Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Turtle Mountain- Caballo Mountains






 I'd been wanting to do this hike ever since I saw mention of a trail in a  T or C travel pamphlet. Problem was I couldn't find out where the trail started until this past summer when a contact through this blog informed me. Well, it seems like I'm also doing a hike somewhere in the Caballos come February or early March( last year it was Palomas Gap), so we set off on Sunday to tackle Turtle Mountain and it's highpoint, Caballo Cone. The trail is very, very steep initially,but well defined and not too rocky. In fact for an unofficial "use" trail, it's easy to follow, seemingly well thought out( it doesn't put you precarious situations or leave you with no alternative but rock scrambling) and well maintained.  We could see the Caballo Cone on the initial ascent,but once on the ridgeline, we lost sight of it. We then ascended a series of ever higher little peaks, which don't look like much from down in town,but were pretty slow going due to their steep pitch. Along the way there are some nice level sections of ridge walking that gave our legs a break from the climbing.  After getting to the top of the third or so minor peak, we were heartbroken to see the trail descend a  hundred feet as it  continued on.
          My wife, who was feeling a little under the weather decided to stop . Seamus the Scottie and I  went on, first down and then up,up,up. At this the point we got on a wrong use trail that took us out on the exposed west facing hill side. The " real" trail always stays right on the ridge, weaving in out of the rocks. We had made one minor peak and then another at lung busting speed for me- when we saw Caballo Cone looming large; still several hundred feet above us, and  quite a distance( checking later it was about 3/4 of a mile) away. I crunched the numbers in my head, and decided that it would take about an hour and a half  to summit and return to the spot I was at. I already been gone about 25 minutes which would mean being gone from  where I left my wife for  close to 2 hours. That wouldn't be good. Since we started late( just after noon), the extra time  might mean  steep descent with unsure footing in the waning light. That wouldn't be good either.
      Disappointed, as I watched a lone  hiker stretching on the distant peak, I turned around. We lost the trail briefly on an uneventful, but  windy return. Afterwards, there was a soak at Hay yoh Kay Hot Springs that helped me get over my disappointment- for now. I'm already planning a return. This is a really nice hike with views of  T or C, Elephant Butte Lake, and the many mountains ranges; the San Mateos, the San Andres, the Magdalenas and the Black Range, that rise up in the distance. Round trip distance is probably a little over 5 miles, but the elevation gain is close to  2000 feet.

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