29-Aug-2016 -- This is the second of three successful confluence visits on a trip up to see my daughters over Parents Weekend! It continues from 35N 109W.
I was continuing along NM-53 and my goal was to visit this confluence before dark or, depending on how difficult the access was, to camp and then make my hike first thing in the morning.
Along the way, I saw a young bear off to the side of the road. As I slowed down to take a picture of him, he looked at me and then turned around and effortlessly slipped between the horizontal strands of a barbed wire fence and continued walking away into the forest at a steady pace. Amazing!
My planned route differed from the previous visitor (8 years earlier), and may be similar to the first visitor (16 years earlier). About 1.6 miles east of the El Malpais National Monument Information Center, I turned off NM-53 here and went through a gate and into the Cibola National Forest. The National Forest is to the north of NM-53 and the El Malpais National Monument area is to the south. Extensive examination of Google Earth imagery suggested that this road should get me very close to the confluence either by driving or hiking.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the road was basically passable for a four wheel drive high clearance vehicle. A side by side UTV would have been the preferred method of travel here because I unfortunately added several racing stripes to the side of my Tahoe from the trees and bushes that had overgrown parts of the road. I also went down a steep rocky incline that would require the use of 4WD low to make it back out on my return trip – and was the first time I had *ever* had to use that gear! This road would have been effortless in my Polaris RZR.
I decided I had gone far enough when I was 170 meters away and parked here. Actually, I discovered that I would not have been able to go any further in the Tahoe due to the extreme slope and condition of the road just beyond my parking spot. I was on top of a ridge and was actually about 100 feet above the confluence elevation.
There were still almost 2 hours of daylight remaining and I set out to find all zeroes. My path took me eastbound down into a drainage that I followed northbound for awhile then I hiked up the other side to the confluence.
Garmin 24k cartography depicts the abandoned Boneekay Mine about 150 meters to the north of the confluence and along the likely path of the previous visitors. I did not see evidence of mining along my routing.
I found the confluence in between several large trees on terrain sloping to the southwest. There was a distinctive fallen tree where I placed my Trimble to begin logging for later post processing of the GPS data.
Like my confluence visit earlier in the day, there was also a very distinctive tree here, too. The north side of this tree shows significant scarring from a previous forest fire. The view to the north was the clearest and a short hike to the top of the ridge enabled longer views in all directions that were still limited by the density of the trees. I sent a SPOT message and then made my way back to my vehicle.
The trip back to NM-53 was mostly downhill and I tried my best to avoid any more scratches on the side of my vehicle.
It had taken far less time that I had planned and wasn’t even sunset! That meant a warm dinner and hotel in Grants for the evening.
Post processing of the GPS data (533 positions on the fallen tree) reveals that my Trimble GPS receiver was 3.8 meters due north of the actual confluence with a Horizontal Precision of 2.4 meters.
From where I parked, my round trip hike took 42 minutes and was 640 meters weaving around the trees to and from the point. My total trip time off of NM-53 was 1:17 and 6.2 km.
My adventure continues the next day at 36N 108W!