There is something profoundly healing in gazing across endless miles of desert to a distant set of mountains, your eye unimpeded by buildings, billboards or cellphone towers — the visual detritus of everyday urban life.
Here in southern Arizona and New Mexico, where I’m traveling for two weeks, it’s a welcome respite from the high-speed, ultra-competitive insanity of New York and its suburbs, our usual orbit.
Driving from Tucson, AZ to Las Cruces, NM, we ate lunch at a truck stop filled with Japanese kids wearing those fake Peruvian hats and hoodies, the next table crammed with four very large bikers wearing black leather. At each table was a quaint artifact — a pay telephone — from which, a decal on the handle suggested, we could call Mexico collect.
Mexico lies only an hour’s drive south and I really wanted to visit, but journalist friends here agree that the border towns are far too dangerous right now.
You feel history here. I visited an 18th-century mission near Tucson, considered one of the world’s finest, and tried to imagine the journey undertaken by Father Eusebio Kino (for whom a major Tucson street is now named) who crossed an ocean and a continent to this dry, dusty landscape and founded 24 missions, one of them the exquisite St. Xavier del Bac.
Last night we ate in Mesilla, a town just west of Las Cruces, where Billy the Kid was, in April 1881, tried in the local courthouse and sentenced to death.
The Organ Mountains loom nearby, so named for their jagged narrow peaks that resemble an organ’s pipes. We hiked them today, for only three hours, starting at 5,500 feet. The path kept switching from dry red dust to packed snow and ice, left over from last night’s storm, the one we saw at sunset. We saw no animals — but piles of scat on the trail. The silence was thick and absolute, like a blanket, broken occasionally by a bird or squirrel or the wind in the cedars.
Tomorrow we’ll hike the dunes of the White Sands National Monument.