|Hiking||9.00 Miles|| 7 Hrs ||1.80 mph|
|2,100 ft AEG|| 2 Hrs Break|
|If I were new to the area… and wanted to get a general sense of the lay of the land, I might want to do today’s hike…
The Mesa Perimeter Loop…
The hiking immediately available in the Alamogordo area orients along the two sides of a north/south axis oriented from the “A” Trail as that center dividing line. The south aspect mostly includes the Marble Canyon and Alamo Canyon drainages.
Dividing those two areas: The Mesa.
By hiking the perimeter of The Mesa you gain overviews of most of the canyons and ridges of those two areas.
Parking at Desert Foothills Park makes for a good start. Walking the paved walkway from the entrance you are heading directly towards The Mesa formation, towering 1500’ overhead. Crossing the pedestrian bridge over the flood drain you find yourself lined up with the logical ascent: Goat Springs Trail (t118). On this day my later start gifted me with a glowing sunrise as my hike began. Gimped knee working… I began my climb.
An odd feature struck me as I made my way up towards the towering cliffs of the canyon Dryfall: footprints! I’m not used to seeing prints marring the trails; I’m usually the first hiker out and on the trail. Since I’d run into Jim back at my truck, I suspected that I would be running into Norm before the day was done… sure enough, I met him at the Spring. He was out early catching sunrise shots. If you want to see the best of the areas photos, track down Norm Arnold photos… where I do a point and shoot, he hikes with a chest load of gear. The quality shows.
From the lower levels of the trail I can look across and note the various options for ascending Goat Springs Canyon, the best of which would be the hidden slot cut at the base of the towering Dryfall; well worth the effort. Also, the south cut of the canyon offers an interesting alternative to get above the Springs; not for everyone.
Cabrito Canyon, Quiet Canyon, Dome Rock and Dome Rock Canyon, Prominent Point… all stand out to the south.
Passing the Spring, the trail angles around the north side of The Mesa, views north ever increasing as you angle ever higher. The “A” Trail ridge blocks off views of the Basin, but the cuts along it’s south side slide into view: Sotol Canyon, 1000’ Canyon, Quarry Canyon and the Marble Bluffs.
Not long before you turn and ascend through the cliff walls of The Mesa; the loop finally begins.
There are a variety of approaches to loop this tilted plateau. It is split by a narrow ridge, east to west. You could do a shorter loop hiking close in to the base of that interior ridge. On all sides of the ridge there are meadows flowing out to the cliff edges. You could range across the mid ranges of the meadows. That would add mileage and carry you to the outer cliffs every now and then.
Or, you can hike the top of the cliffs. That was my hike today.
If you like the rush of heights, you can walk the rock tops. I prefer to have a buffer from that sense of heights; I tend to enjoy the sheep trails 5-8’ in from the edges with stops including drifting out to gaze over the edge. It does not take long to reach the western prominence and start the long curve around that city view portion of The Mesa. Aways into that traverse I detour to check out the old pit camp site. Reputed to have been a well/spring, it is easy to spot: head for the only tree!
The next exceptional feature: The Gap, your first opportunity to exit The Mesa. It would allow you to drop down into upper Quiet Canyon… very rough off trail.
The top of Quiet Canyon suggests a second opportunity; it is not.
Views west begin to give glimpses over into Rockachucky Wash. That is the better option for a backdoor descent. You can hike down to the back side of Prominent Point and loop around to catch a real trail on down to the Pipeline Road. The beginning of that descent is on around past the upper Rockachucky drainage off the Cliffs. You trek down a natural rock staircase leading out to the PockRock Ridge.
The Southwest aspect of The Mesa has some augments: descending ridges. PockRock Ridge flows down on the north side of Pock Rock canyon. Alamo Ridge flows down off the south side of Pock Rock Canyon.
Today I paused at the top of the north spur of Pock Rock and enjoyed a break in my fast: vine ripe freestone peach from Ross’s orchard. I thought about the hikes up the canyon; exceptional bit of Class II scrambling. A number of hikers have enjoyed some version of that ascent over the last few years of group Meetup hikes; that might be the most popular of all out group outings?
Hiking around to Alamo Ridge I’ve had glimpses of Pock Rock South, Pock Rock Cliffs (including the cleft cut), and the overly exceptional Pock Rock Canyon proper. At the Ridge I reflect on the features it holds: Alamo Bluffs, Ross’s Cut, The Cave, Cave Canyon and Alamo Point. All great hikes in their own rights. Look hard enough and you might even find the rear entry to the Cave.
Now, on the southern cliff edges, I pause and start to take in the features coming into view in the Alamo Canyon drainage.
Rock Springs Canyon with its hidden ascent up to The Lady. Long Ridge with the Steamboat formation. Deadman’s Canyons. The Roundup Grounds Trail stands out…
…and, a possible descent/ascent potential opens up below me. One of the canyons rising from Alamo Canyon up to The Mesa allows access through the cliffs… is there a blocking dryfall hidden below? Gotta go check that out! Alamo Gap Canyon?
