Back in New Mexico

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I moved back to Austin last spring (April 2014), and spent one (last) summer in Texas. The heat and humidity are something Texans should be proud of their courage to suffer! I did so for many years but, finally, in older age, I began to get serious skin rashes caused by an allergic reaction to the bacteria in my own sweat (sebaceous dermatitis) that required medical attention (courses of cortisone and corticosteroid shots). I decided in 2012 to move further west where I knew the air was drier and sweat would be wicked away as soon as it appeared. I tried Santa Fe and Taos for two years. The winters were just a bit much for this former Texan.

Now, I have arrived at Silver City, in southwestern New Mexico, elevation 5,000+ feet, a year-round mild climate and all four seasons. In northern New Mexico, Santa Feans are known as “winter wimps.” I guess I’m more than a winter wimp!

I’m so glad to have arrived where fall is still warm (but not too hot), where the skies are New Mexico blue, and the sunsets are, well, just plain fabulous! Where the overlooks in town are hilly and high enough for 360 views.  Where there’s hiking along the Big Ditch and hilly areas in town and also in nearby mountain forests less than 10 miles from town, in the Gila National Forest.

Best of all, there are two rockhound state parks nearby–City of Rocks and Rockhound State Park. At the latter, guests are allowed to cart out 15 pounds of rock that they’ve found or mined themselves. While definitely on the dry side, there are rivers and lakes nearby as well.  Also nearby are the Gila Cliff Dwellings, located in the Gila National Forest about 44 miles from Silver City.

And it’s greener than I expected! This year, there were even floods in and near Silver City from the familiar El Nino/El Nina drought/flood weather cycles so familiar in Texas.

I arrived in mid-October, spent one night in my car in the parking lot at Walmart, then went to the Unitarian Universalist church next day. A small, friendly congregation welcomed me and offered real help, not just advice! I was put up for a couple of nights, then referred to the downtown mission’s women’s shelter.  I can stay here until I have an apartment of my own, possibly as soon as November 3.

The town is small enough that people have country-friendly ways and take the time to chat and help their neighbors.  If I’d come here 30-35 years ago, when I actually had a dream one night about Silver City, I might not have appreciated all it has to offer today. Even two years in Santa Fe and Taos feel like a preparation for living here.

I’m planning on staying! Even nomadic types need a home, a place from which to branch out into the world.

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Santa Fe Skies and Photos – Selection

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IMG_6789These are just a few of the photos I’ve taken in and around Santa Fe in the past year.

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Ohio City, Colorado

At Pond, Quartz Creek

Carole had a workshop to give in Gunnison, so I rode with her and Michael to a spot where Mildred, my sister-in-law, could pick me up and take me to their place in Ohio City near the Gunnison-Crested Butte area.

This is the first time I’d visited my brother’s place in Colorado, though I’d visited when he used to teach photography to adults in the summers in Gunnison and they’d lived in unoccupied dormitory rooms for the summers.

In Ohio City, Charles and Mildred bought an older home, did some rebuilding and revamping, and created a very comfortable mountain home with a triple-level deck, a small bridge across a mountain stream, several outdoor fireplaces and cookout areas and a forest in the front yard.

The entrance is a plain dirt road off the road from Gunnison to Pitkin, just past an historic building. This immediately becomes more dramatic when you take the first curve and see a one-hole golf course laid out in the front yard among the tall firs.

The golf course has reasons beyond recreation. A mountain stream and waterfall, Gold Creek, runs through their property and they have certain water rights associated. However, to retain their water rights, they must utilize the water. Hence, the well-watered golf course.

I was put up in a split-level “game room” which I had to myself for the duration. The game room was well-supplied with futon couch and bed, cable tv, foosball game, and student-sized refrigerator and microwave. In fact, these accommodations were the closest to bed and breakfast inn-type luxury of the entire trip.

Some of their furniture is made (appropriately, you’ll see) from large logs (the Gunnison-Crested Butte area is a former mining and logging area gone to tourism). The large-log couch arms made great coffee mug rests. I settled in to write about my New Mexico travels in the privacy I was afforded, another luxury I haven’t quite had since.

Add Mildred’s evening dinners, tours to Pitkin, lunch in Crested Butte, a shopping trip to a second-hand store in Gunnison for a few more warm things, and you might begin to think I was a pretty spoiled guest in the lap of luxury. You’d be right!

Crested Butte Mountain, Crested Butte, Colorado

Did I mention their attempts to add exercise to my daily routine?

Both my brother Charles and Mildred are outdoor types who love nothing more than a good workout through some sort of recreational sport, hiking in the mountains and, in my brother’s case, logging trees marked for fire-break removal.

One of the first outings was a mountain bike ride. It was an uphill ride on the Gold Creek road into the mountains by their home. Thankfully, they were electric mountain bikes. The road itself appears deceptively flat, but once you’re on it, the gradual incline makes for an almost all-uphill ride. On the way down, it’s non-stop coasting past old mine structures, Gold Creek, and a few homes and other structures.

Several stories let me know we were no longer in “civilization” though the appearance of homes along the road might indicate otherwise. First, Mildred told about her daily walks with a couple of friends up this same road.

One day, on the way back home, she noticed she was being “stalked” by a mountain lion following her progress from high ledges along the hill above the road, all the way until she reached home.

My brother also pointed out the bear marks on trees and along their glass front door. But he made sure to tell me that the mountain lion was a more real and present danger. They showed me the deer carcass, a fairly recent mountain lion kill, just across the irrigation ditch and across the road easy walking distance from their house.

Those stories certainly gave me caution every time I went from the garage area to the house. If it had been a cat, I’d say leaving an animal body nearby could be seen as a proud gift to the human, but I’m pretty sure the same could not be said about the deer carcass.

On one drive, we went up to an area called Quartz Creek Properties. My brother’s house was already at 8,600 feet elevation, and Quartz Creek started around 9,000 feet.
We met friends of theirs driving up to their home past the pond and made plans to go back to their place another day.

The day we went back, my brother was clear-cutting trees that had been officially marked for fire-break removal, to keep fires from jumping the roads up in the mountains where there were pine forests and fire danger. For a week or so, he and their friend, Keith, logged the area near Keith’s home. In the end, Charles said he was allowed to keep around $3,000 worth of logs for doing the work themselves.

I should explain here that my brother has built several homes, refurbished others to the point of rebuilding them, built kitchen cabinets and other furniture, and built a grand big-log ranch entrance to the home of a Senator who summers nearby. These logs will most surely become future projects!

The home at the logging site was situated at the top of a fairly steep hill above the pond, so we walked down the hill toward the pond. The fall colors were spectacular! Yellow, rose and red-tipped aspen and cottonwood trees were all turning at the same time and the hills were golden.

On the way back from the pond, I met my mountain nemesis, altitude sickness, for the first time. Not fully adjusted yet to the high altitude, despite my gradual progress through New Mexico, I had to stop literally every few steps to rest and breathe, until ready to go a bit further. Thankfully, it was a short distance to the top.

Friends of Charles and Mildred’s came over the last evening I was there and we sat around one of the outdoor fires with s’mores, hot chocolate and conversation, capping off a perfect mountain visit.

I caught up on my rest in Ohio City, which was much needed, as it turned out, for the next leg of the journey to Salt Lake City, where I experienced real snags and the first personal tests of the journey.

Quartz Creek trail

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