After the isolation of the Big Bend area, the modest city of Las Cruces seems like a thriving metropolis! We have multiple shopping options, more than two restaurants, movie theaters, historic areas, wineries, parks – wow! It’s lovely to be back in civilization.
Just east of Las Cruces lie the Organ Mountain range, with its rugged peaks of volcanic origin. Just made a National Monument in 2014, it is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). We visited the Dripping Springs Natural Area, on the side nearest the city. Since BLM lands are included in our National Park pass, entrance for us was free! (normally $5)
The Dripping Springs trail is an approximately 1.5 mile (each way) path that winds steadily upward from the visitor’s center toward the mountains and the spring for which the trail is named. Near the spring are ruins of a 1800’s era hotel, once the retreat of wealthy patrons. Wallpaper can still be seen hanging from the interior of guest rooms, providing a glimpse into its former glory.
The hotel operated for about 20 years before the owner fell into financial difficulty and sold the property to a physician for the purpose of opening a tuberculosis sanatorium. The clear, clean mountain air was deemed beneficial in helping to cure the dread disease. Further up the trail, ruins of the sanatorium can be found. It operated from the early 1900’s to the 1930’s, and piped in water from the spring to operate fountains and even an indoor flush toilet. I can only hope that the peace and isolation of the area helped patients to heal. All in all, a fascinating glimpse into the area’s history.
On the way back toward our RV park, we stopped in at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. The Museum’s research collections and archives document all aspects of farming and ranching in New Mexico from earliest prehistory to today. The static collections are interesting, but the real fun is outside with the livestock and demonstrations. The museum houses examples of all of the different cows, goats and sheep imported and raised in the area and is an active breeding ranch. You can see a blacksmithing demonstration and a milking demonstration and take a guided golf cart tour of the facilities.
Looking at the “boneyard” of every imaginable type of antique farm equipment, I could only think of how much my Dad would like this place. As an added fun touch, a great horned owl can be found roosting in the museum’s entrance eaves. It’s a neat place to spend a few hours and a bargain at $5 per person.
The adventures at Las Cruces continue …..