Hatch (NM), Chile Capital of the World


As we neared Las Cruces, the Mesilla valley came into view. Here is where the famous Hatch chiles are grown. No journey along I-25 in this area would be complete without a stopover at the “chile capital of the world.” The Hatch chiles are prized for their flavor and heat, a pronouncement that many New Mexicans will defend over what are known as Anaheim chiles elsewhere.

In my trip planning a few months ago, all indications were that the chile harvest would be done by the time we were in the area. So, we made no specific plan to stop here. But, we decided to at the last minute. We were so glad we did because some chile roasting was still in progress while many local stands were assembling colorful ristras.

Ristra assembly

Ristra assembly

When we arrived in Hatch, Gilly’s New Mexican Chile Company was the first stand we come upon outside of town. Chile fields lay just to the east. Roasters were still in operation and the divine smell of roasted chiles permeated the air here and in town. You can’t help but be drawn in by the charismatic Gilly, who will talk to you about chiles and the products he makes from them—ristras, dried and ground chiles, salsas, and red enchilada sauce—and will call you Rufus and Penelope, regardless of your actual names. His salsas pack lots of flavor and varying amounts of heat, depending on the cultivar.

Gilly's roadside operation

Gilly’s roadside operation

Almost all the red chiles in Hatch are dried in the sun on metal roofs. The process takes about three weeks, give or take, depending on rainfall. Other chiles are roasted over an open flame in rotating wire cages, releasing a distinctive chile aroma and particulates that permeate the air. Chile workers frequently get irritated lungs from breathing the fumes. There are several chile operations along I-185 and I-154.

Chile roaster

Chile roaster

Advertisements

Camping at Leasburg Dam State Park (Las Cruces, NM)


The wind and rain clouds were rolling in over Las Cruces as we arrived in the late afternoon. Though we’d already canceled camp sites on this trip because of weather, we decided to pitch camp anyway and hope for the best. After dinner, we headed straight to our next camping site at Leasburg Dam State Park, outside Las Cruces.

Each campsite has a concrete pad so we had no problem setting up. As we were going to be here for a single night, we attached the tent to the back of the Subaru, extending the living space and making it considerably easier to get to things if the weather got bad.

Our tent conveniently straps to the back of the car

Our tent conveniently straps to the back of the car

The attached tent extends the living space

The attached tent extends the living space

That night, a hellacious storm dumped rain with heavy wind. It was so gusty that the tent made flapping noises all night. Furthermore, thunder boomed overhead and lightning crackled and lit up the tent. But the topper was the train that was some distance away but sounded as if the tracks were right next to our tent, an illusion of the night air. The conductor also saw fit to toot the whistle every time the train roared by. It was by far the most restless sleep we ever had camping.

The following morning, all was quiet though ominous storm clouds still hovered overhead. It was nonetheless a spectacular canopy just as the sun was rising.

Cloud cover the morning after a thunderstorm

Cloud cover the morning after a thunderstorm

In the morning, we packed up our wet tent and, based on a weather prediction of more rain, decided to cancel the reservation we had for the next two nights at a campsite in Alamogordo.