|Jacks & Burro & Ferguson & Indian & Red, NM|
|Jacks & Burro & Ferguson & Indian & Red, NM|| |
Jacks & Burro & Ferguson & Indian & Red, NM
|Hiking||19.08 Miles|| 9 Hrs 49 Mns ||2.03 mph|
|3,847 ft AEG|| 26 Mns Break|
||no linked trail guides|
|Day 5 (NM Peak Bagging Trip)
After freezing my ass off the previous two nights, [car-camping at just over 6,500’ on Day 3 and just over 7,000’ on Day 4], I decided to head for lower ground. I spent my last night near a TH for the Continental Divide Trail [CDT], located just West of White Signal, and right off the North side of Hwy 90. One of the peaks I was planning to do on my final day, [which takes off from this area], is popular with true peak baggers because it has over 2,000’ of prominence. As such, I was able to get a bit more information than usual about this area… let’s just say the folks on the peak bagger site were not kidding: there are TONS of spots to car-camp here! The very short dirt road leading from Hwy 90 to the TH is all but 1/4 to 1/3 of a mile; but there are tons of pullouts / room on the side to car-camp along this short stretch… and once you reach the TH area, there is a huge meadow/field, [and no signs saying that it cannot be used for car-camping]. With fire rings abound, it’s clear I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed that sweet spot… and to top off the experience, I had the entire meadow area to myself, [I did pass 2-3 huge campers on my way in, but the many trees in the area completely blocked them from sight.
The next morning I set off for my final hike of the trip. At the very least, my plan was to grab: Jacks Peak, Burro Peak, and Ferguson Peak, all of which are in very close proximity to one another. Then, [provided there was enough daylight AND my mileage hadn’t already hit double digits by the time I summited Ferguson], I’d drawn up a sweet, true-loop style return, incorporating two additional ‘molehill’ types of summits [Indian Hill & Red Hill], along with a windmill. I estimated the whole thing to be around 15-17 miles, but there was definitely some variability… make no mistake about it: the ability to draw routes on HAZ is a true Godsend, but any time there are lots of ups & downs [as is often the case with ridgelines], or zigzagging [think: drainages/washes!], the mileage can be quite off. Thus, for a long hike like the one I was planning, I just didn’t know how the mileage would play out until I got into it.
The adventure was filled with surprises and unexpected challenges, but luckily I prevailed, got back safely, and was able to enjoy not having to worry about facing mid-hike decisions like: do I proceed with the direct route back, [which proves to have borderline Class 5 climbs & further unknowns…] OR is it time to execute ‘operation backtrack’ [involving mega mileage & reaching my vehicle well after dark]. Frustratingly, while I thoroughly enjoyed the stress-free, autopilot nature of this adventure, I had a miserable time for a good chunk of the way. This had absolutely nothing to do with the hike / area (which was totally awesome! ) but rather it was the results of extreme lethargy / fatigue I was battling… [let’s just say, the March trip I failed to take was coming back to bite me…, all at once; right here, right now on this adventure].
The fatigue was so horrendous that I half wondered if it was time for a 2-4 week break; and there was one surefire way to determine if this was needed: battle through the workout / hike at hand and one of two things was bound to happen toward the end: the horrible fatigue would persist or worsen [= definite sign that time off might be needed]; OR I’d be exploding with energy the last several miles [= definite sign that I need to keep pushing toward my health/fitness goal no matter how bad my body rebels]. All I can say is, [despite having maxed out on a day’s worth of energy pills by 10:45 AM… and STILL feeling like I was going to pass out from shear exhaustion by noon], I was ‘off to the races’ for my final several miles of this adventure. Amazingly, aside from some mild muscle fatigue toward the end, (which was completely normal given that I’d surpassed the 19 mile mark :cool☺, I honestly felt that I had at least another 10-12 miles in me… enough said!
