a short hike (pic intensive)

hike up to a little pass in the Organ Mountains

I’ve been here a few times and always wanted to walk up into the mountains a bit. I saw a trail this time that looked promising – it looked like it went behind a formation about halfway up the Needles / Organ Needle area. Some kind of pass/saddle? There’s no real pass over the actual peaks because they get steep very suddenly (hence the “needles” nomenclature).

The trail is a 4x4 path that branches off the Baylor Canyon Rd, a BLM graded path. I am camped at the juncture of this trail and road. (se below) Here’s a shot on the 4x4 trail looking back at my camp – my van is the leftmost white dot:

Hard to tell from this pic but there is a brutal 3.5’ rise and the road behind it is at my eye level. I think it would take a skilled 4-wheeler and/or articulated vehicle to get up it. It was hard walking up it. I had to pick good lines and made copious use of the walking stick to stay upright:

About halfway to the pass there is an unexpected delight: a Juniper tree by a gate, quite tall for the desert where most shrubs are only a couple feet tall. It was so fragrant I wanted to pull off a bit to make a tea or something. Then I remembered how tough desert life is on fauna/flora and let it be:

Here is the view looking forward at the pass:

and looking backward toward camp. The van in the circled white speck:

The horizontal distance between the pass and camp was 1.75mi and the elevation was +1147’. By the time I got to the pass I was tired and I knew I’d get wobbly soon. Would have preferred to rest a bit but due to my proximity to the mountain, the upper part of the trail was already experiencing “sundown”. I wanted clean light to see, and temps can get chilly out of the sun. The upper part was also very steep, an unkind development for legs that were already tired.

It was steep enough on the way down that the walking stick saved me from three slips and two ankle rolls; more on ankle issues in a future post. About halfway down I noticed my left hand was stiff. I assumed it was from the chill due to the virtual sundown behind the mountain. My right hand wasn’t stiff so I took a closer look. My left was swollen, inflated-looking. I didn’t remember hitting it on anything or getting any bites. The only time I’ve seen my hand swollen like that was from a spider bite in Germany.

I flexed the hand, held it over my head, etc. Didn’t get better but seemed to have stopped getting worse. Weird. When I woke up the next morning it was normal again.

Camp 32.34532,-106.61165 (on google maps) Pass 32.34501, -106.58149 (on google maps)