Monday, August 20, 2012

Cooke's Peak and Fort Cummings

Last night after work I ate a sandwich, packed the car and then hit the road. I stopped at the store in El Paso to get some food for my two day exploration of the Deming area. it was about midnight when I finally pulled into my destination on a county road near Cooke's Peak.

I slept in the car and was treated to a lovely sunrise as I prepared for my ascent of Cooke's Peak.
Cookes Range at Sunrise
I ate a blueberry muffin for breakfast and then hit the trail, in this case a road. Using the directions that I printed off Summitpost, I followed the road for a bit. I was supposed to find a trail leading off the road, but I never did. Instead, I found a ridge that seemed to lead to the summit of Cooke's Peak and started to ascend it. I saw a toad hopping around as I ascended,
Great Plains Toad
along with this interesting red insect.
Red Bug
Soon I had some really nice views of the Cooke's summit block.
Cooke's Summit

As I arrived at the upper ridge of the range, I found a use trail occasionally marked with cairns. I followed the use trail to the summit where I signed the summit log and took the obligatory summit photo.
Summit Register
Eric on Cooke's Summit
I spent some time relaxing on the summit and decided to see if I could find the route described on my printout and follow it down to the car. And so, that's what I did. I retraced my steps to the ridge I had followed up from the road. This time I continued on the use trail that roughly followed the summit ridge. Before I knew it there was a more substantial trail. It was a bit overgrown, but it appeared that it had at one time been an official trail. There was an obvious, engineered treadway with waterbars and switchbacks.

I followed the obvious trail down further and further. It was a lot faster moving on the trail than it would have been bushwhacking down the ridge. Eventually I came to an intersection. One trail led further down the canyon I had been following, while the other led up the canyon. I decided to take the trail up-canyon for a bit just to see if I could figure out where it led. I thought maybe it would lead to a spring, but after following it for about 5 minuted I could still not determine where it led. I retraced my steps back to the down-canyon portion of trail.

Th hiking continued to go fast. Soon I was at the mouth of the canyon.
Canyon Mouth
There was an overflowing livestock tank with a spigot emptying water into it. I looked back at the canyon I had followed and then set out into the desert. I lost all track of any trail or road at this point and so I just traveled cross-country. I could see what appeared to be a pile of mine tailings in the distance. I figured there must have been a road that led to the mine and so I headed in that direction and passed some fishhook barrel cactus in bloom.
Fishhook Barrel Cactus
Cactus Flowers
I didn't find a road but I did find an old mine, mining shack,
Mining Shack
and even an old rusted car.
old Car
After checking out the scene I headed further away from the mountains and soon found the road I had driven on last night. I followed the road back to the car and headed back towards Deming.

Just before I reached highway 26, I saw a rough BLM road headed in the direction of where my atlas indicated the old Fort Cummings ruins were. On a whim I decided to head in that direction. I was not disappointed. The first stop was an overlook of the old fort site.
Fort Cummings
Then I headed over to the cemetery.
Fort Cemetery
Interestingly, it sounds like there may or may not be some burials in the cemetery. Apparently, fort records indicate those buried here being exhumed and re-interred elsewhere. It sounds similar to what happened at nearby Fort Craig. From the cemetery I headed over to a structure that turned out to be a springhouse.
Spring House
Then I headed to some unknown adobe ruins
Adobe and Cookes Range
and Butterfield Stage Station ruins before heading back to the car and into Deming.
Butterfield Station Ruins

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