Hike #60 – Cross Mountain Rd. – Gila National Forest
May 9, 2012 – Cross Mountain Road Hike – FR 4258
I decided to try to find the access point to the CD trail heading north and east off of Highway 15. The map shows it very near Cross Mountain Road so I head out with Cody on a blustery morning. I easily find Cross Mountain Road since it’s got a street sign and I pull in, but the road quickly turns too rough to drive. We park and head up, hoping to find the CD Trail marker along the way. There are several side roads and I look forward to exploring them in the future, but today I consistently select the path that heads uphill when I have to choose. The entire trip, I look for CD markers but never find any; that is a hunt for another day I suppose.
The old road has a lot of wood chips; the forest service must have done a large amount fire abatement clearing recently. As I climb, I see several long-distance views. I’ve never seen the town of Pinos Altos in its entirety before. It has more buildings than I realized and I didn’t know it is sitting on a hillside. I continue up further and see views to the east of The Kneeling Nun, to the north of the forest. At one point, I look down and see a few ravens soaring high above the ground. It’s a little crazy to think that I am looking down at soaring birds. I’m sure there’s a poem in there somewhere.
I come to a huge water tank and investigate. I was hoping to find building foundations or mines or something, but nothing more than a water tank and several rusty well heads.
When I got home, I decided to look Cross Mountain on the internet and find a cool story about a cross – a large cross that I never saw. Here is the story:
Cross Mountain does not appear on most maps, and tourists driving the narrow road that winds through the old mining town of Pinos Altos rarely look up. But even when no one sees it, a tall white cross on this high mountain peak keeps solitary vigil in the same spot Santiago Brito placed the first – a big wooden cross – as a sign of peace between settlers and the nearby Apaches. It is believed that this first cross was covered with tin so the sun and moonlight would keep it always visible.
The cross quickly changed into a religious symbol, and townspeople made pilgrimages to the top – some climbing barefoot up the steep, rocky mountainside. he people called the church they were building in 1888 the Holy Cross Church, even though technically it was St. Alexis.
Each year on the eve of Holy Cross Day (May 3), bonfires were lighted at the church and up near the cross as sticks of dynamite were set off alternately between the two locations. The following morning a Mass was held, followed by a procession of the faithful up the mountain, winding their way as they recited the rosary. Children were kept out of school in order to take part in this celebration, and families shared picnic lunches on the mountaintop before starting the long walk back together.
Time and weather took their toll on the first wooden cross, and in 1907 Frank Bell, son-in-law of Santiago Brito, replaced it with a new wooden one.
Manuel Gutierrez was born in the shadow of the Bell cross and grew up watching the white paint fading away as the wood deteriorated. It had stood for 50 years, and he knew it couldn’t survive much longer. He wanted to do more than merely replace it with another cross of wood. He wanted something that would last long after he was gone. The iron cross that he and a few friends created is the one you see today, standing tall on the mountaintop near the stump of that first cross – a sign of hope and peace, of peregrinaciones y promesas.
To reach Cross Mountain, take N.M. 15 (Pinos Altos Road) out of Silver City to Pinos Altos; continue on N.M. 15 to a street sign on the right that marks the turnoff. A dirt road (bear right at the fork) will take you to the base of the mountain where the walking trail upward begins. To see the remains of the Bell cross, visit the Log Cabin Museum (now known as the Pinos Altos Historical Museum) on Main Street in Pinos Altos, 575-388-1882.
This article was written by Jody Lyons-Cline and published in New Mexico Magazine in May 2001.
3.32 miles / 2.15 hours
60 down / 40 to go
Posted on May 9, 2012, in CD Trail, Challenge, Continental Divide, Gila National Forest, Hiking, Nature, New Mexico, Outdoor Activities, Outdoors, Silver City, Southwest and tagged CD Trail, challenge, Continental Divide, Gila, Gila Wilderness, hike, hiking, New Mexico, Pinos Altos, Silver City, Southwest. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.