Wednesday, September 29, 2010

De-Na-Zin Wilderness

The De-Na-Zin access to the Bisti/ De-Na-Zin Wilderness area is on County Road 7500 about 13 miles west of the junction with Highway 550, near Huerfano in northwest New Mexico. This access is in the eastern part of the wilderness. From the more popular Bisti access, road 7500 is 8 miles south on highway 371, then east about 10 miles. The De-Na-Zin access isn’t marked very well, but it is the only place along road 7500 with room to pull over and park and with an obvious gate through the fence.

The first 200 yards of hiking is along a short section of road through a sagebrush field. Most of the terrain along road 7500 is similar rolling sagebrush fields with very few houses and a few oil and gas wells. The road ends abruptly at the edge of a colorful eroded basin.

There aren’t any official trails in the wilderness area. In the area where I descended into the basin, there was an old fence leading north and I followed it across the eroded clay and sandstone surface toward a rocky small mesa that was just to the west of the fence line.

The small mesa overlooked a wide eroded basin and the rocky area extended in pieces to the east. There were some sculpted formations, often called hoodoos, visible to the east and I hiked toward them. Across the eroded basin north were some tall hills that would offer some challenging and probably slippery climbing.

The sculpted formations included a small arch. There are several rocks in this area supported by thin pedestals and more good views north across the deep eroded basin.

Rather than retrace my steps, I tried to loop back south toward the road. There is an old road in this area that works as a trail for part of the way. This road leads further east and I didn’t see where it enters the area. Along this area there is some petrified wood visible.

Further on, I came across some rounded bowling ball sized rocks eroding out of a sandy wash. I’m not an expert, but these look like the formations that are called concretions. Concretions build up around a nucleus and are sometimes mistaken as fossil eggs. The last 0.5 miles of my hike were along the fence line near road 7500. My total hike was for 2:00 hours for about 4 miles on an unusually warm 80 F degree late September day. The sky was clear and I carried 3 liters of water. After this hike, I also visited the Bisti access on the west end of the wilderness area.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bisti Wilderness

The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a 38,305 acres eroded badlands area south of Farmington in northwest New Mexico. The Bisti access is the west side of the area and is 36.5 miles south of the San Juan River along New Mexico route 371, then 2 miles east on county road 7297. Highway signs call attention to the Bisti Wilderness and there were three of four other vehicles there during my visit. There may be a second parking area a short distance north.

Standing at the entry sign and looking easterly at the odd terrain, it looked like most visitors hike slightly south and east where it appears flat and open, and there is a wide dry wash. There aren’t any official trails here, any maps, or any interpretation at the site.

The Fruitland Formation makes up most of what is visible and contains sandstones, shales, mudstones, coal, and silt. These formations are 65-80 million years old. Hiking east into the open area, there is a fenced in space with a pond inside that takes about 15 minutes to get past. I turned north at the fence line and walked into an area of colorful eroded hills.

I climbed a small hill for a view of the some of the nearby formations. There is an on-line brochure for the area available on the BLM web site. The brochure says that the red color that stands out is due to clay soils baked by coal fires while buried millions of years ago. It looked like some black coal seams were visible in the formations near the access parking area. I think a mile or so further east there is some petrified wood and some formations that are called the cracked eggs.

My hike at the Bisti access was only for 1:00 hour on a warm and sunny 85 F degree late September day. I only sampled the entry point in an area where there are many square miles to explore. I also visited the De-Na-Zin access, the eastern section, on the same day.