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Friday, July 31, 2015

Sierra Vista Trek

Getting started on the Sierra Vista Trail (I see a seahorse in this shot)
This morning, just as I was about to let Becca out of the car, two young women approached and told me the Tortugas Mountain Trails area was closed; they had been stopped by two policemen and advised not to enter.  I saw the police officers in the parking lot, and drove up to discover what was happening.  When I opened my car window and asked one of the officers, he said, "There's been a small incident at the top of the mountain."  When I asked if the east side was closed, too, he said the whole place was off limits.

So Becca and I drove up Soledad Canyon Road to the Sierra Vista Trail parking lot and did a moderately-long hike south.  It was terribly humid, and gnats were swarming all over.  At first there had been a nice overcast, but that soon disappeared, replaced by brutal sunshine.  By the time we turned around and headed back we were anxious to have the hike over with.

Tortugas Mountain was still closed when we drove by on our way home, the Sunset Area now blocked by a police vehicle with flashing lights, and yellow crime scene tape had been stretched across the entrance.  I learned later from the Las Cruces Sun-News that a middle-aged man had been found dead on the mountaintop, and initial reports suggested his death was a suicide.  Here's a link to the newspaper report ( if you're interested in reading about it.

Another article I'd read in the Sun-News this morning detailed how El NiƱo is responsible for the abundant rain we've been getting this monsoon season.  Apparently this past Wednesday was the third wettest day we've had in the past five years, and all the extra precipitation has actually put a dent in our short-term drought conditions.  Read the story here:
Sotols were blooming all over the higher elevations

Heading south

Looking back on the way we just came

Sotol flower stalk against a cloudy sky

Hot, but happy

Pinacate Beetle

Barrel Cacti in various stages of blooming

A mile or so in

Bishop Cap

Barrel Cactus flower

Crossing into the wilderness

Large Barrel Cactus ( 3')

Flower bouquet

Rainbow Hedgehog with spiral ribs

On the way back

Getting close to the trailhead on Soledad Canyon Road

Ocotillos in the high foothills of the Organ Mountains

Becca smelling a bush

Sotol with double flower stalk

Soledad Rocks in middle background

The beauty of the Organ Mountains (part of the Rocky Mountain chain)

I've never seen so many Sotol blooming simultaneously

Almost done with our hike

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lots of Rain

Puddle on the trail
We've had a bunch of storms recently that have dumped a lot of rain on our section of Chihuahuan Desert.  The precipitation is much needed and much desired, but we're not used to getting so much.  Our morning hike was delayed by several hours due to the rain, and when Becca and I finally left for Tortugas Mountain I wasn't sure we'd get in a whole trek without getting wet.   Fortunately we did.  A cool wind made the humid conditions bearable, and I felt happy to be out in the desert with my devoted hiking companion.
Hiking on wet earth

The desert has had a good soaking

Plumed Crinklemat about to bloom

Prickly Pear dripping with rainwater

Damp desert floor

Road around the mountain

Chocolate Daisy and scraggly-haired friend

Clouds on the Franklin Mountains near El Paso, Texas

Ocotillos are loving the rain

About to head back up the mountain

As green as it gets

Heading back

A lot of water has flowed down here of late

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Packrat's War Against Pack Rats

Just getting started . . .
When I got home from a semi-long hike with Becca I had to get to wok on a large Cholla that seemed to be the above ground home for the pack rat we'd seen frequenting our property lately.  Pack rats love to build their desert middens under plants that have low-hanging spiny projections.  My "war" on the critters consists of pruning said plants in order to remove ground cover, which I did on our incredibly prolific Cholla.  I had transplanted one small arm of this Cholla from the desert years ago, and it has grown amazingly well.  Sure enough, when I cleared away the lower limbs I found the entrance to the pack rat's nest.  My pruning activity will encourage the animal to move further away from the house.  We have a friend living up the street who went on a pack rat trapping spree several years ago; he and his son would catch the critters in metal traps (borrowed from New Mexico Game and Fish if I'm not mistaken) and transport the rats out into the desert to be released.
, , , on this trail

Climbing a little higher under an overcast sky

Organ Mountains

Lots of greenery for a desert

Ocotillos are thriving from all the rain

Dark over the mountain

Becca spots something interesting

Sun trying to break through

An old friend has fallen and can't get up

Sea of green Ocotillos

An old giant

First Workweek Hike

Wilster Saving grace out there this morning was a constant breeze; it kept the temperature from feeling as bad as it actually was. We altere...