Monday, April 30, 2012

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Last night after work, Robby stopped by to pick Noelle and I up for the long drive to Albuquerque. We arrived at Robby's parents' house after midnight. After a nice sleep, we awoke this morning to explore the Duke City a bit. Our first stop was the Rio Grande Nature Center.

The nature center was interesting. We walked the native plant garden amongst some tall cottonwood trees and saw lots of native wildflowers and hummingbirds.
Then we walked a short trail to the Rio Grande.
Rio Grande
We caught a view of the river before looping back toward the visitor center. Near the visitor center is a nice bird blind. We spent some time there with our binoculars looking for birds.
Birding Noelle
There were lots of wood ducks, Canada geese, teals, and red-winged blackbirds. There were also lots of turtles swimming and basking in the sun.
After some birding we were getting hungry, and so we decided to walk the bicycle trail to Old Town Albuquerque and one of Robby's favorite restaurants: Little Anitas.
Eric and Noelle walking to Old Town
Robby's Fave
We had a delicious New Mexican lunch and then walked around Old Town a bit to burn some calories.
Eric in Old Town

Old Town Church

After a short walk through the touristy area we headed back to the bike trail for our walk back to the nature center. When we reached the car we drove back to Robby's parents' house for a nap. When we awoke it was time for dinner, Italian at Tomato Cafe. From dinner we headed to Isotopes Park for a good ol' fashioned baseball game: the Albuquerque Isotopes versus the Oklahoma City Red Hawks.
The 'Topes won 5-0, but besides the score we really enjoyed the ballpark atmosphere, the Simpsons character statues, and hanging out together.
Our Seats in Isotopes Stadium

Inside Stadium View
Eric & Homer
Noelle, Bart, and Eric
Robby and Lisa

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Black Cave and Little Beauty Cave

Headed back into the Lincoln National Forest today with some friends from work to check out some caves. We parked past the Dark Canyon Lookout Tower just before the section of road that's so rough its called the "Dragon's Teeth".
Hiking to Caves
Edna, Joel & Big Cairn
From there we followed some trails to Black Cave.
Eric Entering Black Cave
Parts of Black Cave, like the name suggests, are quite black in color. Is it manganese oxide? I don't know but it was sure an interesting little cave.

Inside we saw cave crickets,
Cave Cricket
lots of formations,
Eric in Black Cave
and a bat skeleton encased in calcite.
Bat Skeleton in Calcite
We spent about an hour exploring as much of Black Cave as we could from the trail.
William on the Trail
Then we headed out. We ate a snack outside the cave entrance and then hit the trail
Cactus Flowers
to find our second cave, Little Beauty. Little Beauty is appropriately named. it is small, and there are some nice, inactive formations inside.
Little Beauty Entrance
After a few minutes inside Little Beauty we were outside in the heat ready for our hike back to the car and the long drive back to Carlsbad.         

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Highpoint of Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Noelle wanted some time to work on her thesis, and so I had another day of solo adventure. For a long time now I've wanted to hike to the highest point on the surface of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, I figured today was my opportunity. I packed my day pack and hit the road. Rather than start my hike within the national park, I decided to take the shorter route through Lincoln National Forest. And so I drove up through Queen and into the high Guadalupes.

I started my hike near the Spring Canyon Ranch at the trailhead for Forest Service trails 222, 223 and 210.
I followed trail 222 for a short while and then took trail 210. I saw lots of cattle as I hiked.
I also saw some great views as I climbed out of a small canyon.
Spring Canyon
The trail followed a ridge for a while. Up on the ridge I passed the small, crack-like entrance to a cave. I did not go inside to explore though. Tomorrow will be my cave exploration day.

After a short time on the ridge, the trail began to descend into Cottonwood Canyon.  The trail followed the canyon bottom for a short time and then started to climb out of the canyon at Aqua Dulce Tank.
Aqua Dulce Tank
It was a hot, steep climb up to the Guadalupe Ridge. I did see a few wildflowers, which helped to break up the monotony.
Yellow Flower
Bowl Flax
Once on the ridge I made a left on the old road/trail. Despite the fact that it was a ridge walk, there were lots of ups and downs.
Hiking on Old Road
After walking the ridge for a bit I noticed the repeater tower near Putman Cabin which is inside Carlsbad Caverns National Park. it appeared that it was not on the ridge that I was following, but on a parallel ridge just south. I retraced my steps and found an intersection that I had somehow missed. After consulting my map, I decided that this must be where I leave the trail and bushwack into the park.

