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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Return to Nature: The Catwalk National Recreation Trail

One of the trip highlights and disappointments from our New Mexico vacation was the Catwalk Recreation Trail.  We stopped by on the first day of the trip, but the Catwalk was closed for repairs, scheduled to open the following day.  We wandered up the trail as far as they let us, to the Catwalk itself, but then had to stop and turn around, tantalized by the view above.  As we drove away, we wondered about what we were missing.  We decided there and then that we'd come back later on if time permitted. 
As fate would have it, we had planned more time at Gila Cliff Dwellings then we really needed, which bumped up the rest of our schedule.  We came back to see what was beyond the next bend.   The Catwalk was built on supports built to support a mine flume which brought water to a mine.  It's wedged in a slot canyon, about 20 feet above Whitewater Creek.  The hike to the Catwalk is easy and accessible for most people.  The part of the hike beyond the Catwalk is in the process of being demolished to restore it to its natural state.  We climbed down to the creek, then made our own trail from that point forward. 
There were several waterfalls, swimming pools, and portions of trail remaining.  All of the bridges had been removed, including a suspension bridge, which left me disappointed.  It had looked pretty amazing in the pictures I had seen! I'm not sure if the area was being "restored" due to environmentalist or environmental impacts and the cost of upkeep.
 Another waterfall with a fantastic swimming pool when the water is warmer.
There were several stretches of a wooded canyon with the creek down it.  Again, very beautiful and peaceful!  I was glad we had come back, and even more glad that we'd come early to have the canyon nearly to ourselves.  When we made it back to the trailhead at lunchtime, it was crowded with several large groups and countless hikers.
We enjoyed the creek toward the top of the canyon, right before where the suspension bridge had been removed.  The missing suspension bridge stopped our progress up the canyon, so we took some time to splash and play as we hiked back downstream.
Since our visit in May 2013, I've heard that the Catwalk has once again been closed due to flashfloods destroying the areas infrastructure. 

Nearest City: Glenwood, New Mexico
Location: 5 miles NE of Glenwood N° W°
Time Needed: 3+ hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Kid Friendly: big kid friendly, with adult help
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