Monthly Archives: May 2015

Jordan Hot Springs, Gila National Forest – April 28

We hiked out to the Jordan Hot Springs the morning of April 28. The hike is up the Little Bear Canyon 7 miles one way requiring a climb up and over a high ridge to get to the Middle Fork of the Gila River. Then you follow the river upstream making at least 15 river crossings until you reach the hot springs located up a side canyon. 
We started off from our campsite and planned to pick up the trail halfway between our campsite and TJ Corral. 
Jon had put in a couple of coordinates into the inReach to help make sure we knew where we were going. We followed a canyon wash up to the top of the ridge. By the time we got to that point, we realized that we weren’t on the Little Bear Canyon Trail. We found a trail at the top which seemed to be in the right place and direction, but turned out to be the West Fork Trail that followed the top of the ridge line. 


Jon found a way down the ridge via a steep but manageable wash. It got pretty hairy at times and required passing around and through quite a few large patches of poison ivy, one of my least favorite things in the world. 
We made it down to the bottom of the canyon and found the trail up the Middle Fork.
 We came across a few people doing the Continental Divide hike on their way to Canada. We eventually found the hot springs. There were two older men and a young man. They had only just arrived ahead of us. 
The Jordan hot springs are more like warm springs than hot springs. They are up a small canyon where the water pours out of an opening in the rocks over a small waterfall to collect in a large pool. It is shady, peaceful retreat. 


We talked with the other occupants and just enjoyed the waters. We eventually got out, changed back into our hiking gear, had a little lunch and started back. 
For the return trip, we followed the actual trail back. 
It spent a very long time walking across the top of the ridge. I’m actually glad we came up the other way even though it was a little longer. By the end, we had hiked for a little more than 15 miles with a lot of elevation change. It was certainly worth doing. 
At our campsite, there was a fairly large RV sharing the parking lot. We met our new neighbors after dinner. They were a very nice retired couple from the Netherlands. We shared their fire and we talked for a long time. We finally went back to the Fuso and slept well. 
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Gila Cliff Dwellngs & Lightfeather Hot Springs – April 27

We drove on to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. We stopped at the Gila National Forest Ranger Station in Mimbres. The man staffing the desk was very helpful and the office had some really great information and maps. 
We passed by a number of signs warning that the roads around Gila Cliff Dwellings and areas to the South would be closed on April 30 & May 3 for the Tour de Gila bike race. 
Considering the mountains we were driving on, those cyclists were in for some really tough days. 
We stopped at the Gila Cliff Dwellings Visitor Center to find out more about the site, but they weren’t nearly as useful as the Forest Service post. We headed to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. The Cliff Dwellings were once home to the Mogollon people from about 1275 until 1300. 


There are six caves that are available to visit. To reach the caves, there is a mile long loop trail that starts out flat as it follows the canyon stream bed. It then becomes very steep and climbs about 180 ft. 
I’m really glad we weren’t here in July when it gets really hot. It wasn’t too bad at the end of April. Jon & I have been to Mesa Verde and Keet Seal which are much more impressive. I’m really glad we went and saw Gila Cliff Dwellings but if you are trying to decide which ancient Puebloan site to visit, you’d be more excited about those other locations. 
The volunteers were really good and interesting. 
Most of the other visitors were either foreign or retired. We saw several people during our walk up to the cliff dwellings that never actually made it up to the cliff dwellings. 


I’m so very grateful that I’m not afraid of heights and in the kind of condition that doing this kind of hike doesn’t tax me. And that I am married to someone that is also interested in visiting places like this.  
After our visit to the Cliff dwellings, we headed up to a trailhead for a hike up to the Light Feather Hot Springs. I came to these same hot springs with my mom when I was still in college. It was pouring with rain and there were thousands of tiny toads everywhere. 
This was a very different visit. It was a beautiful day. 
The hike was relatively short and easy. We met a couple of young women who were on a backpacking trip around a loop that included this hot spring and another that we hoped to visit tomorrow.  
It rained a little while we were there, but nothing significant. The springs are really hot (140 F), so it is essential to mix the hot springs water with the water from the river (Gila). There are several pools of rock dams that have been built for that purpose. 
Of course, every time there is a flash flood (common in the canyons) the pools wash away. We had a very pleasant time sitting and enjoying the scenery and company. After a long time, we headed back. 
We planned to hike to Jordan Hot Springs tomorrow, so we decided to camp at Lower Scorpion campgrounds which are near the trailhead. The campground can very easily be summed up as a daytime picnic area where you can camp overnight in the parking lot. After driving around a little, we picked a corner that was relatively flat. 


