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Directions: From the intersection of Hwy. 180 and Hwy. 152 on the edge of Santa Clara, turn north onto Hwy. 152 North and drive 14 miles to Hwy. 35. Take Hwy. 35 north for approximately 10-10.5 miles. On the left, you will see what looks partly like a road and partly like a wide arroyo (there used to be a street sign that said “Allie Canyon Rd,” but as of July 22, it’s no longer there). Pull in and soon you’ll see a corral, windmill and a parking area. Park and head up the arroyo; there’ll be a trail there.
Hike Description: Enjoy Allie Canyon on this hike that includes several hills, meadows, pine groves and the like. You’ll see an old cabin, a camp area, George Hightower’s grave (for more information, check out: 100hikesinayear.wordpress.com/?s=allie+canyon), and huge hoodoos. Be sure to climb up to the hoodoos and get a good look at these natural wonders! Also be aware that this is ranch land and you can expect to encounter cattle.
Notes: I rated this hike as “moderate to difficult” because of its length and climb up to the hoodoos. It is certainly a doable hike for most hikers. Another option for this hike is to continue past the hoodoos and you’ll eventually end up at Signal Peak (an overnighter!).
Helpful Hint: Always carry the following items: water, snack, tissues, lip balm, knife, compass, whistle, adhesive bandages, aspirin, bandana, walking stick, appropriate layers of clothing, GPS, cell phone, hat, plastic bags, camera and sunglasses.
This is a repost of an article that was published in “Desert Exposure”. Check them out at: http://www.desertexposure.com/100hikes/
Name: Little Cherry Creek
Directions: Starting at the intersection of Highway 15 and 32nd Street in Silver City, drive north on Highway 15 for 8.2 miles. On the right-hand side of the road you will see a wooden sign saying, “Little Cherry Creek Ranch.” Turn right on (what seems to be) a driveway and find a parking spot; there are several right there when you pull in.
Hike Description: This is a good hike for a hot summer day, as it is follows the creek and there is often water available. It is heavily treed and there are many interesting rock formations to appreciate. At the 1.4-mile mark, the road makes a strong curve to the left. If you look straight into the woods, you will see a trail. Continue there for as long as your legs will take you. While on the road, the walk is a gradual uphill climb. Once you get into the woods and off the road, it gets hillier and soon starts up the side of the mountain.
Notes: This is a heavily traveled path, so expect to see other hikers, horseback riders and vehicle travel. As you walk along, notice the different foliage. There are a lot of different plants due to the moisture. Watch out for poison oak!
Helpful Hint: ALWAYS tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to be back.
This is a repost of an article that originally appeared in “Desert Exposure”. Check them out at:
09-26-12 – Up Sheep’s Corral Canyon Rd – 6.6 Miles
I enjoy hiking with Pamela; there’s always good conversation. We traveled up Highway 15, turned onto Sheep Corral Canyon Rd, and drove slowly since we were following a Forest Service track that was dragging a 4 wheeler behind it. About halfway up, we saw many Forest Service vehicles parked with horse trailers and equipment. After watching the Forest Service Calvary go off into the woods for parts unknown, Pamela and I parked at the sheep corral and hiked Trail #231, which is behind the corrals and partially hidden. This trail slowly drifts down into Goat Canyon and is pleasant and cool. We enjoyed the tall pines, various flowers, some interesting rock faces and wild strawberry plants. The hike involved climbing over a huge tree trunk and some up and down hills, but nothing too strenuous.
This area is worth exploring further; there were several off shoot trails from this one that looked interesting.
We ended the day watching a Wild Turkey Brigade march off into the field. Made me hungry…….
3.33 Miles / 2.75 Hours
99 down/1 to go
If you drive up Highway 15 for a few (somewhere between 13 and 16) miles, you will see a sign for Meadow Creek on the right. There is a good dirt road which my Rav-4 could drive up for several miles, and then the road starts getting “brave 4-wheel driver” on you. This is a pleasant area, and in this June heat, pleasant means shady. There are a variety of side trails off the road that I plan on exploring in the future. Today, Lucy and I walked the road which wound down to the creek which had water in it. There was plenty of green grasses in the moisture and Cody enjoyed splashing a bit. At one point, we saw an area which had standing, dead trees; it must have been a past burned area.
