we went to cloudcroft on a short vacation, and it was so different from lubbock, high mountain air, piney woods, rivers with water, rain, green, etc. that we thought, four hours away, if we could have this more regularly, we could have a little piece of escape, fresh air, and sanity. but as we looked around, we found one problem. a tiny cabin in the town would be hundreds of thousands. outside of town, you have to buy into developments that have requirements, you can't just camp for a while. way out of town, you have some cheap land, but it's a tinderbox - everyone is worried that whole mountainsides will catch and explode. then we find this mountainside - just this side of the tunnel, only highway tunnel in the state, and supposedly you can see the tunnel from the mountainside - and down by the tunnel there's this cave, high rolls cave, and on our side of the canyon, the north side, there's another one, called the fresnal shelter.
two thousand years ago a band of hunter-gatherers found the cave and shelter, facing each other in a canyon. it's interesting that they considered the high mountain less habitable; it was cooler, and wetter, and the dry canyon in general was about the right temperature, and high up (we've noticed the same thing). they apparently used the shelter to process meat; tens of thousands of bones were pulled out of the shelter in 1970. in the cave, though, fewer bones were found, but rather, tobacco, fancy herbal burritos, and various other cultural artifacts. it was almost as if the cave was for the women, and the shelter for the meat-grinding men. except for one thing: the front of the cave had been blown up in the construction of the road, which is, today, 82 from cloudcroft to alamogordo. if meat bones end up at the front of a cave, then this one lost its meat bones at the construction of the road.
this mountainside, i'm not sure how easy it will be to put a house there, or even reach the place. a steep gravel road runs down the hillside, but, halfway down, a spring comes right out of the mountain and cattails and watery grasses grow out right there. remember that, down the mountain, alamogordo is one of the dryest, sunniest towns i've ever seen. up the mountain it's cool and cold. but right here, it's sunny and nice, lots of scrubby trees, but this spring makes a lush green area, going right down into a creek at the side of the road. an interesting combination of ecosystems.
and it makes me feel alive again, having a spot of mountain land to camp in, and watch cars disappear into a tunnel, and know that 2000 years ago, this was the center of civilization. i'm wondering what we'd find if we were to dig into the mountainside a bit. i'm wondering if it's ethical to make that road passable, when it would disrupt one of the few mountain springs in the area. of course we're investigating the process of getting permits for the land - we would have to at least be able to use it, to make it worthwhile - but how does one know? if you are in a clearly ancient site, people have probably forgotten all about it, willing to sell it for a song, not too worried about development - this is, after all, new mexico, where not that much has changed in the last few hundred years.
the archaeologists have been all over the place. last time they upgraded the road, in 2000, they really excavated the cave. they found and analyzed sandals, points, spears, all that stuff. in 1971, when the pulled the thousands of bones out of the shelter, they left quite a bit up there, apparently. and it's forest service land. i have no idea what happens when you tromp out that far and see what's left. do they kick you out? do you get attacked by a bear who has called the place home?
some hippie, apparently, lived in the cave for a while way back when. he now has become part of the lore of the place. some locals, supposedly, can tell you whatever you want to know. i look forward to meeting them.