Category Archives: Mimbres Valley
If you spend any time at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore on Market St., you probably have seen or met Charlie Freye. For nine years, the 66-year-old from Muskegon, Michigan, has volunteered there and currently serves as the Board Secretary. He happily told me that he has purchased half of his hiking gear at the ReStore including a hat, pole, shirt and boots.
The Habitat ReStore is a wonderful example of the recycle/reuse/reduce model. If you hate throwing away items (construction materials, furniture, appliance and household items), but you don’t want or need them anymore, you can donate it to the ReStore (they will even pick up items at your location). They sort and resell cheaply and use the proceeds to assist local residents by either building homes, or more recently, repairing existing homes. It reduces the waste in landfills, helps local residents by offering inexpensive materials and products, and assists local residents get into a new home or improve the one they’re in. Their motto is “Miss a Day – Miss a Deal”. Call 575-534-9727 to arrange a pick up. Or stop by with your donations Wed-Thurs-Fri 1-4 pm, Sat 9-12. They are located at 704 W. Market St.
Charlie and his wife Gail volunteer at various organizations around Grant County. Charlie at Habitat for Humanity and Gail with Literacy Link – Leamos. They met each other while bike racers back in Michigan, so it was natural that when they arrived here they got involved with the Tour of The Gila where they drive support vehicles and host riders. Charlie encourages everyone to help with the bike race in some way…it’s an excellent way to help the community.
Describe one of your favorite hikes that you’d like to share with the readers:
Name: Rocky Canyon
Directions: From the intersection of Highway 180 and 32nd Street, drive east on 180 to Highway 152 (5.4 miles). Take 152 for 13.9 miles and turn left onto Highway 35. Drive north on 35 for 14.7 miles and make a right onto North Star Mesa Road. Drive 12.0 miles on North Star Mesa Road until you reach the Rocky Canyon Camp Ground. Pull in and park on left. This is a large campground area with a port-o-potty. There is a wooden forest service sign near the beginning that directs you to a few options including, Tr. 700, Brannon Park, Tr. 803, Apache Creek and Hwy 35. Starting at the sign, walk .3 miles and look for a half hidden 4 x 4 post on your left. It has ‘803’ scratched into it. Here is where you will head off of the main trail and go to the left, onto Trail 803.
Hike Description: This is a shady trail up a canyon that is…. ahem….rocky. The trail meanders across the canyon floor with numerous stream crossings. Along the way you will enjoy ponderosas, seasonal water, a few hoodoos and other large rock formations. At the .8 mm, find several caves at or near canyon floor level.
Do you have any observations you’d like to share? Like many other local outdoorspeople, Charlie expresses concern over the effect that the proposed Gila River diversion will have to Turkey Creek and the surrounding area. If it happens, the diversion threatens the beautiful canyons, hot springs, wilderness hiking and camping spots.
Tell me about a memorable hiking experience: I ask all of my hiking subjects the same question and Charlie responded like most avid hikers. He lists many unforgettable outdoor experiences including: rafting the lower Gila Box, hiking in Black Canyon off of North Star Mesa Rd., backpacking in Aravaipa Canyon in Arizona, a hard walk to Alum Camp, hiking to Skunk Johnson’s Cabin, a creepy hike where they came across an old homestead and possible graves, and a memorable day up Sheep Corral Canyon Road when a man on horseback galloped past calling, “fuego!” It was the day of the Signal Peak Fire. He and Gail got out safely but not without an unhealthy, heart-pounding dose of fear.
Charlie describes himself as “not a goal-oriented hiker.” I understood exactly what he meant when he said it. I meet a lot of hikers and some of them are trying to go as fast as possible, or as far as possible, or undertaking the CD Trail in one season. So Charlie’s self-description was appropriate for his style. Along our hike, we stopped occasionally to investigate, or talk, or take photos. No marching or pushing forward on this day. And you know what? It was great!
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.”
Hunting for Hiking Real Estate
Exploring Trail 96 near Lake Roberts with Robin Thomas.
