Tag Archives: trees

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.

 

Back to work!

Window in to the past, Gila cliff dwellings

Window in to the past, Gila cliff dwellings

Summer break is officially over now. Aaron went back to work yesterday. We had company visiting, so I’m starting back today. I haven’t painted on canvas since June, but I did paint the house! We spent Aaron’s Summer break working on the house and exploring our new home. We hiked many miles and found some really beautiful areas. Mountain streams, lava flows, old dead trees, and an abundance of birds and wildlife. I probably took a couple hundred photos! We are settled in now and enjoying our new home to it’s fullest. I’m grateful to be living the dream!

Dusty hiking

Dusty hiking in Spring Canyon

I keep going back and forth about keeping my studio here at home or finding a place in town (Silver City) to rent. After searching town and making a few calls, it seems there isn’t much available and what is available is a bit overpriced. For now, I’ve decided to keep my studio at home.

On the scaffolding, painting the back side of the house

On the scaffolding, painting the back side of the house

With all the hiking trails in the area, I’ve decided to start blogging about our hikes on a regular basis. My goal is to blog 2 times per week. One will be about hiking the Gila and the other will be my art update for the week. Fingers crossed I can accomplish this goal! Our internet connection is spotty out here, so it will depend on how reliable it is on the days I blog.

View from atop the Black Range Crest Trail

View from atop the Black Range Crest Trail, this trail goes through a forest fire area from the Silver fire in 2013

Hiking is a walking meditation for me. There is nothing more calming or inspiring. My footsteps and breathing create a rhythm that takes me to another plane of perception. The trick is keeping that perception after the hike is over. Most of the time, it leaves as soon as I hop back in the car after a hike. My wish is to get to a point where I can keep that feeling while sitting here in my studio.

On the trail

On the trail

During our hikes I have been thinking a lot about writing. Words flow to me during my hiking meditations and I would love to get this flow down into words. That is what I’m working on. As a visual artist, words can be difficult. Putting what I see into words is not an easy task.

Another view from the Black Range Crest Trail

Another view from the Black Range Crest Trail

That said, the urge to write is becoming stronger than my aversion to writing.
I don’t know that what I have to write/say is important to the world in general, but it’s important to me and perhaps someone else will get something from it too.

View from the CDT trail

View from the CDT trail

Living in the Land of Enchantment: Nature is the Best Medicine

Subaru parked at the trail head

Parked at the trail head

I’ve been feeling down lately. Trying to stay positive and happy, but that doesn’t always happen. My personal life is good, but the world is losing it’s collective minds! So much fear and hate in the world, it can be hard to stay in the light.

Hiking selfie! :)

Hiking selfie! 🙂

I know of no better healing/grounding than going out in nature! Our dogs agree 100%. Yesterday started as a “morning hike” day. We had planned to take our stir crazy dogs (it’s been over a week since our last hike) for a short hike so we could get back to our studios in the afternoon.

Aspens in their fall colors

Aspens in their fall colors

Some days end up very differently than we plan. We spent a couple of hours looking for a trail head that leads to the Continental Divide Trail. We never found the trail head and so we ended up backtracking to another area we’ve been to before. We did find a trail that we had never been on before (Penas Negras Trail) in the San Pedro Wilderness.

Old road trail; Penas Negras Trail

Old road trail; Penas Negras Trail

It started out very steep, but after about 20 minutes the trail leveled off and took us through a gorgeous ridge top. The trail was more like an old road that had grown over, probably for decades. We timed our visit perfectly as the Aspen trees are beautiful in their Autumn colors!

More colorful Aspens!

More colorful Aspens!

The ground was littered with beautiful quartz stones, sparkling in the sunlight. Needless to say, I LOVE the mountains!

Super tall Aspens, still wearing green!

Super tall Aspens, still wearing green!

Living in the “Land of Enchantment”

Clouds, Trees and meadow in the San Pedro Wilderness Area

Before the snow, one of the many beautiful meadows in the San Pedro Wilderness Area

Ah, Spring in New Mexico! So many varieties of weather available to chose from! Rain, wind, sun, snow! If you’ve never been to New Mexico, you may not realize that our state is more than JUST a desert! We have mountains and meadows, rivers and lakes, snow topped tundras and then there are the deserts. There is a reason the state motto is “The Land of Enchantment”.

hiking trail covered in logs in the San Pedro Wilderness Area

The trail is covered with logs to give you some traction when the water is flowing and/or standing

There is currently a storm front moving through the state that has dumped snow in the northern part of the state while down south, they are getting highs in the 70s and 80s! New Mexico is a VERY diverse state. Diverse in our landscapes, diverse in our people. Is it any wonder why I love it here!?

tall Aspen tree in the San Pedro Wilderness Area

There are Aspen groves alongside Evergreen trees, very TALL trees!

Watching the weather report this morning, reminded me of a hike Aaron and I took a few years back. It was our anniversary, June 10th, and we decided it was time to head up to one of our favorite hiking spots. It is a summer only trail, as there is usually plenty of snow in the winter. Unless, of course, you have snow shoes! I’ve never been much of a snow lover myself, but NM also has some great skiing areas. The San Pedro Wilderness area is part of the Santa Fe National Forest. A bit west of the Jemez mountains, just east of Cuba, NM and about a 1 1/2 hour drive from Albuquerque. It is almost always wet up there, but that year? We got snowed on! It wasn’t a heavy snow, but wet, and it stuck pretty well to the green grass.

Lake Gregario in the San Pedro Wilderness Area

One side of Lake Gregario, such a beautiful sight!

