Sunday

Sunset on the Organ Mountains & Mesilla Valley

This is my backyard...
It's yours too
Take advantage; it may not always be this way
Big week ahead with the Utah Trip starting Wednesday

Thunderhead Plains

We ended the weekend on the Thunderhead Plains, a place I still consider somewhat undiscovered. I am feeling the itch to wander far as spring has made its presence clear.

Hatch - Main Street New Mexico at Dusk

Throughout New Mexico, many of the small towns share the watermark of prosperous times past and provide aging icons that could well have been the background of a Norman Rockwell painting.


As quickly as the sky became ignited- it was extinguished by a storm on the horizon; surrendering at the most glorious moment.

Saturday

Sparky’s Burgers, BBQ & Espresso -Trip Grub in Hatch, New Mexico



Hatch NM - The Proclaimed “Chile Capital of the World” gets a Funky BBQ Joint

There is a new place in town that serves up green chile cheeseburgers, slabs of ribs and fresh brew. Are we still in Hatch? In the dusty corners of Southern New Mexico few dives wander far from the famous local staples of chile rellenos, enchiladas and other cheese covered comforts. Looking more like an Austin style burger stand, Sparky’s offers patrons the stand-in BBQ favorites, honest prices and eclectic surroundings (green chile optional). It seems the locals have caught on quick and are in no rush to share their BBQ. If you’re planning a visit to Sparky’s while passing through, come early as the tables fill quickly. Who knows, you may have to share a table with a farmer sipping his double-shot.




Sparky’s Burgers, BBQ and Espresso Link

Sunday

On the Ridges of Foster Canyon: Dog and Man Hike the Hills

Between Foster and Broad Canyons lay a weathered grouping of gullies and ridges that remain untouched and primitive. Rock formations that had previously caught my eye while trail gunning were today’s destination. With no trail or roads leading to the monolith, Guy and I hiked across the hillsides and canyon bottoms for the better part of an hour. The canyon bottoms lay remnants of spectacular flash floods that had moved car sized boulders over waterfalls and scoured once ragged rapids into smooth spillways.


Sprawled across the warm rocks, it was the first snake of the season. It shot into the brush in an instant. I had never seen anything besides rattlesnakes in previous encounters, Guy seemed equally impressed. I’m always paranoid that he’s going to get bit; in reality his lumbering owner is more likely to get a strike.


A cove for various creatures was provided where the grassy slopes met the vertical walls. The grass here was bedded down in areas where oak trees provided shelter. Guy was in a frenzy burying his nose into the tufts and burrowing into the granite crevices.

Satisfied with his exploration, Guy nodded off.
I could have lay there all day listening to the grass and watching the clouds, I was quite relaxed. The wind was beginning to pick up and dust was making its way into the sky; a warning that things would soon get ugly. We set back for the truck.

Abandoned Building off HWY 185- Vandals had got the best of the place.


The bathroom looked like a horror movie set,
an unsteady shot seemed to heighten the scene.


The Weekend Warriors of HWY 185 hunkered down at the Blue Moon Bar in Radium Springs. The winds probably kept them there to 'til better part of the evening... cheap beer always helps the situation.

Survival on the Range: The Cattle of Foster Canyon

Living and traveling in the Southwest I have become familiar with the locals; not always people, they provide comfort in places that would otherwise seem lifeless. While some scoff at the sight at livestock on the range, we must realize that our porterhouse had to grow up somewhere. The roaming herds of the desert face a hard life; while constantly fending off coyotes, mountain lions and starvation they still manage to get on. I’ll admit I have a soft spot for these gentile beasts…until dinner.

As Guy and I descended the hills back to the main roads we crossed the path of a cattle herd grazing and watering. A calf lay in the middle of the road for what I figured as lame; my heart sunk at the sight. The elders guarded the little one while it struggled to get up in a pitiful display. Eager to get out of the truck, Guy whimpered while I watched the animal finally rise after a half dozen attempts. The cows must have thought I came bearing gifts because they moved in on the bed of my truck. Taking full advantage of my new found friends I decided to photograph them in all their glory.


If I let Guy out he would have lasted all of 30-seconds. The battle scars and ragged horns of the oldest told the stories of far more fierce than my K-9.

The magic of babe bovine wore off quick when a tremendous gust of wind blew dusted manure the in my face. Camera and cameraman soiled, I departed with a solid respect for the animals. Possibly I’ll pass on the burger next time, but no promises.

Tuesday

February Flashback: 48 Hours of Arizona

Pictures have arrived, details to follow…














Monday

Sunset on the Rio Grande

Sunday we relaxed, leaving only to re-supply our pantry and enjoy a comforting Sunday breakfast at Mi Pueblito. Bacon grease refried beans were only a touch on plates that resembled a lava flow of red chile, corn tortillas and cheese. Bellies full, we lounged the rest of the day split between our couch and patio. Feeling a bit guilty we decided to catch the day’s end at the river knowing it would be beautiful.

