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Diane Baker and I climbed Black Mesa one extremely blustery day in early April. We "guesstimated" that sustained winds on the top were 30 m.p.h. with gusts to 50 or more. You could not walk without leaning into the wind.

We used the relatively new hiking route from the Nature Conservancy trailhead on the northeast side of the mesa. A sign at the trailhead clearly states that the distance from the trailhead to the highpoint monument is 4.2 miles, but my feeling, as an experienced hiker, is that there's no way this is an 8.4 mile round trip. I'm guessing that it might be a 6 mile hike at most. I would be very grateful if someone could supply me with an accurate distance to report here. By the same token, I'm guessing that the elevation gain is the same as the old route described in the Holmes book, and I would appreciate a more accurate figure if you can supply one. (To email me, click here.)

The driving directions to the trailhead are: From the traffic circle in the middle of Boise City, Oklahoma, (pronounced like Boyce), proceed west on state route 325. The road goes due west for 15.8 miles, where it turns and goes due north. At 20.1 miles you will pass an entrance to Black Mesa State Park on the left -- you continue on 325. At 25.4 miles route 325 heads west again but now carves a more circuitous route as you enter an area of attractive hills and mesas in a semi-desert environment. At 34.8 miles turn right off 325 just before the town of Kenton. There is a sign at this intersection for Black Mesa Summit, although the mileage is not accurate. At 39.7 miles pull into the obvious trailhead parking area on your left.

The trail is a well-trampled path and easy to follow. In some places there are green metal signs marking the way. Basically it trends in a westerly direction along the base of the north side of the mesa. After a mile or two it takes a sharp left and proceeds south up the side of the mesa by way of a steep winding old road cut. Once you reach the top of the mesa, if you carefully scan the horizon to the west-south-west, you can spot the squared-off shape of the monument about a mile in the distance contrasted with the irregular shapes of the many cedar trees of about the same height.

Being a nature lover it would have suited me fine to have no man-made monument on top, but of the state highpoint monuments I've seen so far this is my favorite. On it is enscribed all sorts of interesting information, such as the fact that the county you are in is the only U.S. county bordered by four states, plus it gives the distance to each of the surrounding states. (You're only 1200 feet from New Mexico.)

Perhaps because we did this hike in the middle of the day, we did not see any of the infamous prairie rattlers commonly encountered by hikers. Watch your step!

Be sure to stop at the General Mercantile in Kenton, preferably before you do the hike. You'll be glad you did!