Castle Rocks in Last Chance Canyon

Overview:

This is a desert jewel. Paved roads lead to the trailhead and from there the trail wanders into a dramatic canyon where water flows. Enjoy greenery, a myriad of birds, hoodoos, riverine meanders, vertical canyon walls and blue skies. The turn-back point described here is purely arbitrary. Make the hike as long or as short as your moment supports.

A massive flood in 2013 closed the Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area for a long time. Funding was eventually found to clear the immediate damage and re-open the Area. This history may explain why the first few miles of the Last Chance Canyon trail are obvious and clearly signed. At about 2.6 miles, where the trail makes a broad swing to the south, the tread becomes considerably more ambiguous.

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View of Pelona Peak up the eastern draw

Overview:

A gently rising shield volcano, Pelona Mountain borders the Plains of St. Agustin and lies within the broader Mogollon-Datil Volcanic Field. This off-trail desert ramble crosses dry grassland and ascends volcanic terrain, a challenge to plainsmen and mountaineers alike. The route shown here goes only to the base of the summit block. (An earlier ankle injury forced a turn-back). The remaining 200 feet of altitude poses little difficulty for experienced navigators.

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This is going to different from the usual route description. If you are looking for hiking or scrambling routes then please click on the “Hikes By Name” menu item from the menu above and search through that list.

Yesterday I followed the Grand Enchantment Trail (GET) from Forest Road 234 up into the Magdalenas, aiming for South Baldy. Up pretty high I twisted my ankle. It was not a big deal, but I was concerned enough to look for a bail-out route and followed a side trail back west. Regrettably, that trail took me across private land and my presence made the owner very unhappy. To be explicit, I do not mean “crazy, shouting, arm waving” anger but rather a grim, deep, gut-churned sensation on the part of an innocent guy who was wronged. To his eternal credit, he heard me out, spoke eloquently of the high value of his privacy and then gave me a ride back to my car. A nice guy, in fact.

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Steep meadows before the summit of Timber Peak

Overview:

The South Baldy Trail #11 ascends from a darkling canyon bed up to the sunny ridgeline of the Magdalena Mountains. Access is easy and the grade is moderate. The subsequent views from the Timber Peak Trail #70 sweep the region; from the San Juans in southern Colorado to the Black Range in southern New Mexico. Pick a clear day and go! Novice hikers should know that snow sometimes obscures the trail. If you have doubts about your navigation skill then come anyway, bringing a resolute willingness to turn back when the tread becomes doubtful.

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Sheer canyon walls and level wash

Overview:

A feast of iconic western imagery, Potato Canyon proffers sheer canyon walls, gigantic trees, wildlife, a brief slot canyon and easy hiking into the heart of the lonesome Withington Wilderness. In the hike’s uppermost reaches (barely touched in this route description) there is evidence of a recent fire. This route would be a national treasure were it not for the last six miles of the drive. Those miles are hostile. Hikers possessing a high clearance vehicle and a high tolerance for care-filled driving should pack packs and go.

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View from the Cloven Shoulder: Florida Mountains, Cooke Peak and Black Range on horizon

Overview:

This scramble takes you to Sharkstooth Pass, immediately east of Sharkstooth Peak in the Organ Mountains, then down to the saddle separating North Canyon and Bar Canyon. The ascent involves “Organ-eering”, a blood-spill minimizing skillset for scrambling amidst mesquite, prickly pear, shin stabbers, chollo, banana yucca, columnar cacti and ocotillo. This, while bashing through gray oak, Gamble oak and mountain mahogany thickets. Footing will be uncertain, the terrain steep. Organeering is an acquired taste. The route crosses over the boundaries of the Fort Bliss Military Reservation. The authorities there have been quietly tolerant of hiker’s who shave the corners of the reserve. A day-long drumbeat of distant artillery confirmed, utterly, assertions of live ordinance use. Having gone, I’m left feeling that this route edges uncomfortably far into the base.

So why describe it? Two reasons. First, Baldy Peak climbers might need a plausible bug-out route. Second (in the unlikely event of artillery practice being discontinued) this route might one day form part of an official Baldy Peak Trail.

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