Robin Thomas and her family have lived in the Mimbres Valley for over 17 years. Drawn here from Madison, Wisc., by her grandparents, she fits right in to the outdoor lifestyle — enjoying fishing, four-wheeling, camping, hiking, hunting, cross-country skiing and horseback riding. When I asked her why she loves the outdoors, she explained, “It’s the best thing I’ve found for stress relief after a challenging day in real estate.”
During this year, I’ve observed one thing about hiking with new people: We focus on different things when on a trail. Personally, I enjoy the awesome views; others are looking for birds, plants, photo opportunities, adventure or a challenge. When I hiked with Robin, I learned a lot about what a hunter is looking at and for.
When we got together, she apologized for being a few minutes late because she had to stop and wait for a flock of turkeys to move off the road. As I got in the car, she added, “Looks like it’s going to be a good Thanksgiving!” As we hiked, she pointed out elk markings: scat, tree rubbings, tracks in the mud, and crushed grass under a tree. As we looked down into the canyon below, she pointed out a lush meadow: “That’s an ideal place to see a herd of elk.”
She was likewise knowledgeable about plants, showing me chamisa, tasting some wild oregano, and commenting that the wild pink cosmos were just past their bloom.
Name: Trail #96
Directions: The trailhead is located on Hwy. 35 approximately 1.5 miles south of Lake Roberts, between mile markers 21 and 22. On the north side of the highway, you will see a pull-off and a brown road marker that says, “4206S.” On Hwy. 35, there is a brown “hiker” sign that indicates that this is Trail 96.
Hike description: The wooden entrance gate is where you’ll begin this hike. It is a well-cairned hike that starts by walking through a chamisa field, enters the Gila Wilderness, then meanders along the canyon floor with stunning rim rock looming high above. The trail gradually heads up to the top of the ridge where you can look down at the red rock cliffs.
Notes: You may take this trail 10-plus miles to Hwy. 15 (near Clinton Anderson Lookout), so consider putting it into “two-heel drive,” bring some nourishment and hike on! There are many photographic opportunities. You may want to bring binoculars to search the caves across the canyon. This is part of the Military Road, which I understand is an old Army double-track built in the late 19th century to supply military outposts on the Gila River.
Tell us about a particularly memorable hiking experience: “When I was 19-20 years old, we were backpacking in Rain Canyon, near Glenwood, off of Sacaton Road. The first incident was finding a bear trap in the river, which, luckily, no one tripped. The next morning, a lightning/rain storm came through. It was a pretty miserable, intense return hike out of the steep canyon, gear getting heavier and wetter by the minute. We finally made our way back to the car with much relief, until our dog started chasing cattle and couldn’t be found for over an hour. It was just one of those memorable hikes that did not work out, so we re-grouped and headed to the White Mountains of Arizona for some trout fishing.”
During our hike, Robin also shared some memories of her childhood: “I didn’t officially hunt until around age 21. Dad gave me a 16-gauge shotgun to go on my first spring turkey hunt. When I was a young girl I would tag along with my father on his pheasant-hunting trips in Wisconsin. I suspect I was along to flush birds in the corn fields. Sometimes I would go with my grandmother rabbit hunting in the early 1970s when she lived in the desert near Alamogordo. Ranchers would kill too many coyotes, and then the rabbits would overrun the ranch and my grandfather’s garden. We would go out at sunset in her VW Karmann Ghia with the top down, Grandpa driving and her sitting up on the back of the convertible. She was quite a shot with her 4-10 shotgun, especially when it came to rattlesnakes.”
Robin is a Realtor with Prudential Real Estate and has an office in the Mimbres Valley between mile markers 3 and 4. I bet if you contacted her, she’d share some of her deep knowledge of the area and point you to some good trails.
I found her to be an excellent hiking partner. She described many different hikes along the Mimbres Valley that got my feet twitching with anticipation of good hikes to come. I hope that if I promise to put my best boot forward, she’ll invite me to go with her again.
This is a reprint of the November 2014 article that was published in Desert Exposure.