Nutria Canyon Hike and the Ice Cave

Recently my friend Dia and I spent a whole day exploring the area around El Morro near Grants, NM.  Our main destination was to find Nutria Canyon.   I’ve heard very little about this hike and there is minimal information online.  But there was this one tantalizing photo online that drew me back again and again during the winter months.  I knew I just had to find this place during the summer when my friend could join me.  It’s about 3 hours away from where I live, so I didn’t want to venture out on my own.

We started out early with hopes of getting to the canyon by around 9.  Sadly there was a lot of road construction that slowed us down.  Then, when we were in the general area, we just didn’t know where to go.  Luckily I saw this one dirt road that said Nutria Lake.  It was 25 miles sooner on the highway than my online directions were saying.   Thankfully, just as we turned onto the road a local came driving by.  They were very helpful and told us we were definitely in the right place.

Since the lake was just a little side trip off the road, we headed over to see it.  It was a pretty place with a few ducks enjoying the water.  We got out to enjoy the view and let Scarlett have a bathroom break.

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Nutria Lake

Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as Scarlett started doing her “business” a pack of reservation dogs came out of nowhere heading straight for us.  Dia and I were calling Scarlett to HURRY! HURRY! get in the car.  But she just couldn’t finish her “business” quickly enough.  We were panicking by this time.  Dia ran to drag Scarlett to the car if need be, and I was opening the doors and grabbing the gun! Thankfully Scarlett hurried up and jumped in the car along with us in the nick of time! Whew! Needless to say, we left the lake and headed to our original destination.

The valley we were driving into was very lush.  We saw lots of happy horses and other livestock.  And there were prairie dogs EVERYWHERE!!!

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As we neared the trail head, we came upon a marshy area where Nutria Creek spills out of the canyon.  Just gorgeous!

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Marsh area near the trail head

Dia had just gotten a new tattoo on her entire back.  So she wasn’t able to carry a pack.  I told her I would carry everything in my pack (I’d do anything to go see this canyon!).  So when we arrived at the trail head, she started loading up my pack.  Wow! Heavy!

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That pack had to weigh 40 pounds!

I told her she had to at least carry the gun.  She gladly accepted that task!

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Dia packing heat!

The trail headed into the narrowing canyon with lush green trees and bushes.  It definitely beckoned us to head inside.

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Entrance to trail – so green!

Almost as soon as we started the trail, there was water.  Scarlett immediately dove in!

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Scarlett in her happy place!

Thankfully enough people have been on this trail that they have constructed makeshift boardwalks out of old pallets and scrap lumber.  They were rickety but effective to walk over the mud.

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We started climbing up above the creek and into a lush forest of oaks.  There were Yellow Warblers everywhere!  I didn’t bring my birding lens, so no bird pics this trip.  But so much birdsong in the canopy made me regret my decision to leave that lens at home.

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Kelly on the very lush trail.

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It was nice and cool in the shade

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We eventually met up with the creek again.  Then we turned a corner in the canyon and it opened up to a stunning view.  Beautiful steep red canyon walls and gorgeous green foliage.  We were getting close to where I saw that tantalizing photo so many months ago.

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Dia enjoying the view on this perfect seat.

Then there it was! A picturesque pond in this hidden canyon.  Stunning!  I was so wishing we had found the trail much sooner.  By this time it was noon and not the best conditions for photography.  But I did my best to capture some images that did the view justice.

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Gorgeous!

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I loved the reflections in the pond.

I just had to have a photo of me and Scarlett in this beautiful spot.

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My sweet Miss Scarlett

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Scarlett and Kelly

The day was warming up quickly.  Scarlett was tempted to jump down into that pond.  We kept having to tell her no.

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It was sooooo tempting to jump in…

Eventually we made it around and down to that pond and she was a happy girl!

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Such a peaceful place

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Scarlett loved the ponds.  Cool and refreshing water to play in.

We hung around here for a while as the trail just became too congested with brush to continue on.  I had hoped to explore further but this is just not a well known place.  So there isn’t enough foot traffic to keep the trail open.