The sunsets are getting more grand as the weather warms and winds kick dust into the sky.
Exploring doesn’t always mean you have to go far...

Sunday

Backroads on the Border: Mexican Drug War – Columbus, New Mexico

-Last year alone, the Mexican Drug war claimed the lives of over 6,000 people; the killings since January have outpaced those figures as the violence rages on. The border communities of America wait and watch in silence as the war knocks on our backdoor.

Recent stories of the Drug War along the U.S./Mexican Border have provided a glimpse into the escalating brutality that has brought Northern Mexico to its knees. At the bottom of New Mexico lay Columbus, border town to Palomas, Mexico; a sleepy ranching community home to cowboys, artists, migrants and everything between. Columbus has recently drawn national attention as its bordering town of Palomas has become reminiscent of the Wild West. The Palomas police chief has sought asylum in the U.S. while the remaining force has all but vanished in response to Cartel escalations and slayings in the area. The Columbus community and law enforcement seems to be watching and waiting as the war pushes across the border.

Spurred by an LA Times article published earlier in the week I geared up and headed south to see the area for myself. I’m not sure if it was the mindset leaving town after having freshly researched news stories, local stories and disturbing images of the bloody violence but as I approached Columbus a ghostly tension set in.

On my way in to Columbus I pulled off the road to photograph the Border Patrol Checkpoint and passers. After snapping a few shots I continued down the road and realized that I had new company. A Border Patrol unit followed me into town; it seems they took issue to this stranger’s camera. My thoughts were that their suspicion lay somewhere in between curiosity and fillings for a slow day. I am not often comforted by the presence of the law, especially when being followed. The sight of my maps, GPS, gun, pack and camera would make for an interesting explanation; not the normal kit for a blogger.

They never confronted me, the two agents just watched me from their car under tree shade as I walked the length of the main street. The town was empty, most businesses were closed and the only movement was from the dusty breeze pushing leaves and papers down the street. Brightly colored buildings featured such comforts as the local café, gallery and theater; giving a high contrast to the barren surroundings. Most other structures were weathered or seemingly temporary, the yards were elaborately fenced with iron and rock walls, the park was new and the highway to the border crossing was the only good road to be seen for miles. The agents must have been impatient as they did not follow me in tour of the rest of the town. My thought remained, “where was everyone?”




Old Columbus Jail – Built in the 1920’s in response to the town’s booming population. The abandoned jailhouse now remains dilapidated on an empty lot corner


Office of Javier Lozano, Columbus Magistrate Judge

"Bring knife to a gunfight instead” – A very ironic warning provided by Mexico

The border is slow today in comparison to what I’ve seen in Juarez. I’m watching nicely dressed families crossing in and out of Mexico laden with goods, everyone carries their capacity. The items coming into the States are mostly packaged in produce boxes and suitcases while the push carts headed into Mexico are laden with Wal-Mart bags. A small lesson on imports and exports this was. As many children as adults are here, excited they clutch new toys and refreshments walking alongside their parents. Is this the same Palomas that was featured by the LA Times a week ago for murder and bloodshed? Tourists- limbs bright white from winter hibernation, they walk around in bright clothing and sunhats, cameras held tight. I heard a middle-aged woman say to her husband as she passed by, “Do you think I should take my purse?” I chuckled inside watching the locals pushing their carts with untold amounts of material significance into Mexico.


"Duty Free Shade"



"Deserted Retirement Ranch" at Hacienda Sur Luna


Departing Columbus I visited the deteriorating ruins of a once massive “fly-in” retirement community. The place looked like vintage roadside motels strung together for nearly a 1/8th of a mile. The centerpiece and entry was crafted from mismatched pipe scrap creating a drive-thru arch that lead to a runway and massive biplane replica. The rear of the buildings showed signs of life as new trucks and RVs were parked bearing plates mostly from the Midwest. Imagining the beginnings of this place got me thinking about the people that built and once inhabited this place, now in shambles. Like a tribe departing from their cliff dwellings during drought, these people seemed to have taken-off and never returned.




I was stopped at the Border Patrol checkpoint to find my followers form earlier awaiting my arrival. I waited as the drug dog moseyed around my truck unimpressed by its scent. While the agents talked quietly I watched the mountains through a rising orange haze as the wind was picking up. What surroundings! The desert here was truly bare of any magic today under the noon sun. I was approached by whom I assumed was the boss looking all of thirty and the oldest of the group.
Agent- “Where you headed?”
Driver- “Home”
Agent- “Where’s home?”
Driver- “Las Cruces”
Agent- “Are you a photojournalist?”
Driver- “No”
Agent- “Then what are you?”
Driver- “I’m just a guy with a camera”
The agent hesitated and looked at the others
Agent- “Have a nice day”
Proud of the agent’s assumption I wondered what a life it would be if I could have said “Yes”. I may not last long in these parts.

“Border War is too close for comfort”LA Times Article Link
“Mexico Under Siege” – LA Times Multimedia Gallery Link