Not New England

A lot of people think of New Mexico, especially southern New Mexico, as all arid. But our landscape is vertical; ecologically and biologically, we can go from the Mexican border to Canada, from Hepatic tanagers through Red faced warblers to Steller’s jays and Hermit thrushes to Clark’s nutcrackers, in a four- mile stretch.

I need a little help these  days to get into the high country. But yesterday Magdalena’s resident poet and fellow outdoorsman Bruce Holsapple and I went to the San Mateos and drove the ridge from Grassy Lookout in the south, where Betsy and I once worked as fire lookouts, to Whittington Lookout in the north, a journey of about eight miles over 9000 feet and often  over ten. Not only did it look like northern New England; it smelled like it. Heavy cloud cover kept birds and game animals invisible and vistas short, but the Aspens were glorious. And it is always good to talk with someone who enjoys both mountain lions and William Carlos Williams. The only thing missing was Ruffed grouse…


Opening day, Dunhill Ranch, with New Mexico Miscellany…

 2012 and 2014 (what were we doing in 2013?), both with no game in the bag, though this year we saw plenty and expect to get some doves, and with luck GOOD quail. Best grass in years, food plants everywhere, cottontails same, and probably more jacks. Deer sign. If we have a snowy winter we will be back to as normal as erratic arid lands ever are. Too damn warm though.


2012, with a bit of the country. You are looking from Piet and Jessica’s to a neighbor’s place a few miles away, twelve miles or so south of town and further off the
pavement, on the west side of the range. The grasslands are at nearly 7000 feet, the main ridge at ten, the highest peak (off camera to the right) almost eleven. You can see if you look carefully that it was much drier. The first photo, above,  is looking north; this one due east.

Below, P & J’s terrace for post- hunt drinks, looking southeast; highest peak is South Baldy, at 11,720 I think; it  has the observatory and Lightning Lab. Me and Piet, having walked a lot further and seen nothing. For gun geeks, Piet has his old AyA sidelock 20 in all photos; above, my favorite English .410 by Turner; below, Model 12 20.

I wish I had taken a photo yesterday of this view below: it is now all filled in green, and lush. Piet has cut his stock to a minimum and is temporarily feeding them, but apparently the destructive kangaroo rats have taken a population dive, and their mounds, which provide much of the sandy brown in the middle ground, are all fallen in and grown over.

This is good, but don’t look too carefully at your blessings. A neighbor’s dog has just come up with one of the two most unnerving New Mexico diseases- Yersinia pestis; you know, Plague, the Black Death? “Home of the Flea, Land of the Plague”, as the T Shirt used to say. And its reservoir is wild burrowing rodents.