|Scott Peak & T X Mtn & A Four Mtn & Tadpole, NM|
|Scott Peak & T X Mtn & A Four Mtn & Tadpole, NM|| |
Scott Peak & T X Mtn & A Four Mtn & Tadpole, NM
|Hiking||13.51 Miles|| 9 Hrs 58 Mns ||1.55 mph|
|3,962 ft AEG|| 1 Hour 14 Mns Break|
|Day 2 (NM Peak Bagging Trip, Part 2)
If I had to summarize today’s adventure in a few words, if would be: total brush carnage. And despite: a) the overall views being *mediocre at best, [*compared to the likes of the Chiricahuas, Pinalenos, & Galiuros]; b) absolutely no views from three of the four summits; and c) getting the living crap kicked out of me, I somehow still managed to have a really good time on this adventure.
First up was Scott Peak, which comes into view within the first mile. In looking at a topo map, the very close proximity of this peak to the main trail makes it appear as though it will take all but a few minutes… but it proved to be a total beast. I approached from the East via the trail and was initially planning a short, bushwhack ascent from the E / NE. However, the TONS of deadfall I would’ve had go through – in combination with an initial, very gradual grade – definitely had me concerned in terms of the snake potential. Additionally, [already sunny and very warm without any shade cover], the bees were out and about and there was constant buzzing as they went about their biz. Thus, I decided to hold out and stayed on the trail a little longer as it contoured the peak counterclockwise and headed into a shady area, [figuring that I could then just head up the Northern flank which had a much steeper slope]. While it was comforting to no longer hear buzzing bees after entering the shady side of the mountain, there were many moments were I thought a backtrack was going to be in order, thanks to an extremely thick population of thorny nastiness circling the top part of the peak. I don’t know the name of this stuff but I’ve seen it before, particularly at higher altitudes [~7,000’+] and often in areas that have experienced fire damage. It looks similar to catclaw but the thorns are much longer [about 1/2 to 1”] and they don’t have as much as a curve to them; and, although very ouchy looking, they luckily don’t hurt nearly as much as catclaw, nor do they readily impale you at the slightest touch like many varieties of cacti. Nonetheless, the patch of this stuff circling the top part of Scott Peak was worlds thicker than I’ve ever seen it; and even with my high pain tolerance, there was no way I was attempting to plow though without a full body suit of armor. Thus, I continued to contour in hopes that either the brush would thin out and/or I’d spot an animal route. My patience paid off and it wasn’t long before the brush toward the top appeared to thin slightly and I also spotted an animal route taking off from the main trail and heading up.
The beginning part of the ascent was super steep but quite fun with almost no brush and good-gripping dirt; and when I reached the thick brushy part toward the top, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I anticipated, thanks to the animal routes; [although without the routes it would’ve been total brush carnage, if not a complete ‘brush-out’]. The summit views were very nice and definitely among the best of Day 2’s adventure. There were 2-3 large rocks that looked as though they could be the highpoint, so I hit them all up, examined them briefly for a summit register, and then moved on. While I wasn’t able to find a register [or any survey markers], I didn’t exactly devote much time/effort looking… the summit area was very sunny and in addition to hearing lots of buzzing once again, I could also see lots of bees flying about. For once they were minding their own biz and made no attempt to harass me… nonetheless, I was not about to take any chances, and I made my summit visit very brief.
Returning to the trail from the summit of Scott Peak was not difficult; although thanks to the thick brush, it was a very slow go and seemed to take forever, [as did much of the next several off-trail segments, which included: pretty much the entire stretch from when I set foot off-trail to bag UN 8336 and almost the entire way down from UN 8336 to the saddle area just North of the peak that LoJ lists as the *summit of T X Mountain (listofjohn (pay $ite)/pea ... 2908). *Both Cal & FS Topo erroneously list this peak as 6020. While I hadn’t picked up on the error prior to my trip, I did find it rather odd that what appeared to be the highpoint based on the topos alone, [i.e. the peak labeled as 7964], is located just 1/3 of a mile South from the one labeled as 6020 AND separated by only a handful of extremely gradually spaced contours… and after making the relatively gradual descent of about 2/3rds of a mile from UN 8336 to the saddle between UN 8336 & what the topos label as UN 6020, I knew something was definitely off. It didn’t even feel like I’d 1,000’ let alone 2,000+’.
Just North of the saddle area, the brush finally let up and rather instantly went from one extreme to the other [i.e. I went from needing safety goggles, gloves, and having to stand still for several seconds to snap branches out of my way to suddenly having several feet of room between me and the surrounding brush]. Both the true highpoint [8020’] as well as what appears to be the highpoint if looking at the topos [7964’] were very similar in that: a) the highest point of each is not at all obvious; b) there are absolutely no views to be had thanks to the thick tree cover in this area; and c) I was unable to find a register or any survey markers. The only difference was that, [unlike the 8020’ peak], the 7964’ peak was horrifically brushy around the highpoint area. Thankfully, after heading East off this peak for my descent into Wilson Creek, the brush rather instantly let up, and the beginning part of my descent was very smooth sailing. Things got a little brushy mid-way down, [but nothing too terrible relative to other portions of this adventure], and then the brush let up again as I dropped into a side branch of Wilson Creek. My very short stretch in the creek area was exceptionally pleasant: almost no brush, tons of shade, soft pine-covered footing, and beautiful surroundings. Although very short-lived, it was worth the effort.