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Untouched beauty

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Scarlett kept on eye on me as I navigated the big boulders

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Beautiful

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Dia and Kelly

Eventually we headed back to the car.  We still had quite a bit of daylight left to the day.  So we decided to visit the Ice Cave.  I had never been, and Dia said it had been a long while since she had been there.

On the way out, we decided to stop at a few of the abandoned homes in the valley.  They are interesting to explore.  Just a plethora of things to photograph!

 

We had lunch at the Ancient Way Cafe.  It’s a tiny little place, but the food is good and the desserts were outstanding! They have quite a baker working there.

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Our sandwich was shaped just like a Bigfoot footprint!

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Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!

The visitor’s center at the ice cave was very interesting.  It’s amazing what they found down in that hole.  Centuries of history perfectly preserved.  I highly recommend you take the time to look around at all the treasures jammed into this small building.

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Look at those giant perfectly whole Indian pots!

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Fascinating!

The Ice Cave offers two hikes.  One up to the Bandera Volcano and one down to the ice cave. We hiked the volcano first since we knew we would cool off at the ice cave. 🙂

It was a short and relatively uninteresting hike.

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Bandera Volcano

At the top of the trail, Dia collapsed due to lack of a Starbuck’s for hours.  I told her to hang in there.  We will get her one soon.

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Where’s Starbucks????????? she wailed

The Ice Cave was much more interesting.  The trail to the cave takes you through the basalt fields left by the volcano.  It makes you wonder how anyone found that ice cave so long ago.  It had to have been quite the challenge to navigate through that jagged sharp basalt.

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Basalt field

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A blooming cactus brought beauty to the stark view.

The area was called The Devil’s Playground by early settlers.  It’s easy to see why.  While hiking to the cave we came across this unique dead juniper.  I took a picture of Dia there being her naughty self.  She then took my photo and edited it to fit the area’s nickname.  🙂

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Dia being evil…

At the cave you climb down a steep set of stairs.

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Kelly and Scarlett ready to descend

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Steep stairs

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There it is deep below the surface.

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As you descended you could really feel the temperature dropping.  It was quite refreshing after a hot climb up the volcano.

I didn’t let Scarlett go all the way to the bottom.  You could see what she thought about that…..

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The inside of the cave was beautiful.  I tried to capture the colors in the cave by setting my camera to a slow shutter speed.  Just beautiful.

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The colors in the rock ceiling were so beautiful.

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The ice had a green cast to it.  It made for a lovely contrast with all the colors in the rock formation.

Too soon we were heading home.  On the way out we saw a few Mule Deer.  One was more curious than the others and had a beautiful shaggy coat.

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Mule Deer

When we got to Grants, Dia had to have her Starbucks.  But she almost had a big tantrum when she realized there wasn’t a Starbucks there.  It was hilarious!

The drive home was long due to yet more road construction.  But the day’s adventures had been fabulous (even with the lack of Starbuck’s at the end).  🙂

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65 miles to go until home….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silver City Area Adventure

Last October my friend Valerie and I went to Silver City for a long weekend.  I hadn’t been to that area since I was a young girl in the 70s.  I was anxious to see the area again and share it with my friend.  Though Valerie was born and raised in New Mexico, she had never been to the sights around Silver City.

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It takes several hours to get to Silver City from Albuquerque.  We got a late start so ended up driving through the mountains in the dark.  The highway from I-25 to Silver City is very windy and steep.  It was quite stressful driving that road at night.  But it was exciting too.  We saw several animals cross in front of us on the road:  a mountain lion, a mule deer, a racoon and a fox!

We stayed at an old historic hotel called the Palace Hotel.  It still had a nice “old timey” feel to it.

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Lobby of the Palace Hotel

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Lobby

We were given Room 55.  When we got to the second floor, we had to look twice for the door to our room.  Hmmmmm…..I told Valerie “I think it’s behind that lamp.”  WTF?!\

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There’s our room door behind that standing lamp….

We did eventually find another entrance to our room that wasn’t blocked by lamps, chairs and tables.  LOL!

I especially liked the main painting in the lobby.  I told Valerie, “It’s me all over!  Red dress and lipstick, holding a gun and showing lots of cleavage!”

