Tuesday, October 30, 2012

One Tree Peak: The Highpoint of Chaves County, New Mexico

Noelle let me have a day to myself and so I headed up into the mountains to do some peak-bagging. I had intended to ascend three different peaks, but only ended up hiking up one: One Tree Peak. One Tree Peak is the highest point in Chaves County and located within the Sacramento Ranger District of Lincoln National Forest. To get there I drove up to Artesia, past Hope and turned US 82 onto NM 24 where I passed through the "town" of Dunken (don't blink) and then into the hills on Cuevo Canyon Road.

I took Cuevo Canyon Road to the intersection with FR 176 where I turned left and followed some cryptic directions I printed off the internet to a two-track road on the left and near a sign indicating the Otero/Chaves County Line.
County Line
I parked my car off the side of this road and started hiking up the two-track past some campers/hunters who were enjoying a morning in camp. It was a cool morning and I wore my fleece jacket for most of the beginning of the hike.

Eventually the road faded away and I was forced to start bushwacking.
One Tree Peak
I had brought the GPS unit and used it to find my way up the mountain slopes to the summit of One Tree Peak. I took my photo on the summit and signed the register.
Eric on One Tree Peak
After eating a snack I decided it was time to head down. I figured I would hike down a different route from the one I hiked up. This, along with not setting the location of the car as a GPS waypoint, proved to be a mistake.

I hiked downhill for some time and soon spotted a two-track road. I figured this road would take me back to FR 176 which I could then hike back to the car. The road went on and on with no sign of FR 176. Eventually I figured that I must be going the wrong way. I decided to hike up a ridge to get my bearings. As I looked in the direction I had been traveling I realized that I was headed down to the plains between the  mountains and Artesia. Not good. After a break to think and drink some of my precious, dwindling water, I decided I would have to head back to the peak and see if I could remember the route I had taken from there.

And so I headed back up to One Tree Peak over ridges and back down into canyons. As I neared the peak I noticed a road that looked promising. It appeared to be FR 176. Better yet, there was a two-track leading to it. My new course was set. I hiked down to the two-track
Tired and Dehydrated Eric
and followed it to what was indeed FR 176. From FR 176 it was a long road walk back to the car. It was a long day and I ran out of water, but I learned some valuable lessons about the limits of relying on GPS. I also got to see some interesting fossils as a result of my detour.
Ammonoid Fossil

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