Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Black Cross Butte

This is another one of those hikes that I've been meaning to make for quite some time but have decided I had better get it done before I fall apart. I think I searched the web for a route to the top long ago and the only description I found talked about climbing (hands and feet) and hopping along the tops of hoodoos. Well that's just crazy. Then a year or so ago somebody told me about an easy route to the top. He was on his way up there with his whole family, including little kids. Google Earth is high resolution in that area now, and I can even see the trail on there. It isn't an official trail, but it'll do.

We started the hike with a stop at the tall skinny rock. Well, this is a family-friendly blog.

My older sister's husband went with me. They've been in western New Mexico the past few months and have done a lot of hiking out there. I was afraid I would be slowing him down but it didn't work out that way.

I took this picture because of the reflection off the water but then I noticed the rock on the right that looks like it's winking at you.

For some reason, I always think of the first part of this trail as being almost level with a few ups and downs. You climb 400 feet on the first part but probably go up and down 700 feet in the process. I'm always tired after hiking out there and blame it on distance, but I think it's really all the ups and downs.

Looking across to the hill I climbed back on November 17.

About 0.8 mile into the hike, Willie declared that his legs were tired enough. He's used to hiking with Julia, and she gives him many more opportunities to rest than I did. He told me I could go on if I wanted to and he would meet me back at the truck. Well, at first it seemed rude to go off and leave my tired guest alone out in the middle of nowhere. But he sounded sincere, and he's a hunter that has spent many days alone in the wilderness. I knew he wouldn't have any qualms about being left alone and would actually probably enjoy some solitude. I also knew I didn't have to worry about him getting lost or climbing something he couldn't get down from or falling off a cliff. Of all the people I know, he's probably the most capable person to leave alone someplace that he's never been before. So I did.

It's surprising to me that this shows up so well on Google Earth.

The rest of the route to the top was all climbing, but it wasn't difficult even though it was another 400 feet up from where I left Willie. The view was as good from the top as I had suspected it would be.

This was taken from somewhere in the middle of the top. I had to go to the edges for the really good views.

Is this THE black cross of Black Cross Butte? This actually shows up on Google Earth. I didn't notice what looks like the grassy outline of a building foundation until I was home looking at pictures. I may have to go back.

I spent less than half an hour on top. The temperature was below 50 and the wind was blowing 10 to 15 mph. I had to keep moving or I would freeze. Hey, I'm used to 105. 50 is colder than I like. It's hard to keep moving fast enough to stay warm on almost level ground covered with ankle twisting rocks and shin stabbing agave and evil prickly pear. I did bump into a prickly pear up there, but I was able to remove all the thorns without taking off any clothing first.

A lot of the butte looks like this, which is why I thought it would be difficult to get up here.

Here's a picture looking down at where the truck is parked. I'm only about 700 feet above it.

I made several panoramas from the top. They aren't in the web album. I put them on my Panoramio page. All but one are full resolution, so you can zoom in quite a bit.

I had my hiking stick with me on this hike, and was glad I did on the steep down parts of the return hike. I was very tired by the time I got back to the truck (where Willie was waiting patiently). I pulled the GPS out of my backpack and was shocked to see that I had hiked only 3 miles.

This is Teddy Bear cholla. I guess it's called that because it looks so cuddly. When viewed under a microscope, the spines can be seen to be made of backward facing scales, kind of like fish scales. They go into skin easily but are difficult to pull out.

I had started the day on my feet for a couple of hours. I was a little hesitant to go on this hike after that, but the sun was shining. This time of year, it could be gloomy and overcast by the next day, so I went. It was difficult to walk the next day but worth it. Click below for most of the pictures.


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