December Travels in New Mexico

We covered some territory in the month of December, gradually making our way across New Mexico. Mostly we were trying to escape the persistent cold weather near Carrizozo, so heading south and west made the most sense. We lingered a bit in the lower Rio Grand Parks and opted out of some of the boondocking that was in our original plan. It’s easier and more economical to enjoy the electric sites available at the state parks instead of burning through tanks of propane in the cold weather!

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Along the Rio Grande near Percha Dam

We stayed at two new (to us) New Mexico state parks along the way… Percha Dam and Caballo Lake, both of which are located along the much dammed Rio Grande River watershed. Percha dam is very popular with the birds, and we saw (and heard) many Sandhill Cranes on the wing as well as Great Blue Herons and other water-loving birds as we walked the trail along the river.

Tonuco Mountain Petroglyphs Hike

One of our favorite hikes in the early part of our journey was the Tonuco Mountain Petroglyphs hike in Ricon. We found it on our “All Trails” app and the trailhead was a reasonable driving distance from Percha Dam. The only real problem was mud holes along the 4-mile-long dirt road going to the trailhead…and swerving into the mesquite branches to avoid the mud gave our truck some “cowboy pin-striping”.
Our poor truck really takes a beating on some of our adventures!

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Mad spattered truck with “cowboy pin-striping”

The hike starts out on a mesa and then drops down into a wash along a cliff. It was clear from tracks that this area is frequented by ATVs, and we saw footprints left by other hikers, but we saw no other hikers on the trail.

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Along the trail on the Tonuco Petroglyphs hike.

Finally, the trail veers left and heads up into a canyon toward the west. Pretty easy going at first, but toward the middle of the trail we had to clamber up some steep rock formations to keep going. We kept our eyes peeled for signs of petroglyphs but saw none on our way up the canyon. There was much interesting geology along the way to keep Linda entertained…including this boulder with lenses of zoned jasper:

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Lens of agate in boulder along the trail.

At a point the trail splits and since it was after noon (and we are slow hikers), we decided to choose one this time and leave the other fork for a future hike. We chose to go to the right. We took a quick lunch break and explored the area a bit. The path ended at a dry waterfall with dark stains left by minerals (likely manganese) in the water.

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The trail forks at this point on the Tonuco hike
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The right fork ends at this (currently) dry waterfall.

After exploring we made our way back down the trail and, lo and behold, there were the petroglyphs – facing in a way that only a person hiking DOWN the trail would observe them…

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Petroglyph-covered boulder seen on our way down.
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More Tonuco petroglyphs…

The entire hike was about 5.5 miles long, and those steep rock faces that we navigated going up the canyon required some careful attention by the two weary hikers coming back down!

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Ric navigates a steep part of the descent.

End of the Month and Westward

The end of the month landed us at Rockhound and City of Rocks State Parks. These were the first New Mexico state parks we ever stayed at, and they remain two of our favorite places for our snowbird travels. On Christmas Day we drove from Rockhound to Oliver Lee State Park, where Ric’s sister and brother-in-law were staying on their way out to Yuma on their own snowbird journey. It was great to spend the holiday with family – and we enjoyed catching up with each other’s winter travel plans!

We celebrated a very quiet New Year at City of Rocks with homemade Margaritas and a Scrabble game (Ric won)… and an attempt to stay up until midnight (we failed).

From there we headed westward into Arizona – but that’s another year and another post…

Happy 2020!!

November Ramblings in the Tularosa Basin

But …before we got to the Tularosa Basin we had an unfortunate event, namely a blown transmission, which held us up in Amarillo for four days. On the bright side, the Love’s Travel Center that we managed to limp into (literally), let us stay there for the duration while we had the truck towed and serviced at S & S Transmission in Amarillo. Son, the Vietnamese owner of S & S, and Ric hit it off and enjoyed some reminiscences about Southeast Asia during the repair process. We’ll just put the expense and inconvenience of that one behind us and hope we don’t have any more truck troubles on this trip. In many ways we were lucky regarding when and where that all went down.

