Last November we discovered a short 2-mile trail on the east side of the Manzano Mountains that started at a National Forest campground and steeply climbed up to the Crest Trail. The day we hiked it we were not prepared for how cold and windy it was on the crest. When we reached the trail intersection we could see that by going just a bit further to the north along the Crest Trail we could make it to Osha Peak. But since neither one of us was willing to brave the elements we beat a hasty retreat back down to a spot out of the wind where we could eat lunch. Today we went back and this time we bagged the peak.
Starting at 7800 feet elevation, it’s just 2.5 miles to reach 9200 feet at the top of Osha Peak. There are enough switchbacks to moderate the steepness. Like many portions of the Manzano Mountains, there are a lot of fire-scarred slopes that intrude on the beauty of the forest but it’s still awe-inspiring to be able to see for miles in every direction once you get to the top. On a Saturday, hiking on one of the better known trails around Albuquerque this time of year, it’s likely there would have been lots of other hikers. We didn’t see any other hikers today and very little evidence that any hikers had used this trail recently. A comment written in the trail log on Osha Peak said it well “one of New Mexico’s best kept secrets.” Shame on me for advertising it.
Eureka Mesa, that is. After almost a month of waiting for an opportune time to once again hike the section of the CDT that begins at Eureka Mesa Road east of Cuba, NM, we finally got up there for a hike yesterday. We weren’t sure what we would encounter, but guessed that the major outflow of irrigation water released from the reservoir that had stopped us last time was probably minimal by this time. We could hear the rush of water in the trees next to the road as we walked up the road to the trail marker. A short distance up the trail, where the major flow crossed the trail, we had to search a bit upstream to find a crossing point, but we were able to manage it. After that, we couldn’t say enough good things about what a well maintained section of trail this is.
Once through the woods at the base of the mesa, the 3.5 mile section of the trail that we hiked up ascended from 7400 foot elevation to 8800 feet. It was not a difficult climb because there were so many switchbacks. There were nice views of Cabezon Peak to the south and Cuba to the west. We could see that much work had gone into this trail recently to cut back overhanging branches and shore up rough, eroded areas. Even the CDT trail markers were shiny and new, something we don’t often see on the sections of CDT we have hiked in New Mexico.
Lee was happy to add to find some wildflowers to study and photograph, while I managed to find a couple of clumps that were bright enough to show up when photographed with my cell phone camera.
I even managed to get a picture of a horny toad. They used to be much more common and it’s a good day when you get to see one on the trail. They don’t dash off quickly like lizards and seem to give you a friendly look in spite of their rough outer appearance.
Unlike this sad sack of an abandoned pet found by a pile of household trash someone had dumped in the woods.
We can congratulate ourselves that we accomplished this goal but, as enjoyable as our day hike was, it puts us to shame when we encounter the through hikers who are doing the whole length of the trail. We had almost finished our hike before we saw anyone else on the trail, but then we came upon a solo hiker resting under a tree who told us he was on Day 27 of his hike to do the whole trail. Then just as we reached our car we saw a group of three through hikers coming up the road from Cuba. They shared with us this website that documents their travels. As they continued up the road and got to that place on the trail with the irrigation water crossing I’m sure, unlike us, they wouldn’t even have given it a second thought. Check out their website for the April 21, 2021, entry describing over 20 stream crossings in one day, sometimes in water that was to upper thighs!