Monday, November 17, 2008

Black Range and Silver City

November 13-16, 2008

Thursday: The turn off from the Interstate into the Black Range is just south of Truth or Consequences, known as TrC to locals. At first it's just a long climb across typical NM dessert, but then it starts twisting and seriously climbing, passing through Hillsboro and Kingston. Coming into Hillsboro I saw a sign for "New Mexico Birding Trail", so stopped in the general store to ask if they knew anything about that. Met a birder easily enough, Patty Woodruff, who had advice, but after trying three places, we couldn't find a site map. She's interested in some enterprise organized around the hundredth birthday of Aldo Leoplold, a festival or business, not clear, but she was gonna email some questions, which never happened. Too bad. I eventually found a map in Silver City. More importantly, I got a great hambuger with Green Chiles, one of the five basic food groups. The others are salt, sugar, grease, and chocolate.

Patty and another bird-wise person recommended stopping at Emory Pass, where I'd had a great night once with astro-geeks and big telescopes. Beyond that was Irons Creek campground, and Gallinas Canyon, where I'd once eaten a formal Thankgiving dinner, complete with china and silverware, set up on folding tables out in the open, an inspiration of the unforgettable Bob Erman ("Wood works for me, I would work for thee"), and his wife Polly. I made stops at all those places, not very birdy late on a cool afternoon except for more Brown Creepers than I'd ever seen in one place or one day, maybe half a dozen.

On into Silver City by the back north way through Mimbres and Santa Rita, home of an immense copper mine, one of the world's biggest excavations. That's a whole 'nother story. My main focus in SC was visiting old friends and renewing our affections. First on the list was Patrick Mulligan, who had been my partner in carpentry in Philadelphia, and was the last remaining close male friend after five years of deaths among my cohort. Second was Bob and Diana Leyba, a couple also from Philly, who in fact had introduced me to Pat at a party at their Germantown house. My first stop in Silver was in front of their art supply store, called Leyba and Ingalls. There was a parking space waiting for me. After a couple of hours talking to Diana, who I'd met when she was in my home-room at an alternative high-school in Philly, It had become a lifelong friendship. I headed over to Pat's house and spent a couple of hours there hearing tales of mountain biking and retired desperation, told with the exquisite timing of a perfected political and social curmudgeon. It was great. Back at Diana's the three of us went to Jalisco's for good Mexican and then they gave me a tour of an array of buildings they've rehabbed and rented, Bob, a pro painter, was pleased to show off his handiwork. They had a guest house too, big bed, hot shower, and a lizard who crawled between the sheets for warm company while I slept. That was a thrill.

Since I'd lived in Silver, i had a lot of other acquaintances that I hoped to see. One was an old heart-throb named Laura Ramnarace, Irish-Indian who I'd corresponded with for awhile after leaving, but those things often fade. Even the contact with Pat and B&D had gotten thin. Diana encouraged me to give her a call, and I left a message. I was very pleased when Diana told me the next day that Laura had called back. We made arrangements to go hiking on Saturday.

Friday: I stopped by Pat's early, still chilly, drank coffee and told stories, then headed up Little Walnut Rd to the picnic area. Good birding, even got a couple of tics, Acorn and Hairy Woodpeckers. I had gotten my start birding while I lived in Silver, but hadn't hooked into the serious birder network and its resources of books and groups. So I was pleasantly surprised at how many birds I had missed through lack of skil and not knowing where and when to look. I found the local internet cafe and did some catching up, worked on reading the books I'd brought to get through long evenings, watched a movie at Diana's called "Mirror Mask", very Jungian, Slept well, but still had three headaches, one from a cold, one from allergies, and one from altitude. They all faded before the trip's end.


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