Category Archives: Traveling New Mexico

Hiking the Gila: Purgatory Chasm

Snow covered tree in the Gila National Forest

A couple of weeks ago it snowed here in the Gila National Forest. We had to go into town that day and while I was thinking, “we should take the long way home so we can see the snow”, Aaron was saying “do you want to take the long way home so we can check out the snow?” He’s really good at reading my mind. Not always, but sometimes we are just on the same wavelength!

I can’t resist a texture photo! Plus, I like the footprint!

Rather than coming home the regular way, we headed north on hwy 15 out of Silver City. It was so beautiful! Snow everywhere! We stopped a couple of times so I could snap pics of nature covered in the cold, white powder.

Looking back at the opening to the chasm canyon

By the time we got to the split with hwy 35 and started heading south in the Mimbres valley, the snow was gone and the sun was starting to peek out of the clouds. We decided then and there to stop at the Purgatory Chasm trail head. It’s a short trail very near Lake Roberts that we had never been on. I believe it’s a 1 mile loop. It’s one of those tourist type trails, short, level and gorgeous!

I’m also a sucker for a reflection pic! 😜

About a 1/2 mile in there is a split where the loop trail begins. We picked the left fork and shortly after we came to the chasm. The rock walls seem to pop up out of nowhere and suddenly, you are in a very narrow, tall canyon. The rocks on the canyon walls form hundreds of faces! It’s almost as if you can feel the eyes of the ancient ones staring at you and hear their whispering as you walk through.

And then there was sun…

We didn’t make it all the way around the loop trail. Somehow, we lost the trail and ended up looking down at the canyon. It was getting close to sundown, so we decided to play it safe and turned around to go back the way we came in.

The sun/shadows make the rocks POP! Can you see the faces?

That was about the time the sun came out and made the rocks really POP! So, even though it LOOKS like these photos were taken on three different days, it was all on the same day. You know what they say about New Mexico weather? Wait 5 minutes, it will change! Just for fun, I’m throwing in a photo I took at Emory Pass after the most recent snow on the mountain. I love the heart in the clouds!

This is the heart in the clouds, taken from the look out at Emory pass.

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Hiking the Gila: Rocky Canyon

Tree holding rock

I love the way it looks like this tree is holding up the rock! In reality, the rock is an overhang of the cave behind me and the tree seems to have grown around it.

It’s been too long since I’ve posted a hiking blog. That’s mainly because it’s been a while since we’ve been hiking on a new trail AND had the camera! I always say, that’s why I’m not a professional photographer, I ALWAYS forget the camera when I should have it. Last weekend we hiked for a couple of hours on Saturday and picked up a load of firewood on the way home. Let’s just say it was an exhausting day.

Rocky Canyon walls with grass growing on top of moss

Rocky Canyon walls with grass growing on top of moss

This time we drove a bit further into the Gila National Forest and hiked on the Gila Wilderness side of the forest. In case you are unfamiliar with the Gila, there are two Wilderness areas within the Gila NF. The Gila and the Aldo Leopold. There is one main road that takes you up through the middle of the Gila NF, this road is what splits the two wilderness areas. Main road is a bit deceiving as this is still a dirt forest road. In fact, it’s recommended that you take only a high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicle on FR 150. There are some hairy areas, but we have taken our Subaru on the road with no problem.

Mountain stream in Rocky Canyon

Mountain stream in Rocky Canyon

Rocky Canyon is the hairiest part of the road. There is a campground and a hiking trail that heads east from the campground. We had driven by the location before, but this was the first time we stopped for a look around and a hike. Every single other time we have driven through the canyon, it was bone dry. This time? Water literally everywhere! The canyon stream was running full force and there was water seeping from rocks as well as swampy areas on the trail. I cannot tell you when the last time was I saw this much water in the Gila! We have received a ton of rain this year, thank goodness!

Small ledge cave hidden in the rock canyon

This small ledge cave was hidden in the side of Rocky Canyon. It was just big enough for us to climb into, though it was filled with mouse droppings, so we jumped right out!

I probably took over 50 photos that day. There was so much green and so much water, the forest was gorgeous. There were rocks with fresh, green moss with grass growing from the moss. The bright green of the moss on the rocks was so cool.

Faces in the rocks

One thing I’ve noticed about the Canyons in the Gila, there are faces everywhere! This one even has a moss beard!