Let’s just say we didn’t make it very far that day. We were not prepared for snow and so we turned around and headed back down the mountain, after we sat and enjoyed our lunch in the falling snow! San Pedro Wilderness is a wonderful place! The trees are tall and there is a lake for fishing as well. The trail we usually hike is called the “Las Vacas” trail, which is Spanish for “the cows”. You have to be careful not to step where the cows have been, it can be pretty messy! At least there is a stream to clean off your shoes, just in case!

Osa sneaking up on ducks at the lake in the San Pedro Wilderness Area

Osa THINKS she is sneaking up on the ducks, but they aren’t fooled!

Our dog, Osa, LOVES this wilderness! So many smells and places to explore. One of the best things about this trail is there are rarely any people on it past the lake which is about 3/4 mile up from the trail head. Osa loves this because she gets to run free without her leash!

Snow at the top of the mountains in the San Pedro Wilderness Area of New Mexico

And then there was SNOW! Yes! Snow in June in New Mexico

This forest is quite literally a rain forest. Ferns grow here and boy, the bugs are pretty bad! We have hiked to the top of the trail, the ridge that follows the tops of the mountains, and it almost always has at least an inch of standing water. It’s too bad we can’t transfer that moisture to other parts of the state at times. It’s green and lush and the meadows are gorgeous! Wildflowers abound in the late Spring and early Summer. It’s a great place for camping, just make sure you take your rain gear and a waterproof tent!

Snow on the ground in the San Pedro Wilderness Area

And MORE snow!

Last Summer, we took a backpacking trip on this trail and ended up coming home after one night because our brand new backpacking tent leaked like a sieve and we were drenched! Even so, we have several happy memories of the place. Looking forward to the day when we can head back up there, I guess it will have to wait a bit longer for the snow to melt all the way. 😉

The Rio de las Vacas or River of the Cows in the San Pedro Wilderness Area

The Rio de las Vacas or River of the Cows

Artsy Quote: Patience and Perseverance

Rio Grande valley w quoteToday’s photograph was taken in Colorado on the the way up to Creede. This is a photo of the Rio Grande headwaters, the place were the Rio Grande river begins in Colorado.

Be Careful!

Our shadows cast on the desert trail, walking the dogs out in the desert is a favorite for us, the dogs can run free and we can walk in peace away from traffic.

Our shadows cast on the desert trail, walking the dogs out in the desert is a favorite for us, the dogs can run free and we can walk in peace away from traffic.

The one phrase we’ve heard most often since taking off on our trip is “Be careful!” I understand the people telling us this have nothing but good intentions. I really do appreciate everyone’s concern. Last night when I heard it again for the hundredth time, it just struck me as such a funny thing to say.

The dogs are ready to get their run in!

The dogs are ready to get their run in!

First of all, of course we are going to be careful! What hit me more profoundly though was the fact that to do what we are doing, traveling around in an RV, is a risk. The type of risk that most people would never take. Maybe that’s why people tell us to be careful, because they cannot see themselves doing what we are doing. They see it as too much of a risk. Way too far out of their comfort zone.

fall colors on a tree in Las Cruces

Fall starts a bit later down south, but the trees are starting to change.

I guess it’s all in your perception. We see it as an adventure! No doubt, we are stepping out of our own comfort zone. We have lived the last 13 years in the same town, in the same house even. We have established ourselves in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We have a business, we have friends, family, in short, we have comfort in Albuquerque.

photo of Leon family in Las Cruces

We have enjoyed visiting with great friends, Saturday evening was spent with the Leon family, too much fun!

We spent two days with our lifelong friend Rob, here with his dog, Paco.

We spent two days with our lifelong friend Rob, here with his dog, Paco.

Visiting our hometown for the past week has reminded me of my adventurous spirit. I first left Las Cruces, New Mexico as a 17 year old. Newlywed, young mother, my husband was in the military, our first duty station just happened to be Hawaii. We were there for a short 8 months, but at the time it seemed like forever! It was so hard being so far from home, back in the days when long distance calls were expensive. But it was fun! I guess I’ve always been good at stepping out of my comfort zone. It’s just a part of who I am.

One of my record paintings hanging on the wall at the Leon family home! :)

One of my record paintings hanging on the wall at the Leon family home! 🙂

For years, when my kids were growing up, I wanted nothing more than to have a safe, secure life. Buy a house, get a steady job, stay in one place so the boys would have friends and feel like they belonged somewhere. It took a long time to get to that place. From that first adventure in Hawaii, to finally settling down in Albuquerque spanned a period of 15 years and at least 20 moves in 6 different states!

photo of Organ mountains

My favorite landmark in Las Cruces, the Organ mountains to the east of town. This view is from the front porch of our good friend Rob’s house.

Now that the boys are men, adults taking care of themselves (for the most part!), all I want to do is explore and move, enjoying the time spent traveling from one town to another. Unlike when the boys were small. All the moving back then was a nightmare. Now it’s just Aaron and me, we don’t have to worry about anything but what we want to do.

dogs running at park with Organ mountains in the background

And a view of the Organs from Young Park with the dogs running in the foreground

Way back when, at the young age of 16, when I had my first son, I promised myself that I would reward myself for the sacrifices of having kids at an early age by enjoying my 40s. I am now here and spending my 40s doing the things most people do in their 20s.

Ran into our friend and fellow musician at an open mic night. Big thanks to Tom Foster Morris for the cd he gave me for my birthday!

Ran into our friend and fellow musician at an open mic night. Big thanks to Tom Foster Morris for the cd he gave me for my birthday!

My promise to you all? We will be careful! 🙂