Our fifth trip to New Mexico. If everything works out (a big "if," of course), we'll almost certainly retire there. The question is: where? This trip to the south-central part of the fourth largest state in the union confirmed our love for wide open spaces and the Chihuahuan desert. We can think of far worse places to land than Las Cruces, for example, the second-largest metropolis in the state.
Our first hike during this New Mexican trip took us to the Baylor Pass Trail in the Organ Mountains about 20 miles east of Las Cruces. As a mountain range, the Organs are relatively small. They don't even show up on my Rand McNally road atlas of New Mexico. Nevertheless, they are dramatic because they are so craggy. Though I beg to differ, I read several comparisons to Wyoming's Grand Tetons in Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce promotional material.
|Chihuahuan desert vegetation along the trail|
The mountain range has two origins. The northern half - the dramatic, craggy half - is the eroded remnant of a batholith. Magma pooled under the earth's surface but never broke through, cooling and solidifying underground. The southern end of the mountains is the remnant of magma that did breach the earth's surface in a typical volcanic eruption. The suture between the two is plain and stark: the northern batholith is light pink-gray granite, while the southern is dark brown lava.
|View southward along the eastern flank of the lava-derived portion of the Organ Mountains|
The Organs are also one of the numerous "sky islands" that dot the southwest all along the Mexican border. Unlike oceanic islands surrounded by water, the sky island mountain ranges are separated from one another by desert "seas," making them hotbeds for speciation and endemism.
|Snow along the trail from a storm one week earlier. The divided peaks are called the Rabbit Ears.|
|View eastward from Baylor Pass over the Tularosa Basin|
|Along the trail|