Aguirre Spring/Dripping Springs

February 25-28, 2022

Our friend Brenda T. proposed a hike to Drippings Springs in the Organ Mountains, and then Kim R-S suggested we tack on a camping trip. Let's go!

Dawn at Aguirre Spring Campground

Aguirre Springs Campground was a very nice surprise. Perched high on the north side of the mountains, the campground has well-spaced sites and views to die for, plus a snakey one-lane access road keeps the very large rigs at bay. You'll want to get up early to catch the rising sun lighting up the "needles" at the top of the range.

cats settling in

Elio and Madeleine settling in for the evening. They're getting really good at this!

an ancient juniper skeleton

A day ahead of the rest of the group, we had time for an additional hike, and Kim proposed the Pine Tree Loop which takes off right from the campground.

heading up the trail

The loop tracked at 4.35 miles with a cumulative 1600' gain/loss, but with a lot of up and down on a trail that winds around a steep slope covered with large granite boulders.

view across the valley toward White Sands

But the views were stupendous, of the "needles" at the top of the Organ Range, and across the valley to the distant glow of White Sands National Monument.

rock dome

An imposing rock dome with a prominent patch of ice.

checking email

At our lunch stop, high enough for a good cell signal!

halfway point

We were halfway around before we realized we had gone around the loop the "wrong" way! But there were fewer big step-downs on the second half, so it was all good.

frozen stream

At the top of the trail, the classic high desert forest gave way to Ponderosa pines and patches of ice and snow.l

view of Needles and Baylor Pass

Non-stop views! Needles on the left, Baylor Pass on the right.

ancient juniper

Some of the junipers on the upper part of the trail were absolutely enormous!



happy hikers

Happy hikers in the home stretch.

sleepy cats

The cats were exhausted from our hike!

Cooke's Peak

We met Brenda, Linda and Angeliene at the Dripping Springs trailhead the following morning. We came for the hike, but were far more impressed by the history. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the rocky canyon near the tiny spring would be home first to a hotel, and later a tuberculosis sanatorium. In the 1870s, Colonel Eugene Van Patten constructed a very fancy hotel near the springs. Van Patten was the nephew of John Butterfield (of Butterfield Trail fame), and had a thrilling career as a soldier and a brief stint as a Pony Express rider.

Cooke's Peak

Van Patten settled with his wife, Benita Madrid Vargas, a Piro Indian woman, near the spring, and began construction of a two-story 14-room hotel in the 1870s.

Cooke's Peak

Guests arrived via a spur line of the Butterfield stage, and included notables such the lawman Pat Garret, Pancho Villa and possibly Billy the Kid.

Cooke's Peak

In 1916, after an extended legal battle, Van Patten turned the land over to Dr. Nathan Boyd, who added some lovely wood-frame buildings that would briefly serve as a tuberculosis sanatorium.

Cooke's Peak

But by the 1920s the classic reliance on high and dry mountain air gave way to more modern treatment options, and the sanatorium became part of a nearby ranch.

Dennis filmed this video of the spring after clambering up a steep scree slope, where no 73-year-old man has gone before, and should never go again.

sunset at Faywood

We camp at Faywood Hot Springs on our way almost to and from anywhere we go! On this night, we were treated to a fiery sunset.

watching the sunset at Faywood

And we made some new friends too! Perfect end to a perfect trip!