Thursday, February 02, 2012

Where I Live: Querencia Country Part 1

This is either overdue or redundant. But when I sent some of these to not very "Anonymous" commenter- in- chief Lane Batot, to satisfy his curiosity about the country, he thought I should blog them. The physical "structure" of the land, and its use patterns, will be utterly familiar to Westerners but perhaps a bit alien to Eastern or European readers.

From my note to Lane:

"I live downtown in a town of less than 1000 on a dirt road-- the only pavement except two cross streets less than a mile long is the road through. It is 30 miles east to the county seat, 2500 feet below on the Big Rio, and there are only two towns between us and the Arizona border, 120 miles west. This east -west road, Rte 60, divides two Connecticut- sized blocks each of which has basically ONE paved road through, with well under 6000 population in the southern one. They are "filled" with big ranches, mostly public land (National Forest to the south, BLM everywhere) and a small Indian rez N. Average elevation is probably 7000 feet, peaks up to almost 11,000, cold winters, dry not too hot summers, late summer monsoons if we are lucky. No jobs & fewer people than in the cattle & mining days."

"When Aldo Leopold was a predator controller, in 1914, he gave a talk in the no- longer existing "Magdalena Sportsman's Hall", to 700 people. There are just over that number now in the whole town! Then, there were upward of 5000-- some say at its height almost twice that! It was a cattle shipping center with a rail spur up from the valley and a mining center."

"No suburbs here or in most of the rural west-- nothing but open land between towns. I can hawk or course within walking distance..."

Pix: town & high desert plains. I will do more town, and montane forest, later (because of our vertical range from 5 to almost 11,000 feet above sea level, we have the entire gamut of Rockies ecosystems from Canada to Mexico within 40 miles-- elk and peccary, Nutcrackers and Hepatic tanagers and Vermillion flycatchers...) Please click on photos to see them larger, especially the first one.

Panorama of town in winter by Jackson, looking south. Entire town-- nothing but ranches east or west for 30 miles, LESS in terms of human presence north or south. The high peaks of the Magdalena mountain range are cut off by clouds.

Looking east and down from the Magdalena mountains over Lee's ranch in the next set and toward the Rio behind the peak...

Lee's ranch on the plain where we hunt; Lee showing Vadim Gorbatov his print based on sketches V made there.

Box canyon cut below plain; Lib by seasonal "river" that cut it:


Anonymous said...

Ho Steve

Great description of the high South Western desert- makes me want to see it again!... Big, wide, spacious, barren? and beautiful..............a privilege to have been shown your backyard and its' inhabitants , human and otherwise - a never to be forgotten experience .
May the Realtors and other potential exploiters be kept at bay by the wonderful isolation, and lack of water!


Proclus said...

With a few substitutions of names and numbers, this could almost serve as a description of my old home town, though it, being a couple hundred miles north, has proportionally more of Colorado and less of Mexico. One notable difference is in the degree to which the surrounding land is privately owned. Most of the surrounding country was part of the Beaubien-Miranda land grant, and was, at various times parceled out into various private ranches. We still had pretty free rein to hike where we wanted, through the goodwill or ignorance of landowners. For a while we were unable to traverse the thousand foot Mesa behind our house, because the owner of the side facing us was known to dislike trespassers, but my brother and I got untrammeled access after we fed some bum calves for him while he was visiting family in Iowa. Living in a city I have begun to wonder at how commonplace those experiences seemed, and how immensely I would enjoy walking on even a little hill like that today.

Anonymous said...

Very nice. The large shadow cast by oil exploration has darken my Eastern Montana home. I hope your country remains...unchanged. Tom Condon Glendive, Montana

Peculiar said...

Proclus, I recall when you first visited Magdalena you commented, "This ranchland is all very well, but when I think of the real New Mexico I think foremost of orchards." Understandable given your terroir, but I've always found it amusing!

Proclus said...

Peculiar--that's funny; I suppose I might have said something to that effect. The derelict orchards of Colfax County are another of the features of my childhood that I remember fondly. It may perhaps only be with the benefit of having seen more of the country that I can see the ways in which every little New Mexico town resembles another, albeit with more or less mountains, plains, Indians, orchards, sand, tourists, hippies, and a few other variables.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Thanks.

Jim Cornelius