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.              

1 comment:

Christopher M. Amidon said...

Great write up!