I don't know why it always surprises me that a half hour from our house
we can get so far from civilization.
On the other side of the Organs--the very mountains we see from our house--we can take a windy little road off the empty highway to Aguirre Spring, the only high-country campground in the Las Cruces area.
The road overlooks the vast and empty Tularosa Basin, ancient site of a salt lake and long-ago lush grasslands. 10,000 years ago men hunted bison here. Even in the late 1800s the native grasses grew "as high as a horse's shoulder." Because of drought years and overgrazing,
the land we now see is mostly desert shrubland.
The basin is now home to the military's White Sands Missile Range and the White Sands National Monument. If you look very hard at the middle of this photo you will just be able to make out a long thin tongue of white sand, actually gypsum crystals.
The Aguirre Springs area is known for its wide variety of plant species, such as alligator juniper, gray oak, mountain mahogany and the sotol you see here.
This time of year we go to see the wild Mexican poppies. Depending on the season's rainfall and our timing, we might see entire fields of gold spilling down the sides of the basin.
This photo is for my friend, Helen, who moved away but still reminds me to go and see the poppies.
It was a good morning, fresh and quiet and very, very still.