Monuments to Main Street is returning to Doña Ana County for its second action-packed year. The month-long celebration provides numerous opportunities to explore places and events that make southern New Mexico unique. Through the month of September, Visit Las Cruces is promoting many free tours, and a few with a fee, that will help residents and visitors alike discover more about the history, culture, and natural world of the Mesilla Valley and beyond. In addition to the special hikes and activities they are hosting, they are showcasing other on-going special events in our area, such as the White Sands International Balloon Festival.
The name Monuments to Main Street refers to New Mexico’s newest national monument, the Organ Mountain—Desert Peaks National Monument, in addition to White Sands National Monument and the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument and the communities in their areas: Anthony, Hatch, Las Cruces, Mesilla, and Sunland Park. These communities have rich traditions that are celebrated in September, from Mesilla’s Diez y Seis de Septiembre event to the Hatch Chile Festival and much more. In addition, special outings have been planned to explore the region with excursions to Kilbourne Hole and Aden Crater, a rafting trip down the Rio Grande, an Old West stagecoach ride with dinner and a show, and a Billy the Kid tour.
For the active types, Monuments to Main Street includes guided hikes, yoga in the mountains, and a rafting trip. For sports lovers, check out football games at NMSU. Art lovers will enjoy the Plein Art Fest. History buffs will want to walk in Billy the Kid’s bootsteps, follow in the wagon tracks of early Spanish settlers to explore El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, enjoy the Diez y Seis de September Fiesta, take an aerial tour of Kilbourne Hole crater to see where Apollo astronauts trained, or explore the heritage of downtown Las Cruces on another special tour.
A number of free guided hikes are offered to help residents and visitors alike get up close and personal with the beautiful Chihuahuan Desert in the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument. With the abundance of rain the area has experienced this summer, the desert is lush with green and will make the hikes an extra-special experience.
As part of the hike schedule, the Bureau of Land Management – Las Cruces District, Friends of Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks, NM Wild, and the Sierra Club will offer free, guided hikes every Saturday and Sunday during September.
Ben Gabriel, executive director of Friends of the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks, says, “It’s an opportunity for the community to connect to the special places in our national monuments locally. They can learn about our environment, cultural resources, and history of the area. And it’s great to get outside because it is good for their personal well being.”
These free hikes in the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument reveal splendor and rare delights. From the hushed depths and hidden bends of Valles Canyon to the expansive vistas of Baylor Pass, the hikes offer an opportunity to explore our nearby national monument.
The outings also include trips up Picacho Peak, to the rugged Aden Crater lava flow, and out to see the Prehistoric Trackways. The hikes have varying levels of difficulty and are led by experienced hikers who will point out areas of interest along the way.
Partial hike schedule:
• September 2: Baylor Canyon (Friends of the Organ Mountains—Desert Peaks hike)
• September 10: Valles Canyon (Friends of the Organ Mountains—Desert Peaks hike)
• September 17: Prehistoric Trackways (Friends of the Organ Mountains—Desert Peaks hike)
• September 17: Picacho Peak (Friends of the Organ Mountains—Desert Peaks hike)
• September 17: Aden Crater Lava Flow
• September 23: Botany Hike on the Baylor Pass Trail (Friends of the Organ Mountains—Desert Peaks hike)
• September 24: Soledad Canyon, Bar Canyon loop (Friends of the Organ Mountains—Desert Peaks hike)
• September 30: Aden Crater Lava Flow
More details about the hikes led by the Friends of the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks is on their website, organmountainsdesertpeaks.org/events, and their Facebook page, facebook.com/friendsomdp. You may also contact Susan Singley at 323-1423.
For other hikes, contact the hike leaders for specific information, including where to meet, hike duration and difficulty, and special requirements. You may also contact Howie Dash of the Sierra Club at firstname.lastname@example.org or Nathan Small at NM Wild, (575) 496-9540 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
For all hikes, wear sturdy footwear, bring water and snacks, a sun hat, and a walking stick if desired.
Few of us have the opportunity to view our city, iconic mountains, and historic locations from above, but this September as part of Monuments to Main Street, you’ll have the opportunity to book one of three special aerial flights which will allow you to do just that.
The Organ Mountains City to Sky Tour is new to Monuments to Main Street this year and will take participants over the city with a close-up fly by of the Organ Mountains. Your adventure goes from the Las Cruces Airport up the Rio Grande River and along side the rugged Robledo Mountains and Billy the Kid’s Outlaw Rock. It then heads toward the towering Organ Mountains while giving you a dramatic view over Las Cruces, New Mexico’s second largest city. Finally, you will experience a once-in-a-lifetime view of the Organ Mountains while you fly along the crown jewel of the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument. The tours will certainly be popular, so schedule your adventure in advance. The first day of the tour is Saturday, September 2, with additional tours on September 9, 23, and 30.
If you’d like a different destination for your aerial tour, Sundays, September 3 and 17, bring the World War II Bombardier Target Flying Tour. This tour will fly passengers over giant bullseye targets built into the Sierra de las Uvas Mountains over 70 years ago to train bombardier pilots on the top secret Norden Bombsight, which was designed to improve the accuracy of high altitude bombing and helped change the course of the war in Europe. Twenty-four targets were built between Deming and Las Cruces and six of them are in the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument. View them from above, much as the sworn-to-secrecy pilots did in the 1940s.
Yet another opportunity is scheduled for September 16 and 24. This tour will take participants to the visually stunning Kilbourne Hole and explore the history of the Apollo Space Program there. Designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1974, Kilbourne Hole is a globally famous mile-wide volcanic maar crater thought to be 80,000 years old. This rare geologic wonder was used by the Apollo 12 – 17 missions to train astronauts for a lunar environment.
The tours are organized by Southwest Expeditions, a local adventure touring company. Southwest Expeditions General Manager David Crider says, “It’s a fantastic way to see large sections of the monument from overhead. Because of all the rain, it has exploded in greenery. It’s like a different landscape below. If they are going to go, this is the time to appreciate the grandeur of our monument. We are flying low and slow and the pilot does an excellent job of banking so people can take photos out the plane windows, so we encourage people to bring their cameras.”
For all these aerial tours, flights will leave every 30 minutes beginning at 8 a.m. until 12 p.m. Flights depart from the Las Cruces Airport, 8990 Zia Blvd., and passengers will need to be at the airport 30 minutes prior to the flight. Three passengers may take part in each 30-minute flight with the minimum age being five. Flights are $89 per person. Spots may be reserved at swexpeditions.com. For additional information, call 1-877-808-6877.
For more information about the many events that are part of Monuments to Main Street, go to monuments2mainstreet.com. There’s no excuse to stay home this month because there’s something for everyone.