There's never a bad time to visit Pinos Altos, Silver City and Grant County. Our four gentle seasons make for fantastic weather whenever you choose to visit, and our vibrant community has events and things to do all year 'round:
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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.