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December 24, 2004
Snow at Hueco! About 5" accumulation. Break out your ice tools! And, the bugs will finally be dead for the season.

November 6, 2004
Brain was in town for jury duty, so we dashed out for a bit of bouldering and an easy trad route. Weather was ultra-optimum, 70F, cloudless, zero wind. Fox Trot was uneventful, and my harness suspenders (designed to keep the harness from falling off as I grow ever fatter), worked well. Locals and non-locals sessioned at Mushroom. There were still a few mosquitoes.


October 4, 2004
In celebration of my 25th wedding anniversary,  I took my wife Maggie, daughter Jewell and cousin Joe to Ruidoso NM for a family outing. Although I can stand a weekend without climbing, Joe is an obsessed climber and chafed at the  forced inactivity. He moped around the motel room for a while but soon was driven to extremes of solo buildering. I must admit, he was in excellent form, and only cratered a few times. I grabbed the camera and caught some of his best moves.

First, he warmed up a bit on some low, bouldery dynos, followed by a jaunt up a perfect hand crack that would rival the best at Indian Creek. Then the serious solo began - a desperate, thrutch-and scrabble up a huge corner formation that culminated in a dicey overhang with a sphincter-clenching mantel finish. Way to go, Joe!


September 25, 26 2004
Another beautiful hurricane weekend.  Saturday was a bit too damp for casual bouldering, so Jewell and I went up the chain trail and wandered the top of North Mountain. The huecos were full, although not to the point of overflowing. Quite a bit of pond life was present, including a phenomenon that I had never seen before: algae growing on their backs! This gives them the bizarre appearance of having  fuzzy green fur, but does not seem to affect them adversely.

Sunday was drier and better for climbing, despite high humidity and a trace of occasional drizzle. A group of trad climbers enjoyed the bolt-clipping on Cakewalk Direct and Alice in Bannanland, and several carloads of pad people were  dispersed around Mushroom.

Two years of nearly zero climbing activity has reduced my climbing ability to sub-V0 levels, but I had a good time nevertheless. I'm determined to avoid injury early in the season, and spent my time within a few feet of the ground, trying the starts of old familiar problems. Just touching rock is  good.

The combination of climbers and tourist groups are resulting in a "full" park before noon, so if you don't have a reservation, be prepared to sit and wait for someone to leave. The goofy 70/day limit on North Mountain results in the park being "full" even when it is essentially empty - a horrible state of affairs that simply must be corrected, somehow. John Moses is working to increase the daily limit from 70 to 90. We can help by writing intelligent, responsible, politically-correct letters (I know this is stomach-turning, but try) to the TPWD commissioners and other TX politicians.
September 19, 2004
Mexican Hurricane weather! What a beautiful day. Bands of clouds from horizon to horizon at about 2000' AGL, humid but cool with occasional drizzle, but nothing that prevents climbing. The Park was mostly deserted, with one group of Trad climbers messing around on All The Nasties and Malice In Bucketland, and a few boulderers on Mushroom. Bugs were not too bad - I did not get even one mosquito bite, which says a lot considering that I am a human mosquito-magnet. The little biters are more of a concern in recent years, as there have been 5 deaths this year in the El Paso/Las Cruces area from West Nile. Most of the deaths have been elderly people living near the Rio.

The recent rains have greened up the desert and filled Laguna Prieta half-full. The wildlife likes it, and I spotted a number of fresh Javalina tracks meandering around the Frontside boulders. I mentioned this to a Park Ranger and a Hueco volunteer who were chatting near the office, and they informed me that there were so many of them that a hunt was being considered; something that the local kids would enjoy. I expressed enthusiasm and then suggested that the kids be required to hunt the critters with atlatl-powered spears while dressed in loincloths, as the aboriginals did. For some reason they did not like this idea. I guess I just don't understand the Indian Culture thing.

Alex's replacement has been chosen; Danny Lee is the new Head Ranger. Danny was formerly employed at the Franklin Mountains State Park. He lives about 10 miles from Hueco, very near Dave Head's place. He seems like a nice fellow; lets all give him a  chance and see how he turns out. Welcome, Danny! May 23, 2004
The beautiful, huge cactus by the main office finally died last week. The entire top of the plant was sheared off in a windstorm that also broke several large oak tree branches in the campground. This cactus will be sorely missed, not just by humans, but also by the hundreds of weaver finches that made it their home each spring and summer.
Back in the days of Ranger Dave, circa 1987 or so, we used to enjoy livening up the birds' day by walking out every once in a while and giving it a good kick. Most of the finches would fly away in a panic to the nearby mesquite bushes, where they would wait and watch for the "ogre that lives in that cave" to go back inside.

Interviews for the head ranger position, vacant since Alex left in January, were held last week. Seven candidates out of ~80 applicants made the final cut. George expects that the winner will be announced this week.

Climber density is dropping quickly as the daily temps approach 95. There were about 10 pad people at Mushroom, but they bailed by 1:00p. A stiff breeze was fairly effective at keeping the bugs away - mostly deer flies and gnats, as there has not been enough rain for mosquitoes yet.

George reported that the Hueco Rock Ranch is only doing a few bouldering tours a week, and that very few volunteer or staff guarded tours are happening.

All in all, it was a beautiful, crystal-blue early summer day, with perfect conditions for bouldering in the morning, prickly-pears in full bloom, birds singing happily...Sadly, the park was largely deserted. Prior to the PURP in 1998, a day like today would see the frontside routes covered with happy climbers, and the boulders beneath would teem with pad-people. What a sad, tragic waste.

February 3, 2004
Hueco Tanks State Historic Site will soon be posting an advertisement for a new lead ranger. Minimum qualifications are high school diploma and four years of progressively more responsible maintenance experience. The posting will appear on the web site for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's "Jobs" web site:

Alex Mares recently resigned the position to accept a new career opportunity with the New Mexico State Police.

January 2004
Climbing conditions have been nearly optimal all season. North Mountain has been routinely full on weekends, but less crowded on weekdays. Good luck getting in without a reservation. There is a bit less guided activity this season than last. It's been windy and rainy a few times in the last few weeks, with the typical interludes of perfect climbing weather between the fronts - 40s at night, 60s in the day, no gnats or mosquitoes, very dry, cloudless sky.

For unknown reasons, the honeybees at Hueco are multiplying and becoming more of an annoyance. I was recently stung (first sting by a honeybee in >30 years), and they disrupted some of the activities during the October TPWD Interpretive Fair. The last few times Jewell and I climbed at the Frontside, they bugged her to the point where she could not really enjoy climbing. FYI: Africanized bees have been detected about 50 miles to the northwest in Las Cruces, and there was one death in the Las Cruces area a few years ago. The is no current evidence that the bees at Hueco have any Africanized genes - but there is also no evidence of anyone checking.

Castle Rocks, an outcropping of Hueco-like rock (not quite as good in quality and very small in size) about three miles NE of Hueco has recently been sold to a new owner. The new owner is not pleased with climbers and will kick you out; he claims that a local climber took a few loads of his surface rocks to use for landscaping purposes. Castle Rocks does not have much climbing that is worth doing, but this is a sad development nevertheless. Castle Rocks was a deserted, remote place 30 years ago, and I once high-centered the Toyota 4x4 trying to cross the arroyo that used to block the jeep track. That was before the gridwork of dirt roads was bulldozed about 15 years ago. Today, Castle Rocks rise from the middle of third-worldish desert shantytown and most of the old charm is gone. I really can't blame the new owner for wanting to assert his property rights. It would have been nice (assuming the landowner's allegations are true) if he and the person needing the rocks could have struck a deal.

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