February 15-22, 2017
Week 3 Las Cruces, NM
Our goal this week was to conquer the “A” Mountain—named such because of a big white-washed “A” at the top. It is also referred to as the Tortugas Mountain because in Spanish the word means “turtle”, and from the air, the form of the mountain looks like a turtle. By conquering the mountain we mean finding the “right” trail among the myriad branch trails to circumnavigate the mountain! From our earliest attempts when the altitude caused us to be winded within 15 minutes to our latter attempts when the trail took us into the desert, we finally made it around the 4-mile trail on our 4th attempt. What a victory! https://www.mtbproject.com/trail/1185553/a-mountain-tortuga-trail
However, our most interesting hike was a paleontologist-led hike into the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument. This is a hidden gem, and quite frankly it is pretty inaccessible. Viewing the fossil tracks from 280 million years ago was pretty phenomenal. Thanks to Pat and Susan who suggested this hike and to their friends, Fred and Betsy—all of whom have become our hiking buddies—we learned a lot from Colin Dunn, one of the few paleontologists assigned to this region. The discovery site doesn't have fossil bones but only contains rocks with fossil tracks. It just so happened there is an entire story about the man who discovered this out-of-the-way site. As a matter of fact, these hills were being mined prior to their protection as a national monument, and its thanks for saving of the discovery site is credited to an avid rock hound, Jerry MacDonald, who had been seeking fossils for 15 years prior to his find in the mid 1980's. At that time he brought Trackways' rocks to a local museum which denied their authenticity, but he was persistent and pursued authentication with the Smithsonian which verified those Trackways fossils as “the real deal”. The site was protected as a national monument in 2009. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prehistoric_Trackways_National_Monument
Was it by chance that Jerry MacDonald's son, Noah, visiting from out of state was on this hike? Wow!
Our hike to Dripping Springs just outside Las Cruces always fascinates. It is the site and has ruins of an old resort/hotel which flourished in the 1890's and early 1900's and then became a tuberculosis sanitarium a couple decades later. Ruins of those two buildings exist but are in disrepair and look like a ghost town.
Lou and Bonnie Janelle (LBJ) are career professionals who are currently pursuing life-long interests in photography and digital imaging techniques, respectively.