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One Day, Two Hikes, and the Desert

Posted on Wednesday, September 26th, 2007.

Our time in Las Cruces, NM, flew by and before we knew it, we’d reached the end of our stay. There was still so much to see, so before we left we spent the better part of a day hiking in the New Mexican desert.

We began the day in Baylor Canyon, slowly making our way into the Organ Mountains. Flocks of desert quail kept us company while we picked our way through a rocky creek bed (which Hilary mistook for a path).

Our pre-concieved notions of “desert” were continuously challenged throughout our time in Las Cruces. Dry and dusty New Mexico is home to a delicate and varied population of wildflowers, innumerable towering yucca plants, dozens of species of grasses, and all sorts of resilient animals. Some areas are rocky while others are covered in sand; some spots are home to only cactus while others can sustain a variety of plant life. “Desert” does not begin to describe the beauty we encountered while in New Mexico.

In the evening, just before sunset, we made our way to White Sands Nat’l Park, whose gypsum desert couldn’t be more different from Baylors rocky terrain. The sand there was pure white and cool to the touch. The towering dunes sustained only the most rugged plants and insects. To us Northerners, the scenery looked more like a snowy January evening than a blazing hot dusk in the desert.

Above, facilitator Rachel Falcone takes a rest atop one of the sand dunes. The sand itself was a sight to behold, but the delicate flowers that survive at White Sands deserve attention, too. Their roots tap into the nutritious soil beneath the dunes and their stems grow rapidly to stay above the surface of the ever-shifting landscape.

As the sun set on the desert, we packed up memories of New Mexico’s immense natural beauty and wealth of interesting people to carry with us as we head towards a new landscape: Texas!

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