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Waiting out transmission repair at Loves Travel Stop in Amarillo. Thank you Loves!

The rest of the month went pretty much as expected. The only small problem has been some on-and-off cold and wet weather that led us to make some adjustments to our schedule… we were just not confident that the ground wouldn’t get muddy in the planned off-road boondocking site. We also had elevation vs. cold temperature considerations for another site. Those concerns led us to shift to state park stays in the lower Rio Grande Valley (Percha Dam, Caballo and Elephant Butte) to get us through mid-December. We’re still riding out a 3 to 6” snow expected on Thanksgiving Eve here in Carrizozo, but we’ll be on our way southward after the stormy and windy weather clears out on Saturday.

Santa Rosa Lake

We encountered a surprisingly low lake level at Santa Rosa Lake State Park. That did not cause any problems for us – in fact we were able to hike to areas that are normally inundated with water, which was interesting. We had a great site and loved getting out to hike every day after our cross-country trek-where walking/hiking opportunities can be somewhat hit or miss.

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Low Lake at Santa Rosa Lake State Park

 

Lincoln National Forest- Dispersed Camping near Jicarilla

After Santa Rosa Lake we headed southward to camp in the Lincoln National Forest (Smokey Bear District) at a dispersed camping spot. We have camped at this spot numerous times and this time we felt is was time to give something back to the National Forest Service. The campfire ring was in pretty sorry shape…

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Campsite complete with “fixer-upper” fire ring

We spent a morning cleaning out the ash and debris (about ten 5-gallon buckets worth) and distributing it widely to help the plants and prevent an eyesore or mess in one area…

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Ric digging out the ashes and debris.

Then we rebuilt the stone ring and improved the area by policing the area… filling several plastic shopping bags full from the fire ring area and surrounding woods. We found the usual assortment of packaging trash and aging beer cans and other metal debris.

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Cleaned and rebuilt fire ring.

It was a good project and let us work some different muscle groups for the day. It will be interesting to see how full it gets by the next time we visit. This is not a highly trafficked area in the winter months because it is high desert – but it probably gets considerable use in the spring and early fall.

Valley of Fires

From there we went on to Valley of Fires in Carrizozo for a few days. We managed to find a small trail off the primitive camping area that has enhanced our enjoyment of hiking here. We can connect it to the main (paved) interpretive trail to get our daily hikes in the two to three mile range with a bit more nature thrown in…so that’s a plus. After a ten-day stay at Oliver Lee we rebounded back here to avoid having to drive up through San Andres Pass. One blown transmission is enough. Thanks. We’ll take Rte. 380 west to Rte. 25 south and avoid that problem altogether.

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Cactus growing on lava at Valley of Fires

 

Oliver Lee State Park

While at Oliver Lee we managed to drag ourselves (once again) up the Dog Canyon Trail hike. We played it conservatively this time, only going as far as the Fairchild Line Cabin at the 2.9 mile mark. That makes for a total out and back hike of six miles, but that’s with a LOT of uphill and downhill so it felt like plenty of hiking for us. That first 6/10th of a mile is always quite the challenge – a rocky, uneven trail with steep gradients that quickly makes a 600-foot gain… and shows a great view of the campground:

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Vista overlooking the campground after that first steep uphill.

The trail levels out for awhile along an extended bench and then gets into a series of up and down ridge hiking. .. again with great views all around – but particularly back down the canyon.

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About midway through our hike. Looking back down the canyon with White Sands in the far distance.

Just when you’re getting really sick of that up and down stuff the trail levels out again along a second bench in a beautiful meadow dotted with boulders and junipers and cacti.

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Reaching the second “bench” and enjoying a nice easy walk through this flat area.

We always keep our eyes open for fossils along the trail and have never come way disappointed. There are more fossils apparent the higher you go up into the layers of the canyon – as you pass through the beds of ancient seas. Some rocks are absolutely packed with fossil remains…

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Observing fossil abundance along the Dog Canyon trail.

A short, steep downhill off the bench brings you to the ruins of the “Line Cabin”. We enjoyed our lunch and took a short break, exploring the area before returning to camp.

