New Mexico – Day 3

Silver City to Grants via “The Catwalk”, the mining ghost town of Mongollon, the VLA, and a glimpse of the Malpais Lava Flow.


Having already HAD breakfast in Silver City ONCE, we opted for WalMart donuts for our breakfast the second time.

This route would take us past the Western slopes of the mountain range we were in yesterday. Scenery quickly changed to a more desert looking motif.

Our first stop of the day was at a place called “The Catwalk”. Construction of the water lines was an engineering feat that probably would not be attempted today. Brace holes were drilled into the solid rock walls, sometimes 20 feet above the canyon floor, to hold timbers and iron bars that supported the small water line along its meandering course. Some of the original 18-inch pipes support one side of the present Catwalk. Old records show that the large iron water line was in constant need of maintenance. Workmen who had to walk the line to repair damage dubbed it the “Catwalk.”

The effort of this engineering feat was duplicated again when the park put in a suspended walkway that allowed visitors to walk through the middle of the canyon, far above the stream below. A few years ago, that original wooden walkway was replaced with a modern steel walkway. The trails were broken into an “easy access” trail (wheelchair accessible) going up one side of the canyon and the moderate trail which took a much steeper path up the other side of the canyon. Where they meet, the second half of the trail starts, only available in the advanced category. This trail was a mere 1.1 miles ONE WAY!

Needless to say, I took the easy trail (and didn’t find it all that easy). Things went pretty smoothly til we got to the half way point. I tried the upper trail, for the first set of steps, then decided I had seen enough. I took the easy trail back down, while my brother took the moderate trail (he’d already seen the easy trail). I took this picture of him across the canyon…. right there in the middle…okay – here’s a zoom…

He, in turn, took this pic of ME.. oh, there I am!

And in case you were wondering how high up we are… all of this was below me….

Our next stop was the mining ghost town of Mogollon. People still live there. It’s just that these are “artsy fartsy” people – you know, people who live in a ghost town because it provides inspiration. The main street of town was built between the steep walls of the canyon. Between the buildings was space for a road and a channel for the stream to pass down. Notice how the building on the left has bridges built to it’s doors.

Abandoned cabins abounded on the hillsides, along with old mine claims and a surprising amount of sheet metal.

Judging by the cars in his lot, I would have to say that the mechanic at THIS garage is not all that good.

We worked our way around to the North edge of the mountain range to take in the VLA. Unfortunately, a front moved in giving us total cloud cover and robbing us of any decent pics. The ensuring storm did provide us with some interesting shots though.

We arrived at the Malpais Lava Fields at sunset – grabbing a few shots in the faltering light. What is almost impossible to perceive, is that the ENTIRE valley floor, ALL the way to the other ridge line, is lava flow. 7 miles ACROSS and much much longer!

Although the Indians had trails that crossed the lava, neither the Spanish nor the Pioneers could get animals to enter the lava fields and developed roads around the lava. There is a hiking trail today that crosses the lava at a point 7 1/2 miles wide. It is considered extreme and has all sorts of posted warnings, including the one telling you about rock cairns (piles of rocks used to mark trails), and warning you that you should NEVER leave a rock cairn without having another one in sight! Guess there is no paved trail, huh?

* Extra Pics *






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