Friday, November 6, 2009

Rock Climbing in North Hurley

Silver City sits on the edge of three very different temperate zones and thus the environment surrounding this small southwestern mining town is dramatic.

We decided to venture off to one of the most interesting rock formations surrounding Silver City in an area that lies slightly south and east of the town. From its name, Silver City is clearly known for its mining. But its not Silver that was the kingpin of mining in this southwest region, but copper.

Located within viewing distance from the high peaks of Silver City is the second largest open pit copper mine in the world and its not pretty. The largest open pit copper mine is the world is located in Chile in the Atacama desert where its been known that in some spots its never rained, or should I say there is no record of rain in modern human history.

As we approached the rock formation in North Hurley its a mesa that sits off in the distance, to the wandering eye, its not much different than other simply drop dead gorgeous mesas that are scattered around this area of the southwest.

In fact, if you ever get a chance, fly from Phoenix to Albuquerque at around sunset and you will get the most dramatic view of red rock mesas lying between Gallup and Albuquerque. Also, flying from Albuquerque to Las Vegas remember to sit on the right side of the plane so you can take in all of the grand canyon from the air. Its these type of formations, noted in an earlier post that lights up your imagination to one of the many truly beautiful landscapes of the desert southwest.

As you leave Silver City and drive south out of the Pinion and Juniper forest of the Gila National Forest, you are heading toward the Mexican border about one hour to the south and the US towns of Deming and Las Cruces.
The flora and fauna dramatically change. You enter into the desert landscape of many varieties of cactus. The cacti are beautiful, especially from a short distance, but when you are romping around the rocks and sliding under scrub oak with your pack, that prickly pear, or other sundry sharp spine is not always so far away.

I had my share of "run ins" with the cacti as I hopped from rock to rock looking for the stronghold. As I recently learned, a stronghold is just like what it sounds, a place that is easy to protect from invading parties, especially in back in the Rocky Mountain west around 100 years ago. I was in search of the stronghold just past the rocks and around the corner.

My friends went rock climbing on the face, and I went rock climbing on the boulders surrounding the face and down the hill a bit. From the distance the rock face is merely a large mesa with shear cliffs off in the distance. After parking the car at a distance, as you slowly approach the rocks they grow and grow with each 20 steps. They turn from this nice pretty mesa to larger rock faces to very large slabs of rialite right in front of you.

The scale and beauty of these rocks is indescribable but as you approach the mesa everything magnifies by orders of magnitude. What looks like a nice simple slope to walk up to the face, turns into huge boulders that must be mounted, climbed over, and slide through to get to the next step.

As you all know, when you are out in the wilderness with a group or a friend, the softening of the magnitude of mother earth is slightly tempered. But when you are out there all alone or with your trusted dog friend, the sheer drama gets turned up about three notches.

My friends put on their rock climbing gear to head up the side of a massive rock face and I headed off with my friends dog in search of the strong hold.


  1. Here's a reflection from back home in Poetry Land. I read it a week ago, and since you have met my friends the prickly pears, I thought you might enjoy it.

    Prickly Pear
    by Sharon

    On mountain slope
    dry of summer to your favor
    close to city to your demise
    beyond your desert range
    the edge of good existence
    you compete and sometime win
    over manzanita, pine, and sage

    A treat you offer to your credit
    to thirsty hikers who pay your price
    but around your sweet and juicy fruit
    a wicked fence of needles

    I cannot blame one so defended
    can't find words to preach for change
    or advise you toward the inoffensive
    like the smooth and tender plum

    Your disposition rejects most folks
    they see your thorns and walk away
    but a more delicious conversation
    I can't remember
    than with you, my friend
    your thorns removed
    your soul revealed

  2. The cacti caress me along on my journey. Each time they touch me they let me know that I am alive. They are watching out for me, making sure that I stay tuned in to the dramatic nature of the awesome world.

    When I go astray, they put me back on the trail of life. A soft nudge of comfort, but enough to prompt me in the right direction.