September 2019

Nature

Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns

Celebration of Our Mountains — For 25 years, the celebration has included hiking, biking, birding, climbing, photographing, geocaching, studying and celebrating the natural wonders of the Borderland. For a full line-up of events, visit celebrationofourmountains.org.

DinoTracks Tour — Insights Science Center hosts its monthly 3-mile DinoTracks tour 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1, at Mt. Cristo Rey in Sunland Park. Cost: $15 (age 5 and younger free); available at eventbrite; early payment requested. Information: 534-0000 or insightselpaso.org.
  Bring of water, snacks and sunscreen. Hike over moderate terrain for about two miles. Upcoming hike is 1 p.m. Oct. 6 and Nov. 3.

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.
  “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.

Wyler Tramway Hikes — 1700 McKinley (west of Alabama). Hikes are free and last 2 to 4 hours, depending on trail. Not recommended for first-time hikers. Bring sun protection and wear suitable shoes and clothing. Meet at starting point at 6:45 a.m. Information: 562-9899.
• A Women’s Hike is 7 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 1, on Directisimo Trail up to the junction with Jackaloop trail and back down.
• Last Sunday hike is 7 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, up Directisimo Trail.
A Geocaching event is 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, to learn the basics of the sport. All materials provided; participants should bring water and sun protection. Participation is free, but registration required at 562-9899.

El Paso/Trans-Pecos Audubon Society — The society’s general meeting is 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16, at UTEP’s Centennial Museum, 500 W. University, with a look at Bird Watching at Hueco Tanks Park. Information: Scott, 581-6071, trans-pecos-audubon.com or on Facebook.
  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 trip in the Mountains of Columbia, South America Feb. 29-March 9, 2020. Reservations: $200 deposit by Nov. 26.

Gila River Festival — The Gila Conservation Coalition’s 15th annual festival “Our River, Our Future,” is Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 19-22, at various locations in Silver City, N.M. Events feature presentations and hands-on activities designed to foster a deeper intimacy with the Gila River such as river outings, expert-led hikes and field trips, presentations, panel discussions, music, community art projects, and more. Registration: (575) 538-8078. Information: gilariverfestival.org or on Facebook.
  Keynote speaker is climate activist, Tim DeChristopher. Other speakers include Sharman Apt Russell, author of ”Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist”; San Carlos Apache Tribe youth activist Naelyn Pike; Youth plaintiff Akilah Sanders-Reed; Guggenheim Fellow landscape photographer Michael Berman; and Water law attorney and director of the University of New Mexico’s Utton Transboundary Resources Center, Adrian Oglesby.
  The Gila River Extravaganza is Saturday, Sept. 21, featuring Fort Sill Apache Fire Dancers.

WaterSmart Landscape Series — Garden Curator of UTEP’s Chihuahuan Desert Gardens, John White, will host two talks on water smart topics 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. selected Saturdays in September, at TecH2O Learning Center, 10751 Montana. Events are free and open to the public; space is limited. Reservations: 621-2000 or ajpadilla@epwater.org or tech20.org.
Sept. 21: Fruit Trees of Our Region
Sept. 28: Edible Landscape Maintenance.

Tree Steward program — Las Cruces Parks & Recreation Department and Keep Las Cruces Beautiful seek applications for a the Fall 2019 class of volunteer Tree Stewards, community volunteers to care for trees in public spaces and on their own property. Training includes 32 hours of hands-on classes 8 a.m. to noon Wednesdays Oct. 2-Nov. 20, at Frank O’Brien Papen Community Center Auditorium, 304 Bell. Tree Stewards volunteer at least 40 hours planting trees, aiding in educational efforts like Arbor Day, and assisting in the maintenance of trees in Las Cruces parks. Space is limited to first 20 applicants. Information: (575) 541-2101, jzabriskie@las-cruces.org, las-cruces.org/Tree-Stewards or on Facebook at LasCrucesTreeStewards.

Franklin Mountains State Park — Most hiking and mountain bike 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.
  Texas Outdoor Family two-day family camping workshops are Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 7-8, and Sept. 14-15, for families’ first camping experiences. Reservation deadline is noon the Thursday prior to the workshop; available at attexasstateparks.reserveamerica.com, (512) 389-8903 or visit a “Texas Outdoor Family” customer service representative at the park office at 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
  The 15th annual Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta is 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, celebrating Franklin Mountain State Park’s 40th Anniversary, with
educational exhibits, guided hikes, demonstrations, and outdoors activities. Park entrance fee waived for the event.
   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).
• Aztec Caves Hike is 8 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 1. Moderate hike, 1.2 miles, meet at Tom Mays trail head.
• Prospect Mine Tours are 8 and 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22, starting at the W. Cottonwood Springs trailhead. Short, easy hike.
• Stroll in the Park is 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11. Meet at the end of the road on Tom Mays Unit for a slow-paced, mid-week expedition.
• Women’s Hike is 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, meeting at West Cottonwood Springs Trailhead. Moderately difficult hike, about 2 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.

Municipal Rose Garden — The garden at 3418 Aurora (at Copia) is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily March through November, except for official holidays. The 4-acre garden has many types of roses at the sprawling park area with a waterfall, shade canopy and many other amenities. Admission is free. Information/rentals: El Paso Parks and Recreation, 212-0092 or elpasotexas.gov/parks.

