Oliver Lee State Park
Oct 17, 2011
|Oliver Lee State Park
Oct 17, 2011
We arrived here at Oliver Lee State Park, just south of Alamogordo, NM, Saturday afternoon. Our months rent was up at Desert Paradise RV Park in town, where the Souza's have their Hitch Hiker. We had had dinner up here earlier in the week and wanted to come back.
Carol hasn't been feeling well since she woke up after a nap upon arrival here, with a real bad ache around and below her rib cage on her right side. She has improved but in the meantime she had to beg off dinner at Geri's house Sat. night as she was already feeling poorly. She wanted me to go without her because our cousin Eileen Keyes, who as it turns out lives only a few miles north of here in Tulorasa, NM, was coming. She and her husband Ed had moved here from southern California in the early 2000's
It was great to see her after some 30 years. She was still instantly recognized even so. She has a bit of her Mom and certainly takes after the DeGray side of our family.
John Douglass was busy at his BBQ doing up some chicken. We had a few drinks and great jalepano poppers and tried to catch up on all those years. We weren't successful, too little time to accomplish that much. After watching the Evening Glo over the western mountains beyond White Sands National Monument and the lights come up from Alamogordo below us, we reluctantly began to say goodnight. We all agreed to get together again while Carol and I are in southern NM and for sure that will happen. Lynn also said now that she knows where Ed and Eileen live they want to keep in touch too.
Sunday was kind of lazy, although I finally got around to posting the information about Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Carol slept on and off all day and Lynn called to tell us about the time to go to Bob and Sydney Kaufman's for dinner. Carol was still not up to socializing and didn't want to risk passing something on the anyone else. She said it was bad enough she was still kissing me. Not sure how I was supposed to take that, but I never pass up a kiss from her, even when she is sick.
Again dinner with the Kaufman's and Sousa's was fun. We had hors d'oeuvres and a little wine and a main course of great Tequila marinaded chicken fajitas. Bob and I were the only ones to have seconds, and we still enjoyed them even along with a little ribbing. With Carol not feeling well I said good night early and Souza's left too. Bob is usually at work shortly after 3:00 a.m. so we knew he would be tired, even if he's on leave.
Bob is an instructor at White Sands Missile Range and teaches personnel how to fly unmanned flying vehicles. Otherwise known as drones. We did talk a little about them, eventhough I'm sure he knows things he can't share. It's always interesting conversation when we get together with Bob and Sydney.
Today eventhough Carol is improved she still wanted to relax at the 5th wheel and get a little more sleep. After sleeping on and off all day yesterday she had slept fitfully last night. So this morning she woke up still tired. She is still running a mild fever so sleep, water and rest is the best thing for her.
As usual we woke up around 6:00 a.m. and I went out to try and get some sunrise photos. No color because the sky is completly devoid of clouds. Even so, the deep blue color of the sky made for some sharp contrast in the photos. After having a little cereal for breakfast with Carol I packed up some water and a couple of snack bars and headed out for Dog Canyon here in Oliver Lee SP. The Canyon is the reason Oliver Lee started ranching here in 1893. It has a year 'round water source with sufficient volume so Lee built a cement aquaduct down to a reservoir he built about 1 1/2 south of the source.
Another settler, Francois Jean Rochas was already here since 1885. He had established an orchard and had singlehandedly built dry stacked stone walls blocking the mouth of the canyon to control his cattle.
Even earlier the Mescalero Apache used the canyon as a protected base of operations with their battles with the soldiers and citizens of the Tularosa Basin and surrounding countryside. They even had several remarkable encounters with the milatary, high up in the Canyon, along part of the current trail in an area known as the Eyebrow. This was an easily defended chokepoint where they could fire down on advancing soldiers from the cliffs some 2000 ft above the trail and sometimes even rolled large boulders down on to the troops.
Today however with the temperature around 57 degrees when I started out it was a different story. You gain access to the lower canyon trail just off the north side of the visitors center. This is a much easier trail than the 5.5 miles Dog Canyon National Trail which rises steeply from the visitors center and continues along a path that eventual leads to the Eyebrow mentioned above. It continues on higher with approx 3000' of elevation gain to a 4x4 road up in the Lincoln National Forest.
You will see in the pictures above that this trail is really quit easy, and simply follows the Dog Canyon Creek streambed. Along the way I passed several spots where maidenhair ferns were growing. There were still some stubborn flowering plants holding out before early frost knocks them down for the winter.
Small Cottonwood trees along with Velvet Ash and Locust are found along the lower reaches of the Canyon. I saw Cholla, Strawberry Hedgehog (a kind of cacti) and Prickly Pear cactus. Numerous Cattails and reeds along with Maidenhair Fern are found also.
Although I only saw a few birds, none of which I can identify today, there are cougar and black bear known to be here. Porcupines, white nosed coati, badgers and raccoons among others also frequent the Canyon.
I never did run across any other hikers today so I felt like it could have been the 1800's, the time of Rochas and Oliver Lee.
I'm not sure how far up the canyon I hiked but I did get above the springs where they feed into the aquaduct built by Lee and Rochas. I continued on for another mile or so until the canyon widened out and the character changed to mostly sloping canyon walls and small boulders. This is where I decided to turn back. By this time it was just going on 10:00 a.m. and it took about another hour and a half to get back down.
The great thing about this hike, amongst many, is the high canyon walls hold in the coolness of the water and is almost entirely shaded at this early time of day. We are planning a return here in a week or so after meeting Geri and John Douglas at Leasburg Dam State Park about 90 miles NW of here above Las Cruces, NM. I'll let you know what we find over there.