Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns
DinoTracks Tour — Insights Science Center host its monthly DinoTracks tour 1 to 3:30 p.m. Dec. 2, at Mt. Cristo Rey in Sunland Park, open to the general public. The tour covers topics such as “Dinosaur & Crocodilian Trace-fossils,” “Volcanism,” “Plate Tectonics,” “Sedimentation & Metamorphic Processes” and more. Wear sun protection, comfortable closed toed shoes and dress appropriately for the weather. Cost: $15 per person; available at eventbrite. Information: 534-0000 or insightselpaso.org.
The 3-mile hiking tour promotes learning in the STEAM fields: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math.
Next month’s tour is 1 to 3:30 p.m. Jan. 6.
Wyler Aerial Tramway — Hikes are free. Information: 562-9899. Meet at Thousand Steps Trail on N. Stanton and carpool to Tramway. 2 1/2 mile strenuous hike. Bring water, sturdy shoes, appropriate clothing.
• A Women-Only Hike is 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 2.
• The Last Sunday “Santa Hike” is 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 30.
El Paso Zoo — 4001 E. Paisano. Entrance hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Admission is $12 for ages 13 to 59; $9 for ages 60 and older and active duty military (including spouse) with ID; $7.50 ages 3 to 12; and free for ages 2 and under. Zoo members admitted free. Information: 212-0966, elpasozoo.org, or on Facebook at ElPasoZoo.
The “Wings of the World” Bird Show is 12:30 p.m. weekdays and 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. weekends at the new Wildlife Amphitheater.
Santa At the Zoo is Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 8-9.
“Meet The Keeper” talks are 10:30 to 3:15 p.m. at various locations throughout the zoo. Keepers will on hand to meet with guests, discuss their experiences and talk about the animals.
“African Star” Train ride tickets are $2 plus tax ($1.50 for children and society members).
Asian Elephant Training Encounters scheduled at noon daily.
The El Paso Zoo is a 35-acre home to 228 species of animals. About 420 mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds, 106 fish and 294 invertebrates live in a variety of natural habitat exhibits including a Reptile House, South American Pavilion, Americas Aviary, Cisneros Paraje, Birds of Prey Exhibit, Forest Atrium, Asian Grasslands and an Elephant Complex, and the Kalahari Research Station energy exhibit.
El Paso/Trans-Pecos Audubon Society — The society’s annual Holiday gathering and photo sharing event is 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, at UTEP’s Centennial Museum, 500 W. University. Members can share some of their favorite images of the year. Information: Scott, 494-2193 or trans-pecos-audubon.com.
Nonmembers and beginners are welcome to the society’s field trips. Information: Mark Perkins, 637-3521 or trans-pecos-audubon.com.
The society is planning a birding tour in Costa Rica for March 2019. Call for details, cost.
Mesilla Valley Christmas Bird Count — The Mesilla Valley Audubon Society’s 44th annual Christmas Bird Count is Saturday, Dec. 15. Learn the history and methods of the count, go through a collection of bird photos of likely species, organize CBC teams, distribute maps, bird lists and prepare for the count. Participation is free. Information: (575) 528-8696, email@example.com or mvaudubon.org.
Cut down your own Christmas tree — Permits are available for people to cut down their own Christmas tree in designated areas of the Lincoln and Gila National Forests in New Mexico through Dec. 24. Limit is one tree — up to 10 feet in height — per household, and the permit includes a map of areas where cutting is allowed. Permits available to purchase for $5 per tree; special permits available for trees over 10 feet. Applications available at fs.usda.gov.
Sierra Club — The El Paso Group of the Sierra Club meets at 7 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of the month at the UTEP Centennial Museum. Information: elpasosierraclub.org.
The Jan. 22 program is “Water 4 Energy,” Robert Rohbaugh, EPCC Geology Instructor, on how much water is required by various methods to produce electric power.
Franklin Mountains State Park — Most hiking and mountain-biking trails begin in the Tom Mays area, off Transmountain Drive on the west side of the park (east of I-10).
Entry fee is $5 per person, free for age 12 and under (with family). Correct cash or check only. Group rates available. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Information: 566-6441 or on Facebook at FranklinMountainsSP. Web: tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/franklin-mountains.
