Organ Mountains National Monument
Staying in El Paso for a little while I decided to go hiking in the Organ Mountains, which provide a stunning backdrop to the city of Las Cruces. Their jagged appearence led me to believe that some nice rock scrambling could be available and I was definitely not going to be disappointed. Having done some research on the internet I decided to hike to the Rabbit Ears Plateau as I thought that the route was pretty straightforward which it was and wasn’t at the same time.
I have to admit this was not the easiest hike I have ever attempted. The hike itself is not overly long but pretty steep. It all started easily enough. A friend dropped me off at the trail head which is on the Baylor Canyon Drive, 3.9 miles south of the US70 just past a cattle grid. From here I started hiking up a dirt road (on the left of the Baylor Canyon Drive) that leads to an old mining hut, the surroundings of which are littered with old mine shafts and rusty equipment. Generally I would recommend hiking this part rather than driving up to the minning hut since the dirt track can be pretty punishing for your car. A good SUV is required in order for you not to loose your exhaust. Once past the mining hut I continued along this track which then petered out and left me standing in the middle of nowhere or more precisely in the middle of cacti and bushes with lots of sharp needles. As I could see the entrance of the canyon, aptly called the “Big Windy Canyon”, that leads up to the Rabbit Ear Plateau, I carefully wound my way through the catci and bushes and eventually emerged on the trail, or in this case a pretty dry riverbed. I quickly checked my legs and apart from a few cuts I had escaped pretty unharmed. Thank god I had been wearing long hiking trousers.
Once I had found that riverbed hiking and scrambling up the canyon was pretty straightforward and very fun. I followed the riverbed or gully until it split into two and then followed the right fork which led me to the saddle between the South Rabbit Ear and the Rabbit Ears Plateau and then onwards to the South Rabbit Ear or was it the Plateau At this stage I was a bit confused about the exact geography. Once up there I had a bit of a rest before heading down again. I had some more fun scrambling down over all the boulders and the rocks again until I reached the start of the canyon where for the life of me I could not find the trail that led to the Baylor Canyon Drive. Hence I got stuck in the cacti and sharp-thorn-bushes again which led to a few more scratches and cuts but eventually I emerged on the Canyon Baylor Canyion Drive from where my friend picked me up again.
Unfortunately, it was only after the excitement of scrambling and hiking had worn off that I realised that some of bushes had needles that where so thin and sharp that they went right through my trousers and got stuck in my legs and so when I got back to my hotel I started to pull them out with pincers. But I had a great day and it had been worse all the effort.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Having recovered from the hike to the Rabbit Ear Plateau, I visited the Guadalupe Mountains National Park a week later with two friends of mine in order to hike up the McKittrick Canyon. Compared to the previous hike this was a walk in the park. A gravel path, shade, no steep gradients and first and foremost no walking through cacti fields. Starting at the McKittrick Contact Station, we walked the McKittrick Canyon trail, taking short side trips in order to visit Pratt Lodge, the Grotto and the Hunter Line Shack. When we got to the Notch we decided to turn back as it was getting late and we wanted to get out of the park before the entrance gate to the US highway 62/180 was locked. Getting to the Notch is definitely worth it as it affords nice views of the McKittrick canyon