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Purgatory Canyon, NM

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Rated  Favorite Wish List NM > Southeast
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Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
Statistics
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 4.9 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,781 feet
Elevation Gain 1,900 feet
Avg Time One Way 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 11.23
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack No
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
Post the 1st photoset!
Author imike
author avatar Guides 253
Routes 0
Photos 6,930
Trips 2,467 map ( 21,513 miles )
Age 69 Male Gender
Location Cloudcroft, NM
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Preferred   Apr, Mar, Oct, Nov → Early
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  5:52am - 6:01pm
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Water
Sure Ain't Heaven!
by imike

If Purgatory is a place you have to be in before being somewhere nice, then perhaps the canyon was apply named. Even if it is a place you have to spend time paying hard penance, then again... apply named. You do feel as if you are paying a price making your way up this narrow drainage, and you definitely are wishing and hoping to get to somewhere better... soon.

The first 2.5 miles are in the open and scenic Alamo Canyon basin, walking the rocky wash bottom and the old jeep road on the benches... technically the trail designated 104 (...there ain't no trail, but there are occasionally some carbonite trail markers?) About .2 mile past the t107 turnoff (Roundup Grounds trail)you get to the narrow opening to Purgatory Canyon, on your right. There is a nice, flat top picnic table size rock out in the wash right at the canyon mouth. Do not mistake the canyon drainage at t107 for Purgatory.

Well, this canyon starts off narrow and overgrown, and continues in that vein for it's entire length, at least the portion I explored. The map indicates close to 2.5 miles of drainage topping out over 7500'. I made it up to a grotto'd out gorge, 25' overhanging falls at about 6600', so there is probably about .8 mile more of drainage above where I made it to?? It was not worth the effort getting to where I stopped and turned back, and I doubt if the route would get any better above the grotto, but... for another day, and probably another person, to explore.

Oddly enough, the overgrowth was not all that prickly... it was tree and shrub without thorn, but it was ever present and thick. What rock there was was mostly obscured by overgrowth. It so effectively blocks the path as to slow the progress down to a crawl, and often to a real crawl to make your way under some of the obstructions.

There were a few fun falls to scramble up, and a nice solid bedrock side canyon about a mile or so in. I diverted up it just to get a few minutes of open walking with that pleasant calf burn that comes from those 30 degree slopes.

Perhaps someone else would revel in all that greenery. A different perspective might judge this canyon differently. Check out the pictures and see what you think. Most of them were shot to simply illustrate how closed in this wash is... I was even so distracted by the lack of canyon appeal that I began taking shots of flowers... geez!

So... Purgatory. Go pay your penance! Hope there is a reward for your efforts.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your canyon trip to support this local community.

2010-10-09 imike
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Purgatory Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    Thought this would be an easy hit... but the Antlers were further up canyon than I recalled. Once there, they were huge! I could not see working them down the climbs and through the undergrowth we'd just hiked up through... so... climbed out of the canyon; tracked a variety of upper Elk trails (appropriate?) around and out. Eventually, mounted the rack on my pack... got a bit of an idea how the Elk might feel with that awkward load!?

    After having logged two prior days of harder efforts, this day hit hard! Time for a rest day?
    Purgatory Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    Okay...expecting a less than route. I'd forewarned Mary and Ross a number of times about my initial hike here in 2010. I had not been back...but today the planned route sounded too difficult for them. Instead, we headed up Purgatory to retrieve antlers left up on the adjoining cliffs.

    The first hike had been a struggle...overgrown from the get go. All that was now gone! We enjoyed a great bedrock path with vista views of the surrounding cliffs. It got better and better. Small challenging dry falls...interesting rock. Nice.

    Oddly, numerous elk and deer carcass...lots of antlers.

    I had to check the 2010 pictures to confirm it was the same canyon.

    Exit route was semi exploratory...out the cliffs then wrapping over into Roundup Canyon and connecting with t107...then out Roundup Cliffs trial.

    Long day in great canyon. I'll need to reevaluate that cut.
    Purgatory Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    Terri’s Friday group put off the Garden Wall hike until next week… so, I decided on a long delayed exploratory: Purgatory Ridge. Since Purgatory Canyon cliffs out from below, the ridge was a shot at seeing what the upper portion of the canyon held.

    No real energy, so slow slog up Alamo Canyon, 2.8 miles to the mouth of Purgatory Canyon, and the climb up and onto the Ridge. There the hike began for real.