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The “Line Cabin” and the terminus of our hike today. Now we just go back the same way we came.

While at Oliver Lee we made a few excursions for other nearby hikes. We did a day trip up to High Rolls, doing a 3 mile hike on the Bridal Veil Falls Trail (T-129). We also visited White Sands National Monument – doing the Backcountry Trail (2.2 miles) plus the Dune Life Nature Trail (1 mile) for another 3-mile plus day of hiking.

 

But now we’re back in the Carrizozo area and will shortly leave the Tularosa Basin region for parts south and west… and hopefully milder weather!

But first – Happy Thanksgiving!

 

A Visit to Alibates Flint Quarries

Enroute to our wintering grounds in New Mexico and Arizona we lingered for a few days at Lake Meredith National Recreation Area just north of Amarillo, TX. Having a few days to hike and explore a new (for us) area was a treat. We always enjoy finding new places in our travels. This area will likely be a permanent fixture of our cross-country route. It is a nice distance from our previous overnight at Elk City, OK and a similarly easy distance from Santa Rosa, NM – where we typically book our first New Mexico Parks stay. We also have a choice here to camp for free (at nice, but non-electric sites) or to pony up $24.00 for an electric site. Due to the cold snap, and the fact that we hadn’t had electric for awhile, we opted for electric. Oh – and by-the-way they have a nice big parking area (boat ramp) where you can change a flat tire after you check in.

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Part of the Lake Meredith N.R.A. was set aside as a National Monument in 1965: The Alibates Flint Quarries. The stone from this site has been used by humans for at least 13,000 years, and artifacts from many primitive sites throughout western North America reveal that is was highly prized and widely traded. All stone here is considered protected artifacts- so no taking “souvenir rocks” only photos.

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Alibates Flint Quarry near Fritch, TX

A visit to the actual quarry sites is by ranger-led tour only, and we spent several hours with our volunteer guide, who was knowledgeable about natural history and the history of the quarries themselves. It was a pleasant day with warming temperatures, but snow still remained on the ground from a snowstorm a few days prior to our arrival.

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Snowy Landscape at Alibates Flint Quarry in Texas

After driving a short distance from the visitor center we began a short hike into the small hills. We could look across an arroyo to see the various layers to read the exposed geology of the area, which dates back to the Permian Period, about 290 million years ago.

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Landforms in the Alibates Quarry – Dolomite above Permian Redbeds

Low on the hillside you can see the layers of Permian red beds, river-borne deposits of shale, sandstone and mudstone. Over time, as metallic minerals in these rocks oxidized, they assumed their typical red color.

Above these layers there are whitish rocks and boulders. This is dolomite that was formed in the late Permian (about 260 million years ago). It was formed during one of the many recorded warm periods in Earth’s history, when ocean levels rose and created a shallow sea which stretched from Alaska through the interior of North America, connecting to the Pacific Ocean in Mexico. During this time, as this area was under a shallow sea, dolomite formed from shells, coral, plankton and other organic matter living in this sea. This dolomite boulder shows layers of fossilized algae (the black stripes):

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Fossilized bands of algae in Dolomite boulder at Alibates Quarry

As we hiked higher up the hill, the terrain became a bit steeper. There we encountered a series of beautifully crafted stairs made from the local rock. We learned that these stairs were constructed as the park was built by “off duty” Navajo firefighters from this area.

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Beautiful steps at Alibates Quarry built by Navajo firemen

At the top of the mesa the beautiful chunks of cast off Alibates Flint became evident underfoot. As we learned, most everything that we saw on the ground was “garbage”material… pieces broken off of finer stones and cast away. The quarries themselves were little more than shallow depressions and without a knowledgeable guide it is quite likely that one would walk right past them without a second glance. The surface material was degraded due to weathering, but apparently they didn’t have to dig very far down to get to good material

 Although the material is called “flint” the good pieces are more agate-like in character. They are translucent and have a waxy luster and conchoidal fracture and most have banding… so either chalcedony or agate – depending on the banding (ILHO: In Linda’s Humble Opinion). We’re sure there is some actual flint there somewhere. This material has a tendency to flake in a very predictable way – which is one of the things that made it such a desirable tool-making material.

