Sunday, February 24, 2013

Providence Cone( "Rattlesnake Peak")

 A friend asked me if I had been to this place last May. He hadn't been there,but had another friend who had. I was a little little confused because he referred to it as " Rattlesnake Cone or Peak."  As you might guess I do lot of studying of the maps of our region and that name was drawing a blank. I figured out that he was talking about Providence Cone in far western Dona Ana County This isolated little rock mountain is similar to a pillar  or a sea stack,  in that almost all the soil and vegetation have been stripped away by the wind.In fact, it was only recently that I encountered that alternate name a second time on a geocaching site. Apparently it is called Rattlesnake Peak by "locals." By locals I'm assuming folks from the nearby Lewis Flats area or Deming,because there really aren't any locals to speak of out there. I believe there might be  a family living at Cambray along NM 549 which is about six or so miles away. I'm glad I did  look it up  and  find that geocaching site because it gives what should be considered the standard vehicle route for accessing  Providence Cone. I had previously devised a route from Cambray using maps and Google Earth which I  did use on the return trip. Even though I made it back, I can't recommend it, and won't describe it here.
      Here are the good directions. Take Exit 127 from I-10. Head west on on 1030(frontage or access road). Stay right on County Road B-05 which is a dirt road that initially parallels the highway, if you head left here and stay on the paved road you're headed for the landfill. Cross the railroad tracks near Mount Aden  and turn right onto County Road B-02. You may have some doubts about this road at first, like I did, but it gets better. Stay on that road for about 9 miles until you come to a 4 way intersection with a gate. Turn left( to the south) here on a very  sandy, twisty road that will get you to Providence Cone.
        I parked at a pull out about a quarter mile from the cone. This may be good choice for most vehicles. The roads around the Cone are rougher, have deep sand, and may be covered by water that stays for days in the rainy season( I've seen photos). Seamus the Scottie bounded out of our truck  and stretched his legs running along the red dirt roads. We  walked three quarters of the way around the Cone and then headed out southwest to outlier of rock formations about a 1/2 mile distant. On the way there was an area with many grinding mortars. We also found many flakes of agate. I took a some photos, including one of a pack rat nest  that was composed mainly of devils claw. We walked back to the cone and started looking for an easy way up.  We had gone more than half way around,ever higher on the slopes without finding that way.There are cattle paths that got us pretty far up the little mountain. Good grass( most likely fed by the many seeps) is growing on the north facing slopes and I guess the cows can't resist. While working our way down after another dead end, I saw an  artful cairn and thought perhaps it's pointing the way. Soon after we found what was mostly a walk-up route. I had to pick Seamus up only once to climb a very small wall. I'm glad I had Seamus with me, although initially I was frustrated because there were some routes I might have tried had I not had him along, but finding a safe route especially since we were alone, was very important- made even more so by information I gathered once I had returned home.
        The" peak" is a jumble of large boulders made white by the many raptors  and ravens that find it a convenient place to alight. I snapped a photo of a USGS marker( there are two more up there I later learned), one of the intrepid Seamus, and thought about taking one of the distant Floridas and my nearer truck, but didn't. We made our way back down without incident. Towhees flitted amongst the rocks. Seamus chased a  couple of lizards. I tried to fix our route to the top in my mind for a return trip that I'm sure to make.
       I looked for petroglyphs while walking around Providence Cone,but didn't see any. I later learned from two sources that they are there. One of those sources, Jerry Eagan's website and blog Hiking Apacheria, has an awesome photo of some of them.  If you go, they might be elusive to find. Eagan explains in his blog about finding them,but on subsequent trip not being  able to, and then on third trip with care and diligence being able to find them again. He also writes about taking a long fall and breaking his leg( while alone) while descending the peak on that very same trip and his ordeal of rescuing himself and getting to his rescuers( A article titled "Trauma on the Trail" published back in 2010 in Desert Exposure tells the story in detail- look it up),which made me glad all over that having Seamus with me had forced me to find a safe way up and down from the peak. I'm a petroglyph hound so I know I'll return here- just knowing they're there and not having found them makes me crazy. Now I'm wondering if that  artful cairn was an indicator of  something else( a petroglyph?) which in  my zeal to get to the top I  had overlooked as a possibility.UPDATE: this place is becoming more well visited  over the past few years. It is one of a handful of places in New Mexico and West Texas that has a mastodon rubbing site( nearby Akela flat is another).  See this site:  I've seen photos of the many petroglyphs as well, which I guess were hiding in plain sight the day I visited.Also, I strongly recommend this only as a winter hike,but if you go at other times of the year, be very careful and bring enough water.


David Cristiani said...

What great rock formations and vistas - then again, we're used to that in the SW. But the cairn would also get me to return for another look!

Clay Hancock said...

That's my family that lives there at Cambray.