Category Archives: Mining
Canyons are Gorge-ous!
When I approached George Austin, owner of Silver Imaging, about doing a hike and article with me, his eye brows went up, his eyes got wide, and he said, “sure!”. When he immediately mentioned several hiking options, all of which sounded intriguing, my eye brows went up, my eyes got wide, and I said, “sure!”
His years of working with the Forest Service, hiking in the area, and photographing the landscape, paid off for me when I got into his truck and we headed out one Fall morning. I have pages of notes of new trails to try, people to contact and interesting area history.
George has been an outdoorsman since a family vacation in Ruidoso when Mom, being busy with a newborn, didn’t notice that the six year George had slipped out the door and went out exploring. It is documented that his first words were, “Ope de doo”, meaning: open the door.
He grew to love the Gila when he got a job with the Forest Service in 1973 and remembers cleaning, among many others, the Cat Walk and Sheridan Corral trails, performing Fire Lookout work at the now defunct Bear Wallow Lookout, and recalls many 5-day horse and mule treks working with the Forest Service.
Recalling how he started with the Forest Service, he regales me with an amusing horse/mule story. He was given 2 hours of instruction on how to ride and care for the animals and then he set out on the horse and guiding the packed mule for a week working on the Crest Trail. The next morning when he tried to put the bit in the horse’s mouth, the horse would not have it. The horse reared up to avoid George and fell over. When he got back on his feet, he took the bit and obeyed George from that point on. George speculates that the horse thought George knocked him over and decided to not have that happen again.
George’s love and talent towards photography began by wanting to share what he saw in the wilderness with people back home.
Describe one of your favorite hikes that you’d like to share with the readers:
Name: Gold Dust Trail #41
Directions: Beginning at the intersection of Highway 180 and Little Walnut Road, drive west on Highway 180 for 63 miles to Road 159 (a.k.a. Bursum Road) (between mile markers 48 and 47). Make a right. Travel 3.8 miles to a parking lot. Make right into the lot and travel .1 miles to the trailhead.
Hike Description: This is a gorgeous hike up to the west side cliff of Whitewater Canyon (think catwalk). You first climb over a grassy hill and then slowly work your way farther up. At one point you must traverse down the side of a ravine and then back up. At approximately the 1.9 mile mark, the trail might be hard to find. Walk across a smooth boulder, see and cross a small streamlet, look for trail and cairns on the other side. You will be rewarded with many fantastic views of mountains, canyons, rock face, bluffs, chutes and spires.
I strongly recommend you wear pants on this hike as there is a fair amount of mesquite and cat’s claw along the way.
Before heading up the trail, look across and see the mouth of Whitewater Canyon.
At some point on the trail, stop and listen for the water rushing below in Whitewater Canyon. Cup both your hands behind your ears and hear the difference in the sound. Cupping your ears amplifies the sound immensely!
Seeing Whitewater Canyon from above is a completely different experience than from inside!
The day that we were there a loud, small jet zoomed into the canyon and around the bend and out of sight. George explained that it was a training flight out of Tucson.
I stopped at the Reserve Ranger office where I learned that the Catwalk is scheduled to be reopened by Memorial Day 2016. I also saw a bunch of photographs of the flood area. If you have time, stop by and check them out!
Tell me about a particularly memorable outdoor experience: As we drove back to Silver, George shared a memorable outdoor story with me. He and a friend had decided to cross-country ski 47 miles from Jacob Lake, Utah to the north rim of the Grand Canyon and then down and out the south rim. They were warned that they might need cleats, ice picks and climbing equipment, but didn’t have any. The hairiest stretch of the 7 day trip was when they traversed around a narrow, ice covered section of trail with a 50 foot drop-off. The other memorable part of the trip was when the 37-year-old and his friend made it to Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Since they were one day late, they were told they would have to continue to the next designated stop, Indian Gardens – 5 miles away.
At this point in the story, I interjected that they weren’t being very accommodating to already tired hikers. But George shook his head.
“It was a wonderful gift. I got to hike in the moonlight and experience hiking out of the Grand Canyon like few people are able to.”