Learn how Native Americans in the area used native plants and how to make unique Christmas ornaments 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, in the Tom Mays unit.
Campfire and Christmas Stories event is 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, in the Tom Mays unit. Park Rangers will share hot cocoa and some of the stories that have become a part of the Christmas Season. Campfire building program begin at 5 p.m.
Guided hikes and bike rides are $8 per person ($3 State Park Pass holder; $1 children 12 and under); price includes entry. Dogs welcome on leash on some hikes. Reservations required: 566-6441 (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday).
• Peak Fitness Hike is 7 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, of North Franklin Peak. Meet at West Cottonwood Springs trailhead. Strenuous trail, 3.8 miles.
• A Schaeffer Shuffle Hike is 8:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 2. Moderate hike, 2.6 miles.
• Moms + Tots moderate hike geared toward mothers with young kids is 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 14, at Aztec Caves trail (moderate hike).
• Santa Hike is 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 22, on the Nature Walk Trail. Santa hats required. Easy hike.
• Tin Mine Tour hike(moderate) is 8 a.m. Friday, Dec. 28, starting at Chuck Heinrich Park, 6 miles.
The 24,000-acre park extends north from the heart of El Paso to the New Mexico state line. The highest point is North Mt. Franklin, 7,192 feet above sea level.
Rio Bosque Wetlands Park — UTEP’s Center for Environmental Resource Management offers free guided walking tours and other activities at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, 10176 Socorro Rd. in El Paso’s Mission Valley. Tours last about two hours. Information: 747-8663 or riobosque.org.
• Introductory tour is 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2.
• Birding tour is 8 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 15.
Meeting place is a bridge crossing Riverside Canal. Take Americas Ave. (Loop 375) to Pan American Drive, turn left and travel 1.5 miles.
Keystone Heritage Park and El Paso Desert Botanical Garden — 4200 Doniphan (across from Frontera). Hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday-Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; closed Tuesdays. Admission: $2 (free for members); $1 children. Information: 584-0563, keystoneheritagepark.com.
The annual Luminarias by the Lake is 6 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7-8, with holiday music, sweet treats and hot cocoa. Admission proceeds benefit the park.
The park’s 2-acre Botanical Garden, funded by the Rotary Club of El Paso and the Junior League, features native plants, amphitheater, butterfly garden, wedding garden, children’s maze, and a Butterfly House.
Keystone Heritage Park has 189 species of migratory and local birds, and a 4,500-year-old archaeological site.
Bird watching with the Trans Pecos Audubon Society is 9:30 a.m. to noon the second and last Saturday of the month.
Keystone’s Chihuahuan Desert Experience (immediately west of the wetland) is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for walking and bird watching.
Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site — Ranch Road 2775 off U.S. 62/180 (Montana Ave.). The site is famed for many Native American rock paintings and unique geology. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Admission: $7 (free for children 12 and younger). Admission including tours or hikes is $9 (13 and over); $2 (ages 5-12). Information: 857-1135, ext. 0, or texasstateparks.gov.
A Critters of the Night event is 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, to learn about the park’s nocturnal critters. Bring flashlights and water bottles and wear closed-toe shoes. Reservations required. Early arrival encourages; gates close at 6:30 p.m.
Junior Ranger program is 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 15. Space is limited reservations required.
A Holiday Overnight Family Camp Out is begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday and ends at noon Saturday, Dec. 21-22, to learn about life on the trail during the old cowboy days, sample Dutch oven cooking, listen to stories, and roast marshmallows, and try archery. Space is limited; reservations required by Dec. 18. Regular park fees apply.
Bring water, hiking shoes and sunscreen for all daytime hiking events and tour. Special events (space is limited; reservations required). Fee: $9 ($2 5 to 12), unless otherwise listed:
• Birding Tour date to be determined; call for details)
• Women’s Hike is 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8. Open to all women, youth and adults. Cost: $9 ($2 age 5-12)
Reservations are recommended for the self-guided area and for camping: (512) 389-8911.
North Mountain is available for self-guided day use, for up to 70 people at a time; reservations recommended. There is an annual orientation program for visitors. Guided access is offered to the rest of the site. Picnicking allowed at ten tables closest to headquarters. Wood and charcoal fires are not permitted. Bicycles permitted only on designated paved areas. Pets allowed only in camping or picnic areas. Call for reservations and other information: 857-1135.
