It Snowed: The Discovery of Old-Growth in the Sacramento Mountains

The arrival of Care-a-vanner and friend Gail in Las Cruces meant There’d Be Hiking. Eager to further explore the Sacramento Mountains and check out potential snowfall led us to explore a section of the Rim Trail on her first weekend in town. Though I’d hiked the very beginning of this route before while coming from the other direction I was eager to return and continue traversing this section, which crosses miles of old growth fir trees, unlogged by the century-long lumber craze that thinned the once-mature forests in the range.

Fueled by the formation of the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad and the subsequent need for railroad ties in the last decade of the 20th century, multiple lumber companies and sawmills were established in the blossoming communities stretching from the peaks in the Sacramento Range down to the desert basin. Within 10 years demands for lumber were also being made from mines in Arizona, resulting in the establishment of spur lines into the furthest canyons of the high country, traversing the gnarliest high country. Despite such heavy resource extraction, the ecosystem in the Sacramento Mountains continued to flourish however, retaining multiple pockets of old growth trees and virgin forest that still thrive to this day. It was one of these untouched stretches where Gail and I hiked that day, prospecting for future snowshoe routes while seeking different views over the rim.

What we discovered was that the section of the Rim Trail we traversed wasn’t particularly huge on views but was home to some huge trees, a happy trade off for us both. The deepest snow we encountered that November day was only about 4 inches, but we all – Abby included – were joyful by the prospect of roaming across unblemished lands blanketed in white.