Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Exploring my Nuevomexicano Roots part III
Part I
Part II

The Saturday before Memorial Day was the last day that we planned to stay in Taos. My wife wanted to go somewhere quiet rather than be caught up in the festivities, whether they were recreational or memorial. The weekend had only increased the influx of bikers, increasing the noise such that the town had a constant ambient grumble. We felt that it was time to leave.

Our next destination was Cimarron. My wife had found a nice b&b that was situated in the mountains. The grounds had hiking trails as well as easy access to several state and national parks. We were looking forward to some relaxing hikes.

We delayed our departure from Taos in order to go to an artisans fair. There was not much that was new to us from the shops in the area. My wife bought several santos (handpainted images of saints) from a woman. She claimed to know people from Northampton. (At some point we realized that many New Mexicans knew people from the Pioneer Valley, specifically from the Five Colleges Area. However, I always sensed that whenever they said, "I have a friend in ...," that they wanted to insert the words "high-strung.") We also bought some bread from an Indian woman.

The drive through the mountains was beautiful. The mountains were high, the trees plentiful. Many people had built cozy cottages nestled up against the mountains. The mountain range opened up to a beautiful plain by the time we reached the town of Angel Fire. It was odd that this plain would be so perfectly surrounded by mountains so high up. One oddity: a small cloud hovered over a field at a low altitude, letting out random bolts of lightning. Throughout the road trip we passed bikers traveling in the opposite direction. Some stopped at the Vietnam Memorial between Angel Fire and Eagle's Nest.

After Eagle's Nest we entered the mountains again. We were no less impressed. There were huge rock formations on the cliffs. The drive was rather long. It took us more than one hour to pass through the mountains. We finally left the mountain range. What we say stunned us. A huge plain. A huge barren plain. It seemed like the same color extended for hundreds of miles, broken only by a few highways. My wife and I began to worry: we were out in the middle of nowhere. Had we left New Mexico? Were we in Texas? Cimarron, known as a stop on the Santa Fe trail, was a very small, very uninteresting town. The major attraction is Philmont Scout Ranch, a summer camp for advanced Boy Scouts. The complex is huge (I couldn't believe the number of cabins and tents I saw set up. From what I understand, these facilities were only for the arriving scouts. Many more would be sent out into the vast areas of the mountain forests for several weeks at a time.)
Things to do in Cimarron:
Philmont Scout Ranch
has two attractions that may be worth visiting. The first is the Philmont Museum and Seton Memorial Library dedicated to scouting. It has a permanent exhibit of historical scouting equipment
, a good (but small) collection for Seaton's naturalist painting and sketches of Southwestern wildlife, and a special exhibit dedicated to the previous years' wildfires as they affected the Ranch and as to how they were fought. The museum gift shop provides the area with a good bookshop, and the library looks as if it is well stocked. Visitors may obtain passes to tour the Philmont Villa (which we did not
do as we arrived late in the day.

The driveway for the B&B was just after the ranch. However, that driveway was, in reality, a two-mile dirt road. The stones had not been raked off the driveway. We could see the house. It was ever so close. We drove ever so slowly. It took twenty minutes to reach the house. No one was there. We were already concerned about being out in the middle of nowhere; we were more concerned that we could never leave this place without great difficult (perhaps causing damage to our poor rental.) We waited. And we waited.

The view from the house was spectacular. It was nestled in the mountains as promised, but not to the extent described in the digitally altered photo on the website.

After forty minute we saw a truck, followed by a cloud of dust, coming up the driveway. Finally, salvation! I was getting on my wife's nerves, and vice-verse. However, the truck did not carry the innkeeper but her nephew and his two friends. He was nice enough to let us into our room. He explained that it was graduation day (in a town of 1000 people!) and that his aunt had been celebrating; he had been sent to the B&B on a traditional "treasure hunt."

OK, we have a room. We went inside. We rested for a while. The innkeeper, a nice woman, finally arrived. She gave us a quick intro and went back to the graduation day festivities. We took off. We picked up several brochures that were lying around. Back down the dirt road at 5 mph. We got back on the main road. We headed in the direction of Capulin, an inactive volcano. And we drove. And we drove. We saw cattle. We saw bison. There were random trees (the landscape was not as desolate as it appeared from higher up, but not by much.) And we gave up. How far could this place have been? We turned back. We found the tourism (?) office in town. The woman at the counter said that the volcano was far away, but that for her a trip to the grocery store might take an hour one way. OK, back to the mountain range--go to one of the state parks. We met with a police roadblock. There had been a serious accident. The road was closed. We had to turn back. We were trapped. Last thing to do (it was almost five in the afternoon) was eat. There were too places. One was too scary to approach. The other was in an old Western hotel, the Saint James. It was reputed as a stop for famous figures on the trail etc etc etc and was thus a landmark of the Wild West. I hated the food: my linguini alfredo was overcooked in the cream sauce so that it was all gummy; the vegetables were served a la Green Giant.

We went back to the B&B to contemplate what we would do. Was Taos really that far away? We went to sleep early.
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