Ascent of Black Mesa on 1999-03-14

Climber: Scott Surgent

Date:Sunday, March 14, 1999
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Black Mesa
    Elevation:4973 ft / 1515 m

Ascent Trip Report

During my Spring Break from teaching, I decided to drive back to Black Mesa and hike it again under nicer conditions. I also intended to drive all the way to northern Louisiana and properly hike its highpoint, which I had failed to do on my first visit in 1997. I may be the only person to ever drive from Phoenix to Louisiana via the Oklahoma panhandle, but hey, back in 1999, gas was cheap.

I left home the day before and made the long drive to Tucumcari, New Mexico, where I stayed the night in a hotel. The next morning started cold but with bright blue skies. A few days ago, the whole Plains had been hit by a big snowstorm. I was hoping that by waiting a few days, the snow would have melted back to reasonable levels, which it did. I saw none of it in Tucumcari, and only patches of it as I drove north through Clayton into Oklahoma.

The drive was very interesting. North of Clayton, there was a lot of ground-fog in the area, so visibility was often just a mile or two. In the mist I would see these big rocky pillars and formations, these being odd remnant plugs from the long-ago volcanism of the area. In time, I had driven into Oklahoma to the parking area, arriving about 10 a.m. local time. The ground was covered in about two inches of fast-melting snow. While the trails were muddy, the whole area was very lovely.

I followed the same route as I did in 1996. In about an hour and ten minutes, I had arrived to the obelisk, meeting with a couple that had driven from Flagstaff. We chatted with one another. They were heading east, so after a few minutes, they started back down, while I stayed behind to eat an apple and enjoy the scenery. Before they left, they shot a photograph of me.

Shortly, I began my hike down. I caught up with them about half way, and we hiked together back to the cars. The warming temperatures had melted quite a bit of the snow that was on the ground barely two hours earlier. Total, it took me just under three hours for the whole hike, including over a half hour at the top. This was one of the most satisfying highpoints I have done, since the weather and scenery was so fantastic. It more than made up for my soaking experience my first time up in 1996.

After a brief stop back in Kenton to sign their visitor's log, I headed east toward Boise City. The route quickly climbs out of the valley floor and attains the flatness of the Southern Plains. This is just scrubby flat cattle country, so flat and featureless that even I have trouble keeping a bearing without referring to a map. However, looking toward the west one can see Black Mesa jut above the groundline, with its dark color suggesting its name.

Back on the road, I whizzed through Boise City and started down into Texas toward Amarillo and Lubbock. Once in Lubbock, I had to address my next plan of action: drive a ton more miles into Louisiana for its highpoint, which I missed out on in 1997, or just go back home to Arizona. Although I wanted to re-do the Louisiana highpoint properly, it was still over 600 miles away and I had trouble justifying all that driving for such a measly highpoint. On the other hand, I figured that it would be even more preposterous, and more expensive, to buy a plane ticket, rent a car and visit the Louisiana highpoint that way. So I went for it. I managed to drive another couple of hundred miles before taking a hotel in Eastland, about two hours west of Dallas. Total mileage on this day: 647.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:675 ft / 205 m
    Distance:8.5 mi / 13.7 km
    Trailhead:4298 ft / 1310 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail

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