Archives for posts with tag: Socorro
01 Ridge Containing Black Mountain
View of ridge containing Black Mountain from NM-59 (foreground peak is probably Beaver Points Mountain).

Overview: 

This hike is a mellow stroll to a lookout tower on the northern edge of the Gila Wilderness. Wolf Trail #773 has a clear tread, a manageable vertical gain and a summit low enough to be snow-free for much of the year. The summit view swings from Vick’s Peak in the San Mateo Range to the northeast, passing Hillsboro Peak in the Black Range to the east, Black Peak in the Pinos Altos Range to the south and winding up on Whitewater Baldy in the Mogollon Mountains to the west. There may be no better place for getting an overview of this huge and varied National Forest. The roads are paved for much of the way, so access is relatively easy. These roads do wiggle and writhe, however, so getting here is not especially fast.

To be clear, this is Black Mountain in Catron County on the northern boarder of the Gila National Forest. It is not Black Peak (near Signal Peak) on the southern border of the Gila National Forest. Nor is it Black Mountain (near Whitewater Baldy) on the western border  of the Gila National Forest. In fact, none of these peaks lie within the Black Range on the western border of the Gila National Forest.

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Overview:

View of Vicks Peak from Forest Road 225
View of Vicks Peak from Forest Road 225.

This scramble takes you into the wild and lonely sky-islands of the San Mateo Mountains in Socorro County, New Mexico. It begins on the mellow bottomlands of Rock Springs Canyon, springs onto steep boulder fields near the San Mateo ridge line and finishes with a pathless ascent of the forested summit on Vick’s Peak. Don’t bring novice hikers. The route is short, strenuous and spectacular.

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Overview:

01 South Baldy, Magdalena Mts

South Baldy Summit from US 60

The Magdalena Mountains form a small range close to the town of Socorro, New Mexico. This hike ascends up Copper Canyon, which is beautifully forested and in some stretches carries surface water, reaches the main ridge line and then ascends the summit block for South Baldy. This summit is the highest point in the range. It is also center for research – just below the summit is the Magdalena Ridge Observatory. On this date I descended north along the ridge line towards North Baldy, which is slightly less lofty but more lonesome (although a private road runs close to the summit). I ran out of time before I ran out of mountain, so the North Baldy portion of the route report is only exploratory. The ridge ramble lies above 9300 feet and the thin air adds substantially to the challenge. This route is a much under-rated ascent in mid-state New Mexico.

Driving Directions:

  • From University Ave in Las Cruces, enter I-25 going north
  • After 146 miles, take exit 147 for US 60/West 25/Socorro/Magdalena. The exit ramp simply becomes California Street/Interstate 25 Business Loop going north.
  • After 1.0 miles, go left onto Spring Street/US-60 West. Follow signs to stay on US-60 West
  • After 15.5 miles, go left onto Water Canyon Road.
  • After 4.6 miles, where the pavement stops and gravel road begins, go right onto Forest Road 406
  • After 0.2 miles, go right into the Water Canyon Campground (signed) and park.
The mighty Camry, resting at the trailhead

The mighty Camry, resting at the Water Canyon trailhead

Drivers with high clearance vehicles can continue on FR 406 for another 0.6 miles and park where a sign says “Dead End”. Sedan drivers will take a look at the deep gullies and rocky protrusions in the road and park at the camp ground.

Trailhead:

The Water Canyon Campground has family and group camp sites. There are pit toilets. I did not see any evidence of water.

Data:

 

  • Starting Elevation: 6840 feet
  • Highest Elevation: 10,783 feet
  • Net Elevation: 3943 (warning: the gross elevation gain is greater due to saddles and knolls on the ridge line)
  • Distance: 18.6 miles (round trip)
  • Maps: The USGS Magdalena quadrangle has roughly 90% of the hike, but the summit block for South Baldy is on the South Baldy quadrangle. It was very useful to have both maps.

