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Home | Tag Archives: Gila National Forest.

Tag Archives: Gila National Forest.

2018 ‘Celebrations of Our Mountains’ Set to Kick Off August 18

From hikes to stargazing events to simply enjoying the vistas Mother Nature has afforded the residents of the Borderland, the Celebration of Our Mountains Program returns for 2018.

For 2018, supporters have not only scheduled out several key events, they have a comprehensive field guide for those wishing to take in all our area mountains during the celebration, which runs August 18 through November 24th.

Jim Tolbert, Director of Celebration of Our Mountains, announced the field guide on Monday, with an added, special treat: the dedication of the guide to long-time hiker and local hiking icon Carol Brown.

Tolbert shares:

She has hiked the Alps, reached the summit of Mt. Wheeler in New Mexico and Mts. Elbert and Massive in Colorado. She has ridden horseback in Peru, Argentina and Iceland. Yet her motto is: “I hike the Franklin Mountains.” For 16 years, this 73-year-old mother of 3, grandmother of 8 and great-grandmother of 11, has hiked the Franklins, the Organs, the Guadalupe Mts., Lincoln National Forest and the Gila National Forest.

Carol Brown was born for the outdoors. She was raised on a farm in Nebraska, and she shared a cabin in the Colorado mountains with her husband, children, one dog, several cats and two horses. 

Carol is the epitome and the icon of hiking. After her husband died in 2001 she joined the hiking group of old Charlie Topp and Farmdog. The rest, they say, is history. Now she introduces hundreds of people to the trails each year. She finds gratification in seeing people become leaders who introduce new people to our mountains.

Carol says: “Hiking is the best way for me to stay healthy: physically and mentally and spiritually.”

This year, Carol will lead a record-setting 8 hikes for Celebration of Our Mountains.

As for the field guide, it will be available his week at the area’s public libraries; it will also be distributed to bicycle shops, locations around at Ft. Bliss, the Las Cruces BLM office and through El Paso Hiking Meet-up Group.

For complete maps, updated event schedules, and informational articles residents can visit their website.  There visitors will find dozens of programs from our region’s State and National Parks, as well as any additions or changes to any of the events.

“Some events repeat, giving you multiple opportunities to enjoy them,” Tolbert says, “We have some field trips that are part of our CelebrateSTEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) program…this year we introduce 5 history/culture events.”

Organizers wished to also thank the Franklin Mountain State Park (FMSP) for agreeing to a special $2 entrance fee to COM events.

For continued support of the region’s parks, Tolbert asks residents to consider purchasing a Texas State Parks Pass; at $70 for year round entrance to the parks. Call 915-566-6441 for more information.

To support the Celebrate Our Mountains group directly, via donations, residents can do so via their donation page.  For up to date information, follow them on Facebook as well.

Video+Story: NMSU Students get First-Hand Experience at Archaeological Dig

An associate professor of anthropology and University Museum director at New Mexico State University recently led a six-week field school for anthropology students and enthusiasts in the Gila National Forest.

Fumiyasu Arakawa in the College of Arts and Sciences is the principal investigator for the department’s field-school program, which is a collaborative effort between NMSU and the Gila National Forest Service.

“Students do a very traditional archaeological research that is excavation,” Arakawa said. “They dig about six to eight hours, then they have to process their discoveries.”

This processing includes washing the artifacts, then setting it out to dry. No preservative chemicals are applied to the discoveries because such chemicals might contaminate any evidence that could help archaeologists and anthropologists determine how old the discoveries are and how these objects were used.

“For undergraduate students, if they want to be archaeologists, they need at least one field-school experience,” Arakawa said.

In the 2017 field-school, there were 19 participants: 11 NMSU graduate students and four undergrads, and four experienced volunteers.

They conducted excavations at South Diamond Creek Pueblo and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness in the Gila National Forest and visited Chaco Canyon.  They also camped out for five nights at Beaverhead Work Center, then returned to Las Cruces for two nights.

“The sites are known by archaeologists as part of the Mimbres culture,” Arakawa said. “These people inhabited these areas from probably 1,000 A.D. to about 1,130. A.D. The direct descendants of the group in this culture are still difficult to determine.”

The Mimbres people are unique in their architecture, which consists of river cobbles and adobe, as well as in their black-and-white pottery, Arakawa said.

Arakawa came to NMSU in 2011 and two years later, was contacted by the Gila Forest Service. He conducts the field school every other year.

William Walker, also a professor of anthropology at NMSU, hosts the field school in the years in between.

Arakawa said the collaboration has resulted in an excellent working relationship with the Gila National Forest and the USDA Forest Service in the larger picture. Arakawa said he hopes this collaboration will soon result in NMSU anthropology students getting jobs with either the Gila, the Forest Service, or other federal agencies.

