Tag Archives: Gila wilderness

Hiking the Gila: Trees

Alligator Juniper tree

Hard to tell in this photo, but this is a HUGE tree!

I love trees! Shouldn’t we all? I mean, come on, they give us oxygen to live! When I was a kid, I loved to climb up into their branches. I even swung out of a tree with a garden hose once and had to get xrayed for a possible collar-bone fracture. It turned out it was just a bad bruise. I never swung out of a tree again after that day! I have climbed up into their branches again and again though.

Twisted Alligator Juniper with Aaron in the photo for scale!

Twisted Alligator Juniper with Aaron in the photo for scale!

Aaron and I went for a hike in the Gila Wilderness this past Sunday. We went back to Rocky Canyon since we didn’t make it far on the trail the last time. Actually, last time, we took a split in the trail to see a cave. This time, we hiked the main Rocky Canyon trail and I must say, the name is a bit misleading! The trail only stays in the canyon for about a half mile before climbing several hundred, possibly a thousand, feet up and out of the canyon. The trail then follows the ridge top for quite some time. We ended our hike after about 2 1/2 miles, at Brannon Park.

Alligator Juniper. This side shows the twisted trunk better

Alligator Juniper. This side shows the twisted trunk better

While on the ridge top, we encountered a massive grove of Alligator Juniper trees. Alligator Junipers get their name from the texture of their bark. It looks like the skin of an alligator. These specific trees have always fascinated me. They are usually old and twisted. This grove was OLD. The trees were HUGE!

Not sure what type of tree this one is, but I love it!

Not sure what type of tree this one is, but I love it!

One in particular was very twisted. It looked as if a giant had spun it from the top, the trunk had several parts to it and they were all twisted around each other. Even the branches were twisted. I wonder what causes this? My guess is the wind, but if anyone knows for sure, let me know!

Charred remains of a Ponderosa Pine. That must have been a big fire!

Charred remains of a Ponderosa Pine. That must have been a big fire!

It was quite obvious when we left the grove of Juniper trees. It was almost like a line had been drawn and the Junipers were separated from another grove of Ponderosa Pines. Brannon Park is where the pine trees lived and the park was at a lower elevation from the ridge top where the Junipers were. We came into the park as we came down the hill.

Alligator Juniper

Alligator Juniper

In Brannon Park where we stopped for our lunch break, there was a muddy stream bed that was drying out. Just enough water remained for the dogs to get a drink. As we sat eating we noticed there was a flock of Bushtits congregating around the dwindling water supply. We heard the squawk of a hawk, but never saw it. We don’t get to see much wildlife when we hike, thanks to the dogs. I guess that could be a good or bad thing!

I am so grateful to now live in southern New Mexico! It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day! Hearing about blizzards in other parts of the country, I’ll take a sunny end of November day anytime!

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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.

 

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.