The photo above is the proof that we eventually found our way to our destination. Once there, we sat inside the cave for a long time in total silence. When we compared notes afterwards, it turns out that we were both imagining life at the cave over the centuries.
From the brochure (Bureau of Land Management: La Cueva Trail Guide BLM-NM-GI-98-008-1230):
La Cueva rock shelter is an archeological site associated with the Jornada branch of the prehistoric Mogollon culture...
In the mid 1970's, the Centennial Museum of the University of Texas at El Paso conducted test excavations in front of La Cueva where approximately 100,000 artifacts were recovered...
Preliminary analysis indicated that the rock shelter was occupied from about 5000 B.C., through the historic period that followed the arrival of the Europeans.
It appears that the prehistoric occupants of La Cueva subsisted on rabbits, deer, antelope, and bighorn sheep.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the rock shelter of La Cueva was probably known to the roving bands of Apaches who frequented the area.
...in the late 1860's, the cave reportedly served as home to one of the more eccentric figures in New Mexico's history--Giovanni Maria Agostini, known to local folks as "El Ermitano"...the Hermit.
I have always been fascinated by the story of the Hermit, and wrote about it on this blog in 2008:
Agostini had perhaps studied for the priesthood in Italy. He spent some time with the Penitentes of Northern New Mexico, who were impressed by his healing powers. He decided to go to La Cueva to live alone and to meditate, a plan that worried friends he had made in Old Mesilla. He and his friends worked out an arrangement to set their minds at ease. Every Friday night he would kindle a fire in front of the cave that they would be able to see from Mesilla, and they would thus be assured of his continuing safety. One Friday evening in 1869, as the story goes, the fire did not appear. When the friends had made their way up to La Cueva, they found El Ermitano dead--face down on the ground with a knife in his back. His murder was never solved.
At the Pecan House, where we now live, we can look up at the Organ Mountains at night and just about pinpoint where one might have looked up to search for the glow of the Hermit's fire.