Page 32 - Walks In The Black Range, Vol. 4
P. 32

  5. Southwest Canyon - 

Contributed by Devon Fletcher

Southwest Canyon is less than a mile from Kingston which gives it the distinct advantage of not having to negotiate the worst of the twists and turns of NM 152. It also can be done as wintertime hike when the higher elevations of the Black Range may be covered in snow (although that phenomenon is increasingly rare these days).

Depending on the vehicle’s clearance one can park at the dirt road entrance right off the highway, or there is parking at some nice, dispersed camping spots a short way down the road to the south. Initially we crossed the creek and investigated an old mine or gravel pit, but then began heading upstream. The canyon bottom is quite narrow upstream, and well forested with large piñons and junipers on the south facing slopes, and Douglas firs and larger pines on the north facing side. Along the creek there were deciduous and evergreen oaks, ash, boxelder and a few walnut, but my inspection of the fallen leaves found bigtooth maple lacking.
  Early on we saw an animal clinging to small pine ahead of us. At first I thought it was raccoon, but as it escaped up the hillside, I realized it was a coatimundi. When the Scotties reached the spot, their sniffers went wild, and from then on they were continually trying to pull us up the hillside to pursue the wild beastie.

There is bound to be a section of frozen creek to contend with even in the late winter and early spring. For desert dwellers walking on it can be novelty, but for safety’s sake try to avoid it as much as possible. Further above, there are several spring areas, with the many smells of all the animals that have come to drink, which our dogs found extremely interesting.
The canyon was shady and cool, what we had come for, but when it came time for our picnic we found some warm bedrock in the sun. Afterwards we came upon one of the few open areas: a lovely sloping meadow of golden grass and junipers on the creek's north side.
Although we occasionally would hear cars along NM 152, which was never more than a few hundred feet away, we were in our own little forest paradise, and hardly paid them any mind. As the canyon steepened, we climbed up, over and around a series of small, trickling waterfalls carved into what appeared to be limestone bedrock. The last and tallest was about 15 feet high. I climbed around and above

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