There was one other occupant of the campground, a very, very grumpy older man. He didn’t make eye contact or acknowledge our existence. He crawled into his sleeping bag around 6:30. We had a great dinner and slept well. 
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Gila National Forest – Apr 26 Part 3

It was still pretty early and we had enough of being outside. We headed towards the Gila National Forest.  We passed through the town of Truth or Consequences. It wasn’t exactly a booming economy. 
We drove into the Gila National Forest and planned to camp there for the night. We had considered camping at the Emory Pass Vista, but it was a day use area. Also, it was snowing lightly and had an incredible amount of wind.
So we headed further into the park. 
We skipped the first campground because it was right off the road and a stream that had flooded last year. There were still downed trees all over the stream making it look a little unloved. We stayed at the next campground, Railroad Canyon. It was tucked into a canyon off the main road giving it a more peaceful environment. 
There was a very cold looking young woman at one of the three campsites. She was there with a small tow trailer, a backpack and associated camping gear. She was a ranger for the park and was waiting for a ride from her boss. She was part of a group that had been doing some trail maintenance, but they became snowed out. The group was supposed to come back for the trailer (it had bad bearings). Her boss would be by to pick her up sometime later tonight or We offered her something hot to drink, but she wasn’t interested. So we did our normal evening activities. After a while, our neighbor heated up something on a backpacker stove, put up her tent and went to bed. During the night, a crew came out and hauled off the trailer, but the ranger stayed on. 
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Valley of Fires – Apr 26, Part 2

After warming up, we headed to Valley of Fires National Recreation Area. The Valley of Fires is a lava bed about 44 miles long and a couple of miles wide is covered by lava from a series of volcanic eruptions or fissures in the ground. This happened about 1500 to 2000 years ago, making it a relatively recent event. 
The visitor center and associated campgrounds and such are on an island of ground that the lava flowed around. 
We took the Nature Trail around the lava field. 

It was very cold, windy and occasionally rainy. We toured the area a lot faster than we would have otherwise.

We had also visited Craters of the Moon National Park within the last couple of years, so it wasn’t quite as novel an experience as it might have been.

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Three Rivers Petroglyph Site – Apr 26 Part 1

We had considered taking a nice hike into the mountains we were camped near, but the weather changed our minds. It was really blustery and cold with the occasional bought of rain. Not nice weather for a long, exposed hike.  
So we packed up and headed to the Three Rivers Petroglyphs National Recreation Site. On our way there, we passed by a herd of about 40 elk. A was able to get a photo of some of them. Most had already gone over the top of the hill. 
It wasn’t raining when we arrived. The hike to see most of the petroglyphs was fairly short, so we decided to brave the weather. The site has over 21,000 petroglyphs in a very small area. The inscriptions were made by the Mogollon peoples about 1000 years ago. 
The weather was pretty atrocious being windy and cold and raining occasionally, but the petroglyphs were well worth it. You can hop around on the rocks looking for petroglyphs (as long as you are very careful not to damage the petroglyphs). We were lucky that the weather kept the rattlesnakes in their homes. It was easy to see how this area is perfect habitat for them. The petroglyphs were almost everywhere. It was kind of like an Easter Egg Hunt to find them. I was very excited and hopped around like a small child taking photos. 
Jon was very cold. 
Once it started raining for the multiple time, I decided I had enough too and headed back to the Fuso. It was well worth seeing even in the nasty weather. 
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White Sands, Alamogordo and Three Rivers – Apr 25

We had a great night at our campsite in the Lincoln National Forest. 
We made our way to White Sands National Monument. It was interesting, but not facinating. It might be fabulous if you bought the sand saucer, but as adults, not so wonderful. If you have never seen Gypsum sand dunes, it is worth seeing once. 
We stopped in Alamogordo, NM for refueling, resupply and laundry. It was a little larger town than we had been around lately. I worked on laundry while Jon was off making the appropriate stops. It went fairly quickly. I highly recommend the Busy Bee Laundry if you ever need to do laundry in Alamogordo, NM. 
We headed to Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, but it was already pretty late. We decided to camp nearby. As it turns out, you can actually camp at the National Recreation Site, but it was quite bleak. We opted for the Three Rivers Campground in Lincoln National Forest. It is tucked away at the bottom of a canyon up to some inspiring mountains. It took a couple of rounds for us to decide on a campsite, but we finally picked one that required a lot of leveling, but had a spectacular view. We had a quiet evening enjoying the scenery. 


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Carlsbad Caverns – April 24

Today we left Guadalupe National Forest and are finally out of Texas.    
We made a stop at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. We arrived mid-morning which was a good choice. It was pretty busy when we got there, but the parking lot was full by the time we left. 


 We decided on the self-guided tours starting with the Natural Entrance and going around the Big Room. We passed by a couple of large groups of children on a guided tour early. After that, it was just couples or very small groups. It is an amazing cavern especially considering its size. The Big Room is highly decorated with good examples of a lot of different types of formations.  We finished up by taking the elevator to the visitor center. A wonderful thing indeed. 



I’m really glad we came at this time of year due to the lack of crowds as compared to the summer. It did mean that we had to miss out on the nightly bat flight. It is really amazing to see thousands of bats fly out of the natural entrance on their nightly insect hunting trips. The bats don’t arrive until late May. 
We headed to Lincoln National Forest to camp tonight. We stayed at a dispersed camping spot near Denny Hill. Near Weed, NM in the mountains. We decided to not camp at the first wonderful site we passed by due to the skeleton and pelt of both a horse and large dog. I just couldn’t manage being there. We found a wonderful spot a little further along. It had a great view and was very peaceful. 


Jon trying to make the grill more wind resistant. 

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