Hike Description:

Departure point from road onto Copper Canyon Trail

Departure point from road onto Copper Canyon Trail

From the trailhead, ascend the gullied dirt road for about 0.6 miles to where it serves as the stem in a T-intersection with a second dirt road. A sign on the embankment across the road directs you onto trail 10, the Copper Canyon trail. Ascend the trail as it passes a large open field on the outflow from Copper Canyon. There are several buildings along the trail in advancing states of disrepair, a few visible cattle, and fencing along side the trail. Initially the fencing is wire grid, but eventually changes over to standard barbed wire. A downed sign indicates where you enter the National Forest. Shortly past that point the barbed wire ends and you enter into the bed of Copper Canyon.

Tunneling through signs of spring in Copper Canyon

Tunneling through signs of spring in Copper Canyon

In the lower reaches of the canyon trail T10 is a tunnel through the trees. Other hikers have amused themselves by creating tall stone cairns, often top-heavy in appearance and some are none-too stable. The trees include some alligator juniper, a second juniper species with bark in slender exfoliating strips (Rocky Mountain juniper, perhaps), pinyon pine, ponderosa, and Douglas fir. On this date, water was flowing in places. It wasn’t clear if this flow is the result of a recent storm or if Copper Canyon is an unusually reliable source of water (the US Drought Monitor indicates that this area of New Mexico is currently under severe drought conditions). Later in the day the canyon becomes a markedly humid spot.

05 cabin ruins

Abandoned cabin along the side of T10

The trail stays near the bed of the canyon, crossing whenever flatter or more open terrain becomes available. Be extra careful with the map shown in this post – tree coverage made it impossible to get a high quality trail data from satellite imagery. You won’t go wrong if you stick close to the waterway up the canyon as far as the ruined log cabin, which is reached at 3.8 miles from the trailhead. The front wall of the ruin is gone and little remains of the other three sides. Some iron sheets still occupy space on the forest floor, but the occupants are clearly long gone. In less than 100 more feet, come to a fork in the trail. The branch to the left rises to the Magdalena ridge line at 10,300 feet. The branch to the right is the northern branch of the Copper Canyon Trail. The 1995 USGS map shows it heading towards the main ridge line where you could continue to North Baldy. See comments below (along with a 2020 update!) on the degraded nature of the northerly tread.

Trail sign at junction of Copper Canyon Train T10 and North Baldy Trail T08

Trail sign at junction of Copper Canyon Train T10 and North Baldy Trail T08

Go left, toward South Baldy. Here the canyon swings towards the southwest and rises directly towards the summit of South Baldy. This is the realm of large firs and a surprisingly large number of aspen – it must be quite a sight when the aspen turns autumn gold. Even on a springtime day, however, there are memorable views to the ridge line with its large meadows alternating with forested slopes. If you aspire to use the northern branch of the Copper Canyon Trail you might want to work on committing this view to memory, as it will guide your exploration of the degraded trail. At 4.6 miles, after a very steep 0.8 miles, arrive at the ridge line in open meadows. Strangely, the tread disappears just before the crest, simply head over the top and drop down the back side for a loss of about 20 feet to intersect the main ridge line. (A sign marks the crest, and unlike all the other trail signs this one is still standing).

Massive, lightening resistant insulators on South Baldy summit

Massive, lightening resistant insulators on South Baldy summit

To get to South Baldy, go left (south) on Trail 8, the North Baldy Trail. It winds through smaller meadows and a stand or two of ponderosa and Douglas fir, coming to an intersection immediately below the summit block at 5.0 miles. The main trail trail goes straight across the meadows, but the fainter branch trail to your right is a more direct approach to the summit. Go right through a narrow block of trees and enter the open west face of the summit block. The faint trail you are on stays below the summit, apparently headed toward the Magdalena Ridge Observatory. Leave the trail as the summit comes into sight and ascend to the high point at 5.3 miles. The top is forested on the northern side, but there are fine views southwest towards the San Mateo Mountains and Vick’s Peak, due south to the Caballo Range and Turtleback Peak, and a glimpse through the haze east to Sierra Blanca. You are standing on terrain used by the Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research to study lightening strikes. There may be no worse place in the country to greet new acquaintances of the cumulonimbus persuasion.

