Climbing to Cooler Climes

Beat the lingering summer heat with a fall retreat


It’s supposed to be fall.

But if you’re in the flatter lands of southern New Mexico – Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Deming, for example – you know we still have some hot days into October.

Fortunately, one of the many glories of being in this part of the world is you’re never too far from being 20 degrees cooler. If you live in Alamogordo, you’re only 20 minutes from Cloudcroft. If you live in Deming, you’re only about 40 minutes from cooler climes in Silver City.

If you live in Truth or Consequences or Elephant Butte, you can easily go jump in the lake. Wait, I don’t think that sounded like I meant it to.

Every year around this time, I’ll climb into my vehicle some hot afternoon, and still find the steering wheel hot to touch and think, “Man! I thought we were through with summer.”

One of the things I love about living in southern New Mexico is for much of the year you can be perfectly comfortable wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Sometimes it’s nice, though, to be able to wear a long-sleeved shirt, a favorite sweater or that old hoodie you’ve had for years.

I love baseball caps, and I have way too many of them, but much of the summer in the flatlands it’s just too hot to wear them. But hiking on, say, the Osha Trail, in the Sacramento Mountains in October, a ballcap is great to shield your eyes from the intense sun, keep your head warm and complement your old reliable Aggies sweatshirt.

Since I lived in Alamogordo for 12 years before moving to Las Cruces, I’m much more familiar with the Sacramentos than the Gilas, but both places have those wonderful temperature drops and opportunity for adventure.

However, be forewarned the weather can change dramatically in both places.

Once while hiking in the Lincoln National Forest in July, my youngest daughter and I got caught in a sudden downpour while, naturally, we were smack dab in the middle of the hike. So, we spent the entire second half of the walk getting wetter and wetter and wetter. It took us over an hour to squeeze all the water out and change into some dry clothes. We rewarded ourselves with some delicious Mad Jack’s Barbecue and a cold Big Red soda in Cloudcroft. Their barbecue always tastes great but was a special treat that day.

More perilously, around Thanksgiving one year, on a visit to the Gila Cliff Dwellings, we were hit with a sudden blinding snowstorm. Only by the grace of God, and the four-wheel drive on my old, trusty Nissan Xterra were we safely able to get out of danger on the barely visible roads.

Wherever you are in southern New Mexico, you’re not too far from cooler temperatures. So, when that supposed fall weather of October feels more like June, head to the mountains or to the lake or wherever your favorite cool (in both senses of the word) adventure awaits.

See what you can do to spread some of the happiness today. Richard Coltharp is the publisher of Desert Exposure and Las Cruces Bulletin.