Thursday, November 3, 2016

La Cruces, Mesilla and the Santa Fe River

October 27 - 29, 2016:

Another easy travel day, 85 miles from Alamogordo to Las Cruces, NM mostly on route 70 west.  The route takes you past the White Sands National Monument, the Holloman Air Force Base, various Space / Missile launch sites and then up and over the Organ Mountains.  We then take route 25 north to exit 19 for Leasburg Dam State Park.  We didn’t have a reservation and lucked out getting the last remaining campsite with water and electricity.

Campsite in the desert with mountain views

Many Soaptree Yucca plants are here

Amazing Screwbean Mesquite seed pods

We had learned that friends Craig and Judy who we know from our winter retreat, Desert Trails, in Tucson were also camped here.  They have been touring this year in a similar route as us, but this is the first time we have crossed paths.

We went with them to the Blue Moon Pub in nearby Radium Springs for a sort of a happy hour, need to get tuned up for Desert Trails.  It’s sort of remote, people love to call it a biker bar or a dive bar, actually it’s a pretty nice place with a rustic character.  We also went to Hatch, New Mexico to look around and ended up buying a small ristra of chili.  Nothing appears to have changed in Hatch since our last pass through in 2015.  Everywhere we go, Hatch Chili is advertised, it’s crazy popular, but this town and the surrounding area still looks depressed.  What’s going on, I’ve always believed that Hatch Chili is exclusive to Hatch, New Mexico and now I’m feeling disillusioned, it’s probably being grown in Vietnam or somewhere like that and shipped here.

Craig, Twinkles and Judy posing in front of the chili 

When in Hatch it's mandatory to stop here

Lots of colorful pottery

A Chili plant along the street

Leesburg Dam is a diversion Dam built in 1908 on the Rio Grande River to divert water into an irrigation canal used for farming.  It is located in the town of Radium Springs which isn’t much to see these days, but in days gone by was the site of hot mineral springs and a popular resort hotel.  The hotel is now closed and as the hot springs are on private property, they are not accessible.  The majority of the farming in this area is nicely manicured and irrigated Pecan orchards.  The Rio Grande River is mostly gone from view also, it stays underground these days, but it still is beautiful. 

The irrigation canal is dry these days, but the farmers
are still irrigating using wells and pumps

The Santa Fe River and the diversion dam

A nicer view of the river

We did most of the Las Cruces museums on our last visit here and skipped them this time.  Luckily, as no planning was involved, we are here in time for the “Dia de Los Muertos”, or Day of the Dead celebration in the old Mesilla Plaza.  Craig and Judy joined us for this event.  Mesilla is a very historic town, one that has survived from Spanish days to the present and is now part of the city of Las Cruces.
The old Plaza grounds were ringed with shrines constructed by friends and family members to honor the passing of loved ones.  They were all different, but each one was a beautiful reminder of that person and to me it's a beautiful tradition.  I expected more traditional hispanic music and some dancing however, but it wasn’t to be.  We had lunch at the La Posta de Mesilla, mostly for the beautiful interior artistry, even better than the food.

Billy the Kid spent time here, this is the original courthouse
where he was sentenced to hang

This plaza has seen much amazing history

A very touching shrine

This festival is really about remembrance of the dead

La Posta de Mesilla entrance

I went for a much needed hike on Sunday up 4,959 foot Picacho Peak just northeast of Las Cruces.  It is only a mile and a half but all steeply uphill to the top with great views of the Mesilla Valley and the Organ Mountains.  At the top is a series of rock walls, definitely man made, but I find nothing about it in any the trail descriptions.  It would be a great observation post as it affords a 360 degrees vantage point overlooking the Mesilla Valley.

My goal is the top of Picacho Peak

The hike starts in a wash with interesting aqua colored rocks

Part way up is a red rock outcropping

I find a strange walking stick insect along the trail

Ravens circling above were making me nervous

Mountain views from the top in one direction

Rock walls near the top overlooking the valley

Valley views from the top in the opposite direction

I then returned to old town Mesilla for more of the Dia de La Muertos Festival.  At 3 PM a dance troupe, Grupo Folklorica Valle del Sol, from El Paso,Texas performed who put on a great show with dozens of fully costumed performers.  This is what I and everyone else was waiting to see.  The coolest part of this festival is on the final evening when there is a full procession with lighted candles to the cemetery,unfortunately we will be gone, but I would feel out of place anyhow.

More impressive shrines

Many shrines tell a story

All of them are touching

The children in the performance are always a favorite

Also the young girls in their beautiful dresses

The seemed to be a play scripted to follow the traditional Day
of the Dead ceremony, which I am embarrashed to not
understand more fully  

This was one of the lead performers who was captivating
to watch, so fluid and compelling, I could almost understand

Everyone loves the dancing segments

Next stop is Rockhound State Park in Deming, New Mexico,
Twinkles and Slick

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