Friday, December 30, 2011
Modoc Mine/ Needles route - Short and Sweet
My brother in law has been in town for the Holiday's with his family. Typically he is the bum I call up when I'm itching to get out for a few bag nights in the Gila Wilderness or the Pecos. Unfortunately for him he's stuck in Missouri which is pretty piss poor country if you're into backpacking, so needless to say he's been hungry for some miles on dry and crusty desert trail. Originally we were going to do an overnight but the wives weren't having that with all the family festivities in store for every waking hour, so we turned our overnight into a day hike up in the Organ Mountains to our east. I had to hold down the fort at home with the kiddos while my wife recovered from some nagging illness in the morning so didn't get the jump on the trail with the guys. They shot me a text letting me know that they were heading out from the trailhead. I finally made it to the Modoc Mine trailhead over an hour later but planned on running the approach route before the saddle and figured I could catch up with them in short order. Packed 60oz. of water in my Ultimate Direction Wasp, Petzl Tikka xp2, Houdini, arm sleeves, some gels and a Lara Bar and got after it. Warmed up quickly and was glad I only wore short sleeves and my thinner soft shell pants. The climbing was difficult but incredibly enjoyable with the snow lacing much of the trail, plus I hadn't been getting in much running miles the last two weeks. I spotted them heading up to the first saddle a good 800ft. or so above me and I kick stepped up the crusty snow, which made traversing the craggy slope quite easy in comparison to normal dry conditions when cactus and rock dominate footing. I lost them at some point but was familiar with the route having done the full "Needles" climb two years ago. I converged with them about 1 hour after I left the trailhead and we enjoyed a long sit in the sun about 500' below the second saddle. After a Larabar and some water I threw on my gaiters and windshell and started up the shaded portion of the approach that hugs a long north facing rock face, snow was deep and the footing was spotty in a few sections. Temperatures were only in the low 30's along this short section and the guys weren't up for climbing up to the saddle considering the route was completely blown over and iced and we weren't intending to do anything technical on this occasion. Really they were just looking for an excuse to get to the brewery quicker. I turned around and ran back down the Modoc Mine trail and scrambled on some erratic boulders in the sun to warm up a bit near the trailhead while I waited for the guys. It was a tremendous pleasure to see the face of my brother in law as he soaked in the beauty of a southern NM afternoon in December. I don't typically do day hikes, usually opt for long trail runs to get in my miles and condition the body, but taking things a bit slower on this day was enjoyable, stopping to relish in the warmth of the sun on a cool December afternoon with my bro in law is pretty hard to beat.