Sunday, January 20, 2008

Whitewater Canyon

Day before yesterday, that would be, what, Friday? Dad and April and Hans and I went up to Whitewater Canyon and the Catwalk National Recreation Trail. The canyon is a narrow, high-walled affair through pink volcanic rock; the layers of sedimentary rock between the magma-laid volcanic stone are darker, still a reddish or purplish hue. Apparenty this whole area was very volcanically active millions of years ago. Lots of mauve limestone, shale, sandstone, and whatever this volcanic rock is.

The catwalk is literally that: a catwalk affixed to the canyon walls, over the cold, cold Whitewater Creek below. The spray freezes in places, so some of the creek has ice floating in it, or icicles and frost hanging down from rocks above the water. It's in the Gila National Forest, much farther north than the edge next to Gila. Our camera conked out (low batteries) so we couldn't take pictures of the more spectacular spots. But in the one above you can see the beginning of the catwalk itself. There was a silver mine (copper, too, I think) up in the canyon, and the miners built a pipeline to bring water down to the mill and a catwalk (much smaller than this one, a boardwalk over the pipes) to access it. There was a high-water mark in the canyon about two feet over our heads. The creek was anywhere from ten to twenty feet below us.

We hiked up and back about three or four miles, walking past the formal, maintained trail up to a nice picnic spot. My knees were so tired and stiff by the time we got done that I was a bit unnerved. Old lady knees--I've got to get out and do more walking.

The place is beautiful. But hoarhound, an escapee invasive plant that grows all over Gila and Cliff, is up here, too. There were prickly pears growing right out of the rock, sycamores, juniper, mesquite, scrub oak. It was fully forested. We saw a canyon wren. Lots of little birds, juncos and other things. On the way to the place we saw ravens and buzzards circling some dead thing way up on the hillside. Lots of ravens around here. It got very cold in the shade, hot in the sun.

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