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This is the fifth episode of four in the story of my search for New Mexico's mysterious stone towers. The full story ended somewhat longer than I originally expected, but this will be the next-to-last episode—I promise!
in Episode One I uncovered old evidence of pre-Columbian ruins in northwest New Mexico. In Episode Two I planned a belated trip to New Mexico to search for the towers. In Episodes Three and Four I visited the search area to research a logical place to begin my real search. In this episode I continue my explorations after a couple of disappointing false starts.
If this is your first contact with this story, I invite you to go back to the beginning to start. Select our "Library" page and choose the "Back Issues" option. The story begins in the "Travel/Explore" directory.
New Mexico's Mysterious Stone Towers,
(Travel/Explore #6a: June 13, 2001)
When I returned from my first trip out west I was still disappointed that I hadn't found the towers. I really had no reason to have expected spectacular success. The first trip was to be only a research/planning trip, and that had been successful. I had learned a little about the terrain, and I had zeroed in on the area around Yabis as the most likely neighborhood for the towers. And I had had a little experience examining some minor ruins. But after that first taste of desert learning, I was impatient. I had contracted ruin fever. The idea of waiting another year for a second trip was more than I could bear. I resolved to do a quick turnaround and return to New Mexico almost immediately, in mid-October.
This time I invited a friend from church to go along with me. It would be good not to be alone, and I would be glad to share the joy of finding the towers, and the costs of the trip.
The Second TripAbout Columbus' day we set out together, but it quickly became less than pleasant. Not only were we incompatible traveling companions, but the weather, which had been cold even from our first day on the road in Florida, turned really foul almost as soon as we reached La Reina.
As we went through Shreveport, I left my ancient Subaru and
borrowed my mother's Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, a neat little front-wheel-drive compact that got very good gas mileage. And the Ciera was good in the mud, too, which was very good, because it rained almost constantly for the whole week—when it wasn't snowing, that is.
During this trip the little Olds performed flawlessly. It climbed mountains even when hard rain was turning the forest roads into streams. We drove it directly across the desert scrub—no problems. We even waded very deep mud sloughs and snowed-over fields. If my mother had seen what we were putting her little car through, she would have been horrified. I believe the secret was the front wheel drive and the large tires. Whatever it was, except for a fairly low ground clearance, it was ideal.
|Two desert rats|
On this trip I learned a few unpleasant things about myself.
I was very naïve about packing for a strenuous hike. My friend had been almost obsessive about keeping his equipment and backpack very light. He wanted to conserve his strength. I thought he was excessive. I, on the other hand, had paid little attention to pack weight, believing that the hike would quickly condition me, and the pack would get lighter as I consumed my canned foods.
The sorry truth was that after only a half mile or so I could hardly shoulder the pack's weight, and my hike had become a trudge. I had to admit that my friend was right after all. I beat myself down so badly the first half day that, with the Perdiz River in sight, we had to return to the motel and rest. I didn't really regain my stamina during the rest of the trip.
I also learned that I could be very overbearing and impatient. I, too, was a less than perfect traveling companion.
To while away some of the rainy next day with activity, and
to give myself time to recuperate, my friend and I decided to go to the nearby town of Perdiz and follow its road to several scenic sites. The first was an interesting little spot called "Echo Amphitheatre." It was, essentially, a very small canyon formed by erosion. At the west end a huge "lens" of sandstone had flaked off the cliff walls leaving a concave surface which focused sound waves into the middle of the canyon floor.
Echo Amphitheatre canyon floor
The erosion on the surrounding cliffs was extreme, and quite beautiful. It was an interesting diversion for about an hour. But at the canyon floor level, ground out cigarette butts and soda can pop tops marked the center of the sound focus. I couldn't keep my interest for some reason.
Traveling back, westward, we stopped at the Chama River
Reservoir for a few pictures, and then we rode on. In the cliffs away to the
north we saw several more of the concave depressions like Echo Amphitheatre.
We stopped for information at the small ranger station in the little town of Gecko. The New Mexican rangers we met were all friendly, and as helpful as they could be. They allowed us to rummage through their bulletin racks and sold us a few forest maps.
One interesting notice posted on the bulletin board at the Gecko station advised visitors to be sure and fight back if they were attacked by a bear. Bears were, essentially, opportunists. Resistance to their attack and other aggressive behavior had saved people several times. It was OK, the notice said, to shoot and kill attacking bears.
From the tender age of four I have been afraid of bears. I rationally assumed there must be bears in the forests of the area, but I had not stopped to think about the possibility of making contact with them.
"There's only black bears; little fellas," the clerk said. "Attacks aren't really all that common."
"All that common?" The bulletin had jarred me. Now I would have something else to think (worry?) about on this wretched trip.
Finally, with a firm forecast of another week of rain and snow and the prospect of being cooped up in La Reina in grumpy confinement, we called it quits and turned back for Florida. We had accomplished nothing more than searching the same ridge ruins Dot and James had shown me on Trip One.
I stewed in Florida, no closer to the towers, and considerably lower on travel funds and self-image. Obviously a third trip was called for.
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