Ascent of Inscription Rock on 2017-08-21

Climber: Dan Baxter

Date:Monday, August 21, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Inscription Rock
    Location:USA-New Mexico
    Elevation:7440 ft / 2267 m

Ascent Trip Report

This was my third national monument HP of the day, and by far the most worthy In fact, on my entire three week trip to the area only the caves of Carlsbad equaled it for me. And this trip included Grand canyon, White Sands, Guapalupe NP, many other NM's....... I HIGHLY recommend you visit here. So rich with natural history (only water source for many miles around), geology, human history (prehistoric indiginous, Pueblo Indian, Spanish, Mexican, American cavalry, and a near miss for railroad history (thank God!)
There is a wonderful loop trail that goes right by the HP. The ranger recommended going clockwise, as the tougher steps etc are on the ascent in this direction, and I heeded her advice. The Mesa Top Loop trail starts behind the visitor center. it has many cemented steps, steps carved out of the rock itself, open rock where small etchings are the only guide you have to choose the direction. Parts are bare rock with a line of stones alongside to follow. Other sections are asphalted! Several benches at scenic spots. Truly a delight.
Soon after summiting the mesa the trail passes by an abandoned Zunni pueblo now called Atsinna. It once had over 800 rooms! 12 rooms and a kiva are excavated now.
The bluff has an interesting V shape, acutely angled, with a beautiful deep valley in its center. The HP, as marked by contour lines and as identified on PB, is on the far (N) side near the valley's tip. Fortunately the trail loops around the tip and passes close by this point, then heads west. Frankly I was unsure about this being the true HP and wished I brought my hand level, as it appears to me that a little farther out toward the tip of the Inscription Rock mass is higher. And I think even the two pueblo areas should be site leveled as well.
As the trail heads westerly along the north rim, once past the labeled hp there is a rounded knoll which the trail skirts on the left (S) side. You should go up there because it MAY be the HP, and it also has a smaller second pueblo!. Far more subtle and not excavated, if you look you can see remnants. I knew this only because they are clearly marked on the USGS topo that my "Topo" app on my iPad uses. (yes, I almost always use my iPad and its accurate GPS rather than my garmin these days). They nor the Indian reservation boundary are found on the topo you see on this PB page. The ranger after the hike was surprised I knew of its existence, as they don't actively ackowledge its presence to the public.
The trail then heads downslope on the north side of the massif, and becomes the Inscription trail alond the base of the cliff where hundreds of interesting and historic graffitis were made by Indians, Spaniards, Mexican, US Cavalry, railroad design engineers. (there were other more modern inscriiptions, but one man's petroglyph is another's illegal graffiti, and they have been removed).
Here also is the famous water pool, which was quite smaller than I expected, yet beautiful nonetheless. And even more beautiful to the hoards of birds, rabbits, squirrels I found there. Truly an oasis in the midst of the desert.
I camped that night in the park's campground, a very pleasant CG with good water, clean restrooms, shaded relatively secluded sites. A great respite from my usual dry camping out of the back of my Jeep. And best of all - the campground is free!
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:240 ft / 73 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:240 ft / 73 m
    Trailhead:Visitor center  7200 ft / 2194 m
Descent Statistics

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