Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Shelter Cave-Bishop's Cap
One of the first times I hiked out here I was looking for Conklings Cave. I believe I was on the right ridge, but never found it. I did find an old jar in a cairn that contained a mining claim paper from the 1950's. I also found some very dark purple fluorite.Another trip we just explored all the old mines and prospects on the southeast side.On another trip my wife and I circumnavigated the Bishop Cap ridge using the Sierra Vista Trail, a bit of bushwacking and some old mine roads.Two times there was the idea of climbing the peak. The first time we were using Greg Magee's Hiking Guide to Dona Ana County.This was first of several times that I realized that Mr. Magee thinks nothing of climbing up and down several smaller peaks before reaching the ultimate destination.Neither my family nor I enjoyed that prospect, and abandoned our attempt.The second time the group I was with had the more sensible notion of using an old mine road on the east side to reach the ridgeline. Unfortunately, it was blowing an absolute gale when we got to the ridgeline,so we descended, did a half-hearted search for Conklings Cave until everyone lost interest and went on their way.This time I set my site on the less elusive Shelter Cave. I had recently been reading about it,when a friend mentioned the idea of hike there. I remembered that I had actually seen the cave on a hike my wife and I did around the mountain a few years ago,so I didn't think finding it would be a problem. My friend was off doing another hike the day I wanted to go,so it was just my Scottie Seamus and I out for jaunt. We parked at one of the Sierra Vista trailheads and first headed down the old road that heads south. The road eventually connects with another that follows the power lines to the southeast. A little further on, there is a short spur road that heads back east to the mountain. It crosses the Sierra Vista Trail and then dead ends at some concrete foundations. From there,I could see the cave and we started up the rough canyon. There is no trail,but we worked slowly, picking our steps, and didn't have too hard a time of it.Seamus was a champ. In the canyon the cave was no longer visible until we got very close. We walked over many small fossils in the bare, gray limestone as we continued on. It's probably about 400 feet or so of elevation gain from the base,but we made the steep climb in short order and rested in the cave.The extant graffiti mars the wilderness values of the site,but it didn't bother me that much for some reason. I did notice that the most recent dated markings were from 2003,so there was the hope that today's taggers are just getting lazier. We carefully made our way down and used the Sierra Vista Trail as our return route. Along the way I took some photos of Bishop Cap with a perfectly blue New Mexico sky surrounding it and thought about how I love my desert home.