Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ghost Ranch Hike to Box Canyon

Roger here....   Dianne is resting her bruised leg and looking forward to a quiet day outdoors in a reclining lawn chair.  We had planned to return to Ghost Ranch for a second hike, but hiking really isn't an option for Dianne for a few days.   So while she stayed with the dogs (and cat), I set off on a hike to the Box Canyon at Ghost Ranch.  Before leaving, it was necessary for me to assure Dianne that I would have plenty of water, a charged cell phone, gorp, and several promises not to fall off the side of a mountain.  I also slathered on plenty of sunscreen and donned my shade-giving cowboy hat.

The hike to Box Canyon is billed as a four-miler with an ascent of 500 feet - a mile further than the trek to Chimney Rock, but 100 feet fewer in ascent.  This was definitely a different hike than yesterday's.  The path meandered through a wooded (and shaded! Yea!) canyon.  Yesterday, we spent a lot of time looking down, often straight down, to see the spectacular views.  Today, I spent the majority of my time looking up, straight up.  If I develop an injury from this hike, it will be a stiff neck.  

Along the way, I passed by three Native American hogans....

A rock formation that reminded me of an Indian head, complete with head gear....

And, Barbara Bush speaking behind a lectern.  

A national herbalist convention/seminar was taking place at the ranch.  The attendees were everywhere.  It has been a long time (college days in the late 60's) since I have seen so many tie-dyed shirts, men with pony tails, and ladies in flowing, beaded dresses.  One of the mellow (and very nice) ladies pointed out an interesting spiral seed as I was passing her on the trail.  She indicated that the spiraling feature allows the seed to travel well in the wind, then helps to screw it into the soil.  It also provides a larger surface for the collection and transport of water in this high desert environment.  Interesting.  Worth a picture.  Fun and unexpected to have a conversation with an herbalist.

Back to the hike.  After crossing a small stream several times in a narrowing canyon by hopping from rock to rock, the trail reached a dead end.  
A recent rockslide blocked the stream, creating a chest-deep pool where the path should have been. I could see the path on the other side, and thought about wading through, but did not want to take a chance of getting the camera wet. (Keeping the camera dry was not one of Dianne's warnings, but it would have been, had she thought of it.)  A young man and his two (four-  to-six-year old) kids soon arrived at the blockaded trail. Together we conceived a plan to see if we could cross the water downstream and scramble up the slope to find a way down on the other side.   I volunteered to check it out. 

 I scrambled up about thirty feet and carefully made my way above the stream where I took a picture of the newly formed pond below.  However, to go further would mean scrambling along loose gravel at a precipitous angle with a thirty-foot drop to an area of scattered boulders.  Since I promised Dianne that I would not fall off the side of a mountain, I did not make the attempt.  The man and his children waited for me to get safely back to the trail before we reversed direction and headed back to the ranch.

On the walk back, I was passed by a flurry of very chatty, wet, young teenagers, who simply ignored the obstacle and swam across the pond.  Ah, youth!  Near the approach to the ranch, several of the young people were peering through the shrubs toward a decent-sized pond.  Except for some quiet giggles, they were being very still -- unusual for 14-year-olds.  Skinny dippers in the pond!  Were they free-spirited herbalists or young college docents?   I decided not to take pictures and quickly walked by the gawking adolescents :-)

Back at the ranch I took a few pictures of the cool adobe architecture and the skull of a steer that hangs on the "ghost house."  I then stopped by the office to report the rockslide.  Glad I did, because they were not aware of it.  Didn't report the skinny dippers ;-)

On the way back to the campground I stopped to photograph a couple of historical markers.  One marked Abiquiu as the eastern end of the Spanish Trail connecting Santa Fe to Los Angeles.  The other recognized the work of the artist Georgia O'Keeffe.  You really cannot go anywhere in this area without hearing her name.  I also stopped to pick up a few groceries at Bode's, the local store, and returned to find the "patient" resting comfortably.  (She is much better, by the way, and should be good to go in a day or two.)

Tomorrow, we will break camp and travel sixty miles down the road to another Corps of Engineers campground at Cochiti Lake.  This will be our base for exploring Santa Fe, Los Alamos, and Albuquerque. 

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