Organ Mountains National Monument, Las Cruces, New Mexico – Sierra Vista Trail
There’s a wind coming off Las Cruces, I tip my head just enough. The trail is easy, a combination of gravel and loose rock. Arroyo crossings surrounded by prickly pear, fishhook cactus, lechuguilla and ocotillo in bloom.
Dry desert grass dancing in the breeze. And flanking us to the east are the Organ Mountains National Monument, a ragged saw cut across the horizon.
Designated a National Monument in 2014 and managed by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), at just under 500,000 acres the monument encompasses five ranges: Organ Mountains, Dona Ana Mountains, Sierra del las Uvas, Robledo Mountains, and the Potrillo Mountains. A land full of history, home to Mescalero Apache and Italian born hermits, both. (See “La Cueva” below.)
Sierra Vista, a National Recreation Trail, runs 30 miles from Las Cruces to El Paso, connecting the Organ Mountains in New Mexico with the Franklin Mountains in El Paso, Texas. Riding today, we barely scrape the surface. Just a small sampling of flavor on our way home from this 1500-mile trip through New Mexico.
Aptly named, the entire Sierra Vista trail is a view marred only by the shrubbery of a rain shadow desert. Shade is rare here. I sit beneath a small shrub and soak in the surroundings, wind against my back.
Las Cruces behind me, craggy peaks of the Organs to my front. Formed by magma cooled into granite, I trace the edge of these needles with my eyes. Rising with each ridge, dropping with each fold.
Riding on, an extra set of clip-on braided reins hangs from the saddle horn. The fringe of my hip bag dusts the hole in my jeans with each step – one of them anyway. The ground underfoot is red, a remnant of the Organ Caldera.
As I look forward down the trail it seems the mountains gaze back at me, brown eyes with white highlights. Red tones underneath. Yellow grass sculpting each contour. I’ve heard it said a mountain is always a woman.
My little posse is tired today, dragging. Returning to the trailhead every step is an effort. Quails rush out from under us as we cross a dry creek bed. My dog, Kona, too tired to even give chase.
It’s quiet now as we ride back to camp, and I don’t want to fill the silence. I want to listen. The desert responds in kind, whispering in my ear. And in her words, I find strength. I find direction.
What I will choose, I don’t know. But I wonder, whose choice is it anyway? I mean… really?