This is a brief trip report concerning a trip we did to New Mexico and Arizona over Spring Break 2009. The primary focus of the trip was ancient ruins, but we did a lot of other things as well.
El Morro has been a landmark for hundreds or thousands of years. There are many ancient petroglyphs and explorer's signatures hundreds of years old. This one is from 1692.
March 14: Angel Peak (New Mexico)
On viewing Angel Peak, it was obvious that it was a difficult climb made of the worst rock imaginable, so Kessler, Shaylee, Kim and I hiked the interesting badlands surrounding the peak. From the south rim of the badlands we found a class 3 route into the drainage to the north. We explored the drainages badlands around the peak before returning to the vehicle.
This is Angel Peak in NW New Mexico as viewed on March 14 2009. The summit of the peak appears to be quite technical and is made of very poor rock, so we satisfied ourselves by scrambing around the peak and in the badlands.
March 15: Pueblo Alto/North Mesa/Wijiji (New Mexico)
After visiting Pueblo Bonito in the morning Kessler, Shaylee, Kim and I did the loop hike to Pueblo Alto and Jackson Stairs in Chaco Culture National Historic Park. The park is in the middle of the desert in New Mexico and preserves many ancient ruins and petroglyphs.
After hiking to the ruins of Kin Kletso the trail climbs up the cliffs via a steep and interesting chute with some fun scrambling (especially for kids). After reaching the top we hiked across the slickrock and flats of the mesa to Pueblo Alto located right on the summit of North Mesa. After exploring the ruins we hiked over to Jackson Stairway which is an extremely steep and amazing stairway carved out of the rock by the ancient inhabitants. The rest of the hike back was just a nice hike across the slickrock with only minor scrambling. From an archeological standpoint, this loop hike is top notch and very interesting.
In the evening, I hiked to Wijiji solo and to see the sunset.
Four year old Shaylee and six year old Kessler scramble up the steep route to Pueblo Alto on top of North Mesa on March 15.
March 16: Peñasco Blanco (New Mexico)
Kessler, Shaylee, Kim and I made the 8 mile round trip trek to the mesa top ruins of Peñasco Blanco and back. Also along the way were many petroglyphs panels and one pictograph panel thought to represent the supernova of 1054 AD. For Shaylee, it was somewhat long but everyone agreed that it was a rewarding trek.
This ancient petroglyph is thought to represent the super nova of 1054 AD. It is located in Chaco Canyon.
March 17: La Ventana Arch/The Narrows/Zuni-Acoma (New Mexico)
We (Kessler, Shaylee, Kim and I) all got an early start because we had much planned for the day and wanted to pack in as much adventure as possible into a single day.
We started with a hike and scramble to La Ventana Arch, an impressive arch near Grants that only requires a short hike/scramble. We scrambled up to as far as underneath the arch, but on our return someone was blocking off the trail? Maybe they don’t want people going that far? Anyway, it was opened when we started and we had a great time visiting the arch.
Next we hiked the first section of the South Narrows Trail along the sandstone rim above what is known as The Narrows. We walked to various viewpoints and I got some great shots of Mount Taylor and the lava fields in the Malpais.
After visiting the narrows, we hiked the east section of the Zuni-Acoma trail so the kids could see the lava fields up close. We returned when the sun was getting low in the sky and as to make sure we got back by dark. It was a great day.
This is La Ventana Arch.
March 18: Mount Taylor (New Mexico)
Kessler and I set off to do a winter ascent of Mount Taylor, one of the highest mountains in New Mexico. The weather was perfect, but we weren’t sure how far we would be able to drive up FS Road 193 so we knew it could be a long haul if we wanted to climb the peak.
After an early morning start, we drove towards the trailhead and found that we could only drive two miles on FS 193 before having to stop in our 2wd low clearance vehicle. It would be over three miles each way to reach the summer trailhead (Gooseberry Trail-later we found out that there may be a shorter winter route).
