I had attended a meeting in Albuquerque, so I determined to visit Black Mesa on my way home to Missouri. I figured Wheeler Peak would still be snowbound in early March.
I spent the previous night in Clayton, N.M., on the high plains about an hour south of Black Mesa. From Clayton, I took NM-406 north, which becomes OK-325 upon entering the Sooner State. Passing through the hamlet of Kenton on a Sunday morning, the famous Mercantile was closed and a FOR SALE sign was in the window.
About a half-mile east of Kenton I turned north on a well-marked paved road that crosses the Cimarron River (you are in Cimarron County) and skirts the eastern end of the mesa. Just on the northeast corner of the mesa there is a cinder-surface parking area and informative signs marking the trailhead.
It is 4.2 miles from the trailhead to the summit monument. Seeeing as it was a chilly +42F, misting rain, and gusty, I layered up and set out on foot at 9:35a CDT. The trail is easy to follow, with helpful pointer signs where it intersects jeep roads. There is a working ranch not too far to the north. After walking west along the north base of the mesa for about three miles, at 10:20a I began the ascent (about 400 or 500 vertical feet in roughly half a mile), and reached the top of the mesa at 10:40a. From there you walk about a mile further west to the summit monument, which I reached at 11:02a CST.
It was windy and cold at the summit, so I took just a short break and a few snapshots as the clouds began to lift a little. The monument is very informative, and the fairly remote location has kept the summit area clean and relatively undisturbed.
I headed back to the trailhead at 11:15a, and met a father-son team from Texas who were just beginning their ascent of the escarpment. I reached the parking area at 12:40p CST to complete a round-trip of just over three hours. Then I saddled up the Solara and headed for the legendary Mount Sunflower.
Black Mesa is an excellent highpoint. It's a little out-of-the-way, but access is not difficult and the 8+ mile round-trip walk is within the ability of most hikers. In the middle of summer, in 100F+ heat and dodging rattlesnakes, I might not have found it so pleasant. 8-)