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Holding a chunk of “Alibates Flint”

After the hike we checked out the museum and watched a flint-knapping video at the Visitor’s Center – and found both to be quite informative.

One final tidbit…Upon reading about the history of the quarry we learned a little history that we found interesting:

In 1906, Charles Gould, a geologist, came to the ranch searching for oil and gas. A local cowboy, Allen “Allie” Bates, showed Gould around the area. Allie Bates was living in an unnamed ravine in a dugout, so Gould named the ravine and nearby features after him, shortening the name to “Alibates.”

(From the website page: https://www.nps.gov/alfl/learn/historyculture/ranching-days.htm)

Back on the Road in 2019

After a year of laying off winter travel… and enduring yet another New England winter… we were pretty happy to get back on the road to the southwestern US.

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Our route across the country.

The Basics:
We left the northeast on October 17th and made our cross-country trek to the southwest, staying at four Harvest Hosts, one State Park (Promised Land in PA), one Walmart (in Clearfield, PA), one rest area (Route 66 Welcome Ctr. In Conway, MO), one city park (in Elk City, OK) and one National Recreation area (Lake Meredith in Fritch, TX). The bulk of our travel was accomplished in ten days – but at day 9 we took an extended 4-day stay at the Lake Meredith Recreation Area in Fritch, TX. Most of our travel days were in the 230 mile range, and for driving entertainment we listened to the remaining books in the Sackett series by Louis L’Amour.

Driving Details:
Our most tense moments were driving through torrential rains in the metro Indianapolis area. Other than that the driving was fairly routine. Wind and snow greeted us in Oklahoma and Texas… that’s a bit of a bummer and hopefully this weather isn’t a harbinger of another cold southwest winter.

Our total gas expenses for the trip (from Massachusetts to New Mexico) were: $684.51

The biggest “Ooops” was forgetting about the Route 44 turnpike tolls in Oklahoma. Ouch. They don’t honor EZ Pass or credit cards and we were low on cash. Had to dig into our laundry quarter cash to make bail and get off their blasted turnpike. We opted out after our Sapulpa, OK stop and took Rte. 75 down to hop onto I-40. Next trip we will make some adjustments to our route to avoid those turnpikes for sure!

Our Harvest Host Stops:

At Maize Valley Winery, one of our Harvest Hosts stops, they were holding their Fall Festival. We went all in, enjoying the pig and duck races, the corn maze and, of course, “Hopnesia” one of their excellent craft brews…

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Pig Racing at Maize Valley was one of the highlights of our trip.

 

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“Now where did Linda go?”

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Our Harvest Host stops included Maize Valley Winery in Hartville, OH; Wesler Orchards in New Paris, OH; Bretz Wildlife Lodge in Carlyle, IL, and the Heart of Route 66 Auto Museum in Sapulpa, OK.

We have to admit that we spend almost as much money at Harvest Hosts as we would at a State Park campsite… but we come away with things we can use like apples and cider, craft beer and a good meal or other entertainment such as corn mazes and pig and duck races. The advantage at the State Parks is that we can take a good nature walk at the end of a long day of sitting in the truck. It’s kind of a toss-up, and its nice to have a mix of the two things as we travel.

Every year we tinker with our overnight stops and although we don’t think we have the perfect trip yet, we’ll keep experimenting and eventually we will. Our biggest problem right now is that we’re running out of Louis L’Amour audio books.

Minerals, Atomic Bombs and UFOs

We have spent considerable time in the Tularosa Basin area of New Mexico this winter… a region steeped in geology, history and mystery.

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As we sit at Valley of Fires Recreation Area we are wedged between the historic Trinity Atomic Test Site (to the west) and three alleged UFO crash sites (to the east).

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Our Benchmark Atlas Has Several UFO Crash Sites Demarcated in This Region of New Mexico

For geology buffs this region is a party. There is the lava flow malpais we are currently parked next to at Valley of Fires, and an awesome mineral museum in Socorro at New Mexico Tech.