The Gila is located in the desert southwest part of New Mexico (again, for those who don’t know). It’s an oasis of trees, springs and wildlife. When it’s dry, it’s beautiful, but when it’s wet, it’s an amazing paradise! It’s one of the many reasons New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment. It’s also one of my favorite places in the world. I’m so grateful to call it home!

Painted rocks

This rock wall looked painted, but it is actually the colors left from water streaming down the Canyon walls.

 

My Latest Studio

What I'm currently working on, 20x20

What I’m currently working on, 20×20″ abstract oil painting in progress

Friday afternoon I signed the lease for my new art studio. After 5 months of working in my home studio, there is no doubt in my mind. I need a studio outside of the house! While I LOVE our new house, I’m going stir crazy being in the house all the time. Not only that, but it’s very hard to separate work time from off time.

All that said, I’ve not had an easy time finding a studio in our new location. I wanted a studio in downtown Silver City, but it wasn’t meant to be. Recently, I dropped Aaron off at Central Elementary in Santa Clara where he teaches. As I was driving back out to the highway, I noticed a commercial building for rent on the main street. As a matter of fact, it is on the corner of the two main roads into Santa Clara. The sign said For Rent with a possibility of buying with a small down payment.

My new studio, the whole building is all mine!

My new studio, the whole building is all mine!

Of course, I took down the number and figured I would call later. I thought about it for a week or so. Aaron and I talked about it. I really wasn’t thrilled about taking a studio outside of Silver City, but Santa Clara is closer to Mimbres and it is also closer to the schools where Aaron teaches.

I finally decided to call on the building last week and we met the owner on Thursday so we could see the inside of the building. The outside of the building has been renovated. Fortunately for me, the inside is still unfinished. I say fortunately, because that is the fact that makes the rent affordable! I have agreed to do the finish work on the inside in return for cheap rent. The other benefit being any money we put into finishing the inside will be applied to our down payment when/if we decide to buy the building. I’m pretty sure we will purchase it. I would love to stay here forever. I’ve moved my studio over 20 times in 20+ years. I’m ready to stay somewhere.

Looking in from the front door

Looking in from the front door

The inside is HUGE! The one main room has 10 foot ceilings and measures 24 x 28 feet. I can paint BIG here! The framing, electrical and plumbing work has been done inside with a small bathroom, office and two storage rooms. Basically, I have to do the insulation, dry wall, flooring and install bathroom fixtures. There are also a couple of windows needed.

One of my favorite things about this building is all the empty wall space on the outside. I will definitely paint several murals in the future. I’ve now reconciled the fact that my studio will be outside of Silver City. I once promised myself I would never have a retail gallery again. This location makes that promise much easier to keep! lol! I do plan to participate in the local open studio tour and we will probably have an event or two a year, but this space will mainly be a working art studio. And storage! Lots and lots of storage!

Looking out the front door from the back

Looking out the front door from the back

I need to go order some LARGE canvases now! Stay tuned… 🙂

Hiking the Gila: Back to Spring Canyon

Aaron in the middle of this photo gives you an idea of the scale of the canyon, awesome!

Aaron in the middle of this photo gives you an idea of the scale of the canyon, awesome!

Sunday we went back to Spring Canyon to hike further up the trail. What a gorgeous canyon, though calling it a trail is a stretch. The trail is marked on the Gila National Forest map, but there are no markings on the road to let you know it’s there. We like trails like this, because we are usually all alone hiking them. You can tell the trail was washed away years ago. There are places where you can see the trail that once was.

Looking up at the rock face from the same spot in photo above, we still had a little way to go!

Looking up at the rock face from the same spot in the photo above, we still had a little way to go!

There is a lot of climbing over dead trees and bush wacking to get up the canyon to a awesome shear rock face with a stream of water running down. Next time, we will have to go without the dogs. Osa slipped several times and with her bad knee we decided it would be best to explore further without the dogs.

The water was spiraling through this bowl in the rock, I couldn't resist the sparkling of the sun in the water!

The water was spiraling through this bowl in the rock, I couldn’t resist the sparkling of the sun in the water!

Another reason I love these hidden gem trails? No trace of man having been there. No discarded Bud Light cans (it’s ALWAYS Bud Light) or cigarette butts. Who smokes and drinks while they hike? Seriously.

It feels like you’ve walked through a wardrobe into Narnia, a place where there is no time. It could just as easily be 1878 as it is 2018. It’s these hidden places where I feel most grounded and connected to nature. Nature in it’s most pristine state of being.

I could have spent all day photographing the multiple crevices in the stream where old logs have become part of the waterway. Ahhhh, nature!

