Ascent of Black Mesa on 2020-06-27

Climber: Michael Walker

Date:Saturday, June 27, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Black Mesa
    Elevation:4973 ft / 1515 m

Ascent Trip Report

For my second high point, out of sheer laziness, I chose Black Mesa - a mere 4,900 feet of altitude a mere five hours away. After a night at the Black Mesa campground, I drove off at about 7:30 AM to locate the trailhead. Discovering that Google Maps didn't exactly work in this area, I was forced to reply on road signage and a paper map of the campground, which indicated the proper exit road. Fortunately, the roads here are few and far between, and I was able to find the trailhead in spite of my poor observation skills.

I found only two other cars in the parking lot, and was pleased that I would have the trail mostly to myself. I met an old timer who had just accomplished one of his life goals (illegally camping atop the mesa) and a bearded young man who cheerfully announced that he had finished his thirty-sixth state highpoint. Aside from these two, I was alone until the return journey.

It was not exactly quiet on the trail, however. The monotonous drone of cicadas backdropped birdsong, and was occassionally pierced by the alarmingly frightened shrieks of cattle. When the elevation finally rose just past Mile 2 (helpfully marked by benches, as all mile markers were) the cow shits and screams vanished. However, the cicadas droned even louder.

I became aware of the morning heat at this point and reflected on how glad I was to have prepared with sunscreen and several bottles of water. I grew up running the trails of the high desert of northern New Mexico, and the landscape and vegetation were extremely familiar. I could have been hiking on the rim of White Rock Canyon if I didn't know any better.

I reached the high point in about 90 minutes. As with many high points, it doesn't exactly rise much above its surroundings. However, the mesa does, and after the requisite photos, I marched about a quarter mile due west for the cliff. The edge of the mesa runs approximately along the New Mexico border. I took in the view of my home state, noting the several high peaks noticable in the near vicinity. I built a cairn about where I judged the border highpoint to be (noted on Peakbagger as being a little northwest of the Oklahoma highpoint obelisk) and trudged back to the trail.

After building a small inukshuk next to the "summit" (a habit I intend to continue) I took off down the trail. Stopping only to photograph a blue tailed lizard and a horned toad, I pitied the groups of hikers only now beginning their ascent in the desert sun. All in all, I spent about 4 hours on the mesa and its trail, and spent the rest of the day killing time waiting for nightfall. Black Mesa State Park, you see, is supposed to be an exceptional dark zone without light pollution, excellent for telescoping and astrophotography. Unfortunately, the stars never came, hidden behind a cloud layer that only came at night. I drove home the next morning, stopping of course to climb a real mountain - Capulin Volcano.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:636 ft / 193 m
    Round-Trip Distance:8.4 mi / 13.5 km
    Route:Black Mesa Trail
    Trailhead:Black Mesa Trailhead  4337 ft / 1321 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
Ascent Part of Trip: Black Mesa

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Black Mesa2020-06-27636 ft / 194 m
2Black Mesa-West Ridge2020-06-270 ft / 0 m
Total Trip Gain: 636 ft / 194 m    Total Trip Loss: 636 ft / 194 m

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