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Beautiful Mineral Display at the Mineral Museum at New Mexico Tech in Socorro, New Mexico

On the way back from Socorro we stopped at the rock shop on Rte. 380 and scored small piece of Trinitite, a mineral formed from fused and vitrified sand during the Trinity Atomic Bomb test in 1945.

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Trinitite Sample from the Trinity Bomb Site. Born on date: 7/16/45

Speaking of Socorro, there was that whole Lonnie Zamora UFO thing that happened in Socorro as well:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lonnie_Zamora_incident

If you’ve never heard of this 1964 UFO incident, check out the wiki link above. To me, this is one of the most credible UFO (now called “UAP”) sightings ever. The efforts of debunction on this one are simply pathetic.

Perhaps it’s because we just finished listening to Tom DeLonge’s Sekret Machines, but this whole region just feels stranger than fiction.

Part of me thinks that it doesn’t take a “foaming at the mouth” conspiracy theorist to connect some dots in this part of the country.

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(Credit: CTBTO Photostream)

For example, what if our atomic bomb testing in 1945 caught the attention of someone-something-somewhere with advanced intellect and unimaginable technology. It’s a pretty weird thing to have a nuclear explosion just pop out of nowhere on a heretofore nothing planet for no good reason. Maybe they decided to come check it out. Hence Roswell, Corona and Socorro (to name a few).

Imagine their surprise at what we Earthlings did next:

Now, if I were an extraterrestrial geologist I might be interested in that.

 

Medicinal (Cursed) Plant: Puncture Vine

This is truly a cursed little plant. You will most likely not see it before you “encounter” it. Then you will step on one of its hard little burrs. Then you will emit an obscenity, or a string of obscenities in response to your pain.

We did just that, and applied the monniker “Little Bastard” to these demonic plant productions until we learned to call them by their most common name “Puncture Vine”.

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Puncture Vine (Tribulus terrestris) an invasive plant in the Caltrop family.

And puncture it does. Bicyclists have long rued this plant because it can actually puncture their bike tires. Imagine how it feels to your foot.

Its a stealthy little bugger too. It grows low to the ground, prostrate in fact, and does not stand out in the landscape. It can form large mats…all the while steadily producing its weapons.

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A Sketch of the Burr Nut of the Puncture Vine (Magnified)

The seed pods (burrs) start out green, and turn woody and tan colored by the time they are ready to hitch a ride on your shoe, a tire, your pet’s foot, fur or feathers. They are as hard as as a piece of gravel, and they don’t crumble under pressure. A single plant can produce a million seeds.

Puncture Vine is in the  Caltrop family, and oh what a fitting name that is. A caltrop was a metal device placed on the ground with one spike up and used to slow advancing armies in times of medieval warfare. It is now used by the military to puncture self-healing tires.

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A Contemporary Caltrop

The spine arrangement of the Puncture Vine burr nuts are artfully arranged by mother nature so that no matter how the fruit falls, at least one of the spines points up. She was surely in a dark mood that day.

Medicinal Benefits:

In Michael’s Moore’s Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West, he cites considerable research that supports treatment for elevated blood fats including cholesterols. It may also lessen the severity of arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis.

This plant has also long been promoted , particularly in Indian and Chinese medicine as a diuretic, tonic and aphrodisiac. Links to two relevant  PubMed articles are included in the resources section at the end of this post.

This plant goes by many names. Here are the ones I have come across: Puncture Vine, Puncturevine, Goat’s Head, Terror of the Earth, Little Caltrop, Bullhead, Burnut, Mexican Sandbur, Tackweed, Devil’s Thorn, Devil’s Weed, and Bindii.

RESOURCES:

USDA Page on Tribulus terrestris: https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=trte#

Negative correlation to testosterone increase: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/12804079/

Positive correlation to  androgen increase and nitric oxide release: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/12804079/

Truth or Consequences Veterans Memorial Park & Military Museum

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This museum and Veteran’s Monument involves an unusual method of honoring and perpetuating the history of our armed services by telling stories from individuals’ viewpoints.

