Monday, January 14, 2019

Silver City, NM, Day Hikes in the Gila River, Box Canyon

Our group often takes several hikes into Box Canyon in the fall to catch the color change in the cottonwoods along the Gila River. Box Canyon slices into the desert flats with a jagged, deepening cut that intersects with the Lower Gila River Box. The hour and a half drive from Silver City and the final stretch of dirt road to the head of the canyon are worth it to take this outstanding 6-mile roundtrip hike.

Our hiking group meanders down Box Canyon pondering the
impacts of the water that  flashed through here during the recent rain.
At its origin Box Canyon is a wide, sandy wash that channels across the desert.

Water from recent rain pools in the wash.
The hike down the canyon is gradual and easy.

A handsome Greater Earless Lizard sleeps in the sand waiting to warm up in the sun.
We find a colorful 8-inch Greater Earless Lizard in the sand. He doesn't twitch a muscle as we gather around to take pictures. He's needs to warm up from a chill night before he can get going.

I see a vague  resemblance to the Abby Road album cover
The canyon deepens and cuts through volcanic tuff creating interesting options for working our way down canyon.
 A ancient grinding hole on a ledge along the wash. 

Some of our intrepid group members at the beginning of the narrows.
A couple miles into the hike water carved narrows funnel us down into the deep walled canyon.

Jim at the drop into the narrows.

The group funnels into the cut.
The color and texture of the rock at the narrows looks like concrete.

Water pools in the narrows after rains.
Water pools in the narrows after rains. We've been here when the narrows were completely filled and we had to scramble around.

Hiking through the narrows.

Looking back up the narrows.

A layer of cobbles sandwiched between layers of tuff. 

Geologic stories.

We come out at the lower end of the narrows.

These are believed to be Apache petroglyphs.

Apache dancers.

The wash below the narrows often flows during the rainy season.

The canyon gets deeper and cottonwoods grow in the bottom as we get closer to the river..

The group often gets spread out and regroups as we slinky our way down canyon. 

The canyon at its deepest.
The canyon is at its deepest as we approach the Gila River.

An ash leans out over the water just downstream of the confluence of Box Canyon and the Gila River.
We have lunch at the river and enjoy some explorations along it's bank. We can't go far before we have to ford the river which is running high from recent rain.  We decide to call it a day.

Trees form graceful lines along water stained walls. 
In the fall afternoon the sun drops below the canyon walls and casts the Gila River in a cool, purple light. There's a gentle lapping as the river rolls peacefully along and an occasional bird call bounces from the walls.
I find a large prize Oyster Mushroom in its prime  on a dead snag but it's too high on the trunk to reach. Sigh!

White-throated Swifts.
On our way back up Box Canyon we're treated to a flock of migrating White-throated Swifts. Hundreds of them dart in a continuous chittering aerial display at the canyon rim above our heads. I managed to get a picture of a few of them restlessly coming and going from a crack under the overhanging rock wall. They were a real delight. The size of the flock was unusual.

Cottonwoods in Box Canyon
It's late October and the cottonwoods are just beginning to change.

A cottonwood admirer.

Looking up river from above the rim of the Lower Gila Box.
When we get back to the vehicles we drive a short distance on a jeep trail along the Box Canyon rim to the rim of the Lower Gila River  Box. Seen from above the Gila River is a green flow of trees across a dry, craggy land. That's why this river is so valuable and an amazing habitat and major bird  migration route. Fall is just beginning to touch the cottonwoods. We'll have to come back at the end of November to see the fall colors. By then the winter raptors will be here.

A river of green in a dry, craggy land.
The tops of the 60 ft. cottonwoods come right to the top of the canyon. They fill the canyon from rim to rim.
Me sitting on the edge of the canyon.

Yuccas add their spiny texture to the landscape.

Looking into the confluence of Box Canyon and Lower Gila Box.
We parked at the end of the road and walked along the rim to look down into the confluence of the Box and the Lower Gila Box where we had lunch by the river a few hours ago.

Looking back toward the Gila River. What river?
Away from the rim you'd never know there was a gorge and a river between you and the mountain on the horizon.
Small ruin.
We find a small ruin just below the rim of Box Canyon. It's impossible to get to and has an unknown  purpose.
Lookin up Box Canyon from the rim.
We can look up the length of Box Canyon to the desert flats. We hiked the length of the canyon this morning. A day well spent.

