From Dog to McKittrick Canyon

Part 1: 

The Tejas trail to Lost Peak once again

The last time I went up into McKittrick Canyon I got within sight of where the trail crests onto McKittrick Ridge:

But I turned around at that point. Why? Because that northern side of McKittrick Canyon closes at a specific time, and if you are not out by then, there is a hefty fine.

I could not afford to take a chance.  When I was on my way out they actually had several Rangers 'sweeping' people out, hurrying them to the exit.

This was one of my last photos into the canyon, showing where South McKittrick Canyon comes into the main canyon.  South McKittrick Canyon comes in from the right, behind that well-vegetated ridge in the right foreground (another drainage comes into McKittrick Canyon in the far background, Frijole Canyon):

Last time was Fall.  This time it was still Summer.  No color yet.  This is where I stopped this time, at a place on McKittrick Ridge where I could see the course of South McKittrick canyon make a sharp left turn into the main McKittrick Canyon.  

That clean vertical wall in the lower right is where another canyon comes in to contribute its water-load to McKittrick Canyon.  That is Frijole Canyon, and it drains The Bowl.  

So now that I have given away this hike's ending, why would you continue to peruse these pages?

Because you are mature enough to know that it is the journey that is the destination.  Right?

So last time I went up this canyon I was under a time constraint.  To avoid that time crunch this time, I started from Dog Canyon on the north side of the National Park where there is no time limit.

Sweet.

Except that it gets dark. Had it not been for a half moon lighting my way, I might still be there. Coyote food.  Useful (for coyotes), but not smart for a human.

Really not smart, actually, since the helpful Ranger at the start warned me to turn around at a certain point, or I might be coming back in the dark.  

Without having a flashlight, which I did not, that is difficult on this trail and hence dangerous.

I went about 45 minutes beyond that point.  Bad boy.  As a consequence I did the last hour and 15 minutes by half-moon light. It is amazing how dark it is when the moon is behind either a cloud or a tree.

Several places I was confused as to where the trail went. I guessed lucky (I actually surrendered my feet to my intuitive side and poked a lot with my walking stick), hence I got home and you are seeing these pictures.

So, don't so what I did. If there is any chance of your coming back after sunset, bring a light! The mountain-tops beside you may seem light, but in the canyon below it will be dark!

OK.  So we start this trip at the Dog Canyon parking lot and walk up the Tejas Trail.  The Tejas Trail, as far as Lost Peak, is one I have pictured already on this site, so all you will see of that portion of the trail is what was strikingly pretty this time around because it had recently rained and all things seemed amazingly green!

This where the hike begins:

Soon the trail takes us into some 'foothills' and climbs them relentlessly until we arrive at the elevation of the main range:

Some views along the way were too hard to pass up even though I already have a set of pages about this part of the walk, the greenery was much greener this time:

This next view shows a slope with desert vegetation that faces the afternoon sun, and is a good reminder that all of this greenery in the canyon bottom is fed water by runoff from slopes such as that one, and the slope to the right slants away from the afternoon sun, giving it some protection from dessication:

Occasionally there is a hill with vegetation on all sides, and it takes a look around to see it is protected from the late afternoon sun by a higher ridge to its northwest:

Some place along the way are downright verdant:

That distant ridge is, I believe, where we will be in an hour, or two:

As we gain altitude on slopes exposed to sun all day, we see we are leaving the vegetation of the canyons below:

A long time later, we arrive where we turned around the last time we came up this trail.  The peak giving us its shoulder on our right is Lost Peak, and in the valley below we see round pivot-irrigation fields, and in the far distance three volcanoes (one of them has a flat top, they are all "extinct" until they decide otherwise) suggesting that in that western direction we are approaching the Rio Grande rift:

When we turn around from this same spot and look southeast, we see another Bowl-like set of valleys, much of it very well forested!  A very nice view!

Alas, our trail will now take us along the drier ridge to our left.  But wait!  It is not dry on its shaded side, it is very well vegetated.  And we will see it on the next page as we go up to the McKittrick Canyon Trail.

Part 2: Meeting the McKittrick Canyon Trail

Part 3: Passing the first two mountains beside the trail

Part 4: At last, forest and shade on the trail

Part 5: Going down to McKittrick Ridge

Part 6: Returning, with an unplanned sunset

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