The Memorial is divided into inside and outside displays. The inside focuses on individual memories exhibited on panels, complete with with relics, letters, uniforms, and other displays.PSX_20180311_132517

Outside features a beautifully laid out and manicured memorial complete with a 1/2 scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial that used to be a travelling wall display prior to its purchase by New Mexico.PSX_20180311_132611

There are also granite memorials for every conflict we lost people in. PSX_20180311_132723

I left this memorial with a sense of awe, grateful for the work done by those who created it.

Carnelian and Petrified Wood in Aleman, NM

We’ve had a busy time the past month in Arizona… some meet-ups with friends and family, exploring new boondocking locales, and doing some challenging hiking.

We’re now “on the rebound” back in New Mexico and heading very slowly north and east across the state as we position ourselves for our journey home.

We just spent a week at Elephant Butte State Park near Truth or Consequences, NM, spending our time hiking, and checking out some local attractions. We loved the Geronimo Springs Museum, the Truth or Consequences Brewing Co., and the Black Cat Used Bookstore. There was plenty to keep us on the go for the entire week. We also found our way out to a rockhounding location that we had never been to before… the Aleman Carnelian Field.

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We Collected About 2x This Much Carnelian Over the Course of the Afternoon. (A few pieces of agate thrown in there too.).

Let me start by saying that we really didn’t intend to harvest a lot of rocks on this trip. To tether myself, I didn’t bring a rock hammer or pry bar or sifter or shovel. I only brought along two 12″x 18″x 24″ plastic storage containers for the occasional irresistible pebbles underfoot. We were doing pretty well on that – but somehow we have filled two additional containers. We were definitely planning to wind down on the rock collecting thing lest we bust the RV springs (again).

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A Great Book for Rockhounds!

Then I came across the new edition of the same rockhounding book we have been using for like ten years and that I purposely left home so we wouldn’t be tempted to go all rock crazy. So, of course I bought it… and… well, this area was so close by, you know?

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Apache Gap Road is Near the Bottom of this Map

Aleman is east of Truth or Consequences on Route 51, then about 12 miles south of a whistle stop community called Engle. From there you take Apache Gap Road across the the railroad tracks and through gates. Be sure to close the gates after you go through them because cows and trains don’t mix well. Head out a few miles toward the Caballos Mountains to the collecting area.

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My First (and probably best) Specimen of the Day. (Isn’t that always the way!)

The very first piece I found was just a few feet off the road – a beautiful banded chunk of carnelian agate. Probably could have called it a day right there!

Finding good pieces generally takes persistence, as this is a popular area, but we found enough to make the trip worthwhile. Only one other person went by while we were there, and nobody was collecting near us. The area is known for carnelian, petrified wood, agate and jasper.

We enjoyed the journey as much as the collecting, since we had not been to this patch on the map before.

Here are some coordinates to get to the Aleman carnelian collecting location:

32° 57.97′ N / 107° 00.55′ W

Happy hunting!

 

 

Climbing Flatiron at Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona

This is a level “difficult” clamber. Some vital statistics: Bottom to top, 3 miles, 3000 feet altitude gain, so 6 mile round trip. If you’re in excellent shape allow 4-6 hours and prepare to be sore. I’m in fair shape for an old guy pushing 70, and it took me 8 hours.

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If it were not for my oldest daughter, Channa, accompanying me, I probably would have made some trail turn errors coming down due to darkness and my fatigue and ended up sleeping out there. 30 to 60 rescues need to be mounted each year in this area, and the day we hiked a helicopter with blazing search lights was up there looking for hikers and dropping off rescuers to assist several folks, who simply couldn’t do the return hike, including a 75 year old diabetic. My goal is to not be in that guy’s situation!  The last time I did this hike was 3 years ago and on the ascent I took a wrong turn and was questioning my choice of trails when I saw another hiker 80-90 yards away and yelled to ask if I was on the right trail. He yelled back that I was not, so due to a simple stroke of luck I avoided getting lost.

