Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Florida Mountains

Florida Range
No, there aren't any mountains in Florida. The Florida Mountains I'm writing of are in southern New Mexico just outside of Deming. Yesterday afternoon, after my ascent of Cooke's Peak and exploration of the Fort Cummings ruins, I headed over to Rockhound State Park to find a campsite for the night. It was hot when I got there, so I spent most of the late afternoon and early evening relaxing and reading in the shade. just before the sun set, I headed out for a quick hike on the Thunderegg Trail to see if I could get a good view of the surrounding Floridas. Not only did I get a good view of the mountains, but I also encountered some wildlife, two lizards. One was a species I am not familiar with.
Lizard
The other was a Texas horned lizard.
Texas Horned Lizard
After my hike, I set up the tent (without the rain fly) and settled in for a good night's rest.

This morning I awoke at sunrise, ate breakfast, and packed up camp. I got a later start than I had wanted due to some stomach issues. When I finally got started hiking it was already hot. I left the trailhead near Florida Gap and headed up a rough, old road and into a canyon.
Trailhead
Entering Canyon
Eventually, the road ended and I followed a faint use trail further up the canyon. I got rattled at by two rattlesnakes as I ascended. As I made my way further up-canyon the canyon split into two drainages. I decided to take the drainage to the right and this turned out to be a big mistake.

The going in the drainage was very easy at first. I traveled on slabs of smooth rock. Soon, however, the rock slabs gave way to steep, slippery scree. I would take one step forward and slide 3/4 of the way back down. To make matters worse, the vegetation was thick. I spent a lot of time bashing through the bushes. As I approached what I thought was the summit ridge, I looked at a large rock spire in front of me and assumed that this must be the summit block. I knew there would be some exposed climbing involved but this climb would be beyond my comfort level. After attempting a climb up a steep, narrow crack I was ready to give up. I pulled out the directions I had printed off and read them again for about the 20th time.

Finally, I had figured out that I was not on the top of the ridge. I had a new plan. I bushwhacked up to the ridge and then found the two spires described on my paper. in addition, there was a large natural arch in the rock that I remembered seeing a photo of.
Arch
I passed the arch and soon found the class 4 climb described on my paper. It was exposed, but not nearly as bad as the climb I had attempted earlier. Soon I was on the summit.
Eric on North Summit
I signed the log and took my photo. Then I was ready to descend back to my car. There are two summits of nearly the same height, but upon reading the register, Gerry Roach claims the North Summit (the one I had summited) was the higher of the two.

I found a much easier (and safer) way to descend back to the car. I saw some interesting looking butterflies
Butterfly
and more barrel cactus in bloom.
Yellow Barrel Cactus Flowers
It was a relief to be back at the car as it was getting quite hot. I took off my boots, put my sandals on and cranked the AC for the drive back to Carlsbad.         

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