Loving County High Point Trip Report

"Rattlesnake Ridge"

Date: March 11, 2001
Author: Scott Surgent

The third time was the charm. I made a half-hearted attempt from the south in January 2000, and another try in March 2000 from the north in New Mexico. On that second attempt, I drove in along a long series of dirt roads before encountering sand, which required 4-wheel drive to negotiate. Since it was late in the day, I chose not to attempt Loving county and left the area. For this third attempt, I was accompanied by Bob Martin, and it is my feeling that I probably would not have attempted it if I didn't have someone to accompany me.

I chose again to try from the North, as it appeared to have the best road access, although this is a relative term since the roads in here are horrible. We stopped for lunch in the town of Jal, in New Mexico's southeast corner, then started in around 1 p.m. We proceed west on NM-128 approximately 13 miles to Battle Axe Road on our left (south). This road has numerous ranch signs and is easy to spot from the highway. It's a good, wide, well-packed dirt road. We followed the main road for 12 miles in a general southwest direction, before coming to a stop sign and some large "No Trespassing" signs. At this point, I got out the map (the 1:100000 "Jal" map is essential, as are the usual 7.5 quads). We made a hard left turn onto a road that was marked with a big "Private Road" sign, even though my map showed it to be on Bureau of Land Management land. We followed this road due east 3.3 miles, then turned right (south) at a small set of wells and storage tanks. We followed this road southeasterly about 2 miles to an unlocked gate. We passed this gate. Up to this point the road quality was decent, but soon we encountered our first patches of sand. We reached the point where I turned back the last time, just before another set of gates, a mile from the first gate.

We passed through the first of two gates, then made a right turn (west) and passed through the second of the two gates. We were now in 4WD, and the worst was now ahead of us. The road we were on parallels a petroleum line, which lies exposed most of the way. Radical erosion in one section exposed the rocky road bottom, and we found ourselves driving at a 25-degree tilt. With that passed, we just had lots more sand to battle through and we required low-4WD to make it through. After two slow miles, we reached the 4th and final gate. We passed through then immediately turned left (south) following the section-line road along the fence for 1 mile before coming to an E-W fence, the Texas-New Mexico state line. About 0.7 miles later along the track paralleling the state line, we parked and started our hike.

The hike itself was easy. This land is all sand, held together with cat-claw brush, and the odd mesquite tree. Cactus is everywhere. The brush is about chest level and long expansive views out across the desert are not possible. We just followed the fence for about another 0.7 mile, crossing into Texas where convenient, before surmounting a very slight rise. I had entered the lat-long coordinates of our destination into my GPS, and the reading now indicated we were essentially at our destination. All we needed to do now was walk south about 500 feet and generally step on any little bump and hillock we could find. We found Andy Martin's wooden lathe-cairn knocked over, so I reset it for the next visitor (har har). After a few photos, Bob and I headed back to our vehicles and began the laborious drive out, eventually arriving back in Jal at 5 p.m.

This was not an easy highpoint to get, despite it being such a "flat" highpoint. It is so remote, so removed from the main roads, and along such sandy rough roads, that only 4-wheel drive vehicles with good clearance should try it. In fact, bring two! Bob and I felt very comfortable driving in with both our vehicles, in case one of us got stuck. He had some extraction devices, as did I, and I also carried a big shovel. The Loving highpoint is located in a sea of sand - very fine, reddish sand. This is a very sparsely populated area and it may be weeks before anyone drives these roads.

The name "Rattlesnake Ridge" is unofficial: I gave the highpoint its name. This one just deserves a name. Actually, it's not terribly original. Just to the north inside New Mexico is Rattlesnake Flat, and the USGS Benchmark "Rattler" is about 2 miles north of the Loving highpoint. We didn't see any rattlesnakes, however. Not that I missed them.