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May 2015 – Black Hawk Canyon

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

Distance: various

Difficulty: moderate

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.

 

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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.

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February 2015 – Apache Mountain

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

Difficulty: hard

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.

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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.

 

December 2014 – Boston Hill

A Town of Trails

Hiking Boston Hill in Silver City with Adrienne Booth.

by Linda Ferrara

To wind up the 2014 hiking articles, I was lucky enough to hike with Adrienne Booth, a vivacious woman who is involved with many organizations in Silver City including: Grant County Trails Group, Tamal Fiesta y Mas, SWNM Green Chamber of Commerce, and the Grant County branch of AAUW-Expanding Your Horizons. I felt an immediate connection with her since we both grew up in urban areas (she in Illinois and me just outside Newark, NJ) and at early ages found connections to the outdoors.

 

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Her first outdoor experiences were exploring the urban neighborhoods and public parks around her childhood home on the South Side of Chicago. As she spent more and more time outside, she came to love nature, and when she visited a new place her first inquiry was about hiking in the vicinity. “Being outside was fun, inexpensive entertainment,” she recalled. “In college, I didn’t own a car, and I explored much of urban and rural New England on foot.”

One of the many things that drew her to the Silver City area was the potential for hiking. She told me, “This is the best urban trail system I’ve seen, including places with highly praised greenways such as Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon. As a community, we need to appreciate and use this special opportunity.”

Adrienne earned a degree in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard in 1980, and later did graduate work in geography and interpretive media. She has worked for educational publishers, coordinated manager training programs for Texas State Parks, and recently served as manager for the Gila Conservation Education Center here in Silver City. One of her current interests is with the Grant County Trails Group in our area. This group, along with many other organizations, helps create and promote a system of greenways in and near Silver City to provide local residents with places to enjoy nature and get exercise.

On many local trails you will get a flavor for the past and how Silver City developed into the unique place it is today. Maybe we should call this hike the “Health, History and Heritage Tour.” When she hikes regularly, Adrienne finds that she feels better. By walking just half an hour daily, she has seen her bad cholesterol numbers go down and her lipid numbers get in check. Her glucose numbers have gotten under control, she sleeps better and doesn’t crave junk food, her clothes fit better and the 56-year-old feels mentally sharper.

Both Adrienne and I want to encourage readers to get out and explore these trails. Instead of sitting and having coffee with a friend, why not get a to-go cup and walk one of the trails? Rather than playing video games, why not bring the kids to the trails and show them one of the many paths in the area? Are you thinking of a New Year’s resolution for 2015? Consider making this yours: “I’m going to get out and hike all of these trails in 2015.”

Here is a partial list of some the trails currently available right in the Silver City area: Boston Hill, Big Ditch Park, La Capilla Vista, San Vicente Creek, Big Tree Trail, Dragonfly Trail, Gomez Peak Trail System. You can get a more extensive list at here.

Name: Boston Hill

Distance: various

Difficulty: easy to moderate

Directions: There are several trailheads in the Boston Hill trail system. One entrance is at the top of Market Street, near Hwy. 180. The others are on Cheyenne Street (off Market), Spring Street (off Cooper) and Cooper Street (north of the cemetery).

Hike description: This is a pleasant, meandering trail system over the 550 acres of Boston Hill. You will enjoy long-range, panoramic views of the area, various mine evidence to explore, and wildlife and plants of the area. Since it is a series of three hills, there is some climbing. But it’s still easy and doable for most people.

Notes: In 1879 a mining claim was made on the smallest of the hills by the “Boston Company.” Within four years they had sold the mine, but the name remained. In 1999 the Town of Silver City purchased the property with intentions of preserving it as open space.

It is popular with locals because it allows dogs on leashes, is open to bicyclists and pedestrian traffic, and is close to town yet still provides the feel of nature. There are benches for resting and numbered trail junction signs. If you’re going in hot weather, bring water and wear a hat. If you would like to have a map to take with you, you can get one at the Visitor’s Center on Hudson Street, or online here.

Tell us about a particularly memorable hiking experience:

“In both 2013 and 2014, I worked with the Hispanic Access Foundation to bring about 30 urban kids from Catholic youth groups to experience the Gila River for the first time. We hiked near the Cliff Dwellings and in the Mogollon Box area.

“For many participants, it was a spiritual and life-changing experience. They turned off cell phones except to take photographs of the river to share with their friends, and they talked about wanting to come back on their own to explore the outdoors again. It was very rewarding for me to share my love of nature with them and to have them enjoy it and want to share it with others.”

 

This is a reprint of an article that first appeared in the December 2014 issue of Desert Exposure.

October 2014 – Bill Evans Lake — Forest Road 4233E

Recipe for a Good Hike

Walking near Bill Evans Lake with chef Rob Connoley

I love to cook, I love to eat and I love to hike, so when I recently had the opportunity to forage with local chef and owner of The Curious Kumquat, Rob Connoley, I jumped at the chance. He says that hiking keeps him thin, but for him it’s really all about his dog, Lexi (short for Miss Lexington Elizabeth Connoley). I got a good workout keeping up with his pace, and since he’s 6’3″, it’s quicker than most hikers.

As we walked along, he regularly stopped mid-sentence to point out a variety of plants: “Oh, good, the hackberries are out” and “I don’t know if I’ll get any oyster mushrooms this year” and “I got the mother lode of green walnuts over that way last week.” At one point he pulled off a few mesquite pods and handed one to me: “Chew it, but don’t swallow it.” All I tasted was the woody outer pod. But then, as it softened, I tasted a pleasant, citrus flavor. He said, “I make syrups, breads and cakes with it,” and moved on.

