Saturday, September 13, 2014

POTM...*: Meet the Organs

(*Photo of the Month)

OK, I’d like to introduce you to something most of you are not likely to have seen before, the rugged Organ Mountains just east of Las Cruces, New Mexico. (Let me know if you’ve seen them!) Gail and I have been coming down here for several days each month to work with a church of fantastic people, and a collateral blessing has been our opportunity to gaze upon this vista many times each day. In fact, I’ve come to consider them one of the top mountain views I’ve seen in the United States, right up there in my estimation with Colorado’s Maroon Bells, Wyoming’s Tetons, and Washington’s North Cascades. I think the reason I like them so much is that they always look different; the varying crag or cloud shadows, light angles, cloud cover, and particular vegetation catching the sun assure that they never look the same five minutes from the time before. It’s almost kaleidoscopic. We took this particular photo one day our last time here on our way to an evening hike.

This is a very interesting part of the country, barely forty miles from the Mexico border. Throughout southern New Mexico and elsewhere, small mountain ranges rise up in profusion out of the vast flatlands of the Chihuahuan Desert, the third largest desert in the Western Hemisphere, shared with Arizona, Texas and Mexico. The small ranges are called ‘sky islands,’ a very fitting description, towering over the lowlands around them, possessing much cooler temps, higher precip, and extremely different flora and fauna than that found on the desert floor a very short distance away. The Organs themselves are a range less than ten miles long from north to south, and perhaps three wide east to west, with a maximum elevation of only about 9000 feet; but standing at any high point in Las Cruces, which is itself about 3900 feet above sea level, one can scan a 360-degree panorama and see numerous sky island ranges like them at varying distances – the Dona Anas, Robledos and Potrillos among them. The name is given to this range for its supposed likeness to organ pipes, a stretch to be sure but a classy thought!

So far in the Organs themselves, we’ve been able to hike the Dripping Springs, Aguirre Springs and Soledad Canyon areas, seeing cool plants and animals endemic to these kinds of habitats. (Aguirre Springs is where we snapped the photo of that Mexican Screech Owl that was my photo of the month back in June.) And since it’s all a new habitat to us, we find ourselves enjoying it immensely. Additionally, and also new to us, the extended area contains thousands of acres of pecan trees and chili fields nestled along the Rio Grande Valley.

Finally, and interestingly, since beginning to come down this way early in the year, the Organs and several surrounding but separated sky island areas have been incorporated into a brand new national monument, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, designated May 21, 2014. This always seems a controversial thing locally as the government assumes land, but it truly is a unique and lovely area worthy of some kind of recognition.

So we gaze upon their beauty often. You should have heard the people coming into church last Sunday morning, “Did you see them today on the way here?”

Shout for joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name! Say to God, “How awesome are your works!” (Psalm 66:1-3)

Shout for joy, you heavens! Rejoice, you earth! Burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people, and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. (Isaiah 49:13)

~~RGM, September 8, 2014

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