Friday, June 28, 2019

Saturday, June 15, 2019

you go out eighty two, east of cloudcroft, and it's a classic mountain road. it winds and curves, with green valleys on each side and mountains rising up to peaks on both sides. below is a kind of dry creek and the road follows it. a couple of houses are backed up against the hillside on the right. around a few bends you come to a horse arena, and a couple of roads cut off to the north.

one of these is sixteen springs canyon road. once i let off a hitchhiker at that corner, and he knew he was in the heart of the mountains, but i'm pretty sure he got a ride, and didn't starve or have to go camp somewhere. it's a green valley, and mountain roads go off in both directions. sixteen springs canyon road has some houses at the bottom there, where you go twenty-five and drive back and forth up to a gooseneck turn, but then you start climbing james ridge until, way at the top, you come to a lookout that someone is often in, looking for fire across the ridges.

way up there on the ridge, it has its own weather. cloudcroft could be raining or snowing, but james ridge is eight miles east, and almost as high, and it's not always the same. there's no weather report for james ridge, and the roads are frequently icy. one day i came through there and there was a fog thick as pea soup, and there was a kid in camo with a shotgun. but behind him was his dad, on a cell phone, because up there at the lookout is pretty much the only cell reception on the whole mountain. and once you come back down, you are in a valley, green and mountainy on the side, and this valley has a few elk in it. the elk are often gazing at us as we come down the valley, like they're wondering what we're doing down there. but they're pretty - large-shouldered, different shades of brown, sometimes huge antlers. i'm tempted to stop for a photo shoot.

further on down the hill and you're in sixteen springs canyon. the sign back at the highway says sixteen springs canyon eight miles, but now, an old rusty sign just identifies the place as sixteen springs canyon, and you cross a little dry creek, and head down, following the creek, going east again. you still have about four or five miles to our house, but it's a paved, windy road and it comes down into walker's ranch, where it is now smooth and straight, and there's a little spring to the side there. walker owns most of the cows in the valley; they graze on the roadsides, sometimes just walk across the road, and head up into the valley where the elk are, though they seem to get along with the elk ok. they also don't seem to worry about bears or lions much. they look healthy, well-fed, and family-oriented, the mothers watching after the little ones as they do experiments running off the road, or in it, as the case may be. at walker's ranch you go twenty, or at least the sign tells you to. this may be too slow for some people, but if you're curious about ranching, it's just about right. you can slow down and watch these folks round up the cows, or the horses, or feed them, or whatever. old man walker is ninety-five or six, they say, and his son is maybe eighty or something, i'm not sure, but they appreciate it if you're going twenty. i feel like promising to build them a bypass, but first we'd have to put a town where their house and barn are, and we'd have to have some real action on the other side, enough people to generate some traffic. it's not a totally dead road, but it's pretty quiet.

further down the road is a fire house. it's pretty new and it's the center of the community, i'd say, though it's unassuming, and mostly just a garage with a little cement-floor dining area. they're serious about fighting fires out here, and that's good, because you have to be. i plan on helping them once i get my act together here, soon.

two roads come off sixteen springs road here that are important. one is bell canyon road, that heads up bell canyon to the right, back south, toward the highway, and it has the most houses, maybe three or four, and all the people take this way down to sixteen springs because the south way back is way to rocky and treacherous. they come north to sixteen springs, only to wind back around west and then south, and to them, it's a long way but well worth it. and the other one is walker canyon road - this is the one where i left a car for about five days, because it got a flat on some sharp rocks that we apparently had no business trying to drive on. at first i thought sixteen springs canyon road was the most exotic, remote, beautiful road i'd ever been on, but now it turns out that walker canyon road makes sixteen springs appear to be a main highway, paved, with traffic, and even with a speed limit sign down there by the ranch. walker canyon road is like, well, there was probably only one or two people who knew that car was sitting there for five days, and fortunately, we knew them, as they'd given my wife and daughters a ride home that day. there weren't a whole lot of people who even saw it sitting there, the road is pretty much untraveled in that part. and i'm sure folks like it that way.

right before the walker canyon road cutoff is board tree canyon, our canyon. here a big honking mountain dominates the view when you turn into it; this mountain is 8000 feet, and is also the edge of private land; the other side of the mountain is the reservation. i'm not sure what it's called, but it's just a bit bigger than most of the mountains in the area, so it stands up there as a landmark. and board tree canyon runs right up beside it i assume, though i haven't been up there. my plan is to know this mountain, and to know the line between private and reservation, and to know the paths in the area. i haven't enacted my plan, though.

