Massacre Peak

February 19-20, 2022

Week after week, we return to the Cooke's Peak area, drawn by its fascinating history and expansive views of classic high desert terrain. This time, we worked our way south around the Cooke's Range, searching for alternatives to the very rough road to the remains of the former mining camp at Cookstown.

Cooke's Peak

Of course the road was gated, posted and locked, but the drive afforded some unusual views of the Cooke's Range and its namesake Cooke's Peak (8404'), which rises 3600 feet above the surrounding desert floor.


Along the way, we stopped to search for carnelian, which flickers like small flames in the early morning sunshine.

campsite in the Pony Hills

We camped that night on an isolated ridge in the Pony Hills. We sure do love the absolute silence and of this place, and watching the red outline of the setting sun behind the perfect silhouettes of the low and ragged hills. And the dazzling display of stars makes you glad you need to go out for a pee at 3:00 am!

Silhouette of Massacre Peak

The next morning we broke camp and headed for Massacre Peak.

sweeping view of Starvation Draw

There's no trail here, but it was a surprisingly easy bushwhack to a low saddle north of the summit.

approaching the summit

We spotted a very bushy-tailed fox on our way up. He was too far away for a photo. I wonder what they find to eat or drink here?

north face of Massacre Peak

The imposing north face of Massacre Peak.

view east from the saddle

From the saddle, a former sea bed — now blanketed in yellow grass — stretches to the horizon, broken only by dark patches of creosote and rabbit brush.

herd of deer in flight

On the way down, we flushed a herd of nine deer, flying across the rocky terrain as only they can.

bedrock mortarts

Near the dam, we came across another cluster of exceptionally deep bedrock mortars. They must have been well used over a very long period of time.