Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

La Cueva – Hermit’s Cave

La Cueva (“the cave”) is the name of a rock formation in the foothills of the Organ Mountains in the Dripping Springs Natural Area. You can see it here:
La Cueva - Dripping Springs Las Cruces
At the center of the photo, where you see the two trees, is the cave that gives the formation its name. You can see the entrance here:
La Cueva - Dripping Springs Las Cruces
Once you enter the cave, you see:
La Cueva - Dripping Springs - Hermit's Ca ve
The cave has been used as a shelter by humans for at least 5,000 years. You can easily see the blackened ceiling caused by innumerable fires:
La Cueva - Dripping Springs - Hermit's Cave
Also inside the cave a Parks Service plaque giving information on the most famous occupant of the cave, the Hermit de Agostini. Like almost all the information published about the Hermit, this plaque is full of incorrect facts.
La Cueva - Dripping Springs - Hermit's Cave
His birth name was Giovanni Maria de Agostini and he was born in 1801 at Sizzano, Piedmont, Italy (not Lombardy as other sources say). After he began his travels and on his passport, he called himself Juan Maria d’Augustine. Physically, he was short, had brown eyes and a long face.

He come from a fairly well-off family and received a formal education, learning Latin, French, and studying theology.

In his early-twenties he began his life as a wanderer, visiting religious sites in Italy, France, and Spain. In 1838 he took the rule of Saint Anthony the Abbot – a decision to lead a Monastic life of poverty and the most austere practices of virtue. Shortly thereafter, he departed Europe for the New World, arriving by boat at Caracas, Venezuela. He was 38 years old.

In South and Central America he traveled in Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Panama, Guatemala, and Mexico.

In 1861 he left Mexico for Cuba, then New York City. He walked from New York City to Montreal, Canada. From Canada he went to St. Louis, Missouri, then Westport, Missouri, then Council Grove, Kansas. Except when he took boats, he always traveled by foot.

The story on the Parks Service plaque is more or less correct about how he got to Mesilla, after spending several years in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

The reason for his murder is unclear. The motive was clearly not robbery because his large silver cross, silver rosary, and several other items of silver jewelry were not taken. A local priest was indicted for his murder but never tried.

Related posts:

New Book on the Hermit of La Cueva

Hiking Dripping Springs – Part 3

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Monday, March 5th, 2012

Hike to Bishop’s Cap Cave

Bishop’s Cap Peak is located at the southern end of the Organ Mountains. It was named because it looks something like a Bishop’s Cap — or so the early namers thought. It is easily seen on the east side of Highway I-25 when driving between Las Cruces, NM and El Paso, Tx.
Bishop's Cap Peak
Bishop's Cap Peak -- Topographic Map
Bishop’s Cap cave is located on the western side of the peak, about one-fifth of the distance to the summit. The eastern side of the mountain is off-limits. A power line access road traverses the western side of the peak. At the point at which you can see the mouth of the cave, there is a short spur that climbs about 150 feet toward the mountain.
Bishop's Cap Peak
The point where you begin the ascent is marked on the map above (32.18698 -106.61020). You can see the power line road and spur in the satellite image below.
Bishop's Cap Peak
The cave as it appears from the road is shown below.
Bishop's Cap Peak Cave -- New Mexico
I rate the hike to the cave fairly difficult. There is no path, it’s rocky, and it would be easy to get hurt. Don’t climb alone, and if you are climbing during snake season, be cautious.

The cave mouth (click for larger image):
Bishop's Cap Peak Cave
Some images of the cave (click for larger image):
Bishop's Cap Peak Cave -- Dona Ana, New Mexico
Bishop's Cap Peak Cave -- Las Cruces
Bishop's Cap Peak Cave
The view from the cave (click for larger image):
Bishop's Cap Peak

See also:
Lightning Strikes Bishop’s Cap
Mine House Spring – Hayner Mine
Mine House Spring – Hayner Mine – The Video
Visit to Apache Wells
Hiking Dripping Springs – Part 1

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

Organ Mountains – Early December Snow

Snow on the Organ mountains this morning.
December Snow - Organ Mountains - Dec 12, 2011
December Snow - Organ Mountains - Dec 12, 2011

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

The Electric Light

Every day some new suggestion is made as to the probable use of electricity. A San Francisco professor thinks the time is coming when swamps and sewers will be deprived of their unwholesomeness by strokes of lightning, or, in other words, by electric currents that will kill the germs and spores that communicate disease to the human system. This is based upon the germ theory of disease, which is to the effect that malarial and other foul air contagions are due to animalcule, or infusoria, which multiply in the victim’s body after inoculation. But would it not be a miracle if all atmospheres were rendered wholesome by electrical discharges? The electric light has made one change in cities which may lead to important results. It has enabled buildings and other public works to be constructed at night as well as day. Laborers are employed in eight and twelve hour shifts, and edifices are completed in less than half the time required when only day work could be employed. In summer laborers prefer to work at night. Scientists tell us, as yet we only dimly appreciate the marvelous changes that will be wrought by electricity in human conditions.

Rio Grande Republican, February 18, 1882 (Newspaper)

See also:

First Electric Light in New Mexico

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Friday, October 14th, 2011

Rio Grande – 3 Photos

“The Rio Grande is the only river I ever saw that needed irrigation.” — Will Rogers

“I never realized what beauty water added to a river until I saw the Rio Grande.” – Mark Twain

Rio Grande River
Rio Grande River
Rio Grande River
Photos taken October 13, 2011 at Las Cruces.

