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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Painting the Big White "A"

Becca spots another hiker on the mountain
As Becca and I were headed back on our hike this morning there was a lot of noise coming from the mountain.  I felt pretty certain it came from members of New Mexico State University's freshman class who were headed up to the top to repaint the enormous letter "A" that stands for "Aggies"--NMSU having its start as an agricultural college.  But when I got home and blew the photo up (last image here) I noticed that the hikers were all women, raising doubts about my initial assessment regarding their presence.
One of numerous dirt roads in the area

Typical Chihuahuan Desert flora

Ocotillos still looking good

Becca resting in the shadow of a huge Ocotillo

The prickly pear that gives Prickly Pear Cactus its name

I count at least 28 young women hiking up the mountain

Friday, August 30, 2013

Drippy Hike

7:48 a.m.  Tortugas Mountain shadows get longer each morning
The temperature when Becca and I started off this morning was 64 F, with a dewpoint of 62 degrees.  That means that the air was almost totally saturated with moisture.  And although it wasn't hot by any standards it felt really miserable because of the high humidity.  Additionally (unlike yesterday), the sun was beating down on us because there were few clouds.  Although we enjoyed our morning exercise, I think both Becca and I were glad when the trek had come to an end.
The air is dense with moisture

Still in the lower foothills

Pencil Cholla

Bushwhacking canine

West of Tortugas

Loggerhead Shrike

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Yet Another Rainy Day

Clouds slipped down over the Organ Mountains
It rained for several hours late yesterday afternoon and then into the evening.  It also rained overnight.  It was raining when we woke up this morning.  I used an online weather site to determine when there'd be a long enough break for me to take Becca out to Tortugas Mountain.  We timed it just right, starting at a midway point on the trail along the north side where I knew it wouldn't be quite as muddy as other spots.  We were able to get in a moderately-long trek before heading back.  It rained some more on the way home.
On the north side of Tortugas Mountain

A temporarily-lush Chihuahuan Desert

White clouds, gray sky

Making the bend on the east side of the mountain

The midsection of the Organs

The village of Talavera at the base of the Organ Mountains

The trail around the north side of the mountain

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Taking Advantage

In the high foothills
Generally, during summer in the Chihuahuan Desert, there are a few days when you can take advantage of a cloud-covered sky to pursue a long hike.  That's what Becca and I did this morning, starting from the Sunset Parking area on Tortugas's west side and looping about 2/3 of the way around the mountain.  The air was fragrant with a citrus smell from the thousands of Chinchweed flowers that have been blooming after the summer rains.
Chinchweed (aka Many-Bristle Cinchweed)

Trail around Tortugas

Heavy cloud cover

The Organ Mountains

After summer rains Chinchweed carpets the desert floor

The long view

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pre-Resupply Hike

Good shade in which to rest
I took Becca for an abbreviated hike on Tortugas's west side prior to heading off to do morning shopping at Target and Albertson's.  When we were done with our trek we ran into Jimmy back at the trailhead.  While he and I were talking, a worker from the BLM came over to chat briefly, interrupting his task of picking up garbage and discarded plastic bottles.  I knew he wasn't from this area (Earth) because he kept referring to arroyos as "auroras."

A tiny arroyo (2- to 3-feet wide) has cut a small valley over the years

Monday, August 26, 2013

Moderate Monday

Dead Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (red arrow points to rattle)
Today's hike was moderate in several ways:  it was moderately long; the morning was moderately warm; and I was moderately startled to find a dead Western Diamondback Rattlesnake in a Creosote Bush right next to where we usually park the car.  It looked like somebody had killed the snake because I couldn't see its head.  Most of the time when people kill a rattler they take the rattle.  It seems as if somebody took this one's head.

Barrel Cactus flowers

A bee working the pollen field

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Trek Into Soledad Canyon

Soledad Canyon is a Bureau of Land Management day-use area located in the Organ Mountains about ten miles east of Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Several different trails make for fascinating hikes of various lengths within the canyon.  Hikers trekking up the main trail straight to the base of the mountains are often rewarded with the sight of a small waterfall.  After summer rains, the high-desert canyon is lush with vegetation, and much of the flatland between the mountains resembles an African savannah.  

Heat is On Again

Headed down LDR-A arroyo to yucca shade for Wils The desert floor hasn't been cooling off very much during the overnight hours, and the ...