Saturday, August 18, 2012

Directions:

  • Take I-25 to Exit 1, University Avenue in Las Cruces
  • Go east on University (in the direction of the towering Organ Mountains)
  • Go 2.2 miles (3.5 km), University Ave becomes Dripping Springs Road, look for sheltered picnic tables on right. Park in the lot next to the picnic tables.

Trailhead:


I don’t remember seeing any water or bathroom facilities.

Data:

As described here, the loop is a little over 2 miles (3.2 km) and the gain is about 700 feet (210 meters).

Hike:

The terrain around Mt A is crisscrossed with unsigned bike and hiking trails, creating a small navigation problem.  The country is wide open. So, as long as the weather is good you will almost always be in sight of prominent landmarks.  As always, a squall or fog (do such things exist in the Chihuahuan Desert?) or dust-storm could make navigation far more interesting than normal.    From the picnic tables looking southwest you will see a nearby range of small mountains called the Three Sisters (having three rounded peaks).  Follow trails in a southwesterly direction towards the Thee Sisters for roughly 1/2 mile (0.8 km) until hitting Observatory Road.  The road is unpaved at that point.  Turn left onto Observatory road (directly south) and follow it as it ascends and curves up to the summit.  You will have to go around two or three sets of gates, but these are in place to discourage people from trying to take their trucks or cars up this much-degraded and fairly steep road.  The road takes you up to the summit from the south side.  After taking a look around, descend on the trail leading northwest off of the summit, which will take you back to the picnic area and completing the loop.

The summit has great views of the Organ Mountains (due east), the San Andres (north of the Organs),  the Robledo Mountains (northwest), Picacho Peak (a small cone slightly north of west) and the Three Sisters (to the southwest).   The summit is home to the New Mexico State University (NMSU) Tortugas Mountain observatory.  Additional structures are also on the summit for use each December in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Fiesta.

My thanks to Elizabeth, who greeted me on the summit and identified the surrounding peaks.  She cautions that rattlesnakes are not unknown on this small city park.

No photos of the trip  This was my first weekend in Las Cruces and I hit the park on a pure, spur-of-the-moment venture.   There is no water, but on a moderately hot day it did not matter for the short distance involved.  (Not always true, I suspect, for the real hot ‘uns).

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