“Attending the field school is a very good opportunity for our students,” Arakawa said. “These days it’s a rare opportunity. NMSU is one of the few schools running a field school. Some students, especially graduate students, can use this project as his or her thesis or internship report and get their degrees.”

Arakawa said the field school regularly discovers three major categories of artifacts: lithics (stone tools and their debris), animal remains, and pottery.

“In 2017 we found a lot of artifacts but probably the best one is a very small pottery vessel, a jar,” Arakawa said.

The jar was found by Vanessa Carrillo, a master’s student in anthropology at NMSU and a participant in the field school.

“It was the only complete vessel we found,” Carrillo said.

Finding an intact piece of pottery is unusual and wonderful when it happens, Carrillo said. Even more impressive is the fact the jar has a large crack in its lower half. Carrillo and Arakawa surmise the jar is still held together only thanks to the dirt that is packed inside.

Carrillo and Arakawa plan to remove the dirt inside of the jar, hopefully without it crumbling, and look for evidence—such as corn kernels—as to what purpose the jar served.

“This type of pottery is called Alma Plain ware,” Carrillo said. “It dates back to 250 A.D. to about 1,300 A.D..”

Carrillo found the jar in the South Diamond Creek Pueblo site, which Arakawa said has never been professionally excavated or researched by archaeologists before NMSU’s field school.

“There are so many sites there, but we don’t know anything about it,” he said. “So we take it step by step, excavating and surveying, and eventually understand much better how those Mimbres people lived.”

Carrillo said participating in a field school in the American Southwest is a great opportunity and is in fact important for future archaeologists and anthropologists because of the degree of preservation and distribution of artifacts.

“You don’t really appreciate that until you go out to sites that are not in the Southwest,” she said. “It’s not common to find an artifacts scatter on the surface.”

Carrillo said she’d like to work for the Forest Service’s Cultural Resource Management, to preserve and protect natural and cultural resources for the benefit of future generations.

Arakawa, who is also the director of the University Museum at Kent Hall, said the next step is to provide more thorough information about the field school’s finds.

“Now we catalogue and classify the artifacts,” he said.

The museum is seeking volunteers for this process.

“We don’t ask volunteers to have any archaeological background,” Arakawa said. “We pretty much teach them how to do it.”

To learn more about volunteering, contact the program’s Facebook page at: New Mexico State University Archaeology Field School.

Author: Billy Huntsman – NMSU

NMSU Anthropology Students Excavate Pueblo, learn life of Ancient New Mexicans

New Mexico State University anthropology students spent the summer getting to know the Mimbres people who died more than a thousand years ago and helping to preserve their history.

Eight NMSU students joined community volunteers for four weeks to explore and excavate areas of the South Diamond Creek Pueblo in the Gila Wilderness.

“This dig gave me a better understanding of the Mimbres people, and what living life during these times was like for these people,” said Candice Disque, an anthropology graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences. “It provided insight into possible social dynamics on a household level.”

The Mimbres region includes the southwestern corner of New Mexico and portions of surrounding states. The Mimbres River runs through the area and flows underground near Deming. The Department of Anthropology and University Museum at NMSU sponsored this collaborative research on lands in the Gila National Forest.

Volunteers included K-12 teachers, a retired NMSU engineering professor, and three professional archaeologists.

“The collaborations helped both the NMSU students and Gila National Forest employees recognize the richness of cultural resources and provided crucial information and knowledge about ancient cultures that once existed within the Gila,” said Fumi Arakawa, director of the University Museum at NMSU and associate professor of anthropology.

Students and volunteers explored and assessed the damage from erosion and looting activities in the pueblo abandoned approximately 1,000 years ago. The students excavated two rooms and two storage units.

“The South Diamond Creek Pueblo site was in jeopardy of being lost to erosion, due to the position of the pueblo on top of a canyon rim,” said Trevor Lea, a graduate student who focused on the pueblo for his thesis. “This project was a unique opportunity to help preserve cultural resources.”

There were three main objectives for this project: to gain a better understanding of the occupation period and chronology of the site, to obtain datable materials from documented contexts, and to understand and reconstruct settlement patterns and exchange systems used by the Mimbres people at the pueblo.

“Since this was the salvage project, students were required to learn, recover, and identify several important features, such as walls, floors, and hearths at the site,” said Fumi Arakawa. “By the end of the project, the students were able to understand and reconstruct how the Mimbres people living at the site constructed, used, and abandoned it approximately 1,000 years ago.”
The dig offered students an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and get a first-hand look at what it takes to be an anthropologist. They learned time and monetary budgeting concepts while also conducting research.

“I feel that I have a much better understanding of the site. I had many assumptions going in to this project but the material culture that remained after 1,000 years had a different story to tell,” said Lea. “The preservation of the architecture and the artifacts was quite amazing”

For more information, visit

Author:  Taylor Vancel – NMSU

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