40 • APRIL 2017
HIGH PLACES • GABRIELE TEICH
Juniper Saddle Hike On foot to the colder places
n a sunny but very cold January morning seven of us set out to go twothirds up to the Organ needles. Juniper Saddle is the last flat spot before it gets seriously steep and even the toughest hikers slow down. It’s a beautiful sunny spot with immense views to three sides. Yours truly has been up to the needles a couple of times and always enjoyed the break and rest there. But on this day we were aware there might still be snow and ice on the trail, placing a big question mark on our final destination. Undeterred we headed out, either way it would be a wonderful day out in nature. Starting at the lower parking lot of the Dripping Springs area (by La Cueva) we made our way around the La Cueva Rocks on the north side and then turned left into the Modoc Mine trail. Instead of taking the trail into Fillmore Canyon to the waterfall we passed the mine and headed up the talus to the left. The trail is marked by cairns but you need to pay close attention because they are not always very visible and the trail itself is a narrow gauge through prickly pear, cat claw, and yucca, as well as boulders of all sizes. You will see the waterfall from above
which, according to Ron, our trusty guide, was about 20-feet wide. That was over 20 years ago, now there’s only a narrow splash left. The trail meanders toward a rock outcropping, aptly named Yellow Rocks, staying on the north side of Fillmore Canyon. Yellow Rocks is the other great picnic spot along the trail apart from the final destination. If you are taking your little kids they’ve probably had enough of hiking by now. But the Yellow Rocks are a great place to clamber around — not too steep and rough enough to give your shoes good traction. And later back in town they can look up to the mountains and will be able to spot the Yellow Rocks. The trail gets first very steep after that break but then flattens out again. We headed toward the Grey Eminence, the big dark grey mountain straight up ahead. Various trails lead up there, just make sure you end up at the entrance on the lower left corner of Grey Eminence because the trail will be on the north side of it. North, as in “never gets sun” and “coldest side of the mountain” or in our case “still has snow from two weeks ago.”
So, unfortunately, we turned around there. Some of us didn’t even wear hiking boots and none of us brought cleats. We hadn’t planned for ice climbing. And that was fine. Overall we spent seven hours hiking that day. We took it slow, we took detours and we took time to chat and get to know each other. That’s how it should be. Unless you are of the “get from A to B in record time” mindset. Then please do that, but remind me not to go with you. The mountains are gorgeous, get out there and enjoy them. But stay safe — even if that means not reaching your goal. Happy trails! There is a $5 parking fee per vehicle required. You can pay at the Ranger Station or place the money in the yellow envelope at the entrance to the parking lot. Of German origin, Gabriele Teich has called Las Cruces her home for the last 19 years — and loved every minute of it, hiking the mountains in the immediate surrounding and all over this beautiful state.
The view back to town from the bottom of Grey Eminence. (Photos by Gabrielle Teich)
Snow on the trail persuaded a hiking party of seven, including Gabriele Teich, to turn around early.
Even the rivulets are frozen during the January hike to the Organ needles.