Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cabezon Peak

State road 550 takes you in a northwesterly direction from Bernalillo to the Cabezon Peak area. About 45 miles up 550 from Bernalillo the volcanic monolith can be seen sticking above the Rio Puerco Valley to the west.

A gravel and then dirt road heads seemingly towards nowhere and Cabezón. The road goes through the village of San Luis that is nothing more than a scattering of a few houses, half of them looking abandoned, or should be. The Rio Puerco valley is one of the most eroded river basins in the west, but it is a desert after all. Gravity works and so does erosion. The resulting landscape appears simultaneously desolate and enormous and inviting.

Take the left turn off the BLM dirt road to a rough parking area and trail head. There's a stretch of rutted dirt road that will rattle your dental fillings.

Looking across the Rio Puerco valley reveals its volcanic history. Splendid isolation awaits anyone willing to take the time and the view from the base of Cabezon peak. One of my fascinations with this area is the sun baked geology laid bare in all its layers.

The climb to the lower level of the base was easy to moderate as hiking goes. I did not attempt a climb to the top. It looks to be technical climbing rock faces above 100-200 feet. Not what I came prepared for in my day.

I did climb up the talus slope that you can just make out cradled between the branches of the deceased cypress or juniper above.

With camera swinging from my wrist, rocks the size of large bowling balls slipping beneath my feet, on ward and up ward I went.

But what a reward for my effort!

From above and behind me I saw this saddle in the rock formations. Looking accessible and ever more enticing, I climbed on. Had to find out what was on the other side. Curiosity killed the cat....

Ah-hhh, and satisfaction brought him back.

And again...

The descent was hard on the knees. Gravity works and some care was needed to avoid ending face-down on rough basalt rocks. However, I arrived back at the car safe and in one piece.

Instead of heading directly back the way I had driven in, I decided to take the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) road that loops around Cabezón, assuming it would deliver me back to the main highway at some point.

Cabezón Peak is a basalt monolith very like Devil's Tower in Wyoming, home of the UFO encounter in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I did not have such an encounter, but I did have a Close Encounter of the Cow Kind...

Same cow, different view. There are horses also roaming around freely.

Volcanic past and erosion make for some fine photography...

This final photo is of the crumbling rock strata on the east side of the peak. It's easy to imagine that these formations hold some secret hide-away or other cultural evidence of ancient peoples passing here, like the Anasazi. They too may have been mightily impressed with the starkness of the Cabezon Peak area.

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