Friday, January 4, 2013

Rabbit Ears Canyon,Plateau- Organ Mountains

The last time I hiked into the Rabbit Ears Canyon I was given the rare sight of running water flowing over the bare granite and falling between giant boulders. That was back in August, 2008. I don't know if it's flowed again since, but in my several trips before that I had never seen a drop. The first time I hiked into the canyon I was using Greg Magee's directions( in his Dayhikes in Dona Ana County) for the climb to Rabbit Ears Plateau, which is actually the high point of a series of peaks that lie directly west across the canyon from the (three) Rabbit Ears( North, South and Middle).
     The trail starts out a short ways south of the Baylor Canyon trailhead using the rough road that ascends first to the stone building at Minehouse Spring and then continues to the old Hayner flourite mine.Over the old tailings dump is where the foot trail begins, initially passing( very narrowly) over the open mine shaft( I wouldn't want to be coming through this section in the dark). The trail is easy to follow as it sidehills north towards and then east onto slopes along the mouth of the canyon.Once in the canyon the trail fades fast, and continuing requires  scrambling up,over, around and through the boulders. Eventually a large rock slide is reached as the canyon opens up a bit.
     My first time, I was little nervous about traversing over this section,but there is not much slope and I believe the slide has been stabilized for a long time.At this point the canyon makes a  sharp turn south and becomes very, very  steep. Much of the walking is over bare rock,which in the winter months stays ice covered as very little sun gets into this very narrow north-south running section of the canyon. That first time I made it to the small saddle that lies between Rabbit Ears Plateau and the main Rabbit Ears.You may end up on all fours just before this point like I did. I started up toward the summit, but turned back before reaching it. Oddly enough there was another hiker that day who was  little ahead of me- who must have gone on to make it- although I never saw him coming back down. On a subsequent trip I did make it to the top with a Sierra Club group. There are many beautiful, mature ponderosa pines growing along the rocky ridge. Views to the massive Rabbit Ears peaks are fantastic.This isn't an easy hike,but like other sojourns in the high regions of the Organs it will give a close up look at a place very few people visit and the sense of accomplishment  that comes with an adventure in, despite the closeness of Las Cruces and El Paso, one of wildest desert ranges in the west.

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