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.
October 2015 – Walter La Fleur – Gold Gulch
On the southern edge of the Burro Mountains, in the foothills between the Big Burros and the plains of Lordsburg, lies dramatic terrain full of ranching activities, abandoned mines, Native American history, and hiking adventures. I’ve scratched the surface of trails in the area, but had never hiked Gold Gulch. So when Walter La Fleur suggested it as a hike, I eagerly laced up.
Before you read about the trail, let me tell you about Walter. He grew up in New Mexico and remembers adventures in the Gila as a Boy Scout and teenager. Life was different then (roughly 70 years ago), and it was normal for a few kids to be out in the woods all day, apparently doing boy things like finding snakes and knocking over dead trees. He told me about one adventure when he got his driver’s license and he and a buddy drove from Deming to Sheridan Corral and rode horses out to the Big Dry for a couple of weeks. They lived mostly on trout they caught (ten per day was the limit) and corn bread they made in a skillet.
When I asked him which trail was his favorite, he described an area of the middle fork between Snow Lake and The Meadows. It’s a several day backpacking trip that’s worth the effort.
Here’s another one of his favorite hikes that he’d like to share with readers:
Name: Gold Gulch
Directions: Starting at the intersection of Highway 90 and By-Pass Road, travel approximately 21 miles south and make a right onto Gold Gulch Road. Travel 2.5 miles, pull over to the right and onto the dirt road. Confirm your location by finding the Forest Service brown marker labeled, “4250G” in the bushes to the right.
Hike Description: This hike begins on an old dirt road and then continues up Gold Gulch. Walk the road a short distance until you reach a gate. After closing the gate behind you, continue up the road. It may disappear a few times, but it’s pretty easy to find and follow. Within 5-10 minutes of walking, you will be paralleling Gold Gulch. There are a few pseudo-trails that lead you to the gulch. If you miss them, just bushwhack down to it, leaving yourself a cairn or marker in the gulch for your return trip. If you continue up the road instead of going into the gulch, you will come upon an old mine hole. Check it out, and then return down the hill and go over to the gulch. The remainder of the hike is up the gulch itself.
Notes: Along the way you will enjoy interesting rock formations. In spots, rock climbing will be necessary as you continue. If it becomes too strenuous to climb boulders, consider going around the boulders by finding (mostly cattle) trails on either side of the arroyo. Don’t be surprised if you’re like me and utilize the “enrumpage” technique (that always graceful maneuver of sliding down smooth boulders on your bum) on this hike.
Please keep in mind that at certain times of the year, Gold Gulch Road can contain deep sandy areas and will be 4-wheel drive only. Proceed wisely.
Do you have any suggestions for hikers? “Stop walking when rubbernecking. Also, some people tend to walk so fast that they miss the wilderness.”
Tell me about a particularly memorable hiking experience: Walter wistfully tells me about his long time hiking buddy who recently passed away. He was the leader of their informal hiking group and had led them on innumerable adventures. As the friend’s health deteriorated, their hikes got shorter. Eventually hikes became car rides in the forest. Towards the end, his buddy would investigate the lower reaches near the car while Walter hiked nearby and took photographs so his friend could enjoy the highlights. I imagine it must have been soothing to be outside for a while and away from troubles.
I hope that when I get towards the end of my days, I have someone like Walter to help me enjoy my last sights, sounds and smells of the countryside.
This article originally appeared in the October 22, 2015 issue of “The Independent”.
Many times while hiking, I find myself quizzically inspecting an unidentified geological formation, examining an interesting rock, or stumped on how a white line of quartz got in the middle of the earth, marked there like nature’s 50 yard line. I wanted to learn more about the geology I’ve been seeing on my hikes and so, after some digging, I was put in touch with local hiker Lee Stockman of the Grant County Rolling Stones Gem and Mineral Society. He has been interested in geology his entire life and told me that he looks at rocks with a chemists’ eye since that’s what he did for a living – a chemist at the water treatment department in Antioch, Ca. To emphasize his love of Geology, on the car ride to the trailhead, he pulls out a rock sample and shows his passengers. It is smooth and grey and has glittering silver specks throughout it. It turns out to be a sample of Native Silver from the Alhambra Mine which is very close to where we will be hiking today. I just got my first, but not last Geology lesson of the day. I wish I had this man for a science teacher all those years ago!