One of the major milestones along the trail, is known a the “Basin” and is 2 miles and 1000 feet up from the start.PSX_20180223_183947

Channa got this picture of me starting up the Basin-only 1 mile and 2000 feet to go to the top! The summit is visible in the upper center of the picture and sunlit in the picture below, also taken by Channa.PSX_20180223_183749

 

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This photo, taken facing back down, gives an idea of the terrain. When we were about 45 minutes to an hour from the Flatiron itself, we were passed by another hiker who pointed out a worn, barely visible paint spot on a rock that he told us was a mark to help us stay on what was often an invisible trail. We started watching for them, and sure enough, they were there, every once in a while. A whole lot of the hike after the Basin looked like the picture below.PSX_20180223_184038

During our ascent, after a couple of hours of pretty steep climbing we started to ask the occasional decending hiker how much time we had to go to reach the summit – the standard answer (4 or 5 times!) became “oh, about a half hour”. If you don’t regularly do this kind of hiking it’s hard to describe how your legs begin to feel after 3 or 4 hours. Mine began to feel shaky and I actually took 3 tumbles on the way down due to it. Nothing serious, just bruises and one encounter with a cactus that drew a little blood.

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Flatiron -getting close!

 

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The last quarter mile or so is this easy trail up to the Flatiron itself.

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Channa, enjoying a break at the top.

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Channa took this “selfie” of us at the top.

There is an ancient natve legend about a serious flood taking place in the Superstition Mountains thousands of years ago in which a whole tribe of people that lived on the mountain perished and came back as rock formations, known as Hoodoos-we had lunch with them and took their picture.PSX_20180223_175922

The views, as you can see, were tremendous. The feeling of accomplishment will last the rest of my life.

That was not without a price! A week of painful squatting to get into low cupboards and today, noticing toenails starting to seperate.

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Just know that if you chose this hike there may be consequences and be sure you’re prepared.

LONG DAY-HIKE CHECKLIST

– If you take meds, bring some extra.        – Abundant food and water.                        -Hiking sticks and headlamp.                      -Outer layer clothing appropriate to weather-visored hat, jacket, knit hat emergency blanket.                                     -Toilet kit (digger, paper, & lighter)         -Small First Aid kit                                      -compass                                                        -Swiss Army Knife & other items particular to you.                                           In general, you should be prepared to spend the night on any long day hike, just in case!

 

Superstition Hike Gone Wrong

by astrowx (Linda)

“If a body takes out to follow a made trail over the hills, he’d best hold to that trail, for there are not too many ways to go. Most of the trouble a man finds in the mountains is when he tries a shortcut or leaves a known way.” – Tell Sacket in Treasure Mountain by Louis L’Amour.

I am having to dig deep and let go of my pride on this one so that other hiker’s can benefit and learn from my mistakes. So here goes.

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On Siphon Draw Trail Looking at the “Flatiron” – the Prominent Peak in the Center of Photo

My goal was to hike up Siphon Draw Trail in the Superstition Wilderness, and then continue on past “The Basin” to the Flatiron peak (that’s the prominence that looks like the prow of a ship in the center top of the photo above).

This is a classic “ball buster” of a hike. The hike to the Basin alone is a 2-mile stretch with a 1000 foot elevation gain. That hike can then be extended by hiking another mile, but with a 2000 foot elevation gain on an unmaintained trail.

< Tip #1: Remember that “unmaintained” word, and don’t take it lightly.

I am a slow uphill hiker, so I pled for a headstart so I wouldn’t slow down Ric and Channa and risk ruining their day. Lest you think I am a reckless hiker who dashes solo into the uncharted wilderness, fear not. I never intended to be alone on this hike. There were many other hikers nearby on my way up to the Basin. I wasn’t alone in the wilderness until I went beyond that point.

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On the Map You Can See the Correct Path to The Flatiron. I Took a Path in the Direction of the North Arrow on this Map. Wrong!!

< Tip #2: Keep LEFT after the Basin.

< Tip #3: Pony up the dough to get a real map at the Visitor’s Center. The map above is the free handout flyer, and won’t do much for you.

