Page 23

DESERT EXPOSURE

APRIL 2019 • 23

HIGH PLACES • GABRIELE TEICH

A Local Pilgrimage With music along the way

S

ome hikes are pilgrimages. The long trail from the French border all the way across Northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela is called the “camino.” Several hundred miles of trail can humble believers and non-believers alike. Or so I’ve heard. Lucky for us there are shorter pilgrimages available. And I mean real pilgrimages this time, not the drive up to Hatch to get a green chile cheeseburger. One popular local pilgrimage happens twice a year on the Texas-New Mexico border. It leads up to a big statue of Christ. If you’ve ever driven on Interstate 10 between Las Cruces and El Paso, you have seen it. Visible from miles away on a mountain to the South side of the freeway

stands the statue known as “El Christo Rey.” Celebrated with a pilgrimage every last Sunday in October since it was erected in 1940, you can climb up the slopes of the hill for two-and-a-half miles to reach the base of the statue. Several sites along the way invite to pause, reflect, and catch your breath. Beware though – hundreds of people make the trip that day. Solitude you will find not. But here you trade solitude for safety. Because the mountain also borders Mexico there have been many reported incidents of robberies, thefts and kidnappings. So, even on their own website the Mt. Christo Rey Restoration Committee (www. mtcristorey.com) recommends

hiking up only on days of special events. And besides the October celebration there is the Easter weekend. With the date falling on April 21 this year, you have a chance to hit the trail from Thursday through Saturday before Easter Sunday between 7 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. The early morning hours are recommended because the trail offers no shade and the end of April can be fairly hot already. On these days ample police security is on site. Also on site are various food booths offering cold drinks, burritos, and the like. Check out the monastery booth by the trailhead, too. They offer various religious trinkets but also some potent home brew. Remember, it was monks and nuns who invented beer and wine making. They know what they are doing. One more word about the trail experience: Invariably you will want to pass some slower folks while others try to get past you. On a sometimes-narrow trail, please be polite and announce yourself with an “excuse me” or “perdón” and wait for them to step aside. Nobody wants to end their day at the bottom of the ravine. Come to think of it, be polite not only on a narrow trail but on all other trails of life, too. My favorite part of the whole hike? The Native American and other dance groups. They hike up in costumes, jingling their maracas and other instruments along the way and then perform as a group on top of the mountain, 20 steps below the base of the statue. When you take your break on the hill side, eat a snack and sip your water you get to listen to the music and watch the dancers. As always, remember your sturdy shoes, sunscreen, hat and water. Enjoy your Easter weekend,

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The trail to El Christo Rey is well maintained and traveled during the Easter weekend. (Photos by Gabriele Tech)

and all the other April weekends! Hopefully outdoors! Of German origin, Gabriele Teich has called Las Cruces her home for almost 20 years — and loved every minute of

it, hiking the mountains in the immediate surrounding area and all over this beautiful state.

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