Las Cruces is located in the middle of the Mesilla Valley, southeastern New Mexico. At one time, millions of years ago, this area was very volcanic and the valley is actually the old caldera from an ancient volcano that existed way back then. Today the mountains that ring this area, although eroded by weather and time, stand straight and tall in many locations. Remember too that this part of New Mexico is nearly 4000' ASL and you can begin to understand how rarified the air is and how dry it is. Small wonder they call this part of the U.S. the "high desert".
On the eastern side of this valley are the "Organ Mountains". They get their name from the Indians who noted that the rock formations looked somewhat like the pipes you may see in a church organ. At least that is the story most locals seem to accept as being true ... although when the original indigenous tribes may have seen an actual organ is beyond me. In any case the mountains gave their name to a small town nearby called "Organ".
Nestled up against these mountains, lining a couple of "box canyons" is the Dripping Springs Nature Area. It is quite the place, sponsored by the National Bureau of Land Management, and is the home of many varieties of wild life (mountain lion, deer, elk, etc) and bird life (hawk, eagle, falcon, quail, etc).
The Springs began modern life as the grazing land of a cattle rancher, was sold to a mining consortium (silver) was eventually depleted, sold again to a doctor who ran sanatorium for TB patients, sold and operated by a new group as a destination resort and when they ran into financial problems the land became the property of the nation and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. This history sounded so interesting and the area on the maps looked quite enticing so we decided on a day hike through the area. It's about 26 miles out of Las Cruces, on a partial dirt road ... but the access is well maintained and the facilities excellent.
You can follow the trails and will come to the livery stables where the horses taking people to the sanatorium were kept, then in another mile or so come to the actual buildings (the remains that is) of the original hospital (which became the resort ?)
Just below that is the spring (it really is "dripping").
They used the springs to fill a holding pond that people used as the major water supply. Unfortunately, what with the present drought being what it is, the springs do actually & only drip from time to time.
We walked the entire route (some 6 1/2 miles) and came to the cave where a local hermit lived for some time. The rangers at the park told us he was murdered somewhere along the line and it remains an unsolved crime.
It was a good day, warm and partly cloudy, and we drove home from the reserve tired but happy. We're really starting to like this part of the world I think.
For more photos go to http://globalodyssey.ca/p246670073