 

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Connoley walks daily and forages, which he calls “grocery shopping,” for home and restaurant. The plants, berries and seeds he gathers include mushrooms (he carries a mushroom field guide with him on all walks), mesquite, amaranth, poppy seeds, watercress, cattails and much more. When he opened the restaurant, he was interested in using local products as much as possible, which led him to learn about what was grown here in the past and what is currently available in the wild. He’s been experimenting and pleasing palates ever since.

I spoke with the Gila National Forest office and they informed me that the only items you need a permit to forage are prickly pears and piñon nuts.

I also did some research and found out how Bill Evans Lake, where we went hiking, got its name. Evans was an attorney at Phelps Dodge in the 1960s who was instrumental in acquiring land/water rights for the company, which built the reservoir, diverted water from the Gila, and pumped the water more than 12 miles uphill to the Tyrone Mine operations site.

Name: Bill Evans Lake — Forest Road 4233E

Distance: Three-plus miles

Difficulty: Easy

Directions: Starting at the intersection of Hwy. 180 and Little Walnut Road in Silver City, drive west on Hwy. 180 for 26 miles. You will see a brown sign for Bill Evans Lake, just past mile marker 88. Turn left onto Bill Evans Lake Road. Drive 3.6 miles and bear right onto Newby Road. Drive 2.2 miles and after a turn around a bend/cliff, on the right you will see a small dirt road drop-off. A brown maker for Forest Road 4081Y is partly hidden in the brush on the right. Drive 0.4 miles to 4233E, staying left. Park at the end of the road, where you will see a green gate. There is a brown “walk-through” gate for easy access. Walk along this road/trail. You can’t get lost if you keep the cliff on your left and the drop-off and river on your right on the way in.

Hike description: This is an easy, shaded walk along the Gila River with many photo opportunities. Expect to climb over a few downed trees. I suggest that you have the tall skinny guy lead so he can clear out any cobwebs. We saw a beautiful crane, a black hawk, bear scat and elk tracks along the way. At the 0.9-mile mark, go right (not up the hill to the left). It may appear to be blocked by a huge, downed tree, but look carefully and go through the hidden passage. After going through a few gates, you will come up out of the trees and walk along a dirt road. Stay right and you will soon come to a National Forest sign that says: “Gila River Bird Habitat Management Unit.” Walk down the short path and enjoy a cove of trees and access to the river. You may turn back or continue on at this point.

Tell us about a particularly memorable hiking experience:  “I’m the kind of person that likes to push my limits and one day I decided to take a long hike up past Moon Ranch. I was accustomed to mountain climbing at high altitudes, so my confidence was high that I could handle this sort of hike. We had walked off trail quite far, and I turned around to go back. After looking for the trail in a zigzag pattern for hours, the sun set and Lexi and I were forced to bed down for the night. I had a Bivy Sack with me just for this purpose. Lexi and I had a rough night of it listening to nearby wildlife and thinking about our predicament.

“In the morning, we continued our search for the trail. After seven hours of looking, I saw a water tower, which is located near the trail, in the distance. We bushwhacked towards it and in order to get to it, had to maneuver down a cliff and through some nasty growth. Relieved, we got back to the car and then back home. When I walked into the house, my partner looked at me stunned: ‘What happened?!’

“I was confused at his response until he pulled me in front of a mirror and I saw that I was covered head to toe in blood. I had thousands of tiny cuts all over me which took weeks to heal.”

Do you hike any differently because of that experience?

“Yes, two things changed after that. I use a GPS on long hikes and provide clearer communication as to where I am and when I’ll be back.”

Good advice, chef.

What’s new at the restaurant?

Rob told me about his first cookbook, due out in late 2015. He’s busy with design, photography, recipes and publishing houses. The cookbook will feature the restaurant’s top recipes using modern preparations of foraged ingredients. Oh, Rob, please tell me that the recipe for the Oaxacan sandwich will be in there!

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

 

March 2013 – Georgetown Road – FR 4085L

Name: Georgetown Road — Forest Road 4085L

Distance: Various

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

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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). Travel 1.5 miles to a cattle guard. Right after the cattle guard, on your left, you’ll see FR 4085L. There is a sign for it.

Hike Description: In this hike you will experience a lot of up and down hill terrain. It is nicely treed with the typical juniper, scrub oak and pines. I like this area because there’s a lot to enjoy: wildlife, views of the Kneeling Nun and Gila National Forest, ranch activity and mining history. It’s also close enough to town that you can get there quickly. Keep track of which trail you’re on because there are many intersecting trails and forest roads back there (all worth exploring).

Notes: If you’re interested in area history, you may want to check out the following locations along Georgetown Road:
1. When you turn in from Hwy. 152, go just 0.4 miles. On your left you will see an old cemetery. There are interesting markers to check out.
2.  If you continue on Georgetown Road (past FR 4085L), at the 3.9-mile mark you will see another cemetery. (For more on this historic cemetery, see “Grave Undertaking,” Desert Exposures – November 2007 Tumbleweeds.)
3. At the 4.5-mile mark you can park the car and explore the old building foundations and mining remnants.
4. At the 4.9-mile mark, you’ll come to the Georgetown Cabins. They have an informative sign on the right that describes the history of this area and other points of interest. (For more on the cabins, see “High-Tech Hideaway,” Desert Exposure – September 2009 Tumbleweeds.)
5. Continue to explore down the side trails and you’ll be rewarded with various mining-activity remnants. Cool stuff!

Helpful Hint: The more you know about your hiking area (desert, shaded, mountainous, rocky, water nearby, etc.), the better prepared you can be. For example, if the trail has lots of loose rocks, you may want to bring hiking poles and wear hiking boots that support your ankles.

This is a repost of an article that originally appeared in Desert Exposure. Check them out at:

http://www.desertexposure.com