Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Southern comfort.(Outdoors & Recreation)

Byline: Story by Mike Jaxson * For the Journal Photographs by Rose Palmisano * Of the Journal

The Organ Mountains near Las Cruces have enchanted visitors for more than a century

LAS CRUCES Whether satisfying the spiritual needs of wanderers or providing hikers cool shelter on a brutally hot summer day, the Organ Mountains east of Las Cruces have been a source of enchantment for many Dona Ana County residents for more than 100 years.

Ron Lautenbach is one of those residents. When this Internet entrepreneur isn't conducting business, he can be found exploring the Organ Mountains, whose rugged peaks some early settlers said resembled pipe organs.

"The first time I went up there, it was excitement," he says of his initial climb of the Organs' highest peak, known as the Needles. "Being there and in the sky and enjoying the beauty of it it's gorgeous up there. I've been up there 61 times."

The Bureau of Land Management estimates the Needles rise more than 9,000 feet above the east Las Cruces skyline, which is dominated by the First Security Bank building, the city's only skyscraper. From the roof of the 10-story building, one can see the entire Mesilla Valley.

However, Lautenbach says, there's no comparison between the view from that man-made structure and the nature-made Needles. From there, "You can see the whole White Sands Missile Range and NASA sites and Sierra Blanca (ski resort)," he says. …

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