2020-11-29 Sunday At The Catwalk

Townsend's Solitaire - Myadestes townsendi
There were few birds on my walk, but the best bird of the day was this Townsend’s Solitaire. My early morning hike along the Catwalk Trail above Glenwood New Mexico was cold, but beautiful, though not a lot of birds.

I left Arizona on Saturday, and drove over a series of mountain ranges, hoping to visit the Catwalk in New Mexico near Glenwood. I always enjoy the scenery on the road from Thatcher into New Mexico, especially the road north over the Gila mountains. I visited the Catwalk once in August 2003, but several times I travelled along this road only to learn my timing was bad, and the trail was inaccessible. When I arrived in Glenwood, there was still enough light, and I could have made a trek up Canyon. Instead, I spent the night plugged into power in a nearby RV camp, and got caught up with my yarn spinning about my time in Pima Arizona.

The Catwalk has its origins in the mining industry. In the late 1800s, miners discovered mineral deposits up the canyon, and in 1893 they built a mill at the mouth of the canyon to process the ore. Much of the river flow disappears beneath the surface at the mill’s location, so they built a pipeline and brought a reliable supply from more than a mile upstream. To maintain the system, they built a narrow wooden plank walkway over the pipeline, and the workers named it the “catwalk”, because it required cat-like skills to navigate.

The mining operation lasted only 10 years, and in the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps (or CCC) rebuilt the walkway for hikers. Over the years, the Catwalk has had several upgrades, and today a new steel walkway, wide enough for wheelchair access, carries visitors safely up the canyon.

Catwalk Trail - Scenery
Birds were scarce, but the scenery was not. My early morning hike along the Catwalk Trail above Glenwood New Mexico was cold, but beautiful, though not a lot of birds.

The Whitewater River Canyon is deep and narrow, and the early morning sun is slow to penetrate onto the floor below. When I arrived at the canyon it was cold, perhaps too cold for common sense, a quality I occasionally abandon. This was one such occasion. But I dressed warmly, and it was worth the suffering. Less than halfway to the end of the Catwalk, I met the best bird of the day (there were only a few bird species there), a Townsend’s Solitaire. Ruby-Crowned Kinglets were everywhere. I estimate their numbers at somewhere between 1.07 Gazillion and 6.02 times 1023 (my apologies to Avogadro).

I might have taken my Nikon Z7 with me on the hike to capture scenery, but with all the other gear I carry for catching birds, it would have been too much of a burden. Instead, I took my new backup cell phone with me to test out the highly praised camera of the Motorola One 5G UW. The scenery alone on this hike would have justified the Z7, and I’m certain it would have captured superior images, but the phone did an acceptable job and was a helluva lot easier to haul.

On my hike out of the canyon, I spotted six Mule Deer descending from the higher elevations on the opposite canyon wall. I watched them work their way down the slope and concluded that they were heading to the river to quench their thirst. My plan to move down the canyon to intercept them was successful. I met them unseen as they reached the bottom of the trail on the opposite side of the canyon. It was my good fortune they lingered to drink just below my position. I remained still until they finished drinking and then walked over the bridge before me. When the does heard my steps, they bound away in a hurry and climbed out of the canyon.

As I pen this episode, I’m about to break camp near Bosque del Apache. I had a long day there yesterday and took way too many pictures. Stay tunes for that story!

Click map markers to reveal further information