Magdalena Ridge Observatory

Magdalena Ridge Observatory

This part of the hike is, all by itself, a great day. If you’ve done enough damage to your boots then return the way you came and enjoy a really wonderful outing. On the other hand, those Vibram soles might need greater contact with this hard world. If so, then make a mini-loop by continuing east along the forest-meadow border and drop down the summit block. In 1000 feet from the summit encounter the main ridge trail, T08, just above the Water Canyon Road. Go left, into the trees. The trail is very easy to follow and returns to the summit block intersection having traveled 6.0 miles from the car. (Again, the map depicts a series of guesses where the trail disappears into the trees).

Rock lined tread where the path crosses from the west side of the ridge to the east side.

Rock lined tread where the path crosses from the west side of the ridge to the east side.

Once back to the ridge, head north as the trail rises and falls on the knolls and saddles of the North Baldy Trail. The tread drops off on the western side of the ridge and stays there (with brief glimpses over the ridge) until mile 7.5. In a particularly wide and grassy saddle, look for a gully (actually an old mining road) ascending from the west. This road rises all the way to the ridge line and goes over to the east side of the Magdalena Mountains. The 1995 USGS Map indicates that this is the point at which the north branch of the Copper Canyon Trail comes in, but see the comments below. For now, follow the trail, here handsomely lined by rock guides, as it continues north, now on the east side of the ridge line.

White cliff face and true summit (right) of North Baldy

White cliff face and true summit (right) of North Baldy

The trail crosses several meadows and a strikingly pleasant col (potentially a great campsite) at 7.7 miles, then arrives at an intersection with a trail rising from Hop Canyon at 8.3 miles. The Hop Canyon Trail is not shown on either the 1995 or 2013 USGS maps. Follow the sign for North Baldy, taking the right-hand path and descending. The tread still bounces up over each knoll, but the subsequent fall is always longer and steeper as the ridge line falls from 9800 feet to 9300 feet. North Baldy comes into view, with a large and unforested wall of smooth white rock extending to the west. Reach the low point on the ridge at 10 miles, facing into a canyon leading to North Baldy Summit. It is here that I ran out of time and had to turn back. From the looks of the trail ahead, the path to the summit should be pretty clear.

View of davit high in cliff wall

View of a drift mine high in a cliff wall

My plan was to return the 2.5 miles to the saddle where the trail crossed from west of the ridge to east of the ridge, find the mining road, and return by the north spur of Copper Canyon trail. To my surprise, the mining road (shown in red on the map) simply ends at a mine. There is no hint of a trail continuing from the road terminus. Backing up a few hundred feet, there is a tall cairn built by the side of the road with a hint of a trail descending steeply into the confused terrain of the Copper Canyon headwaters. (This is where it might pay to have studied the high terrain when ascending the Copper Canyon Trail). If you probe down this tread you will find trail hints, such as a stump-top cairn and a faded pink tape tied to a bush, but the trail is never very clear – it was hard to distinguish stream beds from possible trail beds. Eventually I decided to return to the ridge and head back to meadow in which south Copper Canyon Trail T10 intersects North Baldy Trail T08.

EDIT: in October of 2020 I revisited this trail and was very pleased to see that the spur trail has been reopened.  Just above the ruined log cabin you still come to a junction. The left trail will take you to South Baldy, as described above. The right-trail (looking uphill) is the Spur Trail and will take you north to that mining road. Some kind and energetic souls have cut back the brush and clipped the intruding yucca. It was easy to follow on this date. The trail maintenance must have been done several years ago since the tread is no longer flat – it has started “rolling” into conformance with the hillside. There are six or seven downed trees (although you can simply step over three of these). It is a great hike! You could use it to create a “lollipop loop”.  A map of the hike up the spur will be included in the “Links” section below.

Evening light on a scarp, possibly from magdalena fault thrust

Evening light on a scarp, possibly from magdalena fault thrust

Skipping this side excursion, you might want to return directly to the intersection of the south Copper Canyon Trail and North Baldy Trails, having hiked  approximately 14 miles. Return down copper canyon for a day’s total of 18.6 miles.

