Friday, January 3, 2014

Cedar Hills Highpoint ( Dark Mountain)-Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument

I devised this hike last year after hiking in Buckle Bar Canyon on the east side of Rio Grande. From that vantage point,  looking west,I could see the three higher "peaks" of the Cedar Hills and thought they would make a good hiking destination.  The Cedar Hills are a continuation of the Rough and Ready Hills extending northeast in between the Robledo and Las Uvas  mountains. I planned my route many months ago, and decided to take the opportunity to give it a go this past Sunday( 12/29/13). I parked in a pullout near Broad Canyon Dam(on NM 85), went through the fence and hiked around the dam on the south side. We then descended  to the huge flats behind the dam and began following a two-track in the dried mud and sand. I was with Seamus the Scottie, who kept trying to investigate the brush along the edges of the road. As a result, he kept getting these inch long, egg shaped, nasty-looking, velcro burrs stuck in his fur. Some I could just pull off,but others got matted in quickly and I had to cut them out with the scissors on  my camping knife. In retrospect, I should have had him on the leash through this section. If you go with your pup, I advise you to do the same. We finally made it to the arroyo on the south side that we would be using and proceeded onward in the southwesterly direction. The little side canyon cuts through some very strange looking globular brown rock. There are many little alcoves in it as well. We had gone probably only 3/4 of a mile from Broad Canyon, when the cliffs rose up over 50 feet on either side and we were stopped by a 15 foot dry waterfall.

A few days earlier on a different hike( see Robledo Mountains- "Twin" Slot Canyons)  we had to turn around for one while going downstream, now our progress was blocked going up stream. Since there seemed to be no safe route to climb around it close at hand, we backtracked a short ways to a branch arroyo and began following it. Eventually we climbed up onto a wide plateau with three smaller peaks close at hand, and the obviously higher, larger peak( the Cedar Hills High Point) standing darkly a bit  further in the distance. We crossed a little "hanging valley" arroyo, which we could see spilled out  into  a huge boulder slide below us. We climbed up to another vantage point with fantastic views opening up to the east. We could see the Organs, the Dona Anas, the San Andres , the Robledos, Tonuco Peak and the Rio Grande Valley. Just below us was another boulder slide and a wide flat valley that appeared to be the headwaters for two larger arroyos that wound their way to the Rio Grande. We rested awhile, as I contemplated whether we had enough  daylight to climb the peak and make our return trip. It seemed too close at this point to turnaround.  We had some good luck nearly right away. We lit on a deer trail, which was like a highway compared to the cross country walking we'd been doing. It took us sidehilling around first one and then another of the smaller peaks and quickly had us at the base of the big peak. It was a steep little climb up to the top, but we did it in short order. There were two cairns at the top,but no caches or sign-in jars that I could find.

View to the Robledo Mountains.Organ Mountains are in the distance

 We enjoyed the views all around,but by the length of my shadow across the rocks, I knew we had to get going. I pondered the best way to go back and decided on the route that got me there. If only I could have stayed on it. Somehow I got in the wrong arroyo and ended up being blocked from going down by the same dry waterfall that I had encountered going in. Yike! We backtracked a ways and made our slowly and safely around it. Then I realized two things in short order. I had left my dog's leash somewhere back on the trail and I was out of water. I'm definitely out of practice in the details.  Seamus stayed out of the burrs even without the leash. The sun had set when we got to the truck, but we were good. This was a great desert hike which could be made into loop via Coyote and Broad Canyons or  via the Cedar Hills Slot Canyon arroyo.Enjoy the photos of this beautiful place.         

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