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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Adventures Close to Home: Cactus Hill

Adventure? Sarah is ready!

Sheltering in place in a ghost town allows for a great deal of fresh air and exercise. “We’re so lucky to live where we live!” my friend, neighbor, and hiking partner Therese says often of our lives here in Dos Cabezas. She was saying it before the coronavirus came along and says it now in heartfelt tones. I agree wholeheartedly! We are indeed lucky to be able to get outdoors to explore the mountains with our dogs!

Comforting neighbors
Therese and I also agree (and the Artist does, as well) that having cows for neighbors is very comforting. Calm bovine demeanor is contagious in the very best way. Cattle are not oblivious to our presence — and their alert looks hold a certain wariness when they see our dogs — but our little high desert pack is under control, and we pass by without the slightest molestation of livestock taking place. Not a single teasing bark! Good dogs!

See the little one?

Once again we followed the old mine road back, back where it becomes hidden from view from our cabin, making it difficult to explain to the Artist where we've been. Here (below) I’ll make the picture clearer by borrowing a photograph from our last adventure. That day we looked from our hillside ramble across the mine road to what would be our destination today, the place my friend calls Cactus Hill. In the following cropped image, I have zeroed in on the rocky hilltop.

Remember this view?

Our destination today
Here is the pack again, too: Mollie, Sarah, Buddy. The fourth dark object is not an additional dog but the jacket I removed and left down by the road as not needed for our sunny climb.

Being right up close, within touching distance, of rocky outcrops so like the highest peaks is exciting!

And I loved the raking morning light across the opposite slope, the one we’d explored earlier in the week.

Cactus Hill holds far more and larger prickly pear plants than we have down in the ghost town itself, and the higher we climbed, the thicker together the prickly pear, and the more challenging to duck around or squeeze between cacti.

Mollie was intrepid! She was like a mountain goat!

Sarah kept up pretty well, though, for a girl so old I’d almost left her home, knowing we would be climbing Cactus Hill. Then, no — I just couldn’t leave her behind, when she knew I was going out with the pack! And what a wise old girl she is: she was better than usual about drinking water when I offered it to her, and a couple of times she took advantage of large rocks to rest in the shade for a few minutes. 

Ferns! Astonishing!
For me, the hardest part was not climbing the slope or getting down on the ground to photograph plants but standing up again. No matter. It was worth it. I certainly had not expected to find ferns up there among the prickly pear, ocotillo, sotol, and agave. And then to see ferns and cactus right next to each other — that was even more astonishing! 

Ferns & cactus

Here is the view, looking down to the east, with the road continuing toward the old mine site.

Therese took my picture as we started down. The breeze was picking up by then and felt delicious.

Therese and dogs paused in their descent so I could catch up. I kind of hated to “return to earth” so soon but looked back long enough to take this shot illustrating where we had been. See those rocks on the right? Yes!!!

We were up there on the right!

Sarah and I were pretty tired by the time we said good-by to our friends and covered the last quarter-mile to our own winter home. Somehow, though, I have no feeling of “anticlimax” in the wake of one of these mountain adventures. Happy, satisfied, ready for an early lunch — but still open enough to the small and beautiful sights along the way, such as this one, lone, lovely little Mexican poppy blooming right in the middle of the road. What a lovely morning! Something cheery to write in my journal!


Linda Roth said...

I am exhausted! I was right behind you every step of the way. How lucky you are to have the wide open spaces to explore.

P. J. Grath said...

Don't I know it -- how lucky I am! Thanks for coming along, Linda. I enjoyed your company!

Dorothy Laage said...

There are so many mini cacti on Cactus Hill. Hope you get to see some blooms.