Between reading “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson and “Fire Story” by Phil Connors, I’ve been thinking a lot about the human/wilderness connection. Recently, when Pamela and I were hiking, we got talking about humans’ place in the animal kingdom. She talked about having guilt at what some humans did to nature. I kinda feel like we’re part of nature and what we do in nature is part of the process too (to a reasonable degree). Maybe we shouldn’t stop the extinction of animals; it’s part of the cycle. In the book, “Fire Season” Phil Connors was talking about the affect of grazing on the wilderness areas. The cattle grazed and caused certain negatives like erosion, trampling of delicate riparian areas and such. Wolves are killed for killing the cattle. If there are not as many wolves, then there is an explosion of the deer population which affects the vegetation. And this cycle made me think about what is right. No one correct answer; no one correct solution.
04-06-12 – Pony Hill and Fort Cummings
Let me describe how I determined this hike. I asked Bob Pelham for his suggestions, and Bob is the kind of guy you want to ask since his boots have touched more New Mexico rocks than anyone I know. I suggest his hike to a friend who tells another friend where we’re going. The second friend mentions another nearby location ‘you don’t want to miss while you’re in the area’. And that is how a wonderful hiking adventure begins in the southwest part of New Mexico.
We head south towards Deming, New Mexico to find Petroglyphs and Fort Cummings. The day truly feels like a hike through time as we first find Petroglyphs aged 750-1100 years old. We drive up Green Leaf Mine Road off of Highway 26. There is a variety of mining evidence visible along the way. That’s an adventure for another day. We continue on with Helen recalling the verbal directions given to her. As described, we come to a second man-made damn and look for the parking lot, which we find easily. There is a kind gentleman (or should I call him a Petroglyphs Hunter) there who points us in the right direction. We gear up and head out. We soon find a rocky hill and start looking around at the boulders. Helen calls out that she’s found Petroglyphs and what follows is a wild period of pointing out drawings to each other – a mesmerizing hunt which the man we met in the parking lot soon joins. We have found the bulk of the Petroglyphs he has researched and hoped to find and we spend time photographing and talking and just being fascinated.
As I commonly do, at one point, I touch one of the shapes and close my eyes and try to imagine the person who made the drawing and their life. I did it at the Coliseum in Rome, at the Gila Cliff Dwellings, in a Mosque in southern Spain and now here on Pony Hill in New Mexico. I can’t begin to comprehend their difficulties and struggles.
Our new friend, Bill, took us a few hundred yards away and showed us the Petroglyphs he had found earlier. When we got there, we saw two other men who turned out to be the caretaker of the area and his friend. We spoke a few minutes and the caretaker asked if we had seen the macaw. He took us to the area and we saw many more drawings. Eventually, we had to move on since Fort Cummings awaited us. We exchanged email addresses with Bill, promising to share photographs, and ultimately moved on.
We have two sets of directions for Fort Cummings, one from a website and one from a map. We head off and after some dirt road driving, come to a sign that says Hyatt Ranch and sure enough, on the map, right near Ft. Cummings, it has the words, Hyatt Ranch. Okay, we’re in the right vicinity. We head off and soon run into who must be Mrs. Hyatt, who we speak to and she gives her permission for us to reach Ft. Cummings through her ranch gate. Off we go, calling “thank you” behind us. The adventure that begins here is of Thelma and Louise legend. Mrs. Hyatt tells us to go through the gate and go two miles and we’ll be at Ft. Cummings. She also tells us that her road is better than the road we missed, so we can come back through this way on our way out. Sounds easy enough? Either Mrs. Hyatt has not been on her roads for a very long time, or we’re the idiots we think we are. We head out and very soon hit a fork. We pick one and soon find another fork, and another. Mrs. Hyatt, you didn’t mention any of this. We see a newer road that was recently cut and speculate that perhaps this is the way. We climb up this road; I get out and move large rocks out of the SUV’s path. We make it to the top and although the views are SPECTACULAR, there is no sign of a fort. We wind back down, risking our very lives several times (okay, perhaps all the chocolate I ate has me exaggerating a bit…..) and decide to go back towards the beginning of our directions and start over. FINALLY, we find the right road and presently Ft. Cummings appears to our left.
Here is a short overview of the history of Fort Cummings:
We enjoy exploring the area and reading the descriptions scattered around the area. It’s fascinating and a walk in history back about 150 years. This area of the country may look desolate but it certainly had a lot of humans living here in the past 1000 years!
There are a variety of building foundations, parts of walls, the very important water building and a cemetery that we investigate. Looking at Fort Cummings photos on the internet, I see that it has deteriorated much in a short time.
Deming may be missing an opportunity to have people see this whole area. I can only imagine what some of the side roads hold. As I put some of photographs on Facebook, I’m already getting feedback on other sites in the area, Frying Pan Canyon being one of them. Now doesn’t that name just scream “Wild, Wild West???”
2.49 miles / 7.0 hours
53 down / 47 to go