Walking the edges of the cliff I wind around into the next canyon area; it clearly will not allow access off and through the cliff… no way. It still may provide an up/down exceptional hike. I have all these Alamo Canyon north side drainages scheduled for exploration this fall.
Views now are exceptional : Arch Canyon, The Roundup Grounds, Roundup Cliffs Trail… the upper sections of Deadman’s Canyons… and to the east of the Roundup area: Roundup Canyon, Purgatory Canyon, Purgatory Cliffs, Purgatory Ridge, Purgatory Peak…
…and Pyramid Peak on the Aquaduct Ridge… dividing Alamo Canyon from Caballero Canyon. Pipe Springs Canyon hiding just out of sight.
The variety of available trails… canyons… ridges, hiking this Mesa Loop gives a fair glimpse into the potentials.
Variety of weather, too. I take a brief break to pull out the umbrella. Muggy has shifted to light rain. Another peach and I continue looping, angling back to the north towards the “Pass”… a narrow bridge that will allow me to cross The Mesa Ridge and begin hiking along the north side cliffs. As I walk over I get just hints of the last set of canyons along this southeast side: Picnic Canyons. Those hold some of the more dramatic, easy to access dryfalls in their lower sections. Their upper sections may well provide the most demanding ascents to Hershberger Peak.
For the easiest climb to that peak, simply head up the Mesa Ridge. You’ll gain a bit of un-needed elevation as you cross Mesa Peak (higher point on the ridge) but generally you’ll enjoy a steady and not too steep hike to our highest local peak.
Crossing the Pass, I work my way through the shrubs and angle over to the cliff edges for exceptional views of the Marble Canyon drainage. I stand immediately above the Marble South Canyon; considered the best of the best for Alamogordo canyon hikes.
Just to the north is a sister canyon, Marble South, North Spur. Both cuts terminate in impressive Amphitheatre formations. Dividing the canyons: Amphi Ridge.
It is hard to keep the North Spur in view… it tends to blend in with the surrounding ridge features, but you can orient by sighting in on the Escalator and Staircase features: steep bed rock slides that both descend into the North Spur. They come in handy to access Hershberger Ridge South, traversing over into Marble Middle South (Surprise Canyon).
The route along and down these north side cliffs is a bit overgrown today. Some years there is nearly a clear trail. Now it is broken and obscured. I like the aspect of the terrain wherein four or five varieties of stickly plants are trying to attack in concert. Keeps the tourist traffic down.
Breaking out to the cliff edges I gain a better view of the North Spur with its huge blocking dryfall and steep bedrock slide angling above. Ross and I were just there a few days ago. Nice.
Hershberger Ridge North is also in view with the Marble Canyon North shadowed across it. In the distance: Ortega Peak.
Working my way down I remember I packed a great sautéed onion/red pepper egg sandwich. I scrunch in under a shaggy barked juniper and enjoy an umbrella protected lunch. The rain has been intermittent midday, providing overall a nice bit of mid summer air conditioning. If the breeze would remain consistent it would be ideal; it does not.
Walking on down to the Goat Spring trail terminus I catch views of Grotto Canyon, Spur Canyon, Ridge Canyon, Slab Canyon, Cactus Cliff’s Cut, Slide Canyon and the Ortega Cut… all spur canyons off of the Marble Canyon North drainage.
I also get a great perspective view of the Cactus Cliffs. The provide a great traversing connection to the canyons and a route up to Ortega Peak. They may also have the best selection of fossils in the area.
I also spot a canyon I’ve never noticed before, ascending the Amphi Ridge just past the entry to the North Spur… guess that will go into next week’s exploratory schedule?
There is also one of the cuts climbing to the Cactus Cliffs I’ve yet to do, and from here I can’t figure out which it is; I’m not sure which is really the Cactus Cliffs Cut… ???
Angling down the Goat I see the Narrows at the mouth of Marble South, with its ridge trail giving access to the lower range of the ridge south of Surprise Canyon.
The Marble Middle North Canyon is hiding behind the hoodoos below the mouth of Surprise Canyon. It is worth a visit, at least to check out the first ½ mile.
Slow pace day… seven hours out, lot of down time. 200 pictures catching all these vantage points. As I pass the slot entry into Goat Springs Canyon I nearly take that more adventurous side trip, but the umbrella is back out now because the sun was crisping my neck… time to finish the day off. Lots of reflection… observing… and as always, discovering. Going on five years hiking this area immediately adjacent to Alamo and I am yet to find all the fun stuff.
I could see using this dialogue as an introduction for new hikers to the area… walk the loop… look… put things into perspective. And, if the loop tended to tax you… if you felt the effort, it is time to get over to the “A” and start logging some training hikes to Ortega Peak. Most of the hikes you were looking at today would be twice if not thrice the effort of this easy loop.
Prepare and enjoy!
...Now, where's that second sandwich...
|Ageless Mind... Timeless Body... No Way! Use It and Lose It. Just the way it is...|