There are campground sites with water and electric hookups, as well as water-only tent sites.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park — The park is about 160 miles east of El Paso, off the Carlsbad Highway (U.S. 62-180). Information: (575) 785-2232 or nps.gov/cave.
“Rock of Ages” living history guided tours are 6 to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 30-Dec 15. Dressed in historic costumes, park staff will guide visitors on a lantern-lit tour of the front half of the Big Room. Cost: $10 ($5 ages 5-16); no children under 5 admitted. Reservations required; space is limited. Reservations, tickets: (575) 236-1375.
Visitor Center winter hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; tours available 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Last entry into cave via natural entrance is 2 p.m. with last entry into cave via elevator 3:30 p.m. (be in line to exit cave by 4:30 p.m.). Closed Christmas Day.
Plan 3-1/2 hours for a walk-in tour and 1-1/2 hours for Big Room tour of the Caverns. Cost is $10 (free or ages 15 and younger). The park’s audio self-guided tour is $3 extra (also available in Spanish).
Other guided tours are available; call or check website for details.
White Sands National Monument — The glistening gypsum dunes are about 15 miles southwest of Alamogordo, N.M., on U.S. 70. Visitor Center hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Dec. 16; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 17-31. Park hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Dec. 31. Last entrance is one hour before park closed. Entrance fee: $5 age 16 and older. Closed Christmas Day. Free for children. Information: (575) 479-6124, ext. 236 or (575) 679-2599, ext. 232; nps.gov/whsa or on Facebook.
Sunset strolls are offered daily at 4 p.m. through Jan. 4.
“Skins and Skulls” mammal identification talks are 3 p.m. Sundays.
Ranger-guided Lake Lucero Tour is 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 29, to learn about the formation of the sands and the special plants and animals that live in and around the dunes. Program fee is $8 ($4 age 15 and younger). Check website or call for details; reservations required, available one month prior to tour.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park — 110 miles east of El Paso on the way to Carlsbad, the 86,416-acre park includes the highest point in Texas: Guadalupe Peak, 8,749 feet. Entry fee: $5 for ages 16 and older, good for one week and all trails. Pine Springs Visitor Center hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Camping is $8 per site per night. Information: (915) 828-3251 or nps.gov.
The Salt Basin Dunes Day Use Area is now open daily 8 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset. Located at the east end of Williams Road, east of Dell City.
Camping for tents and RVs, a nature trail, and ruins of the Butterfield Overland Mail Station are near the Pine Springs center. McKittrick Canyon Visitor’s Center is seven miles east of Pine Springs, and offers nature, canyon and geology trails.
On the north side of the park, accessible by a 110-mile drive around Carlsbad Caverns, is Dog Canyon Visitor Center and Campground.
One of the best examples of a Permian Period fossil reef, the national park offers camping and more than 80 miles of trails. Hikes range from easy, wheelchair-accessible nature trails to moderate (level, but rocky) canyon hikes to strenuous mountain hikes.
Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park — 1504 Miehls Drive N., Carlsbad, N.M. Admission: $5 ($3 ages 7-12; free for 6 and under). Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (last entry at 3:30 p.m.). Information: (575) 887-5516 or livingdesertnm.org.
The zoo features animals native to the Chihuahuan Desert, in natural desert surroundings. A large greenhouse is devoted to succulents and cactus from around the world. The headquarters building includes exhibits on minerals, history, archaeology and other subjects.
Holiday Bells music with Touch of Joy Ringers from First Presbyterian Church is 11 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 1.
Holidays with the Animals is 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8. Children can make holiday cards and treats for their favorite Living Desert animals, plus other activities.
New Mexico State Parks — Day-use fee is $5 when visiting any state park. All programs are free with park entrance, unless otherwise listed. Information: (575) 744-5998 or nmparks.com.
• Leasburg Dam — Radium Springs, two miles off I-25 at Exit 19. Day use hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Information: (575) 524–4068.
A “Turning Back the Sun” Winter Solstice celebration is noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, with demonstrations, storytelling, hot chocolate and more.
Jornada to Hot Springs hike is 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8.
Discovering the Camino Real ranger-led hikes are 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 and 15, to see why Juan de Oñate and his party left a lush and abundant river valley to begin a treacherous trek of death across the Jornada Del Muerto. Moderate hike, 2.5 miles.
