The Great Southwest Trip 2017


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Wednesday, September 20

We had the morning to hike, then were going to drive to Alamogordo, NM to spend the night. We had talked about where to hike, and since Kelly picked McKittrick Canyon yesterday (a great choice!) I wanted to do The Devil's Hall trail, a 4 mile round trip out and back, this morning.

Oh my god, it's dawn. But it was beautiful. We hit the trail around 8 am.
There were deer in the tree near our campsite, although in the half-light the picture didn't come out well.

And we set out. The trailhead was near our campground, and as you can see, there are several trails going the same way...this will become important later...

Cobbler's Pegs. I'm not making any of these names up, you know. Probably a prickly pear. I liked the edge. I think this is some kind of stink beetle. This is what we were hiking up into. Beautiful.

Woolly paperflower.

I loved the layers in these rocks. I didn't know what was coming...!

This is a grass we saw everywhere in the southwest, it's Splitbeard Bluestem (or Silver Bluestem, but I think Splitbeard sounds cooler.)

Tree Cholla

And right about here, there was a steep rocky downhill part, and Kelly decided she was not going any further. So we agreed to meet back in the campground by noon, and she turned back, and I went on.
A flat meadow with the sun on it, in the side of a steep rocky hill...and two shots of Wholeleaf Paintbrush, one mine, one Kelly's.
And she did the right thing, there was an even steeper downhill scramble into the streambed. The trail description said, one mile of trail, then descend into a streambed and follow it for a mile. Now, I've hiked a lot of washes and streambeds, and am pretty confident about doing so...but I was totally surprised by this 'trail'. The first picture shows where they just scrape leaves to each side to leave the trail sort of marked in the middle...the other pictures are the dry falls and piles of boulders that you just have to get over any way you can. Sometimes it's clear where the 'trail' goes, which helps you find the easiest way over...sometimes it's not so clear.
A tree with cool worm tracks in it.

And this was awesome...you have to climb up these tiny stairsteppy rocks, and the trail continues beyond it. There was a girl doing photography stuff who was kind enough to take my picture and hand me my camera afterwards; I left my stick behind and went on.

Yup, this is all still trail.
And...THE DEVIL'S HALL. I know this is the right place because 1) the trail ends in an impassable pile of boulders right afterwards and 2) there was a sign just before it. The first picture is looking into it, the second is looking back through it.
And now it's time to go back! it's easier, both because it's downhill and because I kind of know where I'm going. It's about 10:30 am, the sun is coming over the hills and warming everything up, and I'm pretty happy!

Another Dotted Gayfeather

And even more of them!

And then it all kind of went south...

Firstly, even though there was a clear sign at the place where one left the wash for the trail, I couldn't find it. I ended up trying to go up something that looked like the trail, but it wasn't. As I was going back, Photography Girl came by, said she was going farther down the wash (which I KNEW was wrong) and I started with her, but turned back after a bit. Finally some other people came by and I found my way to the trail.

Then I got to one of the signs (remember, there are four trails overlapping in places) and got on the Guadalupe Mountain trail, and went half a mile steeply up the mountain before I really realized that I was in the wrong place...then I came back and found the right trail, and after that I was fine.

Here are two shots from the Guadalupe Mountain trail...at least I know now that I could totally hike to the top of that mountain, because I did a chunk of it already! the second picture is our campsite from high above.
So I got back to the campsite at 12:10. I had told Kelly that I would be back at noon, so I was full of apologies...except she wasn't there. The campsite was packed up into my truck, all but the stove, but she was gone. I looked around, packed up the stove, ate some lunch and drank water, changed into sandals, waited a bit more...then she came running up, apologizing for being late as well! I told her that I had been late too, and thanked her for doing all the packing. She had been at the visitor's center, and had had a nice couple of hours hiking and looking. Here are two pictures that she took that morning.
We left for Alamogordo, NM, driving through a beautiful valley and mountain range, in the middle of which was a tourist stop/general store/zoo place. The animals all look very healthy and well-cared for, which made me happy. And yes, zebras will bite!!!
The road from there to Alamogordo was steep downhills and beautiful rocks; the sun was bright and we were driving into it, so the pics didn't come out.

When we got to Alamogordo, I knew that there was a campground outside town but not how to get there; we found the visitor's center and got a guy who had only been there two weeks, and barely knew more than we did about the area. We did find out, however, that the campground we were thinking about staying in had a water contamination problem. Nope. We asked about the KOA. Just go back up the street about a mile and turn right, he said, so we did.

As you can see, it's not pretty, but it was a place to camp, and I did laundry so that I wouldn't have to in Santa Fe. And we had a good dinner and a good night's sleep, so what more can you ask?