Tuesday, November 29, 2011

La Cueva Trails

Today Noelle and wanted to gt out and do some hiking but wanted to stay close to home. Well, you can't go for a hike any closer to home than the La Cueva Trails which are located just down Standpipe Road from our house. We packed a pack with water and made the short drive to the rough road and parking lot before we hit the trail.
Noelle Hiking La Cueva

The La Cueva trails are, admittedly, not the most scenic around. Still it was nice to get out and go for a hike in the Chihuahuan desert
Fishhook Barrel

and we did find a few interesting things. We saw several cactus wren nests that had been built in cholla cacti.
Nest in Cholla

We also saw a pair of "wild" horses on the trail.
Wild Horse

We saw a black-tailed jackrabbit and a few birds like a mockingbird and some juncos. In addition, the interesting geology of the Guadalupe Mountains was on display. Lots of interesting pieces of limestone like this one filled with pisolites.

I had mountain biked these trails about 8 years ago when I had first gotten my Specialized Hardrock and if I had the money I would buy a new bike to ride these trails. For now though, I'll just have to settle for walking them.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pine Tree Loop Trail

Got up to another beautiful Organ Mountains morning! We ate breakfast and drank hot beverages before taking a family photo with the beautiful mountains in the background.
Family Photo

Then it was time to do some hiking. We started the 4.5 mile Pine Tree Loop as the sun warmed the air.

Organs and Juniper

It was the third time I've hiked the Pine Tree Loop, although the last time was over 6 years ago. The views were just as spectacular as I remembered.
Rabbit Ears and Juniper

Eric and Parker Hike the Organs

Noelle Parker and Organ Mountains

Most of the beginning of the hike was an ascent. There were some burned areas and some area where the vegetation had been cut down, perhaps invasive species removal. Eventually we made our way up to a high ridge
Lone Pine

and then back down through some dry washes to our campsite.
Organ Mountains Campsite

We packed up camp and made our way back to the highway. Along the way we saw a large rattlesnake sunning itself on the road.
Rattler on the Road

It was a long drive back to Carlsbad. We stopped in Cloudcroft for a late lunch and to pick up a permit for a Christmas tree. We'll be headed back in a few weeks to cut it down.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Baylor Pass and Baylor Peak

We woke up to brilliant blue skies and alpenglow on the eastern flank of the mountains this morning!
Alpenglow Again

Campsite Closeup

I got breakfast ready and boiled some water for coffee and tea. The hot beverages sure hit the spot on a cold morning.
Breakfast Time!

We spent some time eating and lounging around camp before hitting the trail.
Noelle and Parker in Tent

The plan was for us to hike up to Baylor Pass together. I would then hike up to Baylor Peak while Noelle and Parker waited for me. We would head back to camp together.

The hike started in cool weather as the trail gently ascended the eastern slopes.
Start of Baylor Pass Trail

There were lots of great views of the Rabbit Ears
Rabbit Ears

and my objective for the hike: Baylor Peak.
Noelle on the Baylor PassTrail

Soon we found ourselves at the pass. I bid a temporary farewell to Noelle and Parker and started to ascend Baylor Peak on an obvious user trail. Soon the user trail petered out a bit and I found myself dodging cactus and yuccas as I made my way up. There were some great views to the south and the rest of the Organs.
Organs from Baylor Flank

I ascended what I thought was the summit, only to be disappointed when I discovered it was a false summit. Then I descended to a small saddle and ascended to the true summit. There was a makeshift cross,
Baylor Peak

a cairn, and even a register. I signed in, took my photo
Eric on Baylor Peak Summit

and quickly made my way down as Noelle and Parker were waiting for me.

Unfortunately, as I made my way down Baylor Peak, I took a wrong turn and found myself in some of the thickest cacti and yuccas on the planet. Travel was slow going. Meanwhile Noelle and Parker were losing patience waiting for me.
Patient Parker

They decided to make their way back to camp without me.Once I got back to the official trail the going was much easier and I made it from the pass to camp in a little over a half an hour. 

Back at camp we ate some lunch and then got in the car for a drive to the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park. We drove back to Las Cruces into a brand new section of town, hit the edge of town where the road changed to dirt. Soon the dirt road was a construction site. We would be forced to turn around. Not wanting to waste the drive into town Noelle and I decided to go into Mesilla to check out the plaza. We parked and walked to the plaza, but its not the best place to have a dog.
Mesilla Plaza

We headed back into the car for the drive back to camp. We did manage to see a cool bird though: a curve-billed thrasher!
Curve-billed Thrasher

Once back to camp we ate dinner and I lounged in the cool oak tree in camp.
Eric in Oak

The early start to the night forced us into the tent where we read and played sudoku before dozing off the sleep.

Monday, November 21, 2011

To the Organs!

Organ Mountains in the Clouds

This morning Noelle and I packed up our camping gear for the long drive to Las Cruces and my favorite mountain range in New Mexico: the rugged Organ Mountains. The morning started out drizzly in Carlsbad, but by the time we made it to the small, depressing town of Hope the clouds started to lift. We rode in sunshine up to Cloudcroft but found ourselves back in the clouds by the time we got to Alamogordo.