Recommendations:

Author at turn around point

Author at turn around point

I went through four liters of water on this hike and could have used more. Dehydration is affected by activity, warm springtime weather, the humidity within the canyon and sweat-evaporating breezes on the ridge line. I suspect that an important factor is the thin air above 9000 feet, which certainly encouraged panting in this hiker. I was still feeling a little dehydrated more than a day after the hike, which is not the usual response. Bring lots of water.

14 Sunrise on approach US 60If you are entering New Mexico from lower terrain then give yourself some time to acclimatize and also know how to recognize acute mountain sickness. Especially, if you are not feeling well then it may be a mistake to hike the North Baldy branch of this route. The return from the low point on the ridge to the upper end of Copper Canyon Trail (south branch) involves almost 1000 feet of gain – exactly the wrong thing for AMS sufferers.

San Mateo Range from South Baldy

San Mateo Range from South Baldy

The trampled terrain at and below the mine has made it truly difficult to find the northern path leading out of Copper Canyon. On ascent, once you’ve reached the the fork in the trail (above the old log cabin) you will probably want to avoid the mine by going south (left) towards South Baldy. If the north fork is necessary to your plans then I think you will want to explore the northerly path from the bottom. That is, ascend past the cabin to the fork and go right. The trail at the fork is very clear. It is only a guess, but I think the path will lead you close to the mine. If you can see the mine then you should be able to find the broad road that takes you from the mouth of the mine up to the ridge line. My efforts to find the north branch starting from the ridge top were unproductive and tiring.

Sign at junction where the north and south extensions for Copper Canyon Trail diverge

Sign at junction where the north and south extensions for Copper Canyon Trail diverge

The path up the canyon is well shaded. That plus the coolness arising from the altitude might make the Copper Canyon Trail a good mid-summer workout. On the other hand, there is little chance to view the surrounding skies. It would be awkward to ascend to the ridge line only to find a cell of thunderclouds sweeping toward you from the west. Get your meteorologist’s permission before heading out in monsoon season. Above the canyon the forest of tall trees reaches all the way to the summit of South Baldy, so shade is found to the high point of the range. The ridge walk is much more sun-exposed and you might want to give that path a mid-summer pass.

Links:

The Magdalena Mountains are part of the Cibola National Forest, which is huge (parts of the forest are found in Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico). A more local resource is the Magdalena Ranger District, headquartered in the town of Magdalena. It is worth checking for road status and fire alerts. In fact, there is a notice that on Monday the National Forest/National Grasslands will begin Level One fire restrictions. Essentially, that means no campfires or fireworks, although you can still use camp stoves. It seems pretty reasonable, give then current drought conditions.

Sonja, at the Overly Ambitious Me site, has some interesting photos of mines along the trail in Copper Canyon and comments on how thunder storms can affect your visits to the Magdalena Mountains.

A succinct but tremendously useful descriptions of trails in the Magdalena Mountains can be found at the Magdalena-NM website (PDF). This is an unusual Chamber of Commerce site, in which the Chamber has made a very thoughtful attempt at providing good recreational information for locals and visitors alike. Kudos to the leadership! They also have descriptions of the hiking trails in the San Mateo Mountains (PDF) and a set of links to several large-scale maps of the hiking and mountain biking trails in the region.

Some of the comments on Summit Post make note of how snowy this approach can be in wintertime. You might need snow shoes in winter.

A brief trail description appeared in 1998 in the Albuequerque Journal. It is notable because as far back as 16 years ago writers were encouraging people to be careful trying the “top down” approach on the north branch of the Copper Canyon Trail.

As mentioned above the spur trail near the log cabin has had some great maintenance and you could follow it if you have some off-trail experience (there are one or two short meadows where the spur trail can be sketchy). Here is a map of the route from just-below the mining trail back down to the trailhead:

Note: the above map does not show the route all the way to the crest trail! But, if you follow the mining road uphill you will get into a col just a little east of the main crest. I didn’t go any further, but the mining road heads west towards the crest and I expect that there would be little difficulty finding the main trail there. Many thanks to the trail workers who re-opened this trail!