< Tip #4: Apparently there are some faded splotches marking the real trail on some of the rocks. I never saw them because I was never on the trail and learned about this after the fact.

My 1st Mistake: I went right rather than left after the Basin. I must say that this is fairly easy to do. So many people have made this error that there is a clear trail in this direction.

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On the Way to Getting Off-Trail

My Second Mistake: The trail continued to get weaker as I went farther, and there was a lot of scat on the trail…footpath? or animal trail? Who knew? There were a few inukshuks along the way so I decided it was a trail. I was wrong. I should have turned back as soon as the trail became weak.

<Tip #5: Don’t assume a trail is a hiking trail because of the presence of inukshuks (cairns). They may be someone’s way of marking their way back to some semblance of a trail. They may also be an art project.

My 3rd Mistake: I continued around the base of the Flatiron to get a better perpective and wasted precious energy and time. When I decided to retrace my steps I couldn’t recover that little suggestion of a trail.

< Tip #6: If you find yourself on a sketchy trail keep looking back and studying the terrain. How does it look? Will you be able to pick it out going the other way?

< Tip #7: Listen to that little nagging voice in your head telling you that something isn’t right. That’s your brain in deep processing mode. Stop and listen.

That little nagging voice finally got my attention. I stopped and had water and a snack and considered my situation. I could wander around and try to recover the trail in a complex, confusing and treacherous terrain…OR I could head downslope to a ravine and try to get to level ground by nightfall. I chose door #2. My rationale is that at least I was heading for lower ground. There are good arguments on both sides, but I just had to choose – and that was what I was most comfortable with mentally.

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There is a Cross Made of Rocks on a Ledge Below. A Shrine to a Fallen Hiker.

Shortly thereafter I came across a shrine to a fallen hiker. The thought crossed my mind that this person might have walked the same path as me, and made the same decisions as me. Perhaps it was just hotter that day.

The hazards going cross-country were abundant. The mountainside was loose talus broken up by ledges and cliffs or avalanche chutes. I. Have. Never. Hiked. So. Slowly.

The avalanche chutes were slopes of loose rocks and boulders a few feet to tens of feet wide. The rocks were easily dislodged during passage. I had a few close calls.

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Teddy Bear Cholla Up Close

Then there were the Teddy Bear Cholla. At times I had no choice but to pass near them or through a stand of them.

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A Small Stand of Teddy Bear Cholla

They sound lovely, don’t they? Teddy Bears? Cute and fuzzy?

Although I didn’t take a video of my experience, it was rather similar to the one in this video:

These cursed cacti clone themselves into stands of ten, twenty, thirty, a zillion closely spaced demonic brethren blocking the only sensible paths back to civilization.

By late afternoon I had left the cholla behind for the most part and made it down to the ravine. There were boulders the size of compact cars and a new nasty form of vegetation to deal with named Cat’s Claw Acacia. Aye Chihuahua, enough already.

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Back on Level Ground as the Sun Set

I made my goal of being on level-ish ground by sunset, and intercepted a park trail before I had to turn on my headlamp. Success! Well, if you measure success by stupidly getting yourself in trouble and then managing to work your way out – then, yeah.

As I made my way along the park trail I saw a rescue helicopter heading up Siphon Draw to the Flatiron. Came to find out later, that a few hikers spent the night up there. I am thankful it wasn’t me.

Wrap Up

Here are the things I did right: I had plenty of water/ I kept going through the pain/ I didn’t panic/ I packed prepared to be out all night/ I had my phone to track location and to communicate. I used it sparingly to reserve power.

Here are the things I did wrong: I ignored the fact that there were no other people hiking near me or overtaking me/I assumed inukshucks signified a trail.

Here are my lucky breaks: It was not hot/ There were no rattlesnakes (a corollary of “it was not hot”)/ It was fairly cool (60s)/ It was cloudy/It was dry season (so I could use the ravine).

It was a painful and sobering experience overall, but I learned a lot from this one. Feel free to castigate me freely or share your experiences.