The weather got interesting once we hit Alamogordo. First there was a huge dust storm. Then the rain and hail started. This was not the way I had envisioned our trip starting. We stopped at Taco Bell for lunch and to wait out the storm and then got back on the road in a drizzle headed for Las Cruces. Once we got into Cruces the rain started to come down again. There was also some thunder and lightening. We decided to drive to the Soledad Canyon trail head anyway. We waited in the parking lot for a bit and then the rain started to lift and we hit the trail in a light drizzle.
Trail to the Clouds

Hiking  Bar Canyon in the Rain

The Bar Canyon Trail was a pleasant hike. Even the light drizzle added to the ambiance. How often to we really get to hike in the rain in southern New Mexico? We hiked past Chimney Rock and then to an old road that led us back to the parking lot.
Hiking Near Chimney Rock

Thinning Clouds

From the parking lot we made our way along the west side of the Organ Mountains escarpment to US 70 and then to Aguirre Springs Recreation area which will be our base camp for the next few days.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Guadalupe Mountains National Park: Lost Peak

Today Noelle and friends Robby and Chris packed into the old Civic and headed to the remote Dog Canyon section of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We were there to do some hiking, an easy 6.4 mile round-trip hike to Lost Peak. I had hiked up to Lost Peak alone, probably about 7 years ago.
Eric on Lost Peak

Today's hike was much more interesting though, thanks to some great hiking companions and good conversation.

The hike started from an empty parking lot.
Start of Hike

We didn't expect to see anyone else on the trail but soon ran into a pair of backpackers. The canyon hike was pleasant. It was cool and breezy, but not too windy. The winds would pick up though as we ascended out of the canyon. The views got better as we made our way upward.
Hiker Robby

Soon we were making our way off trail and up to what we initially thought was the summit of Lost Peak. This was not the same peak that I had ascended previously though, and so we descended and then made our way up a nearby peak.
Lost Peak

This peak had a large cairn marking its summit and so I think it is the actual summit of Lost Peak.
Eric and  Noelle at Lost Peak

It was too windy to spend much time up there so we quickly made our way down and found a sheltered spot out of the wind where we rested and ate a snack.Thank you Robby for bringing the peanut M&Ms! Because Noelle missed Chris' epic joke from the Guadalupe Peak hike, she was treated to a re-telling.
Hiking Down

Tree Framed Hikers

The going down was definitely easier than the ascent, and we soon found ourselves back in the parking lot.

Our adventure for the day was not yet over though. We visited often-overlooked monument to the Flying Paperboy of the Guadalupes, a man who delivered newspapers by airplane to remote ranchers and hunters.
Flying Paperboy Monument

From the monument we moved on for an inspection of Hippie Hole, a well-known small cave that is a local party spot.
Hippy Hole Entrance

The cave walls were decorated with graffiti, while the floor was littered with broken glass and a mattress.
Inside Hippy Hole

Looking Out of Hippy Hole

It was an interesting visit and an interesting way to end a great day of hiking!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lincoln National Forest: Turkey Canyon

This morning Noelle, Parker and I packed a daypack and some water and hit the road headed for the nearby Guadalupe Ranger District of the Lincoln National Forest. It was an interesting drive on the Dark Canyon Road and State Highway 137. Soon we found ourselves entering the forest boundary. We parked at Red Lake and hit the trail which is really just a rough road. We were not the only ones enjoying the beautiful November weather, there were some hunters out looking for deer.

As we hiked further on the road we soon came to some nice views overlooking our destination of Turkey Canyon.
Above Turkey Canyon

We descended into the canyon itself
Walking Turkey Canyon

and were greeted by some cowboys herding their cattle through the canyon.

It was an interesting experience to see things being done the old fashioned way! As we made our way further down canyon we walked through lots of trees.
Oak Tree

There were junipers, oaks, a madrone, some maples, and some tall ponderosa pines. We didn't see much in the way of wildlife other than birds. The birds that we saw were quite interesting though. We saw some bluebirds, scrub jays and even some acorn woodpeckers!
Acorn Woodpecker

The walk through the canyon was pleasant, but we were starting to get a bit tired just when we reached Turkey Canyon's intersection with Horse Canyon. I had heard from a friend at work that there were some interesting pictographs to be found a the intersection of the two canyons. We saw a rock shelter nearby and went over to check it out. While we didn't find any pictographs there, it was an interesting place to relax and eat a snack.

I decided to go look around to see if I could find the pictographs when I ran into the cowboys again. One of them told me where we could find the rock art and so I returned to Noelle and we went to find the pictographs.

They were in an interesting section of Turkey Canyon that had a thick forest of oak and juniper. The pictographs were faint but very interesting.
Eric and Pictographs

Animal Pictographs

Cicle and hand Pictographs

We spent a few minutes looking at them and then started to make our way up canyon and back to the car.
Hiking Turkey Canyon