Friday, August 17, 2007

New Mexico Day 14 - The Gila Box

The morning following our camp-out was amazing. Gorgeous weather and a fantastic sunrise.

The morning sunlight on the hills surrounding our campsite was perfect.

As we were walking to our first site for the day, we saw a Gila Monster. He/she was just plodding along, mostly ignoring us. They have a really funny walk. I tried to get some video, but, a videographer I am not. But I did get some great photos.

Before we left the campsite, I did take a photo of the tree I sat on the night before.

The canyon where we camped had these really cool rock formations. After completing our work for the morning, and on our way to the next site, we stopped at the base of the cliffs in order to collect some ripe cactus fruits.

After leaving Nickel's Canyon, we headed deeper into the desert to what is known as the Gila Box (as in Box Canyon). Here is view of the canyon from atop a hill. It amazes me how green the desert is near the river.

We had to hike down into the canyon to reach our sample sites. The hike into the canyon was pleasant with nice trails. Again, there were fabulous rocks. My favorite was this rock that only looks like it is falling out. I wonder how long until it does fall.

Once in the canyon, however, getting to the actual sampling plots was pretty gross. We had to walk over huge piles of dead branches, many of which were covered in Prickly Russian Thistle (both dead and living plants). You are probably aware of Prickly Russian Thistle (Salsola tragus), even if you do not recognize the name. Salsola is a tumbleweed, and in fact is THE tumbleweed that Americans associate with the old west. So one of the symbols of the American West is from Russia. And it is prickly. And difficult to walk through. And it was hot. I was really glad to have those plots done.

After finishing the plots, and hiking back up out of the canyon, Q and K wanted to hike around to see scout out the rest of the canyon from up high. I decided not to go because I was pretty tired. No, I was really tired, tired almost to the point of tears (it was a hot day, I was dehydrated). So I decided to sit in the shade of juniper tree until they returned (I really learned to appreciate shade on this trip, it can be a lifesaver). As I was looking down the cliff face into the canyon, I noticed this small opening in the rocks. And surrounding the opening, what looked like man-made walls.

When Q and K returned, we got closer and saw that the opening was man-made. It was probably used as a granary by the Native Americans who lived in the area several hundred years ago. If you notice, the crossbeam has a hole in it, indicating that someone had taken a core of the wood in order to date it. I cannot imagine having to climb all that way in order to store and retrieve food. It was a really cool find, and I would never have seen it if I had not taken the time to sit still.

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