Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tortugas( "A") Mountain

We hiked up Tortugas Mountain on Wednesday, taking advantage of what has been a rare commodity lately: blue skies and sunshine. We parked at the main trailhead off of Dripping Springs Road. There is a shelter and some tables,but no bathroom or trashcan. There is also a sign with rules and a trail map with many routes and ways listed. Unfortunately there are no signs on the trails themselves so it's not particularly useful. Once we started up the mountain, we realized there is a virtual maze of use trails, plus the official trails, which can be confusing.I believe we stayed on the actual Turtleback trail all the way up. On the way down, we started out along the "A" and continued straight down a rough way which eventually angled back to the trailhead to complete our little loop. There were good views of the snowy Organs.This is a limestone hill like Bishop Cap and Anthony's Nose to the south, so it supports several different cacti that don't grow on the volcanic soils the dominate our region. I kept a look out for fossils as well, but didn't see much.Total distance for our hike was less than two miles,but it would be easy to extend any hike by using the bike trail that circles the mountain to make any number of loops. Elevation gain was probably around 600 feet, so it's steep. I'd like to hike around the backside and check out the old fluorite mines, or use the bike trail to go all the way around the mountain.On the way back we saw a large raptor( may have been an eagle) fly by at eye level about 40 feet in front of us.That kind of thing is always nice incentive for winter time hiking in the desert.

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