Friday, July 15, 2016

the village of timberon is about forty miles south of cloudcroft, but it takes over an hour, because the roads are windy and you can't go too fast without endangering yourself. there are other ways to get there, but those roads are even worse, so people very rarely go from timberon to any other town, like pinon, or alamogordo, or perhaps down to el paso. but these are the towns that surround timberon in their own kind of way. in the region, but virtually inaccessible.

they created timberon in the 70's with plans that it would catch on as a retirement-resort area. it had lots of sun, beautiful views (down to the valley with el paso in it), and they put in an airstrip, a lodge, a pool, and a golf course; then, they got a post office outpost. at that time, some of the other roads, to el paso, or to pinon, were still open. now, apparently, they're not.

people did move there, and they set up mobile homes, and built second homes. there was a huge network of roads and hundreds if not thousands of property lots were angled off into this kind of remote, cactus-filled scrub mountain valley. from a sun-belt, snow-bird perspective, it should have caught on. it had lots of sun, and it had amenities. many of the people who sought out such a place didn't care if it was remote, as long as they could get motor homes in there. some people bought property and let it sit there, unable to sell it, or unwilling, since lots always had potential in an expanding world.

the area had a crippling drought - maybe ten years with no rain - and then a wind came through and knocked over a lot of trees. when we saw it about a year and a half ago, our first reaction was that it was a tinderbox, dry sticks hanging around the hillsides. but a worse problem was that we never actually found the lot that was for sale. there were hundreds of gravel roads curving around going every which way, and although they were marked, it wasn't always clear how to get from one to the other. we drove around roads and curved back around, and every once in a while, we'd see a motor home or a van tucked back into the dry brush. lots of times the roads were steep or in bad condition.

down at the lodge/swimming pool/post office, there was a kind of center of town. you had to know it was there, then you could walk or drive down there and look around. some people were clearly taking care of the place. i had to imagine what it was like being surrounded by scrubby, dead brush on very sunny mountainsides. they didn't seem to mind. they were ever hopeful that someday people would come and occupy the place.

so the other day a fire caught in the place, and quickly, burned a firetruck that was sitting outside the community center. as far as i can tell, it didn't burn down the whole area, but it quickly spread from the center of town to the west, toward the golf course, and burned 30 structures and 300 acres fairly quickly. they talk about 'containment' but admit that they don't really have containment; it has too much territory to burn, and it's a slightly windy day. different fire fighters were mobilized and sent down there. the cloudcroft high school was turned over as a shelter for people who'd lost their homes.

the questions i have are: does a massive fire in the dry brush 40 miles south of here post a threat to us? (doesn't seem like it)...did everyone lose everything or was just a section of the "town" wiped out? (far as i can tell, just a section)....is this the end for this 'town' experiment, which, after all, never quite caught on?....is this now going to become a ghost town?

guess we'll have to see.

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