Keep Hiking

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Silver City, NM, Day Hikes in the Gila National Forest, Jordan Hot Springs

Greg asked about Jordan Hot Springs. It's been many years since we've been there but I've put some of my experiences and photos together from that hike. 

We started at the Little Bear Canyon Trail #729 at TJ Corral just north of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Visitor Center. It's about 6 miles to Jordan Hot Springs which makes for a long 12-mile round-trip day hike. The last approximately 2 miles are up the Middle Fork of the Gila River. I remember counting 15 river crossings. The river was running high and we had several crossings with channels that were a couple feet deep with fast water. Usually the river is calf deep at best. Trekker polls are great for keeping your stability as you wade the river were rocks are often slick with silt or algae. 

I highly recommend never hiking the Middle Fork during the monsoon season in August and September without a comprehensive weather forecast. This river can flash flood from rains higher up in the mountains and out of view. People have been stranded in the canyon during flash floods.

Looking up the Middle Fork of the Gila River from the confluence with Little Bear Canyon.
The trail begins with a gradual climb for about 2 miles from TJ Corral to the saddle at the head of Little Bear Canyon. As we followed the trail down Little Bear the canyon begins to constrict into a narrows that twist down towards the Middle Fork. Not a good place to be caught in a flash flood. Wish I had a pic to show you. Little Bear deposits you to a fanfare of river music when the canyon ends abruptly and you step into the beautiful gorge of the Middle Fork of the Gila River.

An Arizona Sycamore glows in fall colors against a back drop of Middle Fork cliffs.
We did this hike during the first week of November. The fall colors were at their finest.

Cliff faces along the Middle Fork  reveal a powerful volcanic origin.

Spectacular pinnacles like dragons teeth bit at the sky.  

More pinnacles.
Jordan Hot Springs is about 2 river bends (1/4 mile?) above the confluence of the Middle Fork and Jordan Canyon. It's on river right as you are going up river.

Jordan Hot Spring. See the water pouring in at the top?
The spring is actually a warm spring. The water is about body temperature so you can sit comfortably in it for a long time. The blue-green algae gives it a crystal gem-stone clarity. The spring is shallow and small, barely waist deep when you sit in it. Two or three people can sit comfortable with room to stretch out.

Hiking the Middle Fork Trail 157.

A wind-blown stone sentinel looks to the horizon, waiting for the storm.
November is a fickle month. On our hike out a sunny day turns to overcast. It snowed the next day.

Well this is just a memory of a hike years ago. Things may be different now or, as timeless as the Gila is, it may all be the same. Discover it for yourself.

Keep Hiking.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Silver City, NM, Day Hikes in the Gila National Forest, Little Cherry Creek

Little Cherry Creek, in the Gila National Forest, is a popular hike for Silver City residents and a short 15 minute drive from town. It's one of the trails that connects to the Continental Divide Trail as it ascends into the Pinos Altos Range north of Silver City

The first 2 miles of this hike are on a jeep road to a private property inholding in the Gila National Forest.
The first 2 miles of the hike is on a jeep road up Little Cherry Creek which leads to a private property inholding in the National Forest. Trail 241 intersects the road and the next 2.25 miles of trail climbs to a saddle north of Twin Sisters Peaks where it intersects the CDC Trail 74. It's a very nice 8.5 mile round trip.
The forest is cool and lush in the summer. Little Cherry Creek pools where it crosses the road.

The jeep road is a shady lane that tunnels through the alder and hackberry trees in the creek bottom.

Trail 241 intersects the road.
There's a diversity of ecology  along this trail.

Trail 241 leaves the riparian habitat of Little Cherry Creek and climbs up the mountain.

The trail ascends through Ponderosa Pines.

At the saddle near Twin Sisters Peaks the Trail 241 intersects the CDT Trail 74.

I find a handsome Short-horned Lizard along the trail.

This large handsome fellow is a Crevice Spiny Lizard.
They come out to bask in the rocks along Little Cherry Creek. 

This Crevice Spiny says "Adios" before scurrying into his crevice.
More interesting hikes to come.
Keep Hiking,