We donned our snowshoes and after walking almost an hour and a half we wondered if we might have over shot the summer trailhead since the area was covered in snow (none of the three ranger stations/visitor centers we visited had a topo map of the mountain for sale!). We decided to head east up the mountain because it really wouldn’t matter if we were on the trail since everything was covered with snow anyway.
We climbed steeply to the ridge through the open forest and followed the ridge up the mountain. We found some scraps of trail and a couple cairns, but when we got high enough on the mountain we could see that the real trail was on the next ridge to the south and across a gaping valley.
We climbed our rugged ridge through the lava rock, having to remove our snowshoes once we hit the rock until we reached the real trail when we weren’t far from the summit. We put our snowshoes back on and climbed to the summit of Mount Taylor on perfect bluebird weather day. It had taken us over six hours to snowshoe the six miles to the summit, which isn’t bad for a six year old.
After eating lunch and enjoying the views from the summit, it was time to head back down. We took the “real trail” down, but found that it really wasn’t an advantage or any faster than the route we took up especially in the areas that were sparse on snow. We followed the trail back to the trailhead where it was a long haul back along the snow covered road to the vehicle. It was a rewarding climb and had taken us ten hours round trip. Kessler was pretty tired and went to bed well that night. It was a record long distance for him on snowshoes and possibly for me as well.
This is Kessler on the summit of Mount Taylor on March 18, 2009. Since we couldn't drive all the way to the trailhead, our route required 12 miles (20 kms) round trip on snowshoes. It was a rewarding climb and had taken us ten hours round trip. It was a record long distance for him on snowshoes and possibly for me as well.
March 19: Candelaria Ice Cave/Bandera Crater/El Morro/East Fork Galestina Canyon (New Mexico)
Today we had a lot planned for one day, so we had to get another early start. We drove to the trailhead to the Candelaria Ice Cave and Bandera Crater first. These two places are more tourist attractions than real hikes or climbs, but they are very interesting. The ice cave filled with green ice was pretty nice as was the new (geologically speaking) Bandera Crater which is only a few thousand years old. We spent a few hours visiting the ice cave and hiking up the volcano.
Next we drove to El Morro National Monument which is probably my favorite place in New Mexico. It is a large sandstone outcrop forming a large hill, peak or bluff that stands all alone in an isolated region. There are many ancient petroglyphs and many signatures dating from 1605 AD to the early 1900’s. There is a nice trail circling the peak and then climbing to the top of it. The top of the peak is a nice fantasy land of color with big pine trees growing out of the solid rock.
Are last destination on the agenda was Galestina Canyon. We decided to hike the east fork. We hiked down canyon to the huge dry falls. There was some scrambling to get to the lip and we found some interesting petroglyphs on the rock. The falls was really big and would have required a long detour to find a route around so we returned up canyon and to the vehicle.
Kim, Shaylee and Kessler near the summit of El Morro.
March 20: Canyon de Chelly (Arizona)
Kessler, Shaylee, Kim and I left for a hike down into the Canyon de Chelly and to Whitehouse Ruins. Because the land belongs to the Navajos, White House Ruins is the only place in the complex where you are allowed to hike without a guide. We had a great time on the scenic trail and at the ruins.
After the ruins we went to various overlooks of the ruins, canyon and rock towers, but we couldn’t hike or climb anything there.
Spider Rock in the Canyon de Chelly as viewed on March 20 2009. It has been climbed, but climbing the rock is no longer allowed.
March 22: Rifle Arch (Colorado)
Today after church in Rifle; and on the way back home from Arizona, Kessler, Shaylee, Kim and I made a hike up to Rifle Arch north of Rifle and on the Grand Hogback. I’ve been there several times, but I always enjoy the hike and the spectacular views of the high sandstone slabs. It was an unusually warm day for March, but it was quite windy as well.
Kessler and Shaylee hiking to Rifle Arch with the Grand Hogback right ahead. March 22 2009. Rifle Arch is the shadow on the right side of the photo.
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