|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 (http://www.lcsun-news.com/las_cruces-news/ci_28566412/nmsu-police-block-access-mountain) if you're interested in reading about it.
Another article I'd read in the Sun-News this morning detailed how El Niño 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: http://www.lcsun-news.com/las_cruces-news/ci_28563504/el-nino-factors-into-third-wettest-day-past.
|Sotols were blooming all over the higher elevations|
|Looking back on the way we just came|
|Sotol flower stalk against a cloudy sky|
|Hot, but happy|
|Barrel Cacti in various stages of blooming|
|A mile or so in|
|Barrel Cactus flower|
|Crossing into the wilderness|
|Large Barrel Cactus ( 3')|
|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|