Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Baylor Pass Trail, Baylor Peak- Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument

 I have hiked the Baylor Pass Trail many times.  Once, I hiked the entire trail from the west side( Baylor Canyon Road trailhead) over to the east side( Aguirre Springs trailhead). I was with a group of exchange students from Germany, and wouldn't you know it, after never having seen  a snake on this trail, we encounter a rattler about 10 paces  down the path from the parking lot. Most of the time I just do one leg or the other to the pass and turn around. This is good trail,but is probably my least favorite in the Organs. It could be the long steady  climb from the west side gets a little bit boring, with the scenery not up the high standards of the rest of the Organs. The east side has good views of the Rabbit Ears peaks and is also much shorter, so it doesn't have time to get boring,but it's limited and stunted vegetation make it much less interesting than the Pine Tree trail.
     The one time I climbed Baylor Peak, I started on the Aguirre Springs side ( to conserve energy). Once I reached the pass I started heading north, uphill, and then very, very steeply northeast toward an "arm" that extends out south from the peak. Once on the narrow ridge of this arm I headed north again to the peak. This route circumvents the  large gulley extending southwest off the peak. This was back in the early 2000's, but I  remember a bit of dicey scramble to get to the peak. The drop-offs to the east made quite an impression on me, so I avoided looking at them, as I  worried about tumbling down the  very steep slope to the west,  and made a quick  four point push to the top. On  the small,but flat peak I ate my lunch, and contemplated the very narrow and rocky ridgeline of the mountain as it extends north toward Saint Augustine Pass. It would not make for pleasant or easy hiking.There was no sign -in  jar on the summit, although there may be one now. I don't even recall a cairn- so it's my guess that very few people care about making this summit. The way back down seemed to take forever, because of the extreme pitch of the hill side, the abundant prickly desert plants, and the slippery, uneven footing all of which made me choose every step with care. When I finally made it to the reasonably open terrain close to the pass, I  think I started running.
   My favorite time  hiking the trail was making our way perhaps half way up the west leg on a  bright  Christmas Day when there was at least a foot of snow on the ground.
    There is almost no shade on the west side, and certainly no water( on the east side, the canyons coming down from the Rabbit Ears sometimes have a trickle), so think twice about the  season before you bring your dog, and bring enough water for the both of you.Pick up after him/her as well, the last time  I was out here the first few hundred yards from the Baylor Canyon parking lot were abundantly festooned with dog excrement. The pass is always, always very windy, even when either approach seems calm, so eat your lunch lower down. It's not really a place to linger.

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