As for the hike: the trail starts off up a jeep road [FR 828] in the beginning but soon splits shortly before the Hop Williams Mine, with FR 828 heading NE and the CDT heading NW. Feeling exceptionally crummy, I was worried I’d end up heading the wrong way at the junction, [but I didn’t feel like constantly spot checking the topo]; thus, I decided to head off-trail up a ridge to the NW and utilize one of MANY cattle routes. There were a handful of brushy spots, [given that I was in shorts], but overall, the off-trail was super smooth sailing. Before reconnecting with CDT, I even stumbled upon some old mining roads that are not even shown on the topos, and they were in quite good condition, relatively speaking [i.e. WORLDS better than other “roads” I’ve “hiked” that are still shown on the topos…].
I reconnected with the CDT just NW of the Hop Williams Mine, and from that point it was about 2.90 miles of excellent trail to reach the turn for the short jeep road that would take me to Jacks Peak. The area for the turn to Jacks Peak proved to be a definite surprise, containing several foundations of old structures, one of which still had a hearth & chimney. The views from Jacks Peak were absolutely awesome and some of the best views of the entire adventure. There are many towers up there [both cell & radio], and given the lightening fast cell reception I had in this area, I wasn’t at all surprised to see that one of them is a Verizon tower. I was unable to find a register but in the area of the highpoint, there is a golden colored survey marker atop a small foundation; and, [among other things], it said “FIRE CONTROL”… so I’m guessing Jacks Peak once had a fire lookout.
After Jacks Peak, I continued on toward Burro Peak. The trail is very obvious right up until it starts to ascend, at which point there is a splits… I opted for what looked like the more direct route up [which was left], but based on the amount of brush I encountered, [and the fact that I reconnected with what was clearly the official trail partway up], I obviously ended up on a route. For the rest of my ascent, I alternated between trail and simply heading straight up. The highpoint wasn’t entirely obvious, so I hit up all points in question. Since this peak is a big attraction for true peak baggers, I’m guessing there is a register somewhere up there; but I was not able to find it, and given the many summit cairns / potential places, I didn’t want to take too much time looking. I did find one survey maker though. The few views to be had are very nice, but the trees block the views in nearly all directions. For me, the main summit attraction was the dark, moving blur that I spotted from my peripheral vision; which, upon closer examination, proved to be a huge javelina about 20 feet away that was moseying on by.
Next up was Ferguson Peak. While there were absolutely no views from the summit area thanks to the tree cover, the fun factor of this peak made it totally worthwhile; [and there were a handful of very beautiful views en route]. Coming off Burro Peak, [in the direction of Ferguson], there is barbed wire fence, and to the right of it is an extremely well-defined route, making what would’ve otherwise been a super steep / somewhat brushy descent on loose footing very smooth. The route continues all the way to the summit of Ferguson Peak. There actually appeared to be a few routes in places, and I saw several cairns along the way; but, [by the time you begin ascending], it’s pretty hard to get lost as long as you keep heading up. There were a few brushy spots mid-way up but nothing terrible.
The descent off Ferguson was absolutely awesome! I had a route in the very beginning, but it ended up heading a different way than I was headed, so most of the way down was using animal routes… (and specifically deer if I had to make a guess based on the type of dung ). The slope was very steep, but with my trekking poles, soft dirt footing, and the deer routes, it proved to be a total blast [versus the dicey type of descent where I’m really struggling thanks to my weakness at negotiating loose footing]. There were some large boulder outcroppings, but all were very easy to circumvent.
After completing my descent, I ended up on a trail, then a jeep road, and I then performed a very short bushwhack of under 0.10 miles over super easy terrain to reconnect with the CDT, which I’d planned to stay on for another mile or so. However, [despite full intent to pick up & stay on the CDT in this area], I inadvertently crossed over the CDT and headed down some sort of route [cairns present]. The route was well enough blazed that I did not immediately realize I was off trail… however, after it started to thin out AND make very poor use of the topography, I simply bushwhacked in the direction I needed to go. Luckily, with excellent footing, minimal brush, and a superb shade cover from the tall pine trees, it ended up being a very pleasant bushwhack.
I eventually reconnected with some trails & jeep roads, which I utilized for a little over a mile before heading off-trail to visit Indian Hill. The hardest part about reaching this “summit” was the fact that, [with almost no prominence], I constantly had to look at the topo to ensure I was going in the correct direction... it was a very rare instance where “up” was definitely not obvious. The summit was not particularly impressive. Thanks to a tree cover in most directions, there were not many views, [although the few views that were to be had were quite nice]. I couldn’t find a register or survey marker, [and based on how few registers / survey markers I found on this trip, I wasn’t very surprised given what a small “summit” this is]. Sadly though, the tons of broken glass & empty beer bottles I saw suggest that this summit is / was used as a local partying ground.
