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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve 2013 Hike

Tooling along the upper foothills trail
Caroline, who's on a cross-country drive from San Francisco to Washington D.C., stopped over yesterday and spent the night before traveling on this morning.  She brought us a gift of a Hedgehog Cactus and a baby Saguaro.  Saguaros are indigenous to the Sonoran Desert, which is a lower, hotter desert than the Chihuahuan.  I have seen a few Saguaros in people's yards in Las Cruces and El Paso, but they're rare.  I'm not sure what to do with our new baby--perhaps nurse it until spring planting.  Ouch!  That's a thorny thought.
On the road that loops around Tortugas

Tortoise Mountain

Hedgehog Cactus and baby Saguaro given to us by Caroline

Monday, December 30, 2013

Me and Becky McGee

Looking forward along the squiggly trail
Becca and I did a moderately-long hike west of Tortugas this morning before running into JC and Shaque, who we then accompanied on, perhaps, two-thirds of the inner loop trail.  I was surprised at the amount of energy I had considering I didn't get much sleep again last night.  It seems I'm coughing myself awake every few minutes--a behavior  not conducive to restful slumber.  It was 23 F when we started off, but because the wind wasn't blowing and the sun was shining brightly conditions didn't feel too raw.
Looking back toward Tortugas

Stopping for an obligatory scent examination

Midway across the Crosscut Trail

Is somebody following us?

The narrow ribbon of the Crosscut Trail through the desert

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Grey to Blue

Remnants of snow on the Organ Mountains
Dr. K, Becca and I did a moderate hike on the eastern outskirts of Tortoise Mountain this morning.  I'm still feeling pretty much like crap after coughing my lungs up through most of the night in a totally nonproductive fashion.  It was a little chilly when we started off--due to the overcast and a stiff wind--but things warmed considerably when the sun made an appearance and the wind died.  Speaking of dead, the "Four Sisters" pictured here (no doubt clones of a single Barrel Cactus) have long been featured in my blog.  Now, unfortunately, they've gone to Barrel Cactus Heaven.
Becca spots something upslope

Blue infiltrating the primarily grey skies

Becca knew about the three women joggers way before we did

Death knell for the Four Sisters

Steep hill ahead

Sun highlights Tortugas Mountain's south face

Leader of the pack is a speck at the near center of this image

Heading back toward Tortoise Mountain

Part of the Rocky Mountains chain:  the Organs

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Back to Tortugas

Descending into the lower desert
It was darned cold when Becca and I headed out this morning (24 F).  Unfortunately, the "cold" Dr. K has been battling the past week-and-a-half has finally been passed along to me.  Yesterday I had no voice.  Today I was able to croak out a "hello" to JC and Shaque when we ran into them on the trail.  I've been taking DayQuil and NyQuil for the past few days, but I don't know if they're doing any good.  I should be taking QuillQuil--after all, I am a writer. 
Despite the early-morning cold somebody is hot-air ballooning

Coming down

Sunny but cold

Friday, December 27, 2013

An Early-Morning White Sands Hike

Dr. K climbing a steep dune
The images here and in the next oldest post were taken during a hike at White Sands National Monument. Instead of doing another sloppy hike in the slushy snow in the mountains around High Rolls, Dr. K, Becca and I packed up and headed back for Las Cruces, stopping along the way to do a moderately-long hike at White Sands.  The place was crawling with people, many of them Japanese tourists who were out photographing one of the natural wonders of the desert Southwest.
Packrat and Becca at a trail marker

Lunch at a ramada shaped to ward off windblown gypsum

Becca and Dr. K

Packrat and Becca

A Hike in the Gypsum

Tourists populate the dunes
White Sands National Monument, located about 20 miles southwest of Alamogordo, New Mexico at an elevation of 4235 feet, is composed primarily of gypsum sand dunes that cover an area of 275 square miles of Chihuahuan Desert.  From the National Park Service's website:  "The gypsum that makes up the white sands starts out as clear, translucent sand grains. As the wind bounces the sand grains along the ground, they collide and scratch each other. The scratches change the way light reflects off the grains, making the sand appear white."
Sledding on plastic saucers is a popular activity

People often fail to scale steep dunes

Footprints in gypsum

You'll definitely get an aerobic workout doing this

Trail markers like this are constantly buried in shifting dunes

Ripples in the gypsum

A woman looks toward 12,003-foot Sierra Blanca (White Mountain) . . .

before moving on

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Snowy Remnants

Commander waits
We changed things up today and did a lengthy stretch of the Bridal Veil Falls Trail.  Last night the temperature dipped down to 18 Fahrenheit, but it had warmed to the low 30s by the time we started off.  We saw no other hikers on the trek, which made for a pleasant long walk.  We'll probably do a short hike tomorrow morning before heading back to Las Cruces and the lower Chihuahuan Desert.  This trip to the high country was difficult in a number of ways, primarily in dealing with the bad weather conditions.
Becca and Dr. K

Packrat and Becca

Coming down an icy decline

Snowy trail that leads to the bridge over Fresnal Creek

The ice is taking its time melting

Ahead of the pack

Really ahead of the pack

Becca just loves romping in the snow

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and a joyous holiday season from Becca, Dr. K and Packrat.

Heat is On Again

Headed down LDR-A arroyo to yucca shade for Wils The desert floor hasn't been cooling off very much during the overnight hours, and the ...