I could have spent all day photographing the multiple crevices in the stream where old logs have become part of the waterway. Ahhhh, nature!

I use photography as a source of inspiration for my art. Lately, I’m visualizing landscape still life snapshots as abstract paintings. I must have hundreds of photos like the one above. I love how nature composes these perfect little abstract works of art. Installations of logs, rock, mud, grasses and flowers, waiting for someone to come along and appreciate their unique beauty.

This area had a large forest fire burn many of the trees about 5 years ago. Even in this state they are majestic against the deep blue sky.

This area had a large forest fire burn many of the trees about 5 years ago. Even in this state they are majestic against the deep blue sky.

Places like this are what gives New Mexico it’s name the “Land of Enchantment”. I’m so grateful to Aldo Leopold for preserving the Aldo Leopold and Gila Wilderness areas for future generations. I pray it will continue to be preserved for generations to come.

Hiking the Gila: Random Forest Roads

Meadow at the bottom of the canyon, looking towards the side canyon

Meadow at the bottom of the canyon, looking towards the side canyon

We’ve passed the hidden dirt road hundreds of times. If you aren’t paying close attention, you will miss it. There is a stretch of highway 152 where the road is high up above a scary cliff. I usually avoid looking down, mainly to keep from getting car sick. I’m not afraid of heights, but that particular cliff has quite a drop to it.

Now that my car sickness is getting under control, I have to move WITH the car on the turns to avoid it, I have looked over that edge to see the amazing, deep canyon below. My first thought was, I wonder what’s down there? My second thought was, HOW do we get down there? Our next few drives by, I looked and looked, trying to find a road to take us down for exploration. That’s when I saw it, just past the stretch of road on the cliff, the hidden entrance to the dirt forest road that leads into the canyon.

Swimming hole where we soaked our feet

Swimming hole where we soaked our feet

On Saturdays, we go down the hill to the local organic market in Mimbres. They have a small farmer’s market on Saturdays and we have started a weekly routine of stopping by the market for fruits, veggies and fresh eggs. The clerk who works the market on Saturdays is a friendly local guy and we’ve spoken with him at length about different hiking trails in the area. He told us about that hidden trail a couple of weeks ago.

Last week, we decided to check it out. The first time, it was later in the afternoon and quite hot out, we only hiked down the road about 10 minutes. The road is basically straight downhill. We turned around acknowledging that we would need to start earlier and have a full day to explore this trail.

Going into the side canyon, pools of water were everywhere! Wonderful that we've had so much rain!

Going into the side canyon, pools of water were everywhere! Wonderful that we’ve had so much rain!

Sunday we decided to take a longer hike to see where the steep hill lead. Another hot day, but thankfully, the Sun was in and out of the clouds. The further we went, the more the clouds covered the Sun. It was obvious that it had rained recently, as the trail was quite wet and even muddy in some places. I could not wait to get to the bottom to see where the water had flowed.

The hike down to the bottom of the canyon took about 30 minutes. We followed the trail as far as we could, back tracking several times after losing the trail. The stream bed at the bottom was not only running with water, but there were several large pools. We stopped to soak our feet and cool off in one of the larger pools of water. The water was so deep, we could have had a swim! If only I had brought the right shoes, I ended up cutting my foot on a rock because I didn’t want to get my brand new running shoes wet. I usually wear my “lake” shoes if I know there will be streams to cross.

Side canyon oasis

Aaron and the dogs in the side canyon oasis

We were told the trail went on to connect with another trail we’ve already hiked but, all we found were dead ends, so we decided to turn around and try again another day. On our way back, I noticed a side canyon I hadn’t seen on the way down. We decided to follow a vague path to this side canyon and found a wonderful rock and water oasis. We didn’t follow the canyon too far down, but saved it for another day. That is the joy of living here now, we can always go back for more another day! Not to mention getting to know the locals and finding the great, hidden spots in the Gila National Forest. So much to explore, so little time! Stay tuned, or subscribe to my blog, to read/see more about our adventures!

Until next time! :-)

Until next time! 🙂

 

Turkey Creek, Gila National Forest

photo of turkey creek

Shadows play on the surface of the water

This past Sunday was mine and Aaron’s 21st wedding anniversary. We decided to pack a picnic lunch and head out to explore the Turkey Creek Hot Springs trail. Turkey Creek feeds in to the Gila River, or at least it must when there is more water. Either that, or the creek goes underground at some point. The creek bed is currently dry by the time it gets down to the river, but after a couple of creek crossings, the water was flowing quite well. Lots of deep pools for soaking feet!

hidden windmill

It took a while, but we finally spotted the windmill that marks the trail head!

