North McKittrick Canyon

PAGE ONE of THREE

Orientation

No, I am NOT obsessed with Devils Den Canyon, this time I just walked past it, see?

Of course once past it, there was no harm going to the southwestern edge of its wall and looking straight down into the bottom of that canyon:

But today's objective was really to walk past that canyon into the next one to the south: the start of North McKittrick Canyon as indicated by the thick blue line (don't be confused by the map labeling, Wilderness Ridge is directly above North McKittrick Canyon):

And the blue fuzzy line is pretty much what we walked, right past Devils Den Canyon.  But here are two mysteries:  one is the disappearing trail, Trail 201 no longer exists once you start into North McKittrick Canyon, it is no longer a maintained trail and disappears except for an occasional rock cairn.  The other mystery is a second canyon called Devils Den Canyon.  I went to go see both the Forest Service and the National Park Service (they both have offices in Roswell) and was told the former Trail 201 at this point is discouraged and purposely not maintained because of the fragile nature of North McKittrick Canyon, in fact the second Devils Den Canyon is so fragile it is completely off limits.  BUT, the Park Service person told me that discouraged does not mean prohibited, and yes, I can walk from Pratt Cabin in McKittrick Canyon in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park to the Forest Service part of North McKittrick Canyon.  So, when it gets cooler we will do just that.  There is no longer a trail, floods have seen to that, and there is some bouldering involved, but nothing technical, the Ranger said.  Sturdy trekking poles are strongly recommended.  Will do.  Oh and by the way you have to register your car to stay overnight in the restricted hours of the McKittrick Canyon parking lot, to keep it from being tagged for a big fine (impounded).  Will do.

This much-older topo map shows elevations a bit more clearly and suggests our walk into North McKittrick drops us about 600 feet below our high point on the trail, but here is another mystery: the newer map above suggests a trail that isn't there, yet the older map says the trail stops pretty much where it disappears today on that ridge we were just on, near where we looked down into Devils Den Canyon:

On my next foray into North McKittrick Canyon, this time starting from below, I annotated a map-segment photographed from the Microsoft map feature to once again show where we got to today, and to hint at where we may go next time: just a little farther into the canyon proper:

Now that we know exactly where we are, let's look down toward North McKittrick Canyon from the ridgeline about 600 feet above it where the trail makes a tight turn on the map:

North McKittrick Canyon lies directly below, we are on one wall of the canyon, and the smaller green ridge below is the other wall of the canyon.  

We start walking down, without benefit of a trail but helped a little by a few standing rock cairns that do help indicate where the little ridges are navigable (I don't do cliffs well):

About halfway down the slope we get a good look at the start of McKittrick Canyon's northern arm below us:

We are making downward progress as indicated by looking back up to Wilderness Ridge where the trail essentially ended:

Another welcome sight, a rock cairn indicating a general direction to follow, with a very nice view of the meadow below us that is our destination (and a shadow indicating the growth of some welcome clouds--it is a rather hot July day):

Next thing we know, we are on that meadow looking back to what we have just descended:

As we near the bottom of the canyon, we look back and see where we just came from (some welcome shade from a few clouds, it was a hot day in mid-July).

We will walk through the bottom of North McKittrick Canyon on the next page.

Go to Second North McKittrick Canyon Page

Go to Third North McKittrick Canyon Page

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