Catron County, New Mexico has about 400 miles of paved road, and we're planning to walk every mile of it ... eventually ...

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Windmills won the West

On our way out this morning we scared a few elk babies - hate when that happens, as they all throw themselves at the fence and I worry that they'll injure themselves. Still, a few manage to get over everytime that probably haven't gotten over before.

The first boneheaded thing I did was to forget whether I had locked the car or not. Extra-special credit goes to the daughter who jogged back about a quarter mile to take care of it for me.

When we first started out there was no traffic at all, just the sounds of our footsteps and a few birds calling to each other. The only wildlife we saw during our walk was this fast-moving fuzzy caterpillar.

After a while, traffic picked up, and we saw our first sign of civilization.

A road-side rest for weary travelers, complete with mandatory stinky flyridden trashcans.

In The Best of The West, An Anthology of Classic Writing from the American West edited by Tony Hillerman, I came across a piece of writing by a man named Alan Bosworth, called "And the Skies Are Not Cloudy All Day", about Ozona County (not Catron County, not even in New Mexico, but a place that gets about the same amount of rain as we do here.) I'll give a bit of an excerpt: is a long way to water in any direction--especially down. The firstcomers were quick to acquire the few dependable waterholes....The whole land is tilted southwestward, and water runs off it with flash-flood speed. What stayed behind...was soon "too thick to swallow and too thin to chew," and cowboys forced to drink out of cowtracks in the mud quickly developed the habit of straining the water through their teeth. They could have understood the wariness of the late Gene Fowler, who all his life would never drink to the bottom of any glass because, when he was a boy in the Rockies, "there was always some sort of a bug surprise at the bottom."

"Well drillers and windmills saved the day....It seems rather strange and a little sad that no literature has ever really given the well driller and the windmill man their due. I do not know of a man of either breed who ever got rich, although they helped others to riches. The drillers were a peripatetic sort, always moving westward with the frontier; they might be compared with Johnny Appleseed, on an earlier and more fruitful border...

...whatever brand it was, the new windmill worked its magic deep in the earth, day and night, to bring a thin stream of bright water fluting from the lead pipe and splashing into some sort of storage reservoir--a dirt tank scraped out of the ground, a circular stone and cement tank, or a taller one made of galvanized iron. The perhaps apocryphal cowboy who swore he could drink water faster than the new mill could pump it was talking through his Stetson: given time, with the incessant wind, and the tank would be brimming over.

If you're looking for something to read, and you are interested at all in the American West, you might want to look for this anthology.

The windmill is no longer there, of course, but the tower for it is, and this circular stone and cement tank.

Today's statistics:
Fresh miles covered: 4.92
Moving average: 2.7 mph (lots of uphill today.)
Time in motion: 1:48:53
Time pausing to smell the roses: 11:13
Total time for walk: 2:00:02

Friday, June 29, 2007

Status update

The light blue represents fresh miles.
Statistics for 6/28 walk, per cheapy GPS with old batteries:
Total miles walked: 5.43
Total miles not previously accounted for: 5.09
Moving average: 2.8 mph
Time in motion: 1:56:06

The area circled in darker blue represents a quandary of sorts. Highway 59, in the bottom southeast corner of the county, was paved at one time, so technically belongs to this walk. I'm not sure how many miles of the once-paved part actually are within the county line, or what condition it's in. Even getting to it will depend on good luck, in the form of someone with a good truck willing to spend a day or two out in very remote country, which, when you think about it, shouldn't be so hard to find. We'll just have to see.

West on Highway 60

It was barely light when we headed out. Elk everywhere, at least a hundred of them, and lots of babies. We made it to our starting point, five miles west of the town of Quemado, and started walking while it was still fairly cool.

Summer in NM is not the best time to be walking on hot asphalt. However, I'm leaving Catron County at the end of July, and this is an unfinished project I'd like to complete. The clock, she is ticking...

Here we are looking east in the direction of town. You can see the policy of walking downhill whenever possible is in effect. We've been warned that rattlesnakes have been spotted frequently around Quemado in recent weeks, so we start out gingerly, but soon forget that we are supposed to be being vigilant. People stop, as usual, to see if they can help us, but not very many: more of the people using the road aren't locals but are just passing through. Already I can tell that 60 has a different character, if roads can be said to have characters. The shoulders of the road are a little wider, the speed limit is a little higher, there's a little more traffic, and there's more feeling of being connected to the rest of the world.

This stretch of road that we're on has been resurfaced recently - the asphalt is black and shiny, the lines are crisp and bright. This was pressed into the side near mile marker 30, in case anyone is looking for it:

Near mile marker 31 there is a little gravesite.

"Ray Curtis, b. April 20, 1918, d. May 4, 1918." A little boy who lived only 14 days.

"Jessie Curtis, b. April 16, 1920, d. April 16, 1920." A little girl, who lived only one day.

And one more child lost, presumably, although there's nothing inscribed on the stone. I asked about the Curtis family, and was told that there were other children who lived, but I didn't find out any more than that.

Something else by the side of the road:

It seems entirely likely that that vehicle will still be there in twenty or thirty or forty years time.

Here we are again, looking towards town.

And here, closer to town, is a little house of the kind that so appeals to me. Built probably a hundred years ago, by a man, for his family, out of whatever materials the landscape afforded him and not much else, I think. A story in each one of these little houses, which someone might or might not be able to discover at this late date, and the house standing in mute testimony for another hundred or so years.

In the town of Quemado, an "official scenic historic marker":

And finally, when we got back home, hot and happy, the icing on the cake.

The elk seem to be using our place for a sort of a nursery, as we keep finding their babies stashed here and there, or wandering around near the fence line calling for mama. This one is doing exactly what he should do - when he heard the car, he pressed himself flat into the grass and thought really hard about being invisible.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Power's out in Woy Woy

I don't know if anyone's been following the weather in Australia, but I'm getting the impression it's rather wet where our friend Spike lives. Spike's been posting terrific photos around Woy Woy for quite some time - there should be some really interesting photos coming soon, of the same streets and houses after the flooding's gone down - that is, if Spike's okay. Keeping my fingers crossed.