Peak(s):  Black Mesa - 4973
Date Posted:  09/14/2016
Modified:  09/15/2016
Date Climbed:   09/13/2016
Author:  huffy13
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 9027 ft shy of a 14er...But, it is a state highpoint!   

I haven't had a chance to get any summits this year due to a hectic family schedule, unexpected expenses and lots of overtime days at work, but Sept. 11-14 was actually pretty clear on my schedule, so I planned on taking my middle daughter on a quick couple of days of hiking. Our original plan was to drive up towards Hermit Pass and do a Rito Alto/Hermit Peak combo and then head to Cordova Pass for an ascent of West Spanish Peak before heading back home. Well, my daughter ended up not being able to break free from a couple of college classes that she had a presentations for, so it was just going to be me...so I altered my plans again and thought I'd head to hike Greenhorn Mountain and then West Spanish on my way out....then, on the evening of the 9th my grandmother got sick and we ended up taking her to the ER early morning on the 10th, nothing major, but I really didn't want to leave on the 11th like I had planned, I wanted to make sure she was on the mend and that the meds she was given were working. So I altered my plans a third time...I decided to leave early on Tuesday, the 13th for a quick hike of Oklahoma's state high point, Black Mesa and then leave from there and head towards Trinidad and camp overnight at Cordova Pass if the weather was decent. The forecast for the Cuchara area had been deteriorating since last week and I really didn't feel like camping in miserable conditions or hike in them, plus I wanted to be able enjoy the views that West Spanish is famous for.

So I left home at about 7:30 am and made the nearly three hour journey to the Black Mesa Nature Preserve, where the trailhead parking is located. The weather had changed drastically from the day before....from mid-90s on Monday to high 50s/low 60s on Tuesday. I watched the radar along the way and it looked like a few spotty showers were near the Black Mesa vicinity, but would die out pretty quickly. I made the trailhead just before 10 o clock, started my hike, signing in at the register at 9:55.

The trail head is easy to get to whether coming in from the north or south, just look for the signage for the Black Mesa Nature Preserve.
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Traffic Jam just before the TH turnoff

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Some guy built this old west facade to be a guest house, not sure whatever happened to him or if his plans will ever pan out

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Trailhead sign

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Cross through on the left hand side of the gate to enter the preserve and start the hike

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Crowded trailhead....


The trail is very easy to follow and is signed very well also...some of my pictures are footnoted with just a hint of sarcasm....
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The beginning of the faint, hard to find trail...lol

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thank goodness for the signs, I can't imagine not having these to keep my on the path.

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epic....lol

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More trail conditions

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Seriously, if you get lost on this trail, you might be an idiot...

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You can see where the trail wraps up that bluff in the center of the pic


One note I found interesting when researching the area and Black Mesa is that the mesas in the area are made up from the lava flows from Capulin Volcano, the national monument about 80 miles to the west of here. Almost all the rock I saw on this hike was the porous and obviously volcanic type rock that you typically think of.
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Volcanic rock, almost all the rock is this type.


The trail is signed about every quarter mile, the signs really aren't necessary, but a few give the distance of the hike remaining, which is nice. You gain roughly 600 ft of elevation throughout the hike...the most of it being over a half mile stretch as you ascend one of the mesa edges on the north side.
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It was actually nice being able to see just how much distance was left.

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The trail begins it's ascent.

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The views opened up as I ascended

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more ascent views

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At each mile mark there was a rest bench, Mile 3 bench had the best views.

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Trail conditions on the ascent

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getting closer

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more rocky conditions

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The flat part of the mesa can be seen as it goes next to the large wooden pole in the middle of the pic


Once you reach the top of the mesa there is still nearly a mile of easy hiking along to the W/SW. The summit is marked by a large granite obelisk that has interesting info and distances on each side.
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There is almost a full mile of hike left once you get to the top of the mesa

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Trail conditions on the table top portion of the mesa

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Not sure why someone felt it necessary to cairn the path...there were several cairns.

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Not sure what kind of alpine willows these were...but they hurt a lot worse than the ones I've bushwhacked through on pa

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Finally I can see the summit marker in the distance.

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I saw a total of five other folks all day

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The west facing side of the obelisk pointed out that just 1299 ft to the west was the New Mexico state line, so I meandered that way and took shots of the sheer rock face and also a pic of Rabbit Ear Mountain, which is by Clayton, NM, almost 50 miles to the SW.
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Rabbit Ears Mountain, towards the SW and Clayton, NM

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Sheer volcanic rock faces on the NM side of the Mesa


The last several pics are from my way out and some of the flowers and plants along the way.
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a few shots of the flora in the area

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The exposure was terrifying! lol

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Looking up at Black Mesa from the NM 456/406 intersection to the south/southwest

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Some buffalo I saw on a ranch not far from home.



And as usual and as I always do with my TRs, a little insight and suggestions:

First off, I am not a fast hiker, but I took just 1 hr and 20 mins on the ascent, spent close to an hour at the summit and the descent took 1 hr 20 minutes also. It's a great, easy hike that I would recommend to almost anyone. There is no camping or fires allowed at the nature preserve however, keep that in mind. The parking area is right off the road and has plenty of room and there is also a vault toilet at the trailhead. The route is well marked and the trail is very well defined throughout. One thing though, TAKE PLENTY OF WATER. There are no water sources anywhere on the tail and this is a desert area...it gets hot here from late Spring until well into Fall, so try to plan this hike during a cool time, not only because of the water issue but also because the venomous snakes (which there are several species of) are more active when it gets warmer. I encounterd no wildlife on the hike besides some bugs, but no mosquitoes or biting flies, just crickets, grasshoppers and beetles. I did see some deer, pronghorn and cows on the drive however. I have been told elk roam the area during the cooler months.

Again, I highly recommend this short, but scenic hike...it's nothing like one of the big mountains in Colorado, but I never knew Oklahoma had such an interesting terrain as this. Plus, there's a lot of old west history associated with the area nd it's easy to see why this part of the state is referred to as "No Man's Land". Just google map the directions to "Black Mesa Nature Preserve", that gives you directions to the parking for the TH....Happy Hiking!!!



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Matt
User
40 Pictures?
09/15/2016 09:01
I saw that on the TR main page and couldn't imagine how you'd pull that off, but you did!
So far, Black Mesa's been my favorite of the unranked state HPs (it's part of a mesa that has its summit in CO).
All OK's 4ers are right there and can be done in a few hours.
Big time stuff!
Thanks for posting.


mathguy
User
A fellow Okie says thanks
09/15/2016 13:49
I live in Norman and have thought about doing Black Mesa from time to time, but
given that it would be a 6 hour plus drive I've had difficulty generating
enough enthusiasm to actually get my butt in gear to do it. Maybe I could
do an over-nighter and stay behind that nice guest house facade that you show
in Pic #2 But you did a great job describing the route in pics and words
and I enjoyed your TR.


huffy13
User
The pictures...
09/15/2016 21:17
Yeah, Matt, I take lots of pics on every hike I go on. Funny thing is, I took almost 100 on the day. That mesa, and the entire area in general, is really a neat place...I loved the views of the ancient volcanoes of the Clayton-Raton volcanic field.



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