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Saturday, August 13th, 2011

First Electric Light in New Mexico

The following advertisement from the June 23rd, 1881 Las Vegas Optic newspaper probably documents the VERY FIRST appearance of electric light in New Mexico.
First Electric Light in New Mexico - June 23, 1881
Regarding the electric light shown in the illustration, the advertisement says:

All under the most perfect sun-eclipsing ELECTRIC LIGHTS, which are exclusively used to illuminate the VAST METROPOLIS OF EXHIBITION TENTS.

William Washington Cole, who began his circus in 1871, promoted new technology — “marvels” — in his expositions along with traditional circus acts. The electric light advertised here would have been a Brush Arc Light, which American inventor Charles F. Brush began selling commercially in 1879. Brush had invented the first modern electric dynamo in 1876. One or more of Brush’s dynamos, powered by a steam engine, would have powered Cole’s electric arc lights.

Electric arc lights were quickly shown to be much cheaper than gas, the prevailing technology, and to provide more light. By 1881, Brush had sold over 6,000 arc lights, including the following:

  • 800 lights in rolling mills, steel works, shops, etc.
  • 1,240 lights in woolen, cotton, linen, silk, and other factories
  • 425 lights in large stores, hotels, churches, etc.
  • 250 lights in parks, docks, and summer resorts
  • 275 lights in railroad depots and shops
  • 130 lights in mines, smelting works, etc.
  • 380 lights in factories and establishments of various kinds
  • 1,500 lights in lighting stations, for city lighting, etc.
  • 1,200 lights in England and other foreign countries.

Thomas Edison invented his incandescent light bulb in 1879 which would replace fairly quickly the arc light.

Note that the word “electric” in the advertisement is written with “lightning” characters, a typographic convention evidently already established in 1881.

See also:

The Electric Light

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Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Robledos and Dona Anas

Every visitor to Las Cruces is struck by the beauty of the Organ Mountains, east of town. But there are numerous other mountain ranges in the area, including the Robledos and the Dona Anas, both north of Las Cruces. The Robledos are on the east side of the Mesilla Valley, the Dona Anas west of the valley.

Neither range are as spectacular as the Organs, and it’s hard to capture their beauty.

Here are two photos of Robledo Mountain taken after a light snow, yesterday. Robledo Mountain is the highest peak in the range, 5890 feet. The mountain was named for Pedro Robledo, who was killed May 21, 1598 and was buried nearby. Pedro Robledo was a lieutenant in colonizing expedition to New Mexico. Pedro Robledo was survived by a wife and five children, and his descendents still live in New Mexico. (.)

If you look east from the Robledos, you can see the Dona Anas. The highest peak in the range is 5835 feet. (Photo taken December 29, 2009.)

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Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Rain Granted

The last post (Sunday) noted that rain was predicted. Monday we got it. It rained almost all day, an unusually long rain at an unusual seasonal time.

Tuesday morning the clouds completely obscured the Organ Mountains. There had been a very light snow during the night, so it was reasonable to expect snow on the Organs.

About 12:30 pm the cloud cover cleared and the Organs became visible (click for a larger image):

Organ Mountains - Las Cruces

The rock formation in the foreground in this photo is known as La Cueva, because of the cave at its base:

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Sunday, November 29th, 2009

Organ Mountains – Rain Expected

It has been raining today and the forecast is for quite a bit more rain. We’ll see. Here’s what the Organ Mountains looked like this afternoon:

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Visit to Apache Wells

The site known as Apache Wells is located north of Hwy 10, about mid-way between Las Cruces and Deming. About one mile north of Apache Wells is the old route of the Butterfield Overland Stage. The Apache Wells site is marked here:
Apache Wells Map - New Mexico
As a source of water, the site was used by Native Americans and later visitors and settlers.

A scratched stone at the location memorializes the killing of Jon Faulkner in 1894. It is known that this stone is not at its original location, which is presumed to be nearby, so it does not mark an actual grave site. A search of various sources reveals no information about the killing of a Jon (or more likely John) Faulkner in 1894 (anyone know more?).
Jon (John) Faulkner Gravestone
At the top of the stone is scratched “MAID 29 DE 96,” i. e., made 29 December 1896.
Jon (John) Faulkner Gravestone


Also at the site are many Petroglyphs. Here are a sampling:
Petroglyph figure and horse - New Mexico
Figure and horse. The horse may have a saddle.
Petroglyph soldier
The wide stride and the over-the-shoulder stick with the bag strongly suggests a soldier.
Petroglyph Man Cat
A beautiful Petroglyph, evidently a man cat. Behind it is a much smaller animal, which could be canine or feline:
Petroglyph animal
Here we have a Petroglyph and a modern scratching:
Petroglyph plus Deming
The Petroglyph is made by tapping with a rock, the letters by scratching. You can see the clear difference in making technique here:
Petroglyph closeup
A mysterious petroglyph, partially buried:
Also in the area are many grinding (mortar) holes:
grinding (mortar) holes
These holes were used by to grind various seeds into meal. The longer the period of use, the deeper the hole. One interpretation of the size variation is that different seeds ground better or easier in different sized holes. So many holes together might also be a sign that grinding was often a group activity.