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Sunspot Loop - 2 members in 4 triplogs have rated this an average 2.5 ( 1 to 5 best )
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Nov 05 2012
Jim_H
avatar

 Guides 60
 Routes 56
 Photos 8,352
 Triplogs 1,822

41 male
 Joined Sep 08 2006
 Marana, AZ
Sunspot LoopSoutheast, NM
Southeast, NM
Hiking avatar Nov 05 2012
Jim_H
Hiking5.60 Miles 1,700 AEG
Hiking5.60 Miles   3 Hrs      1.92 mph
1,700 ft AEG      5 Mns Break
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Though the plan is still to summit Blanca on Friday, I wanted to hike a "high elevation" hike on the Sacramento Mountain Plateau before it either gets too cold, too snow covered, or I lost interest. This is a cute hike, but not spectacular and the drive makes it something to do infrequently. It reminded me a lot of Mormon MT, but with a Bill Williams feel, and a hint of the Lowell Observatory. Curious thing, the forest of the area once had a lot more pine in it, but with cutting and the appearance of the stumps and fallen trees, today they are almost completely replaced by Douglas Fir or lower elevation oak and juniper. Just a little to the east on the highway, white fir mingles in, and as you lose elevation you pick up more pine, but it isn't common on the Sacramento's western high ridge. Barely any are reproducing, too.

The appearance of the profile was as I remember Mike's image from his Gobbler Knob hike, and so I can say that you can see Guadalupe Peak (Texas High Point) on this hike, and I got an image of it. Mike has big plans for that hike, but I have no plans to head over and do something I have done a few times before when there are so many thing to explore in south central New Mexico.
foliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observation
Autumn Foliage Observation Isolated
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Sep 27 2009
imike
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 Guides 253
 Photos 6,930
 Triplogs 2,467

71 male
 Joined Nov 05 2008
 Cloudcroft, NM
Sunspot LoopSoutheast, NM
Southeast, NM
Backpack avatar Sep 27 2009
imike
Backpack14.50 Miles 3,100 AEG
Backpack14.50 Miles   8 Hrs   40 Mns   1.67 mph
3,100 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
Linked linked
Partners none no partners
60#+ pack today...

decided to try and make up for the aborted hike of a couple days ago, and get in my exploratory of Gobbler Knob. Started on trail 234/234A, then used FR90 to connect with trail 236 Gobbler Knob. trail unexceptional, but the Knob has views... great views! Guadalupe Peak down in Texas to the south, Sierra Blanca, the highest peak in this range to the north... Tularosa Basin and White Sands below to the west... and, some really nice canyon walls in the drainage directly below the Knob... looks like a drainage worthy of exploration.

Now, it was stupid to add this mileage and elevation on to what was supposed to be a short, weighted pack training day. That heavy pack beat me up by the end of this day, especially on the off trail portion I added climbing back up the mountain to the Observatory.

I be tired!
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Ageless Mind... Timeless Body... No Way! Use It and Lose It. Just the way it is...
Sep 19 2009
imike
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 Guides 253
 Photos 6,930
 Triplogs 2,467

71 male
 Joined Nov 05 2008
 Cloudcroft, NM
Sunspot LoopSoutheast, NM
Southeast, NM
Backpack avatar Sep 19 2009
imike
Backpack11.60 Miles 2,900 AEG
Backpack11.60 Miles   6 Hrs   28 Mns   1.79 mph
2,900 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
Partners none no partners
25# pack, off trail for much of the hike... cool to cold temps... muddy trail.



I had planned to explore this canyon ever since I'd hiked the canyon to the south of it last year, Dog Canyon. Whereas Dog Canyon has a full state park and is known nationally both for it's setting and historic sites, San Andreas just sits next door, a silent relative. From the desert floor it is obvious, and looking at the topo maps, there is a trail indicated that begins at the bottom but terminates a few miles up canyon... and, there appeared to be a good reason: towering cliffs, suggesting a very tall waterfall shutting off the egress. But, those things are always hard to call... a map is just a map. To find out what is really there you have to get out the door and over on the trail....

... I decided this year to make the trek, but instead of approaching from the established trail shown on the map from the desert floor, I decided to approach from the top, bushwacking cross country. The obvious access appeared to be off one of the Forest Roads around the 7500' level, but to make the day stretch out a bit, I opted to drive to Sunspot, over 9,000'... parking at the Observatory Museum and hiking down the mountain to connect with the Forest roads. I did not go for a particulary early start, but even heading out a bit before 6am it was still dark out. It was getting light around 6:30am when I exited my truck and began the cold hike down the mountain trail.

