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Ortega/Dry Canyon Traverse, NM

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Rated  Favorite Wish List NM > Southeast
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 2.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,589 feet
Elevation Gain 300 feet
Accumulated Gain 550 feet
Avg Time One Way 1.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 4.33
Interest Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Post the 1st photoset!
Author imike
author avatar Guides 253
Routes 0
Photos 6,930
Trips 2,467 map ( 21,513 miles )
Age 69 Male Gender
Location Cloudcroft, NM
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Nov, Feb, Oct → Any
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  5:52am - 5:59pm
0 Alternative
Nice to Have If Needed...
by imike

Often hiking down in Dry Canyon I have wished for a shortcut over the ridge to the west, going directly up to Horse Ridge and Ortega Peak. I have cut off trail a number of times, not always with great results. Yet... there is a track; you just have to know how to find it. From the Dry Canyon side it is not easy.

The best approach is to hike this route first from the west side of the ridge, top to bottom. The track begins just west of Ortega Peak where it connects with T119, the "A" trail. It is clear and obvious, a two wheel rut, ATV cut and maintained, illegally.

The track cuts up and down across a number of drainages, winding its way north around the western face of Ortega Peak, then along below Horse Ridge. It finally drops down into Lost Trail Drainage (south) before it turns and begins a steep climb to the north to access the ridge that will carry it east to the low saddle and over into the Dry Canyon drainage.

Note: Lost Trail begins at the bottom of that hill climb to the ridge. It is not a clear trail (... it is Lost!) but trust that it will be there and instead of climbing the hill, follow the ridge west around the drainage to your left if Lost Trail is your goal.

Once across the saddle, the track drops steeply, winding down a ridge edge. The rocky path has been traversed by ATVs, so it is clear, though too well worn. Eventually, looking down hill, a more pronounced road will appear on a meadowed hill below. That is your destination. Oddly, the tracks are nearly all gone by the time you reach this obviously still used lower roadway. No problem coming down hill, but if you were coming up the road, it would not be clear at all that this is where you need to head off and up.

From the bottom, Basically, you could simply move up the drainage to the left of the roadway, moving out of it to your right and you would run into the old track up where it is clearly defined.

Finishing your move downhill, you follow the roadway a short distance, intersecting the very clearly established Dry Canyon Trail (T5573). You can turn down canyon and follow it to its trailhead off of Highway 82, or turn to your right, up canyon, and follow it to its intersection with T119, "A" trail... carrying you around to Hershberger Peak and Ortega Peak before it drops back down to Alamogordo.

The Traverse is not a hike in unto itself... at best it is an option for connecting loops. I like knowing it is there; it can prove handy. If you are going to be hiking much in the canyons around and out of Dry Canyon, it makes sense to put in the time to become familiar with this connecting traverse.

The stated trailhead is for the "A" trail... the logical option for anyone interested in putting this traverse into use... but the elevation gains relate only to the trail itself. If you are hiking from Dry Canyon you will have substantially greater AEG.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2010-10-27 imike

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Ortega/Dry Canyon Traverse
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    I need to finish writing the trail descriptions for sections of this hike... then the linking could be completed! Bit muggy out... but a breeze did come up. I thought I would stay out longer but I did not pack enough fluids.

    Nice severe hop step down a ledge to land on the side of my foot... immediate and acute sharp pain, but a few limp around steps and I was right back to striding. So odd that a kayaking injury over 25 years ago leaves me with un-sprainable ankles!

    Just before the attack on my ankle, Spanish Dagger to my arm... and soon after: prickly pear jammed into my foot! Yet, mood was high... great day out. On a scale of 1 to 7,,, I'd give it a ten.

    I intend shorter, easier days.. but I also intend to not miss days and yesterday was distracted... delayed,,, then denied.

    Fun stuff,,,
    Ortega/Dry Canyon Traverse
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    Muggy... just not nice heavy humidity!

    I drove to the trailhead early, then decided to move over to something a bit easier and hopefully more interesting. I headed out n light rain wearing a parka, but immediately had to strip that off... just too oppressive in the dead air. Fortunately, the rain passed. Unfortunately, the dead air held on.

    I walked up to the Indian Wells, then decided to head up Lost Trail Canyon North, with the intent of checking out the North Spur. It had been years since I'd drifted up this cut. I'd never hiked the Spur.

    Very good choice; it was all good. The rock sculpturing was exceptional. The terminal dryfall included a nice staircase of rock to skirt the blockage on the right. The upper canyon held good, eventually giving way to the ridge that directly accessed the upper portion of Mineral Springs Trail.