On our way out past the windmill

On our way out past the windmill

The road in is not for the faint of heart! It is a 14 mile drive in from Hwy 180. At about mile 8 the pavement ends and a few miles later the road starts winding it’s way up and over a tall “hill” or what some people call a mountain. The road is narrow, bumpy and there are no guardrails. We drive roads like this all the time, but this is one of the more scary roads we’ve been on. The drop offs at the top are almost straight down! 4 wheel drive or AWD with high clearance definitely recommended!

photo of Turkey creek

Turkey Creek, so pretty!

All that said, the scary drive is well worth the end destination! Aaron’s mom asked why we drive roads like that if they are so scary? Because the reward on the other side is SO worth it! It’s not easy to find the trail head, even with a trail book of directions. There are lots of four wheel drive roads, more like a maze of roads surrounding the Gila River. We had to park a mile or so away from the trail head. Even though we drive an AWD Subaru, the river is quite deep in some spots, so we decided crossing in the car was not a good idea.

turkey creek

Who knew there could be such a beautiful desert oasis hidden in these desert mountains!

Crossing the river by foot is quite refreshing at this time of the year! It was 94 degrees the day we were out there and the cool water felt lovely. After four river crossings, we wandered around a bit, looking for the trail head. There is an old private homestead with a windmill hidden in the trees. This is where the trail begins. Unfortunately for us, after making our way through the maze of roads and backtracking to finally find the trail head, we didn’t have enough time or energy to make it all the way to the hot springs. According to our trail book, the springs are another 3 miles up from the windmill. We made it up about 2 of the 3 miles.

I love these tree trunks! Sycamore trees abound in this canyon!

I love these tree trunks! Sycamore trees abound in this canyon!

Now that we know where we’re going, we hope to make it all the way up to the hot springs next time. We weren’t too disappointed though, considering how hot it was! The cool water in the creek and river were refreshing and more than enough for this trek.

The rock cliffs tower hundreds of feet over the creek bed, though the trees cover most of them from view.

The rock cliffs tower hundreds of feet over the creek bed, though the trees cover most of them from view.

I’m planning on getting back to blogging twice a week. One blog will be about our latest hiking adventure and the other will be about my art. Subscribe to my blog above if you would like to be notified when I post a new blog. You may also want to go to my website and sign up for my email list to get more updates about my art and where our latest explorations have taken us!

Such a gorgeous landscape of rocks, trees and water!

Such a gorgeous landscape of rocks, trees and water!

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Aaron and I at the entrance of the cliff dwellings

Aaron and I at the entrance of the cliff dwellings

I may have blogged about this before, but it must have been years ago! That’s how long it’s been since Aaron and I visited. I love being back in southwestern New Mexico. It’s a homecoming of sorts. Different town this time around. When I was a kid growing up in Las Cruces, we spent countless weekends and Summers camping, hiking and exploring the Gila National Forest.

Catching the first glimpse of the cave from the trail below

Catching the first glimpse of the cave from the trail below

We brought visiting family and friends here to see the beauty of this vast wilderness. The Gila Cliff Dwellings is one of the most visited spots in the Gila. The other being the Catwalk trail near Glenwood.

The cliff face near the dwellings

The cliff face near the dwellings

When we go hiking with our dogs, we usually stick to trails without other people around. This past Sunday, we left the dogs at home. Mainly because dogs aren’t allowed at the Cliff Dwellings. They do have kennels for the dogs though, just in case!

One of the ancient rock walls of the cliff dwellings with it's distinctive window shape

One of the ancient rock walls of the cliff dwellings with it’s distinctive window shape

The road out to the site is a twisting, turning mountain road with no center line. Though it’s paved, it is definitely a back country road!

The hiking trail up to the cliff dwellings crosses over a small stream several times before zig zagging up the hillside to the ruins. The heat of the sun gives way to the cool of the cave as you climb the wooden ladder into the dwellings that haven’t been occupied in close to a thousand years.

Looking out into the canyon from within the cliff dwellings

Looking out into the canyon from within the cliff dwellings

It’s easy to see why the ancient ones chose this place, up high on a cliff overlooking a mountain spring. A view of the canyon, a source of water, a shelter from the weather.

Looking back as we head down the exit path.

Looking back as we head down the exit path.

If you ever find yourself in Silver City, New Mexico, I highly recommend you take the drive up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. You won’t be sorry you did!