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.
• Birding tour is 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 7.
• Introductory tours is 8 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 15.
• Community workday is 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 21.
  Meeting place is a bridge crossing Riverside Canal. Take Americas Ave. (Loop 375) to Pan American Drive, turn left and travel 1.5 miles.

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.

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.
? Reservations required for all special events. Admission including tours or hikes is $9 (13 and over); $2 (ages 5-12). Reservations also recommended for the self-guided area and for camping: (512) 389-8911.
  Critters of the Night hike will teach participants about nocturnal creatures beginning at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6. Gates open at 7 p.m. and close at 8 p.m. Bring flashlights and water bottles, and wear closed-toe shoes. Space is limited.
  Rare Plant Tour is 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 21. Learn facts, uses and how to identify some of the extraordinary plants of Hueco Tanks. Bring water, snacks, and appropriate apparel.
  Women’s Hike is 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 21. Explore the site with a female ranger or volunteer; open to women of all fitness levels.
  Celebration of Our Mountains Pictograph Tours are 9 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 22. Two separate tours offered: “Rock Art 1” Tour focusing mainly on the Tigua, Kiowa, and Mescalero Apache pictographs. “Rock Art 2” Tour to focus on prehistoric images such as animals, birds, and large-eyed figures.
  Nature Photography hike is 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 28. Ranger photographers Pete and Carlos lead an exploration of some of the most scenic areas of Hueco Tanks. Participants bring their own gear.
  The 25th annual Hueco Tanks Interpretive Fair is Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 19-20, with various programs and activities.
  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.
  Visitor Center summer hours (through Sept. 2) are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily; tours available 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Last entry into cave via natural entrance is 3:30 p.m. with last entry into cave via elevator 4:45 p.m. (be in line to exit cave b 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.
  Free “bat season” programs continue through mid-October. Daily bat flight talks offered just before sunset at the amphitheater outside the natural entrance. Then — bats willing — visitors are treated to the sunset spectacle of clouds of bats flying.
  Plan 3-1/2 hours of the cave entrance.
  Night Sky programs begin after the bat flight programs. Hike is 1/2 mile for star walks and 1.5 miles for moon hikes on a rugged desert trail. Dress comfortably (long pants recommended); no open-toed shoes. Bring water, snack, blanket or towel to lie on and red light flashlight. Rangers can provide red light headlamps. Upcoming Star Walks (age 6 and older) are Aug. 30, Aug. 31, Sept. 1 and Sept. 27. and Moon Hikes are Sept. 13-14, and Oct. 12. Participation is free, but space is limited on a first come, first serve basis. Check availability at the park sign next to the Visitor Center. Star Party is Sept. 28 in the east parking lot picnic area.

White Sands National Monument — The glistening gypsum dunes of White Sands National Monument are about 16 miles southwest of Alamogordo, N.M., on U.S. 70. Park hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Sept. 14. Visitor Center hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Sept. 14. Last entrance is one hour before closing. Entrance fees are $20 per vehicle; $10 per person and $15 per motorcycles. Information: (575) 479-6124, nps.gov/whsa or on Facebook.
  Sunset strolls are offered daily.
  “Skins and Skulls” mammal identification talks are 3 p.m. Sundays.
  A Full Moon Hike is 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12. Reservations required at Recreation.gov or by call (1-877-444-6777).
  Full Moon Night program is 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, with a performance by acoustic trio Los Soneros del Valle Bajo.

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.

New Mexico State Parks — Day-use fee is $5 when visiting any state park. All programs are free with park entrance, unless otherwise listed. Dress accordingly for all outdoor hikes and events. 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. Music in the Stars monthly night sky program hosts live music 5 to 8 p.m. followed by telescope viewing with Astronomical Society of Las Cruces volunteers 8 to 9 p.m. the next to last Saturday of each month. The Sept. 21 program features Nichole Martinez.
• 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. Our Place in Space star party is 6:45 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28. Ranch house tours are 10 to 11 a.m. every Saturday.
• 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). A “Black Bears: The Lone Survivors” presentation on New Mexico’s state mammal for National Wildlife Day is 11 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 7.

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 fees to the park no longer taken. 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.
  Ranger-led 30-minute guided tours of the cliff dwellings are 1 p.m. daily through Labor Day weekend. Trail is moderately strenuous.
  Summer full moon night hikes take visitors on a tour of the cliff dwellings Saturday Sept. 14, and Oct. 12. Visitors required to wear sturdy shoes or boots, and should bring red-lens flashlights or headlamps. Times vary each month. Call for reservations; hikes fill quickly.

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.
  National Association of State Boating Law Administrators hosts monthly Saturday boating classes 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 21 in the zoo’s garden center. Registration. boatnm.com.

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.
  Reptile presentations hosted by the nonprofit group The Island of Misfit Morphs are 1 to 3 p.m. the first Sunday of each month in the Education Center.

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 diegotolbert@gmail.com.
• The El Paso chapter of the Sierra Club posts its hikes at sierraclub.org/elpaso.

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 dsouth@tnc.org.
  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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