    Later in the day I paid closer attention to the mountain biker's single track route below the Springs. I discovered a number of new sections; effectively, it provides an alternative to the sucky jeep road that is the official trail. Great find!

    So... I did not score the needed 8,000' AEg to stay on track for the month. I did manage to not just turn around and go home in response to the depressing weather. I scored some great hours out and about.

    Sun finally came out... light breeze teased the edges of comfort now and then.

    I be happy. :)
    Ortega/Dry Canyon Traverse
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    Not sure where my brain was on the day... needed toe socks and shoe liners for this mileage; had neither. Very tender/sore feet by end of day. Very long day. Carried the weight augmented pack to ortega peak... then shed half the weight (25#) for the upper portion. Looped around and back up to the peak later in the hike, and added the 25# weight vest back into the adventure. I was beat up by the end of the day. Monday augmented hikes are only supposed to be 3-4,000' hikes with 10-12 miles. thinking I needed to play catchup on AEG motivated me to keep heading up the hill.

    Legs beat up and cramping in the evening... a bit worn out today. I'm not doing the planned remodel work but instead resting up for the planned Wednesday hike which is to be long mileage and bigger AEG. I still can't seem to bridge the 12,000' day mark. I'm effectively out of shape save for some strength and endurance aspects. No speed... no fluidity of movement.

    took a fall on Sunday... shelf I was standing on descending a small falls broke away. Major pain for such a minor injury. Felt torso wracked during this hike... still stiff today.

    Falling is just a part of off trail... need to get that across to the Meetup hikers.

    So... July begins!
    Ortega/Dry Canyon Traverse
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    Early start was lessened by too little sleep... I'd planned to log longer hours but I couldn't reach the cached water on Ortega Peak, so I headed back down early. Ran into Jim just above the trailhead; he was just headed out at noon, up into the heat I was happy to be getting out of.

    More sleep... more fluids... longer hours: all goals for JUne?
    Ortega/Dry Canyon Traverse
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    The Wednesday double turned into a triple!

    Shared the peak hike with Terri and Brenda... then we looped back out (Terri and Bill) to enjoy the Marble Canyon...Quarry Canyon route to the top of the Marble Bluffs. From there, up to the old Gold Mine on the "A" Trail where we split up... I headed up to re-stage my trail tools and log some trail work hours... they headed down hill to close out their day earlier. Great weather! Nice routes. Trail getting better; nearly have it up to the "A" trail Bluffs.
    Ortega/Dry Canyon Traverse
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    Saturday Training loop
    Drove over an hour early for this posted hike... and Brenda showed up right after I arrived! We enjoyed an interesting loop, including the mud and snow over in Dry Canyon. Ortega Peak nice... weather great... nice interlude with a small herd of elk on the north side of Hershberger Peak (Brenda thought she heard water running... I stopped and noted it was Elk passing below us through the snow... and sure enough, they soon emerged, rounding into the ridge/canyon at the top of Marble Canyon North.

    We stopped at the Fissure for awhile (likely longer down time than I noted) then took an end of day break at the old Gold Mine.

    These progressive Saturday training hits are about to step up into all day affairs with starts in the dark... oh, well!
    Ortega/Dry Canyon Traverse
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    Weather was cold and questionable. Everyone cancelled for the Meetup hike, so I deviated from the plan and headed up to check out the cut up in Ortega North that Yubao had begun to explore during a break on a group hike last year. He noted then it was way overgrown…

    …it was… but just at the canyon mouth. Working through the blockade of boulder tumble and plants the canyon instantly opened up to bedrock. It stayed bedrock for a long time. And, for the first tenth of a mile it was staircase bedrock climbing close to 300’! It was pure fun; I had to wonder whether or not I had to give the hike a difficult rating… and I guess it is necessary. A grade of 3,000’ per mile… overgrowth and treacherous rock. Yet, I’m out of shape and was fully enjoying the hike.

    It was more difficult higher up… so, I guess it will get a hard rating.

    Once terminating the canyon I drifted over to Ortega Ridge and hiked on up to the base of Ortega Peak. I took the easy option of the trail down off the mountain. Oddly enough, I fell… first time this year… just walking on the official trail! Hundreds of hours over terrible terrain and I fall on the trail.


    I’m realizing there may be 100 local hikes available… immediately from the edge of town. 20 in the Basin… 15 Marble Canyon… 20+ Alamo Canyon… 10 Ridge hikes…. 20 upper connecting hikes… 15 Associated canyons…? Guess I should make a list. And, I am still discovering new routes… not sure when that will draw to a close. Of course, I could hop in my truck and drive a bit and it expands tremendously. Who Knew!?