After Indian Hill, I reconnected with trail & jeep road and headed the short ways to the Walnut Creek Windmill… unless I missed it, this windmill is no more! There was a modern looking solar panel where the windmill should have been, along with some wooden, panel-type corrals/fencing.
The next part of the adventure was really awesome: the jeep road I was on, [which supposedly ended where the windmill should have been, at least according to the topo], continued; and right in the super brushy area where I needed to turn to hop on the ridgeline that would lead me to Red Hill [AND loop back in the direction of my vehicle], there was a full out cattle trail. The cattle had done a superb job of blazing a trail through what otherwise would have been some nasty brush; and the footing was excellent and not too rocky, allowing me to make great time. To top things off, once I started to gain some elevation, the views were absolutely awesome.
Elevation- & prominence-wise, Red Hill is totally insignificant, [but unlike Indian Hill which I could not even point to from a distance], the pretty, orange-red colored slopes of Red Hill jump out. Needless to say, the name of this little Hill is quite fitting.
After Red Hill, I was expecting an autopilot [and perhaps dull] finish on jeep roads, but I got anything but. The scenery between Red Hill and my vehicle was some of the best of the entire adventure, making the final 3.5+ miles fun and enjoyable. And, [surprise, surprise!], I somehow managed to ‘botch’ what should have been a super easy jeep road finish, ending up off-trail in 3 different places [and for three very different reasons]. The first was simply missing a turn. I’d felt like crap for a good portion of my adventure, but duration & distance finally overrode the fatigue and I was making MUCH better timing than anticipated. In fact, when I decided it was time for a spot check to ensure I wouldn’t miss the said turn, I had already blown by it by 0.15 miles; thus, in order to get back on track, I opted for the shorter distance [i.e. bushwhacking the hypotenuse] in lieu of staying on jeep road for two sides.
No sooner did I get back on track when I began to hear some disturbing animal sounds… initially it sounded like the meow of a cat, [and was so faint that I thought I imagined it]… but as I continued down the jeep road, the sounds got louder and more frequent. Wondering if a mountain lion was capable of such sounds, I situated my gun to a more accessible pocket in my pack. A couple minutes later as I got closer to the source, I relaxed as I recognized the sound as a noise that cattle sometimes make… but the relief was short-lived as the trail round a bend and then cut through a large open field where the cattle were: the moment they came into view, the one that had been making the noise leaped into the air and threw a buck that could rival the massive bucks my old competition horse use to throw when the weather would suddenly get cold. I paused at the entrance to the field and watched as the one cow that had bucked was now alternating between throwing more bucks and staring me down, [as the rest of the herd simply watched me, almost daring me to continue]. For obvious reasons, continuing along the road, [which would have put me within about 10-15 feet of the cattle], would not have been a wise option; thus, a little bit of bushwhacking was in order as I hugged the perimeter of the field to circumvent the rowdy cows.
Lastly, I decided to cut off some distance toward the end by bushwhacking a more direct path [South of UN 6459 & North of 6469]. Things started off exceptionally well: there was a full out cattle trail, the footing was excellent, and in addition to beautiful views, there were also some really pretty washes/drainages, making it a lot more fun than the dirt road… Unfortunately, just before reaching the jeep road [FR 4090N] that I’d planned to connect with at the end of my little ‘bushwhack’, it became obvious that the shortcut was going to take me directly through someone’s backyard/home. Rather than backtrack, I simply headed South, [since by this point, I was less than 0.20 miles from Hwy 90]. Although I had not climbed over/under/through any barbed wire fences, when I came out by Hwy 90, I had somehow ended up on the inside of the peoples’ property. Had I known the shortcut would lead to all this, I definitely wouldn’t have bothered. Luckily, their driveway gate was super easy to scale. After reaching Hwy 90, it was a short 1/2 mile walk to reach my vehicle. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered so many surprises on a mostly trail hike.
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