Page 88 - Walks In The Black Range, Vol. 4
P. 88

  The route shown on the map at the end of this article is roughly 3.6 miles each way. I say roughly because the battery of my trail plotter became exhausted at the black dot on the right side of the map. At that point, it had registered 3.2 miles. We continued from the point where it ceased to record to the saddle of the ridge we had climbed to view the country to the east. This part of the walk was the most strenuous, a walk up a steep ranch road. After reaching the saddle, Rebecca explored more upslope. We then turned northeast and headed down slope to the old Butterfield Stage corral site where we had a late lunch (“14” on the maps). This part of the route is shown by the red arrows. After lunch we made our return trip via the route shown by the blue-green arrow, this northern route skirts the ridge we had just crossed and is basically flat.
The view from the top of the ridge impressed me greatly. The valley south of Lake Valley spreads out both north and south of where we were. These are the Nutt Grasslands, the northern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert in our area. I was also impressed with how difficult it was to pick out the ruins of Fort Cummings, even though I knew where they would be - I might not have found them except for the fact that the roof of the spring house at Cooke’s Spring was more-or-less visible.
We plotted the trail on February 7 and it proved to be a good time for a hike. There is little shade along the route, except for the occasional juniper. During the heat of the summer there are more flowers in bloom, more reptiles to be seen, and in general more to see from a natural history perspective - but there will be a price if you go at this time of year.
On our walk during February several things became more clear to me. I had long considered the pass to be simply a question of getting from one water source to the next. To fully understand how important this consideration was to the peoples of the southwest prior to the modern age please read Wood Plenty, Grass Good, Water None by Harley Shaw. But I had never considered how easy this pass is. Although there are a lot of cobbles on the road and you can easily twist an ankle that may be the least of your worries (unless you travel it in summer).

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