Thumb Butte Road is now paved beyond the Thumb Butte parking area. For yesterday’s hike, we parked at the White Rock parking area adjacent to the road to Camp Willow Springs. Garden Party Trail #324, anew trail for us, was completed in 2015. For this loop it connects with Garden Grove Trail #392, Javelina Trail #332, and West Trail #318. This 1.8 mile loop has a low elevation of 5,860 feet and a high elevation of 6,030 feet. On the last stretch of trail we encountered one mountain biker and two hikers heading in the opposite direction. We enjoyed another pleasant “Take a Hike!”
Homestead Trail Monday, Oct 17 2016
The annual fall “Take a Hike!” program sponsored by the Highlands Center for Natural History always features trails around the Center. This year’s hike starts on Homestead Trail #305, follows Forest Road 9401T to connect with Gold Pan Trail #444, and returns to the Center via Highlands Trail #442. This 2.3 mile hike is considered easy, although there are lots of ups and downs from a low elevation of 5,410 feet to a high elevation of 5,580 feet. I was pleased to discover that some trees and shrubs now have identification markers. This year’s trail guide points out areas where the understory brush has been removed. Known as “mastication,” the mechanical removal of vegetation, this is one of many fire management treatments used by the Prescott National Forest to restore natural habitats and forest health.
New construction is underway near the Highlands Center. Every time we visit, I enjoy viewing Heather Johnson’s “Equipoise” sculpture. She uses four animals to symbolize four elements of creation: a raven for air, a badger for earth, a horned lizard for fire, and a roundtail chub for water.
Charcoal Kiln Trail Sunday, Oct 16 2016
According to a sign at the site, Jake and Joe Carmichael built the Walker charcoal kiln around 1880 to convert oak wood into charcoal, which gives about twice the heat of unprocessed wood. It was possible to get about 40 bushels of charcoal from a cord of wood. The charcoal was used in nearby smelters as a chemical-reducing agent to extract silver from its ore. This charcoal kiln was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. We walked about 0.2 of mile on Charcoal Kiln Road to Charcoal Kiln Trail #303 which is at an elevation of 6,300 feet. The trail is only 0.1 of a mile, but leads to this interesting historical site. At one time Walker was a bustling place for gold and silver mining. Now the area has mainly summer cottages, although some of these “cottages” look more like mansions. The Walker charcoal kiln is an interesting destination for one of this year’s “Take a Hike!”
El Malpais National Monument Thursday, Oct 13 2016
Uncategorized El Malpais National Monument 3:42 pm
El Malpais means “the bad lands” in Spanish. The Malpais landscape was formed by lava that poured out of McCartys Crater two to three thousand years ago. On our first day, after setting up camp in Grants, New Mexico, we visited the La Ventana Natural Arch, one of New Mexico’s largest natural arches. We also enjoyed the vista of the lava flows and lands surrounding El Malpais from Sandstone Bluffs Overlook. Several of the tinajas, or potholes, were full of water. On our second day after visiting El Morro, we picnicked at the El Calderon trailhead before embarking on the loop trail. We had obtained passes to explore two caves on the trail and had visited the Walmart in Grants to procure additional flashlights. With a headlamp attached to my hat and a flashlight in one hand I descended into Junction Cave. Jagged and uneven lava can be navigated by carefully following florescent tape markings for 0.7 of a mile. I didn’t go that far, but did experience silence surrounded by complete darkness. Junction Cave is actually a lava tube created by the lava flows from nearby El Calderon Cinder Cone. Back on the trail we passed two deep pits called Double Sinks. These steep sided collapses are about 80 feet deep and were formed when the roofs of lava tubes collapsed. Perhaps on our next visit I will explore the Xenolith Cave. There were at least two eruptions from El Calderon. One eruption created black cinders; the other red cinders. We took a shortcut on a dirt road, Cerritos de Jaspe Road, back to the parking lot. Next time we visit I hope to complete this loop trail that connects with the Continental Divide Trail. There are many “good” adventures awaiting those who visit El Malpais.
El Morro National Monument Thursday, Oct 13 2016
El Morro is a cuesta, a long formation gently sloping upward then dropping off abruptly at one end. The land is made up of sandstone layers deposited by wind, desert streams, and an ancient sea. A reliable waterhole hidden at the base of the bluff made this a popular campsite for hundreds of years. The Zuni Indians, whose Puebloan ancestors lived here, call it “Atsinna” for “place of writings on the rock.” The Spaniards called it “El Morro” or “The Headland.” Anglo-Americans called it “Inscription Rock.” Over the centuries those who stopped here left the carved evidence of their passage – symbols, names, and dates. I hiked the 2 mile Mesa Top Trail that started at 7,218 feet and rose to 7,460 feet. Atop El Morro the Atsinna Pueblo, abandoned around 1400, was unearthed by archeologists in the 1950s. The pueblo was about 200 by 300 feet, and it housed between 1,000 to 1,500 people is some 875 rooms. In addition to panoramic views, the trail circles around a box canyon with a hoodoo-type rock formation. Although it is now against the law to add an inscription, it is interesting to learn about those who have stopped here in the past.
Chaco Culture Tuesday, Oct 11 2016
Created in 1907, Chaco Canyon National Monument became Chaco Cultural National Historical Park in 1980 and, in 1987, a World Heritage Site. Some 1,100 to 1,200 years ago, native people made this high desert valley the center of their world. They created monumental architecture and developed far-reaching commerce and a complex social organization. More than 400 miles of road networks have been identified, including a road headed north to the communities of Salmon and Aztec. The modern day road involves negotiating 13 mile of unpaved, washboard.
After viewing a film at the Visitor’s Center, we walked to the closest great house, Una Vida, that offers nice views of the canyon and nearby Fajada Butte. We returned to the Visitor’s Center for lunch under a ramada with a cliff backdrop. Our tour of the nine mile drive around Chaco Canyon started with a hike around the Hungo Pavi great house at the mouth of Mockingbird Canyon. We viewed an ancient stairway carved into the cliff. Pueblo Bonito is the core of the Chaco complex and the largest great house. It reached four stories with more than 600 rooms and 40 kivas. Chetro Ketly, another of the largest great houses, includes an immense elevated earthen plaza. We returned to where we parked via a petroglyph trail. Pueblo del Arroyo, Spanish for “village by the wash,” features a tr-wall structure. Casa Rinconada has the park’s largest excavated great kiva. Visiting Chaco is well worth enduring entering by way of a rough road.