Overview:

Vicks Peak from FR 225

Vicks Peak from FR 225

This route takes you into the San Mateo Mountains of Socorro County (there is another range named for Saint Matthew in Cibolo County, quite a ways further north). In the Socorro range you will find a network of trails that brings you in to high, cool and striking terrain. The Apache Kid Trail (#43) takes you from the Springtime Campground up a canyon to a high ridge line. Pause to enjoy the gendarme-laced terrain as well as the complete absence of mesquite bush and prickly pear. Turn south onto Shipman Trail (#50) as it bobs down into forested canyons and hops back to the ridge line for new vistas. Views are mostly to the west, taking in the Tularosa Mountains and the Plains of San Augustin (sometimes written “Agustin”). On return you will have a chance to study San Mateo Peak and portions of the northern San Mateo mountains. The col containing Myers cabin is a wide, grassy meadow framed by stately ponderosa. The original destination for this hike was Vick’s Peak, which lies above and south of Myers cabin. Recent years have not been kind to the climber’s tread that once lead to the peak, so this route description only goes as far as the first prominence (point 10100) south of the col.

Driving Directions:

This list of driving instructions was used on March 22, 2014. For those who are driving south on I-25, e.g. from Albuquerque, getting off at Exit 115 makes perfect sense. For those who are driving north on I-25, e.g from Las Cruces, getting off at Exit 115 means having to double back. An alternative route is suggested below.

  • From University Avenue in Las Cruses, enter I-25 going north.
  • After 112.8 miles, take Exit 115 for Route 107.
  • After 0.2 miles, at the end of the ramp, turn east (right) onto NM Route 107.
  • After 200 ft (at a T-intersection), go south (right) on Old US Highway 1. (There is no road sign for US 1 at the intersection, but a sign appears a short distance to the south)
  • After 11.7 miles, go west (right) onto Forest Road 225. This is a gravel road.
  • After 13.3 miles come to a fork (signed), go right onto 225A for Springtime Campground
  • After 0.4 miles, enter the campground.

A look at Google Maps suggests that those coming north on I-25 might want to get off I-25 a little earlier.

  • At exit 100 on I-25, signed for Red Rock, go right.
  • After 200 feet, at the end of the exit ramp, go west (left) onto a road that is not named on my maps. This will lead immediately to an overpass over I-25.
  • After 0.3 miles, at a T-intersection, go north (right) onto Old US Highway 1.
  • After 4.6 miles. Turn east (left )onto FS 225. Then continue as above. This alternative route has not yet been tested.

Forest Road 225 is in generally good shape, but there are important points of exception. Each time that the road dips into an arroyo bed the road quality drops dramatically. For drivers of high suspended trucks it will not be a problem. Drivers of family sedans, however, will have to make case-by-case decisions. It takes a long, long time for soft-suspended cars to travel those 13.9 miles – but slow and patient driving will do the front end of your vehicle many favors. Stormy weather could produce brisk alterations to the road bed so it might be a good idea to keep a shovel in the vehicle.

Trailhead:

The mighty Camry, resting for a moment beside one of the lean-tos.

The mighty Camry, resting for a moment beside one of the lean-tos.

The trailhead lies within the Springtime campground and is signed. I did not see any trash receptacles or water. An older article in the Taos News suggests that the campground has an outhouse, but I didn’t see it while strolling by. There is quite a long stretch of PVC pipe along side the trail, so there may be a faucet somewhere among the campground lean-tos (do not count on it). You can drive up the canyon, going past the trailhead for a short ways, by turning left over a cattle guard and driving among the lean-tos. The road is poor however, and the drive just raises dust among the campers. It is better to park near the cattle guard, which is near the Apache Kid Trail sign.

Oddly, the Springtime Campground does not lie in Springtime Canyon, but in Nogal Canyon. Springtime Canyon is the next big drainage to the north.

