I have heard about the Dripping Springs Natural Area in the mountains of Las Cruces the first month I arrived in New Mexico. A colleague told me that a 6-mile trail will lead you to interesting historical structures and dripping waters at the mountain top. As I have seen many beautiful waterfalls and relics in my other travels, and the fact that a long hiking trail on a hot summer day does not excite me, I forgo the idea of paying it a visit.
Until today, January 24th, 2015.
I wanted to run in a more challenging route. I thought of the mountains and then the trail at the Dripping Springs came to mind. I put on my running shoes, jogging pants, and a sweat shirt, brought with me a bottle of water, and drove 20 minutes with two things in mind — to run through the trail and to see the things people were telling me five months ago.
There were only few cars parked at the Visitor’s Center, probably because it is the winter season and a temperature of 40s could be a bit chilly for others. I entered the Visitor’s Center and paid the entrance fee of $5. I was given a permit that I had to leave on the vehicle’s dashboard. The lady in-charged of the registration was kind enough to instruct me of the trail to follow first. I was told that finishing the 6-mile trail could be ambitious since I only had less than 3 hours left before the sun sets in. I just smiled.
The 6-mile trail is actually composed of four trails — the Dripping Springs, Crawford, La Cueva, and Fillmore trails. Among the four, the Dripping Springs seems to be the most popular. It is about 1.5 miles long (or 3 miles round trip).
1. Dripping Springs Trail
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There was nothing but a gravelly trail and dead bushes. Once in a while I saw something like this:
But what pushed me forward is the beauty of the mountain that lies ahead.
On the way, I saw the first historical wooden structures said to have been built in the late 1800s. These buildings served as a livery, mercantile and chicken coop for the Van Patten’s Mountain Camp Resort and Hotel.
Further on, snow covered the trail.
A couple of hundred meters away, I reached the dripping springs. Look closely on the photos below, you see people climbing up the rocks to get closer to the water drippings. The water is unfit for drinking, though. The reservoir behind the rocks used to supply water to the nearby Dripping Springs Hotel.
Few steps away is the Boyd’s Sanatorium, which was constructed in 1910 by Dr. Nathan Boyd. The buildings were operated as a tuberculosis sanatorium.
Continuing up the slope, I saw some neat little ruins — they’re from the Van Patten’s Mountain Camp Resort and Hotel. Major Eugene Van Patten, a former Confederate officer, constructed the resort in 1872 — a two-story, 14-room hotel, with dining and recreational facilities.
If you visit the Dripping Springs, bring a picnic to enjoy at tables and benches provided up the trail.
2. Crawford Trail
There wasn’t so much to see along the Crawford trail, aside from dead cacti. There seemed to be a plague hitting the spiny plant as most of them had dark spots and, from the looked of it, they had lost their capacity to store water.
Nearing the end of the Crawford trail is the boundary of the Modoc Mine. According to the sign, “it is an abandoned silver and lead mine which dates from the middle 1800s through the early 1900s. The earliest documented mining activity occurred in 1849, although it is possible that Spanish miners prospected the area at an earlier date.”
That green post in the photo below is the edge of the mine.
3. Fillmore Trail
I was told by the lady at the Visitor’s Center that if I followed the Fillmore trail, it will lead me to a waterfall, about 40 feet high. The trail to the waterfall was not as smooth as the one on Dripping Springs’. This one is rocky, literally. Basically, I was following the side of a completely-dried stream. Here, it was difficult to run.
It didn’t take me long to reach the end of the trail. Once I saw this tree, I heard the sound of falling waters.
(a quick photo of the exhausted me..)
And this is the waterfall. Some say that this dries up during hot summer days, and could become quite a sight after a heavy rainfall.
4. La Cueva Trail
“Cueva” (Spanish for cave) is the main attraction of the the La Cueva trail.
Rock formations line the trail.
Around the tall rock formations, is where the cave lies.
A path led me to this rock opening. When I arrived, there was a group of kids playing inside, running back and forth on the man-made wooden walkway.
So this is La Cueva! It is a natural cave situated in a volcanic rock. According to literature, the cave had been used for human shelter long time ago. Studies conducted in the area found artifactual and faunal remains.
The cave also shares the story of “The Hermit.” He lived in the 19th century and was murdered by unknown assailants. The story of the elderly Hermit of La Cueva has now become part of the great historical richness of New Mexico. Read his story below.
Another mile or so walk led me back to the Visitor’s Center.
I was at the right time and the right moment. I ended the 6-mile run/walk/stop journey with a gaze at the golden sunlit mountains. Sunset at the mountains was beautiful!
If you want to escape the city and see some amazing landscapes, visit the Dripping Springs Natural Area, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. One last thing, driving up you will come to a point where the pavement ends. Be prepared.
The Dripping Springs Visitor Center is located 10 miles east of Interstate 25, Exit 1, on the western edge of the Organ Mountains in the Dripping Springs Natural Area. It is open all year, except winter holidays, from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 p.m.
There is a $5 per vehicle fee. They do not accept cards. Pay in cash.
The Dripping Springs Natural Area has a visitor center, handicapped-accessible restrooms, 12 picnic sites, and one large family/group picnic site that can be reserved through the BLM Las Cruces District Office (see Contact Information on the right). There is no camping or pets allowed.
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