Monday, December 29, 1997

First light at 6 AM. Light the stove then go back to sleep for a time. This will be a hedonist trip with breakfast in bed. A water bottle freezes quickly when removed from the pack. Must be pretty cold, colder than I thought!

Sunrise is spectacular as was sunset. Lights from Las Cruces, El Paso/Juarez, Columbus/Palomas gradually disappear. To the south is the white cauldron below filled with cholla cacti. Wind is present when sitting up but not when laying down. The 1-2 ft high vegetation causes a stagnant layer of air in the planetary boundary layer. Sun rises at 7:03 AM just to the right of El Paso. Sun is a big ball of fire.

Head down South side over basalt outcrops then directly up to high point on Sinkhole rim. Reach the top of Sinkhole at 9 AM.

What a perfect crater. I thought it could get no better than the last one (Peak 5546) but was wrong. Clearly must stop and brew up some tea here. Its now sunny, calm, and relatively warm. The contrast between day and night temperatures is always great in the high desert. Melt snow for tea on top of peak. Beautiful, sunny, warm day! I've always wondered what Mormon tea (Ephedra) is like and try chewing on a twig. Instantly the mouth numbs and soon my nose stops running. The stimulants are in this stuff are strong.

After sinkhole its time to check out Jay's tank. The West Potrillos are BLM managed and grazed in many locations. The government and ranchers have built a number of stock tanks to hold water. Although I won't need water this trip there will be other trips in the future. On the way down run into 7 deer. Turns out Jay's tank has had no recent recharge. It does have plenty of water but looks low. The water quality looks better than expected since the gate has been shut so no cattle can get in. In general the quality of cattle tanks is disgusting, requiring a prefilter as a minimum and boiling. One strategy is to carry all drinking water and use tank water for cooking.

I seem to be hearing a buzzing noise when I walk and have been off and on for some time; but then when I stop its gone. Is it something leaking in the pack such as stove fuel? Is it my imagination? It gradually gets more noticeable and seems to be coming from my walking stick, perhaps the wind blowing against it. I knock the staff against a rock without thinking - the buzz appears. Every time the stick is knocked it buzzes. That's why the noise always stopped when I did! Further examination reveals that a small bunch of blue bumblebees have made their home in my staff. I leave the bees and the staff right there. They were quiet yesterday afternoon because it was colder. As the day has warmed they gradually came to life and complained when the staff was knocked against the ground while walking.

The next crater, number four, is lower in elevation. Its nicely shaped. Headed up to higher cone with crater number five. It looks very big and imposing from the North side. It turns out this one looks impressive from all sides.

From the top of the fifth crater I hike down to the cache. Arthur (my son) and I hiked in some food, stove fuel, and water during Thanksgiving weekend. The water is partially frozen but everything is intact. The last day may be dry since its at lower elevation and the snow is slowly disappearing from the entire range. I decide to be conservative and carry 5 quarts of water again. This later proves to be unnecessary.