We should really not tolerate history books that talk about Europeans discovering various parts of America. The injustices which followed that thinking are too numerous to mention. But every once in a while, there is a quiet reminder of man’s past relationship to this land, which had nothing to do with who owned what or who had the power.
In the area called Three Rivers, there are 50 protected acres of rock so isolated that you can turn for 360 degrees and only see one small sign of human dwellings. And that remoteness is what has preserved the Three Rivers Petroglyph site from the marks of modern man, save one small example we found.
Beginning in around the year 900, the Mogollon people began carving symbols on the rocks that crowd this small series of hills. These petroglyphs take many forms, and are found like Easter eggs, tucked here and there. There are 25,000 of them, and they delight with their variety and their simplicity. (If only the modern government signage wore half so well.)
We also found evidence of a long-ago volcano here in New Mexico. The Valley of the Fires shows the lava remains of an explosion just 1,500 years ago, about the time the petroglyphs were being carved. Dramatic.
Our next natural wonder was the White Sands National Monument, acres and acres of a reminder that this area was once covered by water. The sands are gypsum, and look from many angles like huge snow drifts. Quite the opposite of the black lava fields and quite the tourist attraction. For many, the temptation to leave a mark or a name is just irresistible, but the good news is that anything you do here is quite temporary. Imagine miles and miles of this white drama.
Of course, man has also left his indelible mark on this part of the world. Just a few miles down the road is the White Sands Missile Range and the Trinity Site, where the first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945.
I will leave you to ponder the meaning and juxtaposition of all these natural and unnatural wonders for yourself.
In the next part of our trip, we departed Las Cruces and headed for Albuquerque. On the way, we stopped right outside Las Cruces at the little town of Mesilla. When the railroad was being planned, the good citizens of Mesilla decided they didn’t want that in their town, and suggested it run through Las Cruces, thus resigning themselves to stagnation and current life as a souvenir, art gallery and jewelry shop center for tourists. Las Cruces has become a major city, thus proving the value of transportation access.
Noteworthy signs on two buildings suggest that life was a bit violent here in the old days. The signage is a funny combination of history, extraneous detail and today’s mercantile ambitions. Note that our friend Billy shows up here too.
On the way to Albuquerque we also stopped at one of those historical and agricultural museums and saw a few things of interest, including a drawing by Peter Hurd. Those of you who well remember the Georgia Egg Hall of Fame will be pleased to note the Chili Pepper Institute Hall of Flame. This time, guys, I did capture the legend which describes the qualifications. However, I think the guy from Scarsdale cheated on his name.
We had a wonderful lunch at Maria’s Kitchen in downtown Truth or Consequences – a town we always wanted to visit. Not much to say about it, believe it or not, so on to the big city and more adventures….