Monday, April 15, 2013
Conkling Cave ( " Conkling's Cave," " Conkling Cavern")
There's a sub-division out where the turn-off to for the Bishop Cap Road used to be, and a sign announces that the Bishop Cap Rd. is now a dead end. I drove around this little neighborhood in the middle of nowhere several times before deciding to take the power line access road in the hope that it would lead to a road that would bring me to where I wanted to be. I ended up a little over a half mile from my Conkling Cave waypoint for starting my hike. There is another road that will bring one to within a 1/4 mile or so,but it's behind a fence now.
Anyway, I took off walking and was soon stumbling up the steep ridge( it was the one 2 ridges east of and parallel to Bishop Cap, or 2 1/2 if you count the truncated ridge immediately east of Bishop Cap). Any hike off road or trail in the Bishop Cap area requires jeans,boots, a denim or canvas jacket, and work gloves no matter what the weather. Not only is there cactus, catclaw, octotillo,lechugilla, and spanish dagger to contend,but the first time I fell and cut my hand open, I was reminded of why gloves are so essential. The limestone rock here is as sharp as knife. Well, I walked all over that ridge,but to tell the truth when you're up there everything looks the same and the photo I had as reference( from UTEP's quaternary fossil site index) didn't reveal much. I came within 13 feet on my hand held GPS which is about as accurate as the thing is going to get, but still saw nothing. I found a man- made wooden post that had toppled from it's cairn and a couple of other cairns as well. Most likely all of these were for mining claims, not to indicate the location of the cave.
I gave up and decided to try my alternate theory, which ran as follows: the topo map was wrong, and my recent experience at Las Uvas Spring bolstered this idea, and the cave was actually on the parallel ridge immediately to the west of the one I was on. I had seen some vague paths there years ago which had given birth to this theory,but had never tested it out. At first I followed some orange ribbons that marked the way at along the base of the ridge,hoping for no good reason that they were leading the way to the cave. They didn't.The "paths" on better inspection were an illusion- mere changes in the rock and soil type. I then proceeded to walk all over that ridge too, until, exhausted, I plopped down ate my lunch near the top. I looked over at Bishop Cap proper, and remembered that the written accounts of the location of cave say it is on the east side of Bishop Cap,not a parallel ridge to the east of Bishop Cap, but perhaps on the east side of Bishop Cap itself. This is my new theory.
The UTEP photo with some higher peaks in the upper left hand corner may lend strength to this idea. Although I'm willing to test the initial one with a few willing extra sets of eyes. My alternate, I've discarded. I know this must all seem a little ridiculous to someone who knows exactly where it is. I also wonder what I would do if I found it. It goes straight down and one would need a ladder or a climbing rope to enter. It has also occurred to me that it has been backfilled, concealed or even capped and that I may have indeed walked very close to it without knowing. Most people who know me, would probably tell you I'm good at finding these type of obscure places with very little to go on. This one is beginning to stick in my craw little.