Dona Ana Mountains Trail Run

A pre-run of the Dona Ana Mountains trails for the upcoming Chile Challenge event yielded high views and excitement Saturday. The trails of the Dona Ana Mountains offer various combinations of off-camber accents and descents while traversing steep hillsides, leaving little margin for error. A steady pace and skill is recommended.

The morning chill quickly burned off to provide clear skies and an easy breeze as we caravanned to the trailhead. As most often is the case, I dashed the iconic Jeep harmony as my lone Toyota pushed the back of the line. All vehicle make grunting aside; the group was capable and good company.

Be mindful when stopping these rocky slopes; the vehicle may wander off on its own. Park with the wheel turned uphill, use the parking brake and wedge rocks under tires. Walking away from my truck in this situation always provides unease.

Dad pilots his daughter into “Eye of the Needle”

Listening to bits of shale let go while leaning over a steep hillside is a therapeutic blood rush


Dona Ana Moderate Trail Map

Hidalgo County, New Mexico- Trip Planning

Returning home from a Phoenix business trip kindled my interest in an area that I frequently passed through as a kid and better served then as purgatory between vacation and home. Back when seatbelts weren’t so important I’d retire from watching the lonely landscape by putting my legs on the seat back and lay upside-down watching the clouds out the back window. Driving twenty years later I find myself staring out at the horizon searching for side roads and empty homesteads hoping to discover something new.

The southwest corner of New Mexico and bordering outreaches of Arizona seem to be some of the most unpopulated land in the West. Sharing a border with the drug war embroiled Northern Mexico seems to increase the attraction of possible adventures in these parts. Between Arizona’s Texas Canyon and Lordsburg, New Mexico, lay a vast stretch of valleys, grassland and rock monuments that signify what I refer to as “God’s Country”.

Stay tuned for future travels here


Jacob's Ladder

Getting height in a remote section of flatlands offered a different perspective on my most photographed expanse. Surroundings that seem timeless were in great contrast to this odd piece.


The Black Range and Hillsboro, NM #2

The Runner was tired and in need of revitalization as dropped skid plates and scattered parts grounded the rig in my garage. With the company of my dad, his truck, a 16ft ladder and two enthusiastic dogs we almost looked the part of Black Range folk.

True happiness riding in the back of the truck


The Shrine- Salem, New Mexico

Rising from an arroyo basin, a lone hut known as The Shrine sits upon a hill dotted with brush and mesquite. The well traveled path leading to the Shrine clings to the hillside supported by meticulously stacked tires, many of which have fallen victim to gravity. I had no idea this place had existed beforehand and became quickly struck by the simple beauty of the structure against the late sky. A view of the interior is reserved for those that find this place.


The Black Range and Hillsboro, NM #1

Hillsboro is better known for its once Annual Apple Festival (now cancelled) and eclectic mix of ranchers, retirees and artists.
Trip Time: Departed Las Cruces at noon and returned around 5pm
Directions: North on I-25 Las Cruces, Exit 63 after Percha Dam, West on Hwy. 152 to Hillsboro, Continue west Kingston and access to various Forest Service Roads
Though brand new, the only pumps in town were closed on a Saturday, instead they provided a classic backdrop. Still the Runner was thirsty, I pressed on promising to be light on the pedal.

Rolling back through town at 4pm signaled most honest business to be closed for the day.

The hills seemed to ask me to stay another hour for dusk’s radiance, I pressed on knowing I’d be back.


New Years Day - Sierra de las Uvas

New Years Day was celebrated atop a lonesome peak in the Sierra de las Uvas Range with my sister and her boyfriend visiting from the UK. Eager to show them my favorite local area we had traveled northwest to the far corner of Dona Ana County. While the wind persisted it did not keep us from reaching the peak shortly before dusk. This area is better traveled in the twilight hours as the lighting becomes something magical. For them the landscape proved surreal as we sat quiet above the valleys and plains.


The Maps

“I read more maps than books”

GPS: Garmin Nuvi 850, Garmin etrex Legend CX, USGS Topo 1:250,000 scale mapping software Topo Maps: Delorme’s, The Roads of New Mexico, BLM Topo 1:100,000 scale, Forrest Service Topo 1:126,720 scale A word on GPS: Don’t buy a topo specific GPS unit for driving off-road. The screens on units such as the Garmin Oregon and Colorado are too small to function well while driving. The same Garmin topo maps can be purchased on SD cards from Garmin for devices with SD slots. The Garmin Nuvi series is a good platform for combining a sophisticated on-road GPS with supplemental topo mapping.

The Camera

Nikon D-60

10.2-Megapixel DX-format Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR


Because I destroy most equipment I get my hands on, a budget orientated yet well performing camera was found with the Nikon D-60. Replacing a 35mm N-65 and Panasonic DMC-TZ3 point-and-shoot, the D-60 is more than enough camera to bring the backcountry home. Because I consider myself a “photographer in progress” I expect my skills and knowledge to improve with time, advice is well taken.

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New Mexico by Region

Southwest New Mexico

Gila National Forest
Dona Ana County- Las Cruces Area
Sierra County- Hatch Area
Socorro County- Socorro Area
Catron County- Reserve Area
Grant County- Silver City Area
Hidalgo County- Lordsburg Area

Southeast New Mexico

Lincoln National Forest

Central New Mexico

Northwest New Mexico

North Central New Mexico

Northeast New Mexico





Best of 2009