It was beautiful day, if a bit warm. The trail was easy to follow,if not easy, as ever. Everything looked much the same as it always has in the 20 or so years I've been hiking there with just one exception. Right where the trail parallels and then crosses the main canyon that comes out of Indian Hollow, the Abrams Fire did extensive initial damage burning large live oak and juniper trees plus all the shrubs and smaller trees that once lined the stream banks. Secondary damage from flooding has stripped the soils away and exposed a wide stream bed of large bare boulders. We didn't make it to the conifer forest behind Artemis Temple,but instead took our rest in the grove of Gambel oaks that sometimes serves as campsite for the rock climbers visiting Sugarloaf.
On Saturday morning I went out solo on the east side of the Organs, starting out at the Dripping Springs visitor center with the main trail and then turning off north onto the Crawford Trail.Shortly thereafter I struck out east off trail, passing by some old wooden ruins early on that were almost completely hidden in the high golden grass. From there it was up to the piles of loose rock deposited by the rock glaciers descending from the wall of peaks directly east.
I began a trudge on a slope heading southeast. It was steep and slippery, but mostly shady, which was a good thing given my slow pace. Using an ash walking stick I had brought and a dried sotol stalk in tandem I leveraged myself up to the saddle, and then continued climbing on the increasingly narrow,rocky little ridge.
Eventually, I found a deer trail that led me through some pinons,live oaks, and mountain mahogany clustered tightly against the rocks all the way up to a second saddle where there were views both to the south and north. Nearly a thousand feet below me was the old hotel, sanitarium and stage stop of the 19th century Van Patten mountain camp.
To the south and southwest were Squaw Mountain and the ridges and peaks that extend eastward from the southern Organs. To the northeast, the views extended across the east mesa to the Dona Anas, Robledos, and Uvas Mountains all the way to the Black Range 100 miles away.
I might've gone a little farther,but I felt a little unsure without a companion so I called it the turnaround point at around 10:15. Initially, I followed the same route down,but then wandered out onto a ridge that extended to the southwest all the way down to the Dripping Springs trail. It was rough here and there, but I came out with relatively few holes and scratches, certainly far fewer than I was expecting from the cholla, prickly pear and lechugilla. All along I could see and hear practically every word( sometimes they sounded so close I was sure another hiker was nearby) from the many people taking advantage of the entrance fee being waived for Veteran's Dan weekend. None seem to notice me, a small lone figure, on the side of huge mountain.
NOTE: After checking on Google Earth and topo maps, the Dripping Springs hike that I did appears to crossover onto to military lands.