Lee hikes every week with a group of like-minded people and he offered to let me join them. Throughout the morning, Lee shares various interesting tidbits. When the group inspects white lines through a huge granite wall, he explains. “The granite cracked and super-heated water carrying minerals rose through the cracks. The water cooled and left the minerals in the cracks forming the lines we see today”.
On the trail, various rock specimens were passed around the group and inspected. “That’s a unakite – you can tell by the green stripes and the pink feldspar throughout it.”
At one point, a few hikers surround a green plant in the middle of the arroyo. They’re not seen often around here. The group calls out to Richard Felger, the resident botanist. “That’s a Desert Broom, Baccharis sarothroides.”
Describe one of your favorite hikes that you’d like to share with the readers:
Name: Black Hawk Canyon Loop
Directions: From the intersection of Highways 180 and 90, take Highway 180 West 12.9 miles to Saddlerock Canyon Road (on south side of highway). This road is close to Mile Marker 100 and is right after Mangus Valley Road. Make a left on Saddlerock Canyon Rd. Track your mileage from the highway turnoff. Travel on dirt road for 1.3 miles and go over the cattle guard. At the 1.4 mile mark (mm), the dirt road divides. Stay to the left. At the 1.5 mile mark there will be another fork. Stay left. At the 4.3 mm, stay straight. There are several side roads; when in doubt, stay on the main road. At the 5.2 mm, you will come to a closed gate. Go through the gate, closing it behind you, and continue on. The road peters out around the 6.4 mile mark. The hike starts here.
Hike Description: Before starting the hike, look to the left and see a washed out dirt road going up a hill. If you’re positioned correctly, you’ll see some old mining equipment. This is where you will come out from this loop trail. Now start your hike by walking straight up the arroyo and into Black Hawk Canyon. Soon you leave the sandy creek bottom and begin to climb across the water worn granite. This granite intrusion (dated at 1.445 Billion Years old) raised the Burro Mountains. There is usually water here even during the dry season so look for paw prints of the wildlife who inhabit this part of the Burro Mountains. At the .78 mm, there is a side road that leads to the old Alhambra Mine. Make a note to go back and check it out sometime. Continue straight until you reach the .93 mm. To the left is FR 130. This is the road that loops you back to the car. But first, walk straight ahead on FR 4242Q for a while and enjoy a pink granite canyon. When you’re ready, come back to the road and take it up a hill. When you reach a ‘T’ in the trail, turn left. Towards the end of the hike you’ll come to your last fork. Make a hard left and head down hill past the Black Hawk mine.
Notes: There will be some mild rock climbing and muddy spots along the first portion of the hike. At a few spots you will enjoy views of Bullard Peak. Expect to encounter cattle. They like to have their pictures taken, so ask them to smile. Several hikers mentioned previous kudamundi sightings in this area.
History lesson: The mining town of Black Hawk appeared in the 1880’s when silver was discovered in the area. The discovery of the Black Hawk Mine, and several others in the area, saw the beginning of the town. In the summer of 1883 the town had approximately 30 men employed in mining. By the end of the same year, there was close to 125, and the town was large enough to include a post office. In the late 1880’s production declined and the town was vacated. Today, hardly any evidence of the town exists. By the end, the Black Hawk Mine had produced one million worth of silver.
What can a reader do to learn more about the minerals in our area? Lee encourages readers to attend a meeting of the Grant County Rolling Stones Gem and Mineral Society. The meetings are on the 2nd Thursday of the month at the Silver City Senior Citizens Center (204 West Victoria at south end of town off of NM 90). A pot luck precedes the meeting at 6:00 pm. The meeting begins at 6:45 pm and is followed by an educational program.
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.