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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thanks to El Niño

A little down before heading up
Even though the temperature was higher according to the thermometer this morning the ambient temperature felt colder because of a heavy cloud cover and stiff wind.  Nevertheless, Becca and I did a long hike from the west side of Tortugas two-thirds of the way around the mountain.  We did this because I wanted to get some photos of the west face of the Organ Mountains, which is still covered in snow.  There were a few other hearty nature lovers out there, too, including our pal, Jimmy, who we talked to for a short while before heading separate ways.
Unlike yesterday's similar photo, today there is no sun

Along the high foothills trail

Franklin Mountains, El Paso, Texas

Gap between Organ Mountains (left) and the Franklins

Snow remnants on the desert floor

Tortugas and the snowy Organs

"Mars face" in the middle of the photo

Torrey Yuccas

Rugged west face of the Organs

Bishop Cap

South section of the Organs

Snow emphasizes how craggy the Organs are

Taking days to melt off

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Getting Sloppy

Looking this way . . .
It's inevitable:  heavy snowfall followed by bright sunshine = muddy conditions.  That was the case this morning as Becca and I dodged pockets of mud along the trail.  Well, to be accurate, I dodged pockets of mud while Becca stepped right into them; she's not too picky about where she places her paws during a hike.  We saw only a few other trekkers while we were out there; not too surprising considering how cold it was.  Our low temperatures have dipped below 20F a few times this week.
. . . and that

Muddy single-track trail

Snow melt on the road around the mountain

The snowy Potrillo Mountains

Remnants of snow in the mountains and on the desert floor

Snow-free Soaptree Yucca

Starting to get back to normal

Snow or no snow, a very happy hiker

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Springing Back to Life

Becca, Yucca and snow
Becca and I started off this morning in a surprising snow flurry; "surprising" because none of the meteorologists mentioned the possibility of more snow.  It didn't last long, though.  There were still foggy spots around Tortugas Mountain, but the sun made a periodic appearance.  Yesterday afternoon the sun shone brightly for a few hours melting snow and ice.  Sunshine today allowed some plants to spring back into their original shapes.  I saw a supple branch of our Mexican Palo Verde whip from from under snow cover and lash skyward like a narrow catapult arm during launch.
The long view

Slipping across the high foothills

On the road again (around the mountain)

Snowy desert floor


More patches of blue

Almost ready to head back up to the mountain

Snow has melted off some Soaptree Yuccas

Fog around the Organs

Bishop Cap

Skeletal Ocotillos

Organ Mountains (background) still bear a lot of snow

Snowy trail to the foothills

Looking back at the way we came

Prickly Pear Cactus pads reappearing from snow cover

Monday, December 28, 2015

Snow and Fog

Low visibility west of Tortugas Mountain this morning
For a moment this morning it looked as if the sun was going to break through the thick fog, but by the time Becca and I set out for Tortugas Mountain the fog had thickened.  It was pretty dense for our entire hike.  We ran into our pal Jimmy on the way in and stood talking with him for about fifteen minutes before heading our separate ways.  I wanted to see if I could get a few photos of the snow-covered Organ Mountains, so Becca and I headed out east for a few miles and were pleasantly surprised to find the sun shining brightly between the Organs and Tortugas Mountain.
Ocotillo skeletons against a foggy background

Yucca with snow

Beckster leading the way

There's a sun in that yucca crotch

Prickly Pear Cactus under snow

This way?

Barrel Cactus partially buried in the white stuff

The boundary of the national monument

Organ Mountains under a blanket of snow

A fairly rare phenomenon:  heavy snow in the Chihuahuan Desert

Tortugas Mountain with a skirt of dense fog

Becca waits in the Jeep while I take photos

Craggy, snow-covered peaks

Grand View--Not

Early morning moon A man and woman were just starting down the Bridal Veil Falls Trail when we rolled into the Grand View Trail parking lot....