Are There Strawberries on Strawberry Peak?
Why is it called Strawberry Peak? Are there strawberries freely growing at the peak? Was it climbed first by John T. Strawberry? Well, the answer to the nomenclature is that the mountain looks like an upside-down strawberry from some angles. Sounds odd, but if you look at it long enough it will look like a strawberry - or you’ll convince yourself it does.
Strawberry Peak is a smaller mountain to the northwest of M Mountain. It can be approached on the Socorro Single Track, which is a long hike or bike ride. A steep hike then follows to the peak. However, as Techies we get some special privileges, such as being able to drive through EMRTC property (with permission, of course!) straight from the gate past the golf course to the base of the mountain. From there, park, get your gear, and be ready for an approximately 3 mile hike.
There is a small hill by the base that acts as an extra bit of hiking for those who are so inclined. With the spring in full swing the desert flowers had bloomed, decorating the desert with little yellow and purple ornaments. There was even a baby barrel cactus with blooming flowers displayed elegantly in the sunlight. Hiking up the first ⅔ of the mountain is somewhat difficult because of the steep slope and some loose rubble. Three hills are along the “trail” up the mountain. On top of each the ground levels out and it is recommended that hikers should rest and hydrate. This is what our group did, stopping in the shade of trees and smelling the April flowers.
Turning around, you can take a gander at the Magdalena and St Augustine Plains spread out below. You can also see the rear of M Mountain, with its smaller rolling hills and canyons. The van became a small dot in the New Mexico landscape, and the air soon became much cooler and refreshing, carrying the scent of pine from the forest and breathing life into us hikers. Elation spread as a mixture of physical exertion and being away from civilization focused our minds on one goal: reaching the highest parts of Strawberry Peak. It removed the fears and anxieties that come with the close of the semester, which was a welcome relief.
Near the top, the terrain becomes a 70 degree incline of loose rocks and gravel, and scrambling up makes more sense than walking. This is one of the most difficult parts of the hike. A pair of sturdy gloves is recommended to protect from scrapes and cacti spines, and to give a better grip on the large rocks. While ascending as a group we spread out to reduce the risk of rocks falling on anyone. A bit of advice here is to take it slow and focus on your safety instead of rushing.
The struggle is well worth it, however, once you reach the peak. There is a 360° view of the desert. Binoculars are a great addition to observe the various dry riverbeds, hills, and even the city of Socorro. Spend some time up there, take a deep breath, and listen to the occasional bird zipping past. As you explore there is a geocache with a notepad inside where hikers can sign their names and leave a small token or student ID. Honestly, it is an amazing sight and gives you some appreciation for the Socorro area and the desert we live in.
Whenever you are ready prepare to descend the mountain. There are two methods. First, slowly and carefully go down the mountain making sure to avoid slips. Second, (and I personally do not recommend this if you do not want to get hurt or tear your pants) try to slide down the mountain. The slide is a learned skill and should not be attempted by new hikers (or anyone really). Once you are past the steep part, the hike becomes a nice stroll back to the van. On your way back enjoy the scenery, and if you have the urge feel free to run around like a dog off its leash. Then it is a short drive back to campus.
Strawberry Peak is a favorite amongst students because it is challenging, but can still be enjoyed for the communion with nature that it is.
If anyone ever wants to hike with us please talk to Melissa Begay in the gym. Hikes are posted on the Tech calendar (nmt.edu/calendar) and on flyers around campus.