in our little encampment, we're kind of out on the edge of civilization. the national forest is up against us to the north, and a couple miles beyond that, the reservation, and you could keep that mountain in view if you got lost. somewhere back there is the "board tree," but i'm not exactly sure what that is. and then to the east, nothing. national forest, that turns into an enormous burn scar, where it burned completely up maybe eight years ago, thousands of acres. that was a major fire - they called in people from all around; whole mountainsides went up. i wasn't living in the area at the time, but still i kind of remember it. maybe what i remember is people talking about it, the minute i got up here. or seeing the devastation, driving through mayhill. this is our local town now - maybe seventeen miles east of cloudcroft, and so small, it makes cloudcroft look like a city.

that's the way it is out here. you think you're remote, and you find someone more remote. you think you got away from it all, and you find out, you are "it all." a small campfire gets ready to disappear; i'm about to call it a night.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

there’s a power failure, and we’re way out here at the end of the line, twenty miles from the village where we moved a couple of days ago. we’re overall very happy out here, although there’s a lot of driving involved, but the power failure kind of upsets our apple cart. our seventeen-year-old is upset because it ruins his reputation in his online game, where you’re not supposed to just quit a game that you started. our thirteen-year-old lives on her phone, where she posts instagrams regularly, but the phone doesn’t work when the power and the internet are off. and finally, my wife wants to take a shower, but apparently the well’s pump relies on electrical, and without it, there’s no pressure, and it peters out.

i made a campfire as i did last night, but the rain picked up and pretty much drenched it. rain is unusual in this area in june – this is the dry time – but there’s unusual weather all over the place. there was a tornado in the area the other night, and there was a wind event in alamo earlier today; we heard this over the landline phone, which apparently still works. seems like the world is coming to an end, but even then, I don’t mind, because I’m finally in a place I really love, that I can call a good stopping place.

as it happens, it’s my fiftieth home, so now i can finish my autobiography, which has fifty chapters of true life documentation of where I lived and moved, and fifty good stories interspersed between them. i’m also sixty-five, and feel like i’ve retired, since school is out, so there are other good reasons for finally getting this down. and finally, as part of moving and general downsizing, i’m looking at everything i’ve ever produced: every poster, every music-event promotion, every document. i saved way too many things, of course, but that’s not the point. the point is, now i have to look at it, before i pitch it. it’s only fair.

in the last days before moving, i was still trying to sort, but eventually, i decided to just bring it now, sort later. after all, I didn’t have the time then, but I will, now, if only i can keep up my motivation while my wife is rushing headlong into the horse-owning business. that was, for her, the main point of moving out here so quickly, as i probably would have dawdled and waited at least until the oldest son graduated. for him, with a dread of long drives, the main benefit of being out here is being able to just stay on internet, all day, not even get dressed, and have no one bother him. i said, if you were totally isolated, nobody would even come visit, and he said that would be fine with him. He’s not hankering to drive, to get out, to move to some better place, although you could say that about the fourteen-year-old. Moving for him was not difficult. he had a small room before, and now he has a fifth-wheel camper. He’s made it how he wants it, and, as long as internet prevails, he’s fine.

no, the point is, the rain can come, the storm can come, and we’ll probably be ok, as long as it’s not a tornado. we know the rest of the world is flooding. the river’s up, and staying up. there’s more rain than anyone can handle. but in this part of new mexico, there’s been a drought for many years, and everyone is nervous, all the time, about the possibility of fire, and a rainy dry season is a kind of relief that means, for once, we can go into summer not over-paranoid, not edgy, not impatient with the clouds that never amount to anything: this year, they’re bringing us rain. green things are sprouting everywhere. the wildflowers are coming out, even before the monsoons.

to get to this place, you turn off the highway at a sign that says, sixteen springs canyon, eight. this cutoff is already about eight miles from cloudcroft, so, it’s sixteen miles, more or less, before you get to our valley. but then, in this valley, you take this windy road along the canyon – past an rv park, through walker’s ranch, past the fire station, and past the bell canyon cutoff. cows graze lazily along the side of the road – they apparently don’t fear the lions and bears around – and deer and elk abound, usually darting off the road as you approach. the weather is gentler than cloudcroft, where it rains more and has more snow.

end of the line, and we're here. the rain is staying gentle, even dying off. that's good. everything will smell good, and be green in the morning.