Data:

  • trailhead elevation: 7480 feet
  • high point: 10,210 feet
  • net elevation gain: 2730
  • distance: 5.8 miles to point 10100 (one way)
  • maps: USGS Vicks Peak

Hike Description:

Gendarme guarding the headwaters of Nogal Canyon

Gendarme guarding the headwaters of Nogal Canyon

From the campground follow the Apache Kid Trail up canyon, passing lean-tos and tracking a considerable stretch of PVC piping (perhaps water for the campground).  In about 1400 feet come to a sign proclaiming the boundary of the Apache Kid Wilderness. At about a half mile from the trail head the trail swings left to contour around a rib and begins ascending in a north-trending canyon. From the map it appears that this canyon is the uppermost extension of Nogal Canyon, known to I-25 travelers as that point where I-25 leaps off a cliff and goes soaring into an abyss – accompanied by dire signs warning of gusty winds. Here the traffic is much less pressing, although the rock spires on either side of canyon are dramatic in their own way. At 1.3 miles the tread leaves the canyon bottom and switchbacks up a side cut coming in from the west. This part of the hike is open and quite warm later in the day. Re-entering a coniferous forest the trail follows a rib up to the ridge line at 2.1 miles. There are several camp spots which are dry but are likely to offer spectacular sunrises.

Bald knob on ridge above Nogal Canyon

Bald knob on ridge above Nogal Canyon

Go past the ridge top meadow and arrive at the junction of the Apache Kid Trail with the Shipman Trail (#50) at 2.2 miles. The intersection is signed. Turn south (left) on the Shipman Trail. The tread on the Shipman Trail is not as obvious as the Apache Kid Trail, but where the tread becomes puzzling stop and look for sawed logs and water bars. The trail heads south, initially at ridge top but then making a swing into a waterway that descends gently below the ridge top at 2.6 miles. Follow the trail as it follows the stream bed into confluence of small stream beds and a sheltered spot for a campsite amidst big ponderosa pines. Amidst those trees, at 2.9 miles from the trailhead, find another trail junction with trail 49A, which head north (right) down Milo Canyon. There were trail signs, but they had fallen to the ground and are easy to miss. Go south (left) on Shipman Trail and begin ascending back towards the ridge.

*09 bald bump at head of Nave Canyon

Second bald knob on ridge, at top of Nave Canyon

At 3.4 miles reach a col between the main north-to-south ridge  and a huge rib descending from the ridge to the northwest. This rib separates Milo Canyon, from which you have just ascended, from Nave Canyon, into which you will descend. The trail bumps along here, making little leaps and short falls as it traces the ridge line. At 3.7 miles reach a low point in the ridge and a look southeast into Corn Canyon. After reaching an open, possibly fire-cleared face the trail turns downhill and follows the course of Nave Canyon. Down and down, then down some more. Ask your thoughts to stay away from the prospect of ascending this passage on return. Be grateful when at last the trail crosses the bed of Nave Canyon and returns to a southerly course. Contouring out of the canyon, the trail goes past Nave Spring at 4.4 miles. The spring is about 30 feet below the trail, look for a metal barrel used to wall the spring.

Aspen reflection on surface of Nave spring

Aspen reflection on surface of Nave spring

Peering around just past the spring you may find the remnants of old trail signs lying on the forest floor. The Nave Trail (#86) will take you north (right) down Nave Canyon. Stay to the left on a faint tread as the Shipman trail pokes gingerly into an area of deadfall. The tread pretty much disappears here. An informal boot path going straight up hill and regrettably open to erosion can be found. I gave up on trying to find the formal trail and took the boot path. In no more than 20 feet it joined the old tread and resumed the march to Myers Cabin.

Stately firs and open meadows on Myers cabin col.

Graceful pines and open meadows on Myers cabin col.

Rounding a bend, the tread becomes a gentle, straight, southerly ascent along the bed of a wide waterway. There were lots of pinyon pine, Douglas fir, and still a good representation of ponderosa. There was also a fir with very compact cones, perhaps a white fir. At 5.3 miles the trees begin to thin and a broad meadow opens before you. The tread almost immediately disappears, but the open terrain invites rambling. Ascend to the high point of the col and discover that a circle of trees gracing the center of the meadow is actually growing on the tailings of an old mine shaft. Beyond that, on the far side of the col, find Myers cabin. Marvel at how much labor went into bringing a big wood stove up to into these mountains. I don’t know if hantavirus is much of a threat above 9000 feet, but rather than poking around inside it seemed best to take photos from a judicious distance.

view through two window and two doors of the (roofless) Myers cabin

view through two windows and two doors of the (roofless) Myers cabin

Myers Cabin col stands at the head of Shipman Canyon, into which Shipman Trail descends. The objective for this hike was Vicks Peak, still 750 feet higher than the col. In the 100 Hikes in New Mexico guidebook, Craig Martin says that a faint and unmaintained path should take you southeast towards the Peak. That guide was first published in 1995 (although updated in 2010), so it might be that the description is out of date. I could not find any trace of a trail out of the meadows.

