When my kids were young and we lived in Alamogordo, a visit to Dog Canyon would mean a walk out to the end of the Boardwalk Trail with maybe some exploration along the creek bed before enjoying a picnic lunch. If we were really ambitious we might “hike” partway up the steep canyon sides to get better views or to find cactus in bloom. That was at least 40 years ago. Today, accompanied by Lee, I did a hike at Dog Canyon that would have been unthinkable 40 years ago.
A lot of changes happen in the course of 40 years. The rugged Sacramento Mountains don’t change much, but we humans and the things that we build are constantly changing. The first surprise awaiting me at Dog Canyon today was the discovery that the boardwalk no longer exists. A flood in 2006 washed it away and it was never rebuilt. It is still possible to walk the 1/4 mile on what is now called the Riparian Trail to the picnic table where the boardwalk used to be. If you want to see the riparian cliffside with the dripping greenery that I remember looking forward to at the end of the boardwalk, then it requires scrambling over rocks and boulders, being careful not to slip in the muddy spots.
I was anxious to get started on our planned hike up the Dog Canyon Trail but there was no way Lee was going to miss the chance to see the Riparian Trail. We guessed correctly that it would be best to do it first because we would probably be too tired if we did it after the longer hike. I grumbled and complained but once we got there and saw the beautiful yellow columbine flowers in bloom amongst the greenery I had no regrets.
The Riparian Trail side trip had added 3/4 mile to the planned 6-mile hike on the Dog Canyon Trail. The ruins of a line cabin are 3 miles up and we decided we would make that our turnaround point. 40 years ago I may have gone on some part of the trail high enough to overlook the campground but I had no idea what the rest of the trail was like. There were some steep and rugged sections when I wasn’t sure I wanted to go all the way to the cabin. But just like the Riparian Trail the end result was well worth the effort it took to get there.
I haven’t done the research to learn the history behind the line cabin. That’s left for the interested reader to determine. Anyone who lived there when it was still inhabitable is probably no longer alive. I just hope that they enjoyed the time there as much as I enjoyed the short time I spent there today. I certainly wouldn’t have imagined 40 years ago all that life would bring my way and that here I would be 40 years later once again in Dog Canyon.