I haven't hiked in the Dona Ana Mountains for several years. The area, despite it's wonderful scenery, has quite a few problems which have made it unappealing for me. First, there are just too many roads and too many vehicles. Except for the highest ridgelines, it seems the entire area ( excluding the NMSU and Jornada Range properties) is accessible by one kind of vehicle or another. On this particular Sunday I saw many pick-ups and ATVs. I imagine this could be problematic at times as many of the roads are very narrow. I drove a long way before finding a place to pull off and park. On my return trip I kept wondering what would happen if I met with a vehicle coming the other direction. In some areas it might have meant backing up a long ways. With vehicle access comes more than just crowded( by New Mexico standards) conditions. It brings trash and even graffiti. I really hate to see these phenomena out in our wild areas. There may be all kinds of reasons why people do it,but now I'm wondering what would help them not do it. Signs perhaps reminding folks that they are indeed part of community that shares this public land? Signs that outline the penalties for the laws they are breaking? Trash cans placed in the areas with the heaviest use? I hate the idea of volunteers picking up other's trash or painting over graffiti, even though I've done it sometimes,but that may be the only practical solution. Finally, there was the noise. Now I'm not a rabid gun control type, and let me tell you I am well aware, well aware, that people have a "right" to shoot off their guns on BLM lands( most likely aiming at the trash they just dumped), but I personally go into natural places to get away from the noise,so it was a more than a little off putting that during my 2 hour plus hike there wasn't a single minute that elapsed without the sound of round after round booming and echoing off the cliffs.
So much for my rant. If you're still interested and can go on weekday by all means visit the Dona Anas. On this hike I was looking for a small cave that can be seen in the west wall of the ridge that contains Dona Ana Peak. I had noticed it from the highway, or so I thought, while driving back to Las Cruces a couple of weeks ago. I did a Google search and saw a few photographs that I thought verified its existence. Driving out on a road that was sometimes in the arroyo and sometimes on a ridge. I parked perhaps a mile or so from the cliffs. As Seamus and I walked down the road, I saw something that struck me as more interesting than the little cave. The timing was just right to the see the shadow of a large, but narrow archway amongst the globular shapes of the cliff faces. It occurred to me later as I walked back that this arch is difficult to distinguish without seeing its shadow, so at another time or day, I might never have seen it. But I did. So I took off in its direction. It was a difficult trudge up a " road" of loose gravel, and then a scramble amongst the rocks and shrubs( some of them quite thorny), but we finally reached our destination and basked in the shade of of this massive noodle of igneous rock. After that we moved on to check out a hidden canyon to the south, and then climbed another gravelly ridge that I thought would lead to the cave but didn't. I did see where the cave was, but that would have to wait for another day. Instead, Seamus told me it was time for a long rest in the shade of an arroyo bank. Even though it was only in the sixties, it felt much hotter in this treeless terrain. We made it to the truck and successfully retraced our route back. It's always a bit of adventure on the "ways" in the Dona Anas. Just try to follow the route most beaten down with pick-up tire impressions and you'll probably be alright.
|Out the back door of the narrow arch|
|The hidden canyon|
|The cave is in the center of this photo|