Thursday, January 24, 2013
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
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.
Monday, January 21, 2013
One thing I'm learning about cross country hiking in the desert is that you have look for a point in the curves of an arroyo to bring you down gently.When I forget this, I am frequently end up standing on a sharp cut bank that is just too high to jump down.Well, we made it to the road which was my second to last waypoint ( after searching for a crossing)and now only had a quarter mile to Las Uvas Spring. The GPS said straight south. I had my doubts. It just didn't feel right,but I obeyed. I got to where the GPS was saying the spring should be.There was only one problem- it wasn't there.
I decided to head west, all the while looking up at the cliffs for some indicators of a spring which is little harder in the winter time. I had walked over a small ridge onto a flat when I saw some green that wasn't a yucca or juniper and cluster of brown vine that I surmised to be dormant wild grape. I had found the spring. I climbed up to the base of the cliffs and then down to a short passage way that was almost completely shaded by the vines. A small cave contains the water. I didn't shine my flashlight in there so I can't say how deep the water was or how extensive the cave. I did fill up bottles. Seamus wasn't that interested in the water, which worried me a little.He was more curious about investigating the tunnel through the vines. Later, he drank the water with no ill effects. I would have purified it had I remembered the batteries for my Steripen.
I ate lunch back down on the flat against a boulder that had several grinding mortar holes in it. It was comfort to sit and think of the people so far removed from my experience who sat and ate at this spot so long ago. We did some looking around and then headed back pretty much the way we came. I would recommend visiting these sites, but not necessarily the hike I made. It was very rough and there was little to make it interesting along the way, except perhaps the abundant chalcedony and occasional agate that littered the ground. The best scenery doesn't start until more than 2 miles in.My hike was a little over seven miles round trip. Elevation net gain was only about 400 feet but there is a lot of up and down. Note: The topo and BLM maps are wrong. The spring is about a quarter mile to the west of where it is indicated.
Second Important Note:Though not posted at this time both Uvas Spring and Souse Springs are on private property.
Friday, January 18, 2013
|On top of Lookout Mountain. Robledo Peak in background.|
When I wanted to hike Robledo Peak( the Robledo's high point at 5,890 feet) I drove most of the way on the road that took us all way back to the arroyo that runs between the two peaks.This is a side road that takes off to the southeast a short ways after the Faulkner Canyon Road goes around a dry waterfall.An old windmill used to indicate the turn-off. It may be still there. This side road is pretty rough in spots. I remember my old 2WD Isuzu Rodeo had some trouble with one steep pitch,but it got us there. Both times we parked up on the mesa rather than make the very steep descent into the arroyo where the road continues for another mile or so before ascending to Lookout Peak. At the mouth of second side canyon coming in from the south we followed some vehicle tracks which ended shortly as the walls closed in, and the number of boulders increased. We kept a southeast bearing and eventually encountered a very useful use trail that took us all the way up to a saddle with views of the entire southern portion of the Robledos.
The first time we climbed the peak, we ventured way too far to the northeast, trying to find an easy way around,before having to turn south back towards the peak. The second time we just went straight east from the saddle, which was steeper,but shorter and less sketchy. There was glass jar in a cairn with a sign-in notebook. We read the entries( I really enjoy this aspect of climbing less significant peaks-seeing how often they're climbed, when and by who) and signed in ourselves. From our car this hike is a little less that four miles round trip- considerably less than the 11 plus miles we slogged when doing the trek to Lookout Peak. I've collected some nice calcite specimens on the way to Robledo Peak, which is composed of Permian era sedimentary rocks. The reddish looking Lookout Mountain is an igneous intrusion. The views of the Rio Grande Valley from either peak are tremendous. These trips epitomized the lonely and remote beauty of desert mountains. I'm always glad to remember these hikes. I hope these mountains stay wild. Just writing about them makes me want to get back out there again.
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
The one time I climbed Baylor Peak, I started on the Aguirre Springs side ( to conserve energy). Once I reached the pass I started heading north, uphill, and then very, very steeply northeast toward an "arm" that extends out south from the peak. Once on the narrow ridge of this arm I headed north again to the peak. This route circumvents the large gulley extending southwest off the peak. This was back in the early 2000's, but I remember a bit of dicey scramble to get to the peak. The drop-offs to the east made quite an impression on me, so I avoided looking at them, as I worried about tumbling down the very steep slope to the west, and made a quick four point push to the top. On the small,but flat peak I ate my lunch, and contemplated the very narrow and rocky ridgeline of the mountain as it extends north toward Saint Augustine Pass. It would not make for pleasant or easy hiking.There was no sign -in jar on the summit, although there may be one now. I don't even recall a cairn- so it's my guess that very few people care about making this summit. The way back down seemed to take forever, because of the extreme pitch of the hill side, the abundant prickly desert plants, and the slippery, uneven footing all of which made me choose every step with care. When I finally made it to the reasonably open terrain close to the pass, I think I started running.
My favorite time hiking the trail was making our way perhaps half way up the west leg on a bright Christmas Day when there was at least a foot of snow on the ground.
There is almost no shade on the west side, and certainly no water( on the east side, the canyons coming down from the Rabbit Ears sometimes have a trickle), so think twice about the season before you bring your dog, and bring enough water for the both of you.Pick up after him/her as well, the last time I was out here the first few hundred yards from the Baylor Canyon parking lot were abundantly festooned with dog excrement. The pass is always, always very windy, even when either approach seems calm, so eat your lunch lower down. It's not really a place to linger.
Friday, January 4, 2013
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.