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What I would have been like “back in the day”

One of my favorite memories from childhood was hiking the Catwalk Trail in the Gila Wilderness.  This trail consists of suspended walkways above Whitewater Creek.  Several years ago the original catwalk was destroyed due to severe flooding.  But in May of this year, a one-mile portion of the trail had been restored and opened up to the public.

So on an early October morning, we headed to the trail head.  The weather was perfect:  cool but sunny.  The shadows were long which made for great photography.  Here are some pics from the hike.

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What a unique hike

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Suspended above Whitewater Creek

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Beautiful!

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The walkway criss-crossed so we could see the walkway ahead

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Valerie enjoying the hike

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The walkway eventually ends and you walk down to the creek.

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The bridge ahead was the end of the trail.  The entire trail has not been cleaned up from the flood.  I hope they eventually open the entire trail again.

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Valerie and Kelly having fun!

After hiking the catwalk, we tried hiking another trail nearby, but the creek was too high.  There were several river crossings on the hike and no bridges available.  So we decided to drive up to Mogollon.  It’s a great historic town high in the mountains.  Sadly, the road to Mogollon was closed so we had to cancel that idea as well.  Drat!

So instead we headed back to Silver City to walk around town. On the way back we stopped to feed horses and photograph some rusty tractors.  Valerie got a pic of me in my new Jeep Wrangler!  I love my new vehicle!

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Those horses loved that apple Valerie fed them

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Cool old tractors

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Me in my brand new Jeep!

We browsed shopfronts and took some photos around town.  Eventually we ended up on a path that follows a creek that runs right behind Main Street.  Funny thing is, the creek was actually Main Street before a giant flood took out the street and many of the buildings along it in 1895.  So Main Street was moved over and the ditch created by the flood became permanent and is still in use today.

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We found a way down to the creek!

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I loved all the pools in among the limestone bedrock

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Stream flowing from pool to pool

The next day we headed out to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  Even though my family visited the Gila National Forest many times when I was young, we never went to the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  So I was looking forward to seeing it as much as Valerie.  The road there was very windy and steep.   It was difficult driving.  But what made it worse was we were having to drive around and among a bunch of racing bicyclists.  Stressful!  So many blind curves with no shoulder.

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Windy road to the Gila Cliff Dwellings

I was tempted by this car for sale… LOL!  After all, it only needs a battery!

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It was worth getting there even though it took over an hour to drive there from Silver City.  The hike to the dwellings was just beautiful.  We both said we could hike trails like this all day.  It was picturesque hiking in a forest, along a creek and scenic bridge crossings.

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Bridge over the Gila River

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A beautiful trail

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We loved all the bridges

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Wonderful!

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Valerie

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Lovely!

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Kelly

Eventually we climbed up to the dwellings.  They are small, but they allow you to walk inside the rooms and get a feel for what it must have been like to live there so long ago.

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Gila Cliff Dwellings

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What a beautiful view!

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Valerie

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While up at the top, a thunderstorm had moved in.  We had to hurry back down the trail to safety.  I’m glad we took our time going up and enjoyed the trail sights along the way.

On the rive back we stopped at one of the scenic pullouts to appreciate the stormy sky and wide vistas.

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Panorama of the scenic view

I turned one photo into black and white.  It made me think of the artist Ansel Adams.

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On the drive back to Silver City, we were soooo hungry!  We talked about what we wanted for dinner.  We both agreed fairly easily…Pizza and Wine!!!!  The restaurants in the downtown area were very busy so it took a while to find a place to eat.  But we eventually sat down to dinner and we even managed to find that pizza and wine!

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Delicious pizza!  It hit the spot!

On our last day in the area, we visited City of Rocks State Park.  It’s a cool piece of geology just stuck out in the middle of nowhere.  It’s a great place to explore all the nooks and crannies formed by erosion.

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It was fun exploring for a few hours.

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Panorama of the park

We had fun climbing the rocks to get fun photos of each other.

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We go to great lengths to get the “perfect” photo

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Some of the areas were scary to navigate on foot! LOL!

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My beautiful friend! 

Going home we got to see that beautiful drive coming in.  The views were amazing at the top of Emory Pass.

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View from the top of Emory Pass

I hope you enjoyed reading about our adventures in Silver City!  It was a fabulous weekend!