They say this canyon is haunted. Not far from here are the ruins of Boyd Tuberculosis Sanatorium where many sick patients spent their last days in the 20th century. Spirits of the dead are said to still lurk here in the Dripping Springs Natural Area in the Organ Mountains near Las Cruces, NM. (Read my earlier post Dripping Springs.) Another mystery unfolded in this area in the late 1800s when a religious hermit and miracle healer took up residence in a cave nearby despite warnings from locals. Unfortunately they found him near his abode clutching his crucifix with a knife in his back.
After parking at La Cueva picnic area close to the hermit's cave, I ran a short distance to this small waterfall in Fillmore Canyon. The water smoothed rock is adorned with lush riparian vegetation and slick with slimy algae. After enjoying the refreshing box canyon I head back out to the main trail where I have to decide whether to run to the ruins or further into the haunted canyon. I saw a faint trail leading up and into the mountains while studying Google Maps, but have no other information on the trail.
When I arrive at the junction I can’t resist the temptation of going into the unknown, so I take a steep trail that leads up above the waterfall. The surrounding area is characterized by many shades of brown, which most people would likely view as being unsightly. I on the other hand find beauty in the sloping meadows of native grasses flecked with wind and rain polished boulders hurled down from the majestic mountains above.
The trail is slightly overgrown and narrow in places but easy to follow. I ponder how far it goes and realize that I only have a 10oz bottle of water, no food and am totally unprepared to be running in the backcountry all alone. Nevertheless, I’m drawn further and further into the canyon like a boatman lured by the siren Lorelei.
After passing some gnarled dead twisted junipers the trail becomes encrusted with a layer of snow and has a steep drop-off on one side. I hope I don’t slip. I continue climbing higher and higher into the mountains and enter a small stand of pines and other types of evergreens.
Just when I think I’m almost to the top of the pass, I emerge from the trees only to discover a meadow of amber waves of grain that continues to slope up towards the peaks. I keep running on the endless path and finally realize that I’ll have to turn around lest I perish and have to spend eternity amongst the ghosts of Fillmore. I vow to come back another day more prepared to follow the trail to its end.
Locals often climb the Organ peaks, so my best guess is that the trail leads to the base of some favorite climbing routes. Military artillery ranges line the eastern slopes so I doubt the trail goes down the other side. I turn around and begin my run down. On the way back I enjoy spacious skies and tremendous views of the valley below. Cholla cactus, sotol, New Mexico agave and other prickly plants line the trail.
This entire region abounds with plant and animal diversity, historical and archeological sites, unique geological features not to mention scenic splendor. For these reasons this area is being considered for national monument status. If approved, the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument would encompass the Organ and Robledo Mountains, the Potrillo Volcano Field (Kilbourne Hole/Aden Crater), Picacho Peak, Bishop Cap and other sites in Doña Ana County.
When I return to the top of the waterfall I look down into the creek bed below and watch an American Kestrel take flight. I descend a steep crumbly escarpment that brings me back to the main tourist trail. A short run along the rocks that form the back of the hermit’s cave brings me back to my starting point having completed another fine running adventure.
The Organ Mountains offer many hiking and running options and the Dripping Springs are certainly worth a visit provided you aren’t afraid of ghosts.
See you on the trail.