Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pine Tree Trail- Organ Mountains

 I haven't written about the Organ Mountains very much in this blog, even though I've hiked there,on and off trail, more than any other locality- after all they're only a dozen or so miles from my house. The reasons I haven't written about them more are several. As stated a sentence ago. I've hiked there a lot. I've done all the official trails, Pine Tree,Baylor Pass, Dripping Springs, Soledad, Sierra Vista, many times each. I've also done all the semi-official( well known,easy to follow but not signed or  publicized by the BLM) trails; Upper Fillmore Canyon, Indian Hollow, Rabbit Ears Canyon, Achenbach, at least as much if not more than some of the official trails.  I've climbed the major peaks that don't require equipment: Organ Needle, Organ Peak, Rabbit Ears Plateau and Baylor Peak. The only one left in my sights that I'm interested in is Baldy Peak.  I've also done completely off trail hikes to Windy Gap Pass, Lower  Long Canyon, Middle Spring and Texas Canyon, just to name a few. If this comes off as bragging a bit, well maybe it is,but the ultimate point is: it's taken about 13 years or so,but I believe I've reached the saturation point.  I used to have a long list of destinations and invented hikes for the Organs-many of them have been accomplished. Many more are just too remote, too harshly off- trail( what off trail in the Organs means is a chapter unto itself),too scary or logistically unfeasible because of private or military property issues, and the daylight constraints of the optimal hike season( roughly October to April ). The other reason I've become estranged from these mountains I've spoken about once before here. The official trails have become like a city park on the weekends with large groups, shouting kids, untrained, unleashed, unfriendly and unpicked up after dogs( Dogs aren't allowed at all at Dripping Springs yet people bring them in anyway),six packs, plastic bottles and trash.It's even spreading to some of the semi- official trails as well. I've seen graffiti at Aguirre Springs, and the old Hayner Mine, and I've seen kids lugging  a case of beer up the road to the old Minehouse Spring building. I'm not a dog hater, and I may be a curmudgeon( I've been avoiding crowds since I was a kid so it didn't come with age),but I just don't understand the point of coming out in nature, just to act exactly the same way you would back in the city in your house or yard.
     That all being said, my Election Day hike on the Pine Tree Trail was a pleasure. I didn't see another soul. The quiet was outstanding. I did hear some shouting down the canyon at one point,but it didn't last long. Perhaps the trail, which is rocky and steep, was too much for them and they gave up. I was a little hot on the south branch of the loop when we started,but soon we were in the shadow of the ridgeline.
     Where the path dips back toward the ridge in the  many drainages it crossed-we could feel the pockets of colder air. Fall color was provided by willows, cottonwoods, ash,oaks, grapevine and shrub like maples in the folds of the mountain way up high. There were also some very colorful weeds and shrubs( names unknown to me) as well. There wasn't a drop of flowing or standing water anywhere,but  this little northeast facing indentation that is encompassed by the trail has it's own mini-climate, and seems to be doing well enough and not ravaged by drought and disease especially when compared to areas I hike in the Gila. The Abrams Fire had little effect here, although obviously burned areas on the ridge line near Sugarloaf were visible. So, I was glad to get out, and be awed by these massive, majestic crags of igneous rock.  It may be possible to get jaded about them from a distance,but up close they never fail to impress.

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