Friends, Bill and Anne, moved to Las Cruces this year; we spent 5 nights there, visiting. Our visit included two hikes into the Organ Mountains; browsing the local art galleries at “Art Ramble”; attending an ‘open mike’ music night; and experiencing the Cinco de Mayo Festival.

IMG_2270 [50%]The Organ Mountains, named from the resemblance of it’s peaks to the pipes of an organ, are considered one of the steepest ranges in the western U.S.

Over a distance of only 3 miles, the peaks rise more than 4,000 feet, topping out at 9,000.IMG_2261b

A primitive campground is situated among the boulders, and there are several hiking trails throughout the designated National Recreation Area.

IMG_2273 [50%]We chose the Pine Tree National Recreation Trail, a 4.5 mile hike, a circular route around a mountain basin. The elevation climbs from 5,900 ft to 6,900 ft at the summit. Ron and I were not used to the elevation change, coming from Yuma (elevation 200 ft) just a few weeks previously. By the time we reached the highest point, we were both breathing hard.

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The hike afforded wonderful views. In the foreground we could see the White Sands Military Establishment, and in the distance, the White Sands National Monument, more than 30 miles away.

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We took our time on the hike, stopping often for photo sessions, and about half way through from lunch.

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Pena Blanca

A couple of days later, Bill and Anne introduced us to the Pena Blanca area, one of two professionally excavated prehistoric sites. The Pena Blanca rock shelters were excavated in the 1980s. In them was found the earliest known cultivated corn in the US.

IMG_2438 [50%] We drove out a gravel/dirt road, then walked about a mile to reach the mountains.

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The climb was at times steep, with no trail, but alongside striking rock formations.

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IMG_2513 [50%]Holes, assumed to have been used for grinding corn and grain, were abundant.

IMG_2567 [50%]We found several chips of “worked” flint and stone, either parts of arrowheads, or the discarded fragments.

IMG_2557 [50%]We ate our lunch in one of the naturally carved shelters, wondering, had families eaten their meals here, centuries ago? What would it be like to live in such a manner for your whole life?

The Organ Mountains are a place of ruggedness, wild beauty and mystery. Hopefully, we’ll return again to explore here.

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