Saturday, 4/17/21: Dripping Springs

At the pinnacle of the Dripping Springs Trail.

When I was a young boy and the traveling carnival hit town, all the kids flocked to it. Along with the tilt-a-whirl and the bullet rides, there often was the “fun house”, a maze of hallways with uneven floors and goofy mirrors. Well, after setting up at our new campsite at the Aguirre Springs BLM Campground, we now live in a fun house.

The exquisitely beautiful campground setting, on the side of a mountain, lends to very slanted campsites. Try as we might to level V-Jer, it wasn’t going to happen. So, we stumble around like drunken sailors inside our little home. Perhaps a couple of beers would straighten things out.

My strategy to avoid crowded campgrounds, which I developed last summer and fall, is to avoid moving on the weekends. Unfortunately, the only site I could get at our last campground, Oliver Lee State Campground, ended on Saturday. Yikes, you don’t move on a Saturday, but we were stuck.

Sure enough, Aguirre Springs, with its 55 sites, was jammed packed. Luckily, we got here early, 9:30 am, and on our way in we saw a camper with the exact same T@B 400 camper that we have, driving out. We knew that there had to be at least one spot open and we found it. We did have other contingency plans. There are two excellent free BLM campgrounds in the area, but they lack the amazing views and the clean vault toilets that Aguirre Springs has.

Two other things about Aguirre Springs to mention: 1) The cost is only $7 a night, which meant $3.50 a night with our magic card. 2) The name Aguirre is Wanda’s mother’s maiden name. We were meant to be here.

Our glorious campsite at the Aguirre Springs BLM Campground. Notice how we put a leveler under our camper wheel. We backed it up even higher on the leveler but we were still cock-eyed. Oh well, but what a view.

The main objective today was to explore the Dripping Springs Natural Area, a BLM managed area in the Organ Mountains, near Las Cruces, NM. There are miles of trails that traverse the mountain canyons, but the Dripping Springs Trail, a 3 mile round trip, is the most popular.

The first half of the trail is a wide gravel walkway with a heavy upward grade. It isn’t until you hit the foothills that the full beauty hits you. Still, we climb. There used to be a 32 room hotel in this canyon. The ruins remain to be explored. Still we climb. Next is the actual dripping springs. It is aptly named as all we could discern is a tiny dripping.

Still we climb. New Mexico seems to have a lot of feuds. Although not as bloody as the Lincoln County War, the Dr. Boyd - Van Patten feud, went on for over 13 years. Here’s the story: Dr. Boyd rented this gorgeous canyon from Van Patten “to do with as he saw fit” for $25 a year. Even in the 1800s, that was a great deal. Dr. Boyd built a sanitarium for people who needed the extreme dry air for their pulmonary ailments.

Well, Dr. Boyd, for whatever reason, refused to pay Van Patten his rent. Van Patten sued and sued and sued. He won every suit, but Dr. Boyd wouldn’t pay nor budge. After 13 years, Van Patten, bankrupt, probably due to his legal bills accrued in his lawsuits, sold the property to Dr. Boyd for $1.

Still we climb. Finally at the end of the trail was a most magnificent view of the mountains and the valley below. There is a little water pool that, when filled with mountain run off water, is swimmable. It was dry today. The descent was just as glorious and much less strenuous.

Scenes from the amazing Dripping Springs Trail.

The remnants of the 32 room hotel. They had a stage coach bring up the guests.

What remains of Dr. Boyd’s sanitarium. What a setting!

When we toured the Longhorn Caverns in Texas, we learned a new word - pareidolia. This is when you look at a natural formation (clouds, rocks, etc.) and see an imaginary being or animal. So, what animal do you see sitting on top of this mountain?

LAS CRUCES: Las Cruces, a city of 105,000, is a difficult city to describe. It is brand new. I swear, it looks like it was built just yesterday. It is the gleaming Disneyland version of the idealized modern American culture. The streets are new, the highways are new, the buildings are new, the homes are new.... Even the string streets feeding into the city with all of the sprawling urbanized franchised businesses, still had their shiny gleam intact. The homes and buildings all embraced the modern version of the adobe style. Right in the middle of the antiseptically clean downtown is a huge band shell laying in wait for the pandemic to lift, to leap into action with loud rock band concerts.

So, what was missing? One word, character. Las Cruces is just about the only town that didn’t brag about it’s historic center that we have ever come across. Modern adobe is fine, but where are the original historic adobe buildings? Bulldozed for new, I imagine. Where are the mom’n’pop cafes? The outdoor markets? The taco street stands? The funky bars? The ridiculously expensive antique shops with unique but fun crap jammed in them? No where to be seen. Urban Americana does not age well. I wonder what those string street businesses will look like in 20 years when they get a little seedy?

But for now, Las Cruces is the American Gleaming City on a hill - well, actually in a valley surrounded by gorgeous mountains.

MESILLA: For historic, we tried the village of Mesilla, just a couple miles from Las Cruces. Actually, the fast growing Las Cruces is devouring little Mesilla like an amoeba surrounding its prey. But Mesilla has a sign that points to its historic downtown, and that’s just where we went. The cute little square, anchored on one end with a double towered church, was nice. I doubt that the downtown store buildings were restored adobe relics of the past. They looked too new. However, the church, Basilica San Albino, was original and there were some cool bars and restaurants.

Then it was back to camp. The gate closes at 8 pm sharp and we have been warned that 8 sharp means 8 sharp with no exceptions.

I had to include this one photo that Wanda took yesterday. The white sand looks so much like snow that I should be dressed in a parka and boots.

Dave and Wanda

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