Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hiking The Ravines,

or, How I Spent My Winter Vacation

I have spent most of the winter at the northern part of Elephant Butte Lake State Park in New Mexico.  When I last saw my doctor in September, he wanted me to get careful, daily exercise.  With that as part of my motivation, I began doing more hiking than I had been doing.  I tracked my activity and how I was feeling so I would know how much was too much, and that allowed me to slowly build what I did.

Here in the Park, there is a large lake formed by the impounding of the Rio Grande.  Below the lake, the Rio Grande is not so grand. 

I walked across these stones at Caballo Lake State Park to do some short hikes.

Above the dam is the largest lake in New Mexico.  That lake has featured prominently in my winter photos.  What has not been featured very much is the ravines surrounding the lake.  As desert runoff flows toward the river, it erodes ravines.  They start small, with a spot where the hard under-surface is broken and water chews its way down.  These beginnings form a slot a few feet wide and as much as 15 feet deep.

These little slots, usually dry, wander through the upper plateau, carrying water in a channel downstream, and they slowly widen and deepen.

Nearing the lake, the larger ravines are as much as a hundred yards wide and a hundred feet deep.  The side slopes vary from about 25% to 45%.

I have been picking paths that take me down into the ravines, then up the other side.
(Notice my RV sitting on top of the far slope?  That may give you a sense of scale...)

It is kind of like running wind sprints. 

I ease my way down.  Then, with my hiking poles to help me, I attack the uphill, really pumping up cardiac and respiratory rates.  Reaching the top, I maintain those rates by hiking briskly to the next ravine.  The downhill gives me a brief rest, and it continues.

Along the way, I see a part of the park that few others see.  Occasionally I will see a footprint; usually, it is mine.

The ravines have allowed me to get a good cardio workout in a relatively short time on my feet, without overtaxing myself, while providing a sense of exploration and adventure that I cannot find on relatively flat, groomed, hiking trails.  I leave here tomorrow morning and will miss it, but I will be back in October to enjoy the hiking, and the sunrises.