The Drive to Las Cruces
After four days, off the grid, in the foothills of the Guadalupe Mountains, I headed west to the Organ Mountains. Leaving behind the high winds, and a run in with some cattle, it was time to see what challenge awaits me elsewhere. However, first things first, I needed a margarita, and a shower. So I spent the weekend in Las Cruces.
I took the scenic route through Cloudcroft, New Mexico, through Alamogordo, and onto Las Cruces. A 397,760 yards or 3,314 football fields, or 226 mile drive, depending on how you want to look at it. A majority of the drive was through the Chihuahuan Desert until I reached the Sacramento Ranger District of the Lincoln National Forest.
The ascent through the Sacramento Mountain Range winds through pines and cedars and eventually at the elevation of 8,600 feet you arrive at the town of Cloudcroft. It is all downhill after that.
On the East Side
Besides writing The Roswell Incident, enjoying a margarita, and doing some much needed laundry, I decided to explore some of the free campsites on the west side of the Organ Mountains. The Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument (that is the official name) is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). They offer free campsites with no amenities as well as some with, but at a small fee.
The west side of the mountain has several hiking trails, and is known as Dripping Springs Natural Area. On the approach to the visitor center, mule deer were grazing on the slopes of the mountains.
After checking the campsites out on the base of the western slopes, I made my decision to venture to the east side of the Organ Mountains, because of a recommendation from another camper.
To get to Aguirre Springs Campground (with amenities), I had to drive up a tight winding road. When I got to my campsite, I couldn’t have been more pleased. The campground had spectacular views of the valley below (Alamogordo, White Sands National Monument), and I was right at the base of The Needles, and The Rabbit Ears.
The grounds are very well kept, each campsite has a fire pit, a grill for BBQ, and a shaded picnic table. Also, the vault toilets are cleaned regularly. This has to be one of the nicest campgrounds I have been too. It is right up there with Cobscook Bay in Maine.
The Pine Loop Trail
The following morning the weather forecast called for snow, ending around noon. No problem, the snow came and ended as predicted. So after lunch I decided to hike the Pine Trail Loop to take some pictures.
The Pine Trail Loop is a 4.5 mile loop that follows a canyon ridge towards the Needles. No problem!
About forty-five minutes (I think) into my hike I noticed that the mountains above were disappearing as clouds enveloped their peaks. A slight snow began to fall. No Problem…
Well the snow began to come down harder, and was beginning to cover the trail. Should I turn back? Had I already hiked more than half of the trail? My decision was to move ahead. Luckily, towards the beginning of my hike I passed two hikers going the opposite direction from me, and they had left their footprints which helped marked the path.
Into The Storm
I soon felt that I was like a character out of a Jack London novel. I was still hiking up towards the Needles and the snow kept coming. Any false footing on a rock buried by the snow, would either twist my ankle, or worse, send me falling towards the canyon floor.
Should I stop, wait for the snow to pass, and build a fire? Would altitude sickness overwhelm me, leaving me as a frozen corpse, only to be found in the spring? The horrors of what could befall sent my head spinning as the snow became blinding causing my vision to see only a few feet ahead of me.
Then in front of me, I could make out what looked like a large rectangular figure approaching me through the squall. My fate had been decided. “You have reached the halfway point on the Pine Loop Trail, elevation 6,700ft,” is what the large rectangular sign read that appeared in front of me.
Some relief eased my tension as I slowly began to descend the Needles. However, it was still snowing, and the footprints from the two hikers who passed me an eternity ago were beginning to fade from view, but I had hope.
Home Again, Home Again
The snow finally began to ease up as I made my way down the canyon edge back towards camp. I was nearing the end of the trail I came across Becky and Josh who were setup a couple of campsites away from me. Seeing them calmed my nerves as the snow ended. We talked for a bit, and I learned that they had been doing the boondocking/car camping for well over a year now, and they were loving it. I must admit, Aguirre Springs Campground makes one hell of a good office.
I made it back to the campsite with out anymore incidents. The sun came out again and I enjoyed watching it disappear over the mountains as I enjoyed a hot meal.
Amenities, and So On
One nice thing about the Aguirre Springs Campground is that I had a strong cell phone signal. However, it wasn’t so great for downloading files. I had some unfinished business from Boston that needed my attention. So I had to cut the outing short by a day. That gave me the chance to visit the White Sands National Monument. Did you know that there are areas you can hike into and no matter what direction you look, it all looks the same? Peace