    Good that I hiked long on Saturday… woke up Sunday morning to 6” snow and still falling… I’ll hike, but it will be much shorter!

    Monday: Still snowing!
    Ortega/Dry Canyon Traverse
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    Nice group from El Paso and Las Cruces over to get an idea of what the Alamo Canyons are like... Ortega is one of the "minor" canyons, but one I like... nice slow pace, closed out the day just as the sun set...Nice! Added in Ortega Peak to give them a bit extra for the day... and, stopped off at the old gold mine site.

    Nice to finally have hikers from Alamo! One even a HAZ erite... Jim and Tim. MY solo days may be less?

    Jim forcing the completion of the "A" trail up to Ortega Peak... it was going to happen; now it will happen sooner. Peak Baggers... what can you say about them...

    Nice day on the mountain.

    Note: I passed out over a gallon of fluid to the other hikers... and food. These are dry canyons, warm days and long. Extra is better than less more often than not. As easy as the miles and elevation gains suggests, these hikes by their nature demand a bit more.

    All pure good!
    Ortega/Dry Canyon Traverse
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    Exploratory up Lost Trail Canyon, south fork... not what I was hoping for! It was overgrown, and lacked consistent bedrock to enjoy walking on. There was some. It also lacked nice towering sidewalls... lots of dirt sided cuts. But, it needed to be done. It was very nice once back over and coming down the North Fork... even though it was down more in the flats, there was a great blend of rock slab, vista, plant accents and nice falls to scramble around on. Just a couple of canyons left to check out in the Alamo area... but, there are still ridges to hike, and then I'll begin drifting out of town to the south...
    Ortega/Dry Canyon Traverse
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    Continuing with my Alamo area canyon and ridge off trail exploratories, today was one I really expected very little to come of. So many of these narrow out, cliff out, or shrub out, forcing an early exit to an adjoining ridge to get out of the drainage. This one, well it was not like that. It was a delight. While no great towering drama of side cliffs, it did have a constantly changing rock formation to enjoy. There were numerous bedrock ledges nicely angled up, and narrow passages, minor bouldering... and a great 40' slotted stairstep waterfall formation. The first 2.5 miles was just nice. Above that point, the canyone cliffed out, forcing a very shrubby bushwhack, then a 15' vertical climb... very nice chimney crack (no exposure!!) that I thought was going to be a piece of cake until I got to the top edge and noted it had a toll keeper: young agave blocking the lip. Oh, well...

    From there on, the canyon narrowed... lots of bouldering and minor climbs, with lots of rotten rock. Still, it provided a clear path all the way to the top. Can't complain about that.

    From there, I followed the Ortega/Dry Canyon Traverse over into Dry Canyon... first time to follow that path all the way down to the bottom of Dry... and though I've hiked Dry Canyon dozens of times, I could not begin to imagine where this trail intersected. Once over and down I could see why... it starts out as just a non-path off of a jeep track. If you did not know it was there, you'd likely never find its beginning.

    I stopped for a lunch break and was surprised to have my legs cramping up... must have been from the vertical climbs; not used to those yet and probably used way too much energy. Oh, well... after I got going again it cleared up.

    Once over into Dry I figured I might as well do the long loop around the back side of Ortega Peak, hit Hershberger Peak, then return on the old reliable T119. Noted that they had installed new east side trailhead sign for T119... but in a mile from West Side Road??? Odd... probably to allow ATV to have access to that mile portion... but a bit odd to have a big sign out a mile in from the road access!

    It was interesting to spend some time gazing across the drainages. As I slowly hike all the ridges and canyons the area is coming into a different perspective focus for me... with connections and disconnects now included when I look at an area. Years more needed to cover it all, just in this one small area. More and more I am coming to like and appreciate the hiking here. The day hikes in Tucson were nice, but you still have to hop in a car to get to them, and the canyons there do not rival what is here. There must be over 20 ridge and canyon hikes here in Alamo within walking distance of my house.

    If I continue to discover little gems like Ortega Canyon, they'll be nice years.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From the main drag in Alamogordo, White Sands Blvd, take 10th street east to its end at the Fire Station, turn left and pull over to park along the curb at the next culvert drainage. T119, "A" trail begins here. The Traverse intersects this trail about 3 miles up, just before reaching Ortega Peak.
    page created by imike on Oct 27 2010 9:49 pm
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