The bushwack was short, but there were lots of thorny plants to thrash through. Soon I found an old boundary marker with no fence. I was a bit confused but decided to just hike a bit further up the ridge. Sure enough, I found a barbed-wire fence and followed the fence to a cairn and summit register. I signed the register and posed at the cairn for a photo.
CAVE Highpoint Register
Eric at CAVE Highpoint
There wasn't much shade at the highpoint, and so I moved on, thrashing my way back to the trail.

It was a hot, dry hike back to the car.
Building Clouds
I was worried I might run out of water, but luckily, I had just enough. I saw some cactus in bloom
Cactus Flower
and more cattle.
I was relieved to find myself back at the car. I put on my sandals and cranked the AC. As I got down into the lower elevations the thermometer read 94 degrees. I stopped to take some photos of the Strawberry Cactus in bloom near Hippie Hole,
Strawberry Cactus
Strawberry Cactus Flower
and then arrived at home.              

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Franklin Mountains State Park: Anthony's Nose

Woke up at my campsite on the BLM lands near Anthony Gap and headed across NM-404 to the trailhead for Anthony Gap Cave and, more importantly, my ascent of Anthony's Nose. I followed the route I had taken three weeks ago up to the small saddle and down into the little valley. At the valley is where I veered off the route of my previous attempt/scouting mission. Instead of hiking up the ridge to the right, I hiked up the ridge to the left.
Anthony's Nose From Afar

The hike up the ridge was difficult. There was plenty of lechuguilla to dodge. As I learned during my last trip into the Franklins, one false move can mean a bloody, impaled foot. Along the way I saw some claret cup cactus in bloom.
Claret Cup
Soon the lechuguilla got thinner, but the hiking got no easier. There were some tough climbs along the ridge and quite a bit of exposure in some sections.
Jumbled Ridge
After about four hours I found myself at the final approach to the summit. The final approach saw me hike along another exposed section of ridge. I descended steeply to a small saddle and the climbed back up to the final ridge.
Anthony's North Ridge

I found an interesting cairn at the summit. Inside was a lunch box with a register inside.
Anthony's Nose Summtit Cairn
I signed the register and  took my photo there.
Eric on Anthony's Nose
I rested a bit. It had taken over 3 1/2 hours to get to the summit. It was some of the toughest hiking I had done in a long time. I was not looking forward to the hike back down to the car.

Eventually, I summoned the motivation to get hiking again. The hiking down went even slower than on the way up. A few times I got myself "cliffed out" on some high exposed ridges. I was tired and my feet hurt from moving over jagged rocks. I did see some pretty wildflowers though. I saw some sort of cactus in bloom
Cactus Flower Close-up
and some white daisy-like flowers as well.
White Flowers
Plains Blackfoot
Eight hours after I had started I found myself back at my car, ready for the long drive back to Carlsbad.

Monday, April 16, 2012

South Franklin Peak from Smuggler's Pass

A few weeks ago I had hiked the Ron Coleman Trail up South Franklin Peak from McKelligon Canyon. I enjoyed the route so much with its exposed climbs and chains, that I decided that I would finish the trail north of South Franklin Peak.

After my hike hike of Indian Peak earlier in the day, and a nice rest break exploring some of the border areas of El Paso along the Rio Grande (or Rio Bravo as they call it in Mexico), I drove up to Smuggler's Pass to begin my hike. The hike started up Fusselman Canyon with a nice view of the Elephant.
I had hiked up to the Elephant's Trunk several years ago by following the canyon bottom. Today I discovered that the trail leads to the base of the mammoth. Anyway, I hiked with some nice distant views up to the summit of South Franklin and myriad of communication towers.
South Franklin Peak
South Franklin Peak

 The hike was steep, but I slowly made my way closer to the summit. I saw some more pretty flowers as I climbed.
White Flowers
While the trail was certainly challenging, it lacked the excitement of the other section I had previously hiked. Soon I was at the saddle between the two summits. This time I hiked to both to make sure what I assumed was the higher of the two was the true summit. It indeed is the true summit of South Franklin Peak.
Summit of South Franklin
I spent some time relaxing on the sidewalk between the two summits, before heading back to the car. 
Resting on South Franklin