Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Doña Ana Peak- Dona Ana Mountains

The first time  I was going to try this hike I parked about halfway down the access road, a very sandy, zero maintenance way off of Jornada Road.Figuring I had already pushed my luck far enough. I started off walking, meeting some friendly folks that were off to shoot guns who were bit puzzled by my choosing to walk around the desert. At the end of the road was an area where people camped, and drank beer( and probably shot guns as well), and a more or less vertical wall of rock. There was nowhere to go, and I searched the immediate vicinity diligently for some kind of passage but found none. The book I was using(once again) was Greg Magee's Hiking Guide to Dona Ana County. The maps were very small and not clearly printed(in the second edition).  I gave up. Later I noticed that the route he laid out required us to take little jog to the south  on the powerline service road and then proceed west again on another road for short ways . It was at the end of this road where the family and I would find a passage through the boulders up to the saddle that lies between Checkerboard Square Mountain and the slightly higher Dona Ana Peak. This route requires a bit of scrambling, and I believe at one point passing completely under some very large boulders. Once at the saddle it was just a matter of hiking( or crawling, as I remember we were on all fours at times) the very steep slope to the ridgeline between Doña Ana Peak and the slightly lower peak to the south. When we took breaks for air, we admired the skeletons of junipers. At a trough like depression(saddle) in the ridgeline we sat and enjoyed views of the Rio Grande Valley and the Robledo Mountains to the west. Turning around we could see miles of the Jornada del Muerto and San Andres Mountains, as well as the Organ Mountains.
      My step-son Alex and I continued on to the peak, while my step- daughter Jessica and my  wife waited. The peak area is very small. There was a cairn and there might have been a jar with notebook to sign as well.   The peak at 5,835 is a bit (55 feet) lower than Robledo Peak across the river, still we  had a great feeling of accomplishment at summiting our first desert mountain.
  Climbing Doña Ana Peak can also be accessed from north when the road past the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park is open.( Note: this road is now gated and locked not very far beyond the park, a better alternative may be using the powerline road from the south) This actually may be a bit easier than the route we took,but the  road getting there is in very poor condition.Note: there are 2  parallel roads off of Jornada Road that access the hike as I did it. They are past Mesa Middle School but before Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park. They are not particularly easy to spot and neither is in great shape. The second one has the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks sign. You will have to have high clearance and you might need 4WD for the sand.

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