A beautiful morning in late October. Gail and I pre-positioned her Jeep at the end of this one-way trail. The start is near Alamo Peak, at about 9,260FT. Steep switchbacks are the start, and soon we can see west...down...
...down to the southern end of White Sands, almost 5,000 feet lower.
Gail and Cheyenne, dressing light and packing light for a long hike downhill. (If we had been hiking uphill, we would have had to carry over a gallon of water each...at least 10 pounds!)
Hiking in style! (Gail's pants would get pretty muddy later on....)
Cheyenne waits with us at a switchback runout for....
...a mountain bike race. It's the Jackhammer race, put on by http://www.southwestgravity.com/ and http://www.highaltitude.org/ and https://usacycling.org/events/getflyer.php?permit=2011-3067
We spoke to the race organizers at the trailhead and got clear of the trail at start time, cameras ready.
The last biker down the trail was the course medic. Sounds like a good idea to me!
This enormous (but low-density) mass of travertine tells us that a spring used to be active here. If you put a piece of this stuff in a glass of vinegar it'll completely dissolve and fizz like an alka-seltzer.
The last faded red of autumn's maples.
Oak leaves on the forest floor.
It's not too often that you find the remains of old growth trees. Most of the trees standing today are young because of the logging practices of the last century...shave the mountain bald.
Cheyenne walks along Westside Road, that parallels the high escarpment, running north/south. In the distance...
...is the golf ball radar/communication facility on Alamo Peak. On the right slope of that peak you can seee a faint trace of one of the trail switchbacks that we hiked two hours earlier.
Lunch was peanut butter on rye, and it was time to send mom a SPOT-gram telling her we were ok.
The start of trail 104 has this unfriendly sign to keep out most motorized vehicles. This is a watershed for the city, so they want to protect it from excessive erosion.
We had dropped 2,000 feet pretty fast. Now it's a gentle slope for the rest of the hike, and we're no longer in high alpine conifers and aspen/oak/maple.
We don't know what this fuzzy flowering vine is, but it was invading various trees and shrubs.
Cottonwod - the namesake of Alamogordo (which means 'fat cottonwood'.)
Some of the cottonwood were showing beautiful colors, and from a distance they look similar to aspen.
Another vista opens up, and this one shows the Roundup Ground, a mesa close to Alamogordo.
Closeup of Roundup Ground. We wanted to climb it today, but ran out of time and energy. We'll hike it from Alamogordo in the near future.
Part of the aqueduct serving Alamogordo.
These formations are almost hoodoos...like you find in Utah.
This looks like travertine - hiding the stratified layers.
Canyon hiking in the 21st century. Gail can send and receive texts.
I hope this can of fix-a-flat helped the driver get out of this rugged area.
Remains of an old cabin/homestead. There is no easy access to this site.
An early (first?) generation aqueduct to Alamgordo...now in ruins.
Thanks to small springs and seepages, there are sections of the canyon that have year round water, but the water is soon absorbed back into the soil so these watery stretches are short and scarce.
Agave - no longer in the alpine. Desert plants are showing up mixed with the cottonwood and a few remaining conifers.
Cheyenne enjoyed drinking from these water holes. Too bad the stream bed was not this smooth for long. Our rate of progress really slowed after this point.
Wild grapes taking advantage of the permanent water supply.
Hiking over dried mud is not bad, but recent heavy rains left standing water and peanut butter consistency mud in some stretches ahead of us.
Some mild scrambling.
This was the muddiest and deepest section we had to negotiate.
When I hiked this route five years ago it was bone dry throughout the canyon, but not today.
These limestone mountains hold uncountable fossils.
A two-way ant highway across the canyon floor.
Often we had to hike over various sized boulders in the stream bed, but sometimes we spotted sections of trail that were easier going...that again lead us back into the rock strewn stream bed. Our feet were getting a workout on the rugged terrain.
But the views were amazing. The low sun angle at this time of year made the mountains beautiful from any angle.
The aqueduct drops straight down a steep slope.
In the last few miles of the trail we still follow the stream bed, but its character has changed. The downslope is now very gentle, the canyon is not so tight and narrow, and the stream banks are a loose concretion of dirt and small stones.
Hiking into the late afternoon sun.
The final mile was in cool shadow.
It's a good thing Gail remembered to bring the Jeep keys!
Great hike, great views! No blisters, but our feet ached for days after miles of boulder hopping along the rougher parts of the stream bed.