    I chose to angle up below the crest of the ridge, following deer trails that overlooked Purgatory. Eventually, I angled over the crest to take in the views into and across Alamo Canyon… very nice! After an easy crest walk the ridge cliffed out… I opted to scoot around and below on the right and scored a great Elk Trail… that carried me up past the rocks, and once above, again I crossed over to check out the Alamo Canyon area. The Ridge was giving me views I’d never had across so much area that I spend time hiking across. It promised to continue to give more and more as I climbed higher and higher.

    I continually opted to follow game tracks off the top of the Ridge crest on the Purgatory Canyon side… it paid off with sneak peaks down into the canyon, but never any clear views. I did note an obvious detail: across and above the canyon, the rock cliffs that formed the barrier to scaling the south side of Lower Purgatory Canyon made for a consistent incline ledge that, like the Garden Wall hike, formed a natural hiking route. You could access the Cliffs down at the mouth of the canyon and walk their upper edge up and around nearly all the way up to the terminal waterfall formation that capped out Upper Purgatory Canyon. It would not be a too hard hike. Nice.

    Up… and up some more, very slowly.

    Finally, I wrapped around and found myself on the cliffs on the north side of the canyon… walking the edges towards a dramatic waterfall formation… 80+ feet of sheer wall closing off the uppercanyon.

    I made for the top of Purgatory Ridge to the north… and climbed up to the north fork saddle. From there, up to Purgatory Peak and the high point of the Ridge. The views were impressive, and I spotted an alternative return route: Good Canyon to the east looked to intersect back with Alamo Canyon… probably near the old cabin site above the mine? If it would connect, it would mean returning sort of on trail.

    It looked clear… it was. It dropped me right to the cabin!

    There was a small problem… I’d planned on a 4-6 hour hike. I’d brought along fluid and calories for that effort. But, here I was nearing the six hour point and had yet to turn for home. I’d noticed that my feet could begin to cramp if stressed to a particular position. Not a great sign.

    At seven hours I was on the way home, but moving slow. The slower pace did have a bright spot: I paid more attention to the route of the old roadbed from the mine down the canyon… and took more pictures documenting the remains of the old water line. I also paid closer attention to the engine block below the mine. Over the years it appears then reappears as the depth of the river bed rises and falls. Today, I checked it out. It was a straight six, Oldsmobile engine. I have no idea from what year.

    Also found some interesting bottles from 50+ years ago… with very specific text… I snapped pictures; they’ll be posted.

    Legs began to cramp after the seventh hour… not steady, but did not portend well. The pace slowed, but I was now plodding along over paths I’d covered many, many times before… getting home was a sure thing. I just wish I’d thrown in that second half gallon of OJ… it would have made the extra hours about right. The half gallon of OJ and two no cal energy drinks that I did have was just not enough. This would have been a great hike to have 1.5 gallons of fluid… and the potassium from the full gallon of Orange Juice.

    As I opened the door to the truck at the trailhead, I noted that the hike logged a bit over 12 miles… 3700’ of up/down… and 8.5 hours of total clock time. GPS showed 1.5 hours of down time; I’m not sure that is right.

    I drank the half gallon of OJ within the next 30 minutes… hands and legs still cramping here two hours later, legs really twisting me up! My fault. It was a fasting day. If the hike is longer than four hours I add in 200-300 calories per hour of OJ to try to diminish the impact, and get that potassium that will keep me from cramping. Today, not enough of anything, except effort.

    Thinking back to the highpoint of the hike: it was a great day. Purgatory Peak is a must do. Purgatory Cliffs may be another great mid level effort route to add to the lists. Purgatory Canyon remains as before: why go there!

    I think I’ll check Good Canyon off my list this coming Sunday!

    Wow, this is fun stuff! Solo wandering up and around, out and about…

    Note: first snake sightings of the year!
    Purgatory Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    Exploring another of the side drainage canyons off of Alamo Wash, Purgatory Canyon. Not going to go down as a favorite. I may have been having an off day, but I just could not get into this overgrown cut... not enough bedrock, way too much shrubbery. Oh, well... it must of at least been a good workout day, I was wasted by the time I made it home.

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    Directions
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    Paved - Car Okay

    To canyon trip
    From the main drag in Alamogordo (White Sands Blvd) take 1st street to Scenic Drive, then Scenic drive south to the end of the road at the city water tank. Turn up Alamo Canyon road, following it up and around the left side of the water tank... and on to the end of the road. Park adjacent to the fenced off water treatment area, and head up trail t104 along the south side of that fence. Alamo Canyon splits 2 miles in, take the right fork..
    page created by imike on Oct 08 2010 2:42 pm
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