Monday, July 08, 2013

road to mescalero

the sacramento mountain area of southern new mexico is relatively undeveloped, considering that it's high piney woods, 9000 feet, and beautiful, and has rivers that have water in them. they called fire danger "extremely high" when we got here, but it rained several times, in several different places, and now some of these signs say "high" or "moderate" at least temporarily. it's on a straight road from alamogordo to the high plains to the east, beyond that, the oil fields, the cotton fields and lubbock.

so one day we decided to take this north-bound road up through the mescalero apache reservation to ruidoso, which is another tourist town to the north. the mountains were incredibly beautiful, with wide valleys and open meadows in front of them, everything green, the air smelling good. we didn't see too many people out; it was sunday. in ruidoso a huge sign greeted us: inn of the mountain gods. this is a huge casino expanse, which includes a wild game hunting park and lots of things besides the casinos. it's possible that most of the reservation's apaches are employed here; it obviously was a huge enterprise. in ruidoso we stopped for lunch and drove through town where they were putting away a rodeo quickly because of an impending rainstorm. the rain came, and pounded us, as we came around the inn of the mountain gods, from the back way, and saw how truly huge it was.

we'd decided, rather than exploring, to basically turn around and go back to cloudcroft. the kids were being terrible. they didn't like leaving their television and their screens; they didn't like the mountain air; they didn't like going anywhere; and they were crabby until they really had had enough to eat. i was mad at them for being so spoiled, but i can't expect them to be interested in the same things i am: new places, different people, high mountain meadows, piney woods. we try to hike in the high mountains, and would love them to do it too; we huff and puff in the high altitudes. they, on the contrary, just reject the whole idea. why should they suffer? it's vacation.

coming back from mescalero, though, we saw what looked like snow on the sides of the road, in the valleys, up against the trees. actually, i think, it was hail, but it was still quite unusual for july. it looked like snow. people here said it was probably hail, hail is common, though they wouldn't be surprised at snow.

it's a ribbon, a patch of wet, cloudy mountains, and it's very dry on either side of it. we go down into alamogordo, and it's very clearly desert, used to an absolute lack of rain, for as far as you can see. and on the other side, to the east of mayhill, the same. very dry, bad soil, desert land, goes forever with the few drops of rain valued and cherished. they fall on a sizzling desert like water on a frying pan. we've seen it. we're shocked, and then the cacti bloom.

lots of bears around, also elk, deer, fish, etc. lots of hunters and cowboys, but mostly, i think people just live on what few tourists come around. it's hard to say how they make a living. we, used to the hot and dry plains way below, just try to go outside and breathe cool air a lot. but we investigate cabins a little. if a person had an independent way of making a living, this would be a good place to be, i think. but the true value of a place is in the quality of the people there. do they have bluegrass? do they have quakers? do they have the things we really value? who knows? or, how much could one learn just to get along without stuff, just for the luxury of breathing the fine, cool mountain air?

my wife, familiar with the high-mountain way of life, drives better on the hairpin turns but has a deep fear of forest fires. this would be the problem, if we were to do it. "extremely high" would be torture and even "moderate" would cause a problem. and there's evidence everywhere, of whole mountainsides just burning. they burn quickly and take a lot of underbrush and everyone has to just evacuate and hope their big old house didn't have too much stuff in it. you live in such a place, maybe you limit your possessions, you keep your ear to the radio, you plan your escape route. i'm not sure how you do it.

the mescalero apache have been here for years, though there's this whole story of how they were rounded up, at one point, and sent to florida. eventually they were allowed this huge patch of beautiful mountain pastures, and they, like many native tribes, took advantage of the right to run a huge casino. it's odd, it's a little creepy, but apparently we don't have to worry so much about lack of money in the native american community as much; they have money. they have problems too. but they have beautiful territory. the rivers have water in them, because they are so high up, they come right down off of beautiful green mountain forest.

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