The next leg of the journey was the ascent from the floor of Wilson Creek to A Four Mountain. In the beginning, it was very smooth sailing; but, [surprise, surprise!], it didn’t take long before things got brushy. That said, relative to the brush I encountered during other segments of this adventure, what I would normally describe as some pretty thick brush along this stretch proved mild by comparison. Nonetheless, it definitely slowed my pace, and the constant zigzagging in this area and along most of the off-trail segments of this adventure added considerable distance when all was said and done. Wanting to log as many miles as my body could handle, this was totally fine by me.
The closer I got to A Four Mountain, the thicker the brush became. Ironically however, after getting about 1/4 mile from the summit, [and about to resort to crawling on all fours], I suddenly stumbled upon a full out trail / quad trail. It’s not shown on the topos and definitely did not appear to be an official trail/road; but to call this a “route” would definitely be an understatement, as it was wider than most foot trails [but not quite as wide as your standard jeep road]. Given just how incredibly thick the vegetation is in this area, [and the fact that it was thinned out in several areas surrounding this little road], I’m guessing that the road’s purpose was for the crew that comes in ands thins out brushy areas like this for fire control purposes.
A Four Mountain did not have any views from the many areas in question that looked to be fair-game in terms of the highpoint, [nor could I find a register or survey markers]; but unlike T X Mountain, this summit had a very nice viewpoint in one direction. For my descent, I followed the trail/quad-like road to the E/NE. After the many brush battles I’d endured, it was an exceptionally pleasant treat…
…however, little did I know, it would also prove to be the calm before the storm. After leading me off A Four Mountain, [then over UN 7827, and then down to the saddle area to the NE of UN 7827], the road either terminates or heads in a different direction than where I planned to go next, [which was up the ridge to UN 8609, on Tadpole Ridge]. Talk about “saving the best for last”… the 1 mile stretch spanning from shortly after the saddle area to shortly before UN 8609 was pure brush carnage at its finest. In addition to the previously mentioned tactics, [of safety goggles, gloves, and standing still in several areas to snap branches in order just to move forward], reaching Tadpole Ridge required me to step up my game: head-butting brush, hurling my entire body weight into patches of non-thorny brush, and crawling on all fours were frequently required for much of the ascent.
At one point I noticed a section of large boulders and headed straight for them. Two consecutive Class 3 up-climbs were required, and for both I needed to toss my hiking poles & pack on the boulders above me in order to pull off the maneuvers. Although extremely short-lived, the fun climbs were a very nice break from the sea of brushy madness… speaking of which, my one-mile split for the insanely brushy ascent was 1 hr. 15 minutes… enough said!
Upon reaching Tadpole Ridge, the highpoint [8614’] proved to be a super easy stretch of about 1/4 mile. With almost no brush, such a gradual up-slope that it felt flat, a nice shade cover, and footing of dirt & soft-covered pine needles, reaching my final summit of the day could not have been any easier or more pleasant. Though as with the previous couple of summits: the highpoint was not at all obvious, there were absolutely no views to be had from the highpoint areas in question, and I was unable to find a register / any survey markers. Nonetheless, with plenty of fallen trees to sit on, a very nice shade cover, AND no bees to harass me, I had a very enjoyable summit rest.
The Tadpole Ridge trail is literally a hop, skip, & a jump from the Tadpole Ridge Highpoint, and my return proved to be an exceptionally pleasant cruise on excellent trail. I normally do not elaborate when it comes to the trail segments of my trips, but this trail is definitely deserving of an extra shout out: not only is the footing excellent for most of the way [dirt and/or a super cushiony blend of dirt + soft-covered pine needles], the Forest Service has done an excellent job of maintaining this trail. While there were a few downed trees to maneuver over/around, 4-5 downed trees over the course of 3.5 miles is nothing given the time of year; and unlike many trails that go through brushy areas, I didn’t encounter any overgrown spots while on the trail. Junctions were all clearly marked, and with a ‘route-finding factor’ that I’d describe as a ‘definite 1’ / ‘as easy as it gets’, the stretch that I traversed is truly an autopilot type of trail. To top it all off, there are some excellent views, and the trail does not dick around with any annoying switchbacks. Instead, it makes good use of the topography and contours around & up to the ridge; and the parts along the ridge alternate between contouring and riding the top of the ridge. The parts that counter not only allow for some really awesome views, but the ups & downs along the way almost feel like a foot-rollercoaster and are total blast. This is a very well-designed trail, and I don’t often give kudos to trails!
|LET’S GO BRANDON! |