View to Vicks Peak from the top of Point 10100

View to Vicks Peak from the top of Point 10100

What follows is an off-trail scramble in a forest, which is a navigation challenge. At the edge of the meadow opposite the cabin and beside a cross made of two big, fallen logs, head uphill. Dodge the thicker growths and downed trees. At roughly 300 feet from the meadow, encounter a faint tread rising towards the northeast, which seems like the wrong direction even if it could be a switchback. Following that tread brings you to a small bench on mountain-side. Drilled down into the bench is a deep mine shaft. The tread stops here. From the shaft, turn again to the steepest uphill direction and continue ascending on a broad mountain flank. The next three hundred feet are in rather featureless terrain – problematic for route finding. Soon however a relatively well defined rib forms. Stay on the top of the rib until the open boulder field appears – about 1600 feet after leaving the col. Clamber over boulders directly to the top of the false summit at 10,100 feet above sea level and 5.8 miles from the trailhead. Only half mile away, over what appears to be accessible terrain, is Vicks Peak. It was past my turn-around time, so with real regret I started back.

Return to the trailhead the same way as you came in.

Recommendations:

Author on Point 10100

Author on Point 10100

The term “lean-to” is used here as it is used on the Appalachian Trail. These are structures with floor, roof and three walls, open to the weather on the unwalled side. The Springtime Campground structures looked inviting from the trail, but they are packed pretty close together. As with most campgrounds, you will not find much privacy here.

In addition to the Nave Spring, the San Mateo spring is reported to be usually reliable. That spring can be found if you continue north on the Apache Kid Trail about a half mile past the junction with the Shipman Trail. Myer’s spring, below Myer’s col in Shipman Canyon, is characterized as “often running”. All spring water needs to be filtered or treated before consuming.

This route description makes mention of hantavirus, which is regarded as a health threat in New Mexico. There are several animal reservoirs for hantavirus, including deer mice. The issue arises because deer mice often occupy abandoned buildings like Myers cabin. Apparently, deer mice are found above elevations of 5000 feet and in Douglas fir forests.

Remember that in March the broad-leaf trees were all still bare. If you come later in the year, then those deciduous trees could make route finding more difficult.

Consider taking the opportunity to get out of the house and into the mountains. Drought conditions are not conducive to backcountry camping and 95% of New Mexico is already experiencing moderate drought or worse. The winter began well, but the final snow accumulation was far below normal. That was abundantly evident in this stroll to 10,000 feet. The biggest patch of remaining snow I saw was perhaps 20 feet long and about 5 feet at the widest, appearing to be just an inch or two in depth. It was a monster reserve compared to the dinner-plate sized snow patches elsewhere. Snowmelt is not going to save us from a dry summer. A great deal is riding on getting decent rainfall. While waiting to see how that turns out, take advantage of the today’s friendly conditions.

Links:

A PDF document from magdalena-nm.com includes succinct descriptions of he hiking opportunities in the San Madreo Mountains.

The Apache Kid Wilderness Area is part of the Cibola National Forest. The Forest Service website has good information on road conditions, active fires and fire hazard levels.

A brief report by Rob Anthony on Peak Bagger describes an all-scramble route up the southeast face to Vicks Peak. Notably, he was able to summit with his dog, suggesting that the climbing moves are probably not extreme.

Trimble Outdoors shows a map with an approach to Vicks Peak from the south, apparently getting onto Shipman Trail from Burma Road and ascending the trail up Shipman Canyon. This is a much shorter route than the one described here.

This peak is a 10-thousand footer, yet it has very few route descriptions on the internet. No wonder that it was so quiet up there.