Setting the Table
Hiking Table Mountain Trail with Marc Levesque of Grant County Search and Rescue.
by Linda Ferrara
Now don't be jealous, fellow trekkers, but this lucky hiker got to spend a sunny winter day with Marc Levesque hiking a stellar trail, hearing stories about adventures in Maine, New Hampshire and Antarctica, and listening to firsthand accounts of local area search and rescue missions.
Marc and his wife, Susan Porter, have been exploring the trails in this area since they moved here in 2005, and have been avid hikers for over 40 years, mostly in the mountains of northern New England. Marc was a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, where he was involved in winter ascents, rock climbing, leading hikes and directing the AMC Mountain Leadership School in 1979-1980. Here in Silver City, he is a battalion chief with the Pinos Altos Volunteer Fire Rescue, teaches "Fundamentals of Search and Rescue" at WNMU's Outdoor Program, and is president of Grant County Search and Rescue. Was I a little intimidated hiking with the president of Search and Rescue? Sure was. Did I have a ball hiking with him? You bet I did!
He suggested we hike a newly created trail that he described as "a gem."
Name: Table Mountain Trail, City of Rocks State Park
Distance: 2.0-6.0 miles
Difficulty: 70% easy, 20% medium, 10% difficult
Directions: Starting from the intersection of 32nd Street By-Pass and Hwy. 180 in Silver City, drive 24.8 miles southeast on Hwy. 180 until you reach Hwy. 61. Turn left onto Hwy. 61 and drive 3.0 miles to the entrance of City of Rocks State Park.
Hike description: I suggest you stop into the Visitors' Center and check out the history and geology of this wonderful park. Be sure to chat with park volunteers, who are extremely knowledgeable, helpful and pleasant. They have a map of the park that will assist you. Here is more info about the park for those of you who want to do some homework before you go: www.emnrd.state.nm.us/SPD/cityofrocksstatepark.html.
For a shorter hike, park in the northeast corner of the park near the Pegasus Campground. Walk 0.22 miles on the trail that heads east. Turn right (south) onto Hydra Trail and then turn left (east) onto the trail that takes you up to Table Top Mountain.
For a longer hike, park at the Visitors' Center Parking lot and take the Hydra Walking Trail for 1.0 mile. Turn right (east) onto the trail that heads up to Table Top Mountain.
When you go through the gate, the trail starts the ascent uphill toward the first bench of the mountain. It gets steeper still until you finally reach the top. Look down and see the 557 feet you just climbed. Now walk around the mesa top, have fun boulder jumping, and enjoy the scenery. Return the way you came.
Notes: This is a newer trail that volunteer Tim Davis has been working on for the past few years. We met Tim on the trail; perhaps you will, too! City of Rocks State Park requires an entrance fee of $5 per car. Gates are open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Why not bring a lunch and spend the day? Enjoy this trail in the morning, check out the rocks in the early afternoon, and then head over to Faywood Hot Springs for a soak to end the day just right! Or bring camping gear and explore for several days.
Tell us about a particularly memorable hiking experience:
"I was 34 years old and had just returned from a contract job at South Pole Station in Antarctica, where we had set a temperature record during the year I was there of minus-117 degrees," says Levesque. "I had lost 22 pounds during that time and had virtually no body fat. Upon returning, I decided to get out and enjoy the White Mountains of New Hampshire on a solo day hike in 20-degree February weather. My body had not adjusted to the loss of body fat, and when I reached a spot just below the summit, I realized I was deeply shivering. I knew this was the first stage of hypothermia and probably should have turned back. But sometimes one's testosterone level exceeds one's intelligence quotient, so I just stopped, ate something, put on all the clothes I had with me, and continued on towards the summit.
"It all turned out okay, but between the clouds, the wind, the deep snow and the temperature, I could have easily found myself in serious trouble." The rescuer in him comes out as he adds, "It's really not a great idea to hike alone in such winter conditions."
In closing, Levesque has a final comment: "Always let someone know where you're going on a hike. It will make it much easier for us to find you if you get lost or injured."
For more information about Grant County Search and Rescue,
go to: gcsar-nm.org.
To read more about Linda Ferrara's 100-hike challenge, check out her blog at 100hikesinayear.wordpress.com