• Pancho Villa State Park, Columbus, N.M., State Roads 11 and 9. Day use hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Information: (575) 531-2711.
Luminaria night is 5 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, with lighted walk, cookies and hot chocolate, and raffle for baked hams.
Bird ID Walking Tour is 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday and Dec. 29.
• Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park. 5000 Calle del Norte in Mesilla. Information: (575) 523-4398.
Audubon Bird Walks are 7:15 a.m. Saturdays, led by park volunteers. Ranger-led Nature Hikes are 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Fitness in Nature walks with the Second Chance Walker Program are 8:30 a.m. every Saturday beginning at the Visitor Center.
• Oliver Lee State Park, Highway 54 south of Alamogordo at the Dog Canyon turnoff. Information: (575) 437-8284.
• Percha Dam State Park and Caballo Lake State Park, 60 miles north of Las Cruces on Interstate 25. Information: (575) 743-3942 (Percha Dam) or (575) 527-8386 (Caballo Lake).
• Elephant Butte Lake State Park, Information: (575) 744-5923.
• Bottomless Lakes State Park — 13 miles east of Roswell, N.M. via US 380. Information: (575) 624-6058.
• City of Rocks State Park, off Hwy 61 in Faywood, N.M., about 130 miles west of El Paso. Information: (575) 536-2800.
• Rockhound State Park, five miles south of Deming on State Road 11 and then east on Rockhound Road (State Road 141) for nine miles. Day use hours: 7:30 a.m. to sunset. Information: (575) 546-6182 or (575) 744-5998.
• Brantley Lake State Park, 12 miles north of Carlsbad via U.S. 285. Information: (575) 887-5516.
Camping fees at state parks are $8 for primitive site; $10 for developed site (electrical hookup $4 extra).
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument — 44 miles north of Silver City on NM Highway 15 in the middle of the majestic Gila Wilderness, the first and one of the largest wilderness areas. Entrance fee: $10 (annual park pass is $45). Information: (575) 536-9461 or nps.gov/gicl.
The trail to the cliff dwellings is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. year round. Everyone must be off the trail by 5 p.m. Visitor center is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Interpretive Park Ranger-led 45-minute guided tours of the cliff dwellings are 1 p.m. Friday through Sunday, at the dwellings; allow enough time to hike from the trail head to the cliff dwellings for the tour.
Advance reservations required for special programs (space is limited to 30 participants). Call for times:
Canyon View hike is Saturday, Dec. 8. Wear sturdy outdoor clothing and hiking boots, bring water and a snack for the 3- to 4-hour program. Part of the hike is off trail through rugged and sometimes steep terrain at 6,000 feet altitude. Strenuous hike, may not be appropriate for young children and others not familiar with off-trail hiking. Advance reservations required (space is limited to 30 participants). Call for time.
Alameda Park Zoo — Alameda Park, 1321 North White Sands Blvd. (U.S. 54/70), Alamogordo. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission: $2.50 ($1.50 ages 3-11 and 60 and older; free for ages 2 and younger). Information: (575) 439-4290, or on Facebook at Alameda Park Zoo-AFOTZ
The oldest zoo in the Southwest (established in 1898) is part of the park that lines Alamogordo’s main highway. The zoo covers about 12 acres, with about 250 exotic and indigenous animals.
Aguirre Spring Campground — The Organ Mountain recreational area, run by the federal Bureau of Land Management, is off U.S. 70 about 15 miles east of Las Cruces. Fifty-five family camping and picnic sites, plus two group areas. Day-use fee is $5 per vehicle; camping fee is $7. Information, group reservations: (575) 525-4300.
The Baylor Pass (hiking and horseback riding) and Pine Tree (hiking) trails begin at the campground.
Dripping Springs Natural Area — The recreational area, part of the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks National Monument, is at the base of the Organ Mountains at the end of Dripping Springs Road (the eastern extension of University Avenue), about 10 miles east of Las Cruces. Gates open 7 a.m. to sunset April through October and 8 a.m. to sunset November through March. Admission: $5 per vehicle. Leashed pets allowed on some trails. Information: (575) 522-1219.
Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park — ?56501 N Jornada Rd, Las Cruces. The park, part of Asombro Institute for Science Education, is northeast of Las Cruces. Park hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Information: (575) 524-3334 or asombro.org.
To get there: Take I-25 in Las Cruces and head east on U.S. 70. Take the Mesa Grande Road exit (at Oñate High School). Make a U-turn under the highway to head west, and stay in the right lane. Turn right (north) on Jornada Road. Follow Jornada Road for 6.4 miles and turn left at the park sign. Follow the entrance road to the parking area and trailhead.
Asombro Institute for Science Education is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing scientific literacy by fostering an understanding of the Chihuahuan Desert.
Sitting Bull Falls — The scenic area in the Lincoln National Forest is seven miles southwest of NM 137 on Forest Route 276. The 130-foot falls is one of the highest in New Mexico. Features a picnic area and wheelchair-accessible trails. Entry fee: $5 per car (day use only). Information: (575) 885-4181.
Area hiking websites — A variety of organizations in the El Paso/Las Cruces area offers hiking opportunities. Hikes typically are rated as easy, moderate, or strenuous. Solo or new hikers are welcome.
• Meetup.com offers a variety of groups for all activities, including the El Paso hiking meetup club (meetup.com/El-Paso-Hiking) and the Las Cruces hiking meetup club (meetup.com/jornada-hikers)
• Celebrations of Our Mountains now offers an ongoing calendar of hiking and related events at celebrationofourmountains.org/
• Elpasonaturally is a blog by Jim Tolbert on various environmental topics and includes information about Sunrise Hikers morning events. Information: elpasonaturally.blogspot.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The El Paso chapter of the Sierra Club posts its hikes at sierraclub.org/elpaso.
Chihuahuan Desert Nature Club — Seven El Paso sites participate in the new club helping area residents connect to the location natural environment, and learn more about Chihuahuan Desert area plants and animals. Membership is free to all ages.
To join, persons need to visit one of the Nature Club’s Chihuahuan Desert Hot Spots, pick up a flier, and get a stamp. Once they have visited at least three of the seven participating Hot Spots, show stamped flier and receive an official Chihuahuan Desert Nature Club sticker. Sign up available online at chihuahuandesert.org.
Participating locations: Chamizal National Memorial, Don Haskins Recreation Center Nature Trail, El Paso Zoo, Franklin Mountains State Park (Tom Mays Unit), Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site, Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, and Wyler Aerial Tramway State Park. Admission fees apply at some sites.
Chihuahuan Desert Resource Institute — The CDRI center and botanical gardens are four miles south of Fort Davis on Hwy 118. Admission: $5 ($4 seniors 65 and older; free children 12 and younger, members). Information: (432) 364-2499 or cdri.org.
Davis Mountains Preserve — The Nature Conservancy preserve is open to the public on designated days, with no admission fee. No pets allowed. All visitors must sign in at McIvor Conservation Center near the preserve’s entrance. Reservations not required for day use, but strongly encouraged for overnight stays: (432) 426-2390, ext. 1 or email@example.com.
To get there: Take Hwy 118 from Fort Davis to the Lawrence E. Wood picnic area. The preserve gate is about one-quarter mile north of picnic area on left (look for sign).
Chihuahuan Desert Wildlife Rescue — The nonprofit organization that serves West Texas and Southern New Mexico offers resources for those who find a wild bird or mammal in need of help. Information: 772-6011, (575) 882-2910 or cdwr.org.
Uninjured baby birds may be returned to their nest; the mother will not reject them if humans have touched them. If the nest cannot be found, create one with a basket or container with good drainage that can be attached to the tree so the parent bird may find it. If the bird is injured, contact the rescue immediately.
Community Tool Sheds — Keep El Paso Beautiful, in partnership with Paso del Norte Health Foundation, Home Depot and El Paso Fire Department, offers community tool sheds available at area fire stations. The sheds are stocked with push brooms, shovels, rakes, a gas weed eater, gloves and trash bags for use for cleanup or beautification projects. The items may be borrowed for no charge to the public for community cleanup projects. Information: 546-6742.
Tool sheds are at 5315 Threadgill, 3801 Fort Blvd., 6500 N. Mesa, 7901 San Jose, 11977 Pellicano, 1801 Montana, 6300 Delta and 10834 Ivanhoe.
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