I began the day in nylon shorts and shirt with a storm parka and gloves and mitten cap... I knew I'd need full, heavy pants for the bushwack section but after a full 30 seconds of searching I decided, ah, what the heck... it's only skin. So, no pants this morning...

I had studied the map for a general feel of the drainage patterns, but I had not looked closely. I figured they would likely not really give me all that much information that I could apply. I did note that the better access appeared to be about a couple miles in, a mile before the end of the Forest Road. Since I'd never been on that road before, once hiking along I decided why not simply walk all the way to the end, then simply hike back the mile to that nice egress point... of course, once all the way in that is not what I did. Instead I continued on further west and up and around a ridge, dropping over into the canyon's upper cliffs. I did not realize it at that point in time, but I was well past not only the good access areas, but I was into totally inaccessible areas. My first attempt to drop into the canyon bottom (which at this point was over 2,000' below me) resulted in "cliffing" out... getting to the top of a shear drop off. I had to retrace my route and climb back up to a bench, then move laterally back up the canyon to try to find another point to descend through. Complicating these manuevers were dense shrubbery... very dense shrubbery. Even though I was dropping down a 60 degree slope, there was no real fear of falling... at least three if not more body parts were constantly entangled in undergrowth! I would have to push two to four limbs apart just to begin to take a step... then repeat that process over and over again to move further and further down the hill. At one point I did finally take some comfort in the theoretical fact that the plant growth could not get any thicker. somehow, knowing that it would be impossible for the obstacles to get worse gave me some positive reassurance. Always the optimist!

This bushwacking took hours, but finally I could see the bottom of the canyon and noted that I was getting ever nearer. I hit a bench about 80-100' above the drainage bottom, and realized that it was a sheer cliff down to the creek... but, I was rewarded with my first bit of real good luck... I came across a drainage defile that allowed me to scramble down that final distance, arriving at a wonderland of rock and water. I had some how managed to hit the bottom just above the massive waterfall that split the canyon access....those lower canyon trails could only make it up to the base of this towering obstacle, sheer cliffs surrounding the waterfall drop of 80 to 100 feet. Now, it was going to be interesting to see if hiking up this drainage would give me a nicer trip than the horrendous trip down did.

It did.

Not only was it easier, way easier... it was delightful. The combination of rock cliffs, boulders, waterfalls and ledges, combined with the beginnings of fall colors and the vast vista of the lower canyon was exceptional. Initially, the trek back had a closed in intimacy... the walls immediately surrounding the creek blocked off the broader, towering cliff sides from view. The creek was a virtual highway, lushly landscaped and easy to hike. I enjoyed every aspect of this part of the day. The character of the waterway changed as I worked my way up and out, turning itself into a very babbling brook kind of walkway. It grew narrower and narrower, but never became too obscured to really block passage.

I did finally decide to leave the drainage and work my way back up the side hills, getting my last milder bit of bushwacking for the day... and hit the forest road about where I'd originally thought it might be nice to access the canyon.... from there I hiked the steep trail back to the Observatory and my truck.

I got on the computer, added the hike into the registry for HikeArizona (I'm now listed as one of their top 10 authors!).... threw a chicken and yam into roast, and began to edit the pictures I'd taken. Now, I'm settling into the evening, eating my chicken and potato... and thinking about the next adventure.

a good day.
_____________________
Ageless Mind... Timeless Body... No Way! Use It and Lose It. Just the way it is...
1 archive
Jan 03 2009
imike
avatar

 Guides 253
 Photos 6,930
 Triplogs 2,467

71 male
 Joined Nov 05 2008
 Cloudcroft, NM
Sunspot LoopSoutheast, NM
Southeast, NM
Hiking avatar Jan 03 2009
imike
Hiking5.00 Miles 1,700 AEG
Hiking5.00 Miles   2 Hrs   6 Mns   2.38 mph
1,700 ft AEG
 no routesno photosets
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Knee held up fine, so training can resume in earnest... nice to know. 46 min downhill, hour and 20 minutes up... no rush. wore 30# vest for added test.
_____________________
Ageless Mind... Timeless Body... No Way! Use It and Lose It. Just the way it is...
average hiking speed 1.94 mph

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.

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