The sun's going down, and in the Mesilla Valley to the east, Las Cruces, New Mexico is bathed in an amber wash of light. Further east, the peaks of the Organ Mountains stand jaggedly, contrasting the last we'll see of the blue sky for the day.
We're struck by the fact that those mountains are some 20 or more miles away from where we stand. It's hard to see anything 20 miles away in the forested hills of the East Coast we call home. But here in the Southwest, the desert landscape seems to extend forever.
It's the end of the last day's trail ride at the Chile Challenge, and our group is loading up the trucks in our group for the last time. This year's Challenge served up a helping of tough trails and cool rigs to match its stunning scenery.
The Chile Challenge happens every year in the Robledo Mountains outside Las Cruces with the Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club sponsoring the event. Land access is a core value of the club. According to Isaac Rodriguez, LCFWDC President, proceeds from the Challenge are donated to the Land Action Fund, Blue Ribbon Coalition, and local land-access efforts. He says that much of the success of the Chile Challenge is due to the fact that members of the LCFWDC volunteer their time to help lead rides, work admissions, and organize the event.
The trails the Challenge runs on are owned by the Bureau of Land Management, and offer spectacular views of Las Cruces and up-close encounters with the desert ecosystem. Chile Challenge 2006 saw almost 400 participating vehicles and uncounted numbers of riders and spectators in its biggest turnout to date.
The LCFWDC has put together a terrific trail-riding event that offers a variety of challenging obstacles for the most extreme four-wheelers. Don't own a competition buggy? Many of the trails are spectator-friendly, and provide some good opportunities for the crowd to get close to the action. In fact, it's not uncommon to see more onlookers than drivers on some of the trails. But if you want to do more than watch, there are plenty of scenic routes available for stock vehicles too.
For information on the event, schedules, trail descriptions, and more, be sure to check out the club's Web site at www.lascruces fourwheeldriveclub.com.