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Lloyd Melick

Ninety-something-year-old boatbuilder Lloyd Melick declined a ride on his final creation—The Cochiti Queen—a half-size replica of the African Queen of Bogart fame. Painstakingly constructed of three-quarter-inch strips of red cedar in Y2K, the Queen was initially powered by a steam engine built by Diamond Tail Ranch owner Joe Matthews. After a nearly disastrous maiden voyage, the Queen fell into disrepair for about ten years outside Lloyd’s garage at the farthest reaches of Placitas where he lived for nearly fifty years. Ty Belknap resurrected the Queen with Bondo and fiberglass and Joe installed an electric motor. In hopes of a ride in May, 2013, Lloyd strode to the Cochiti dock on his new hip replacement with the help of a walker, but boarding proved daunting. “If I wreck this #@*&!! leg, I’m done for,” he said, before catching a line tossed by a sailboater in distress. (Photo credit: Jason Castillo)

(left to right) Ben Forgey, Joe Matthews, and Ty Belknap bring in the Cochiti Queen at the end of its first-and-last voyage as a steamboat in 2000. (Photo credit: Robert H. Nethery)

Ideas for a getaway

—Elliot Madriss

Get away from the office and check out what’s in your backyard. Here are some options for hiking and biking and bird watching—or just getting away from it all.

Ojito Wilderness: an hour from Albuquerque is a high desert landscape of wide-open spaces and exceptional beauty. Remote box canyons and austere badlands offer solitude in 11,000 acres of scenic wilderness. Deep meandering arroyos offer miles of terrain for wildlife viewing, bird watching, photography, hiking, and horseback riding. For sturdier souls, backpacking and primitive camping are available. Once part of a vast river channel and floodplain complex, the area boasts world-renowned fossils of dinosaurs, trees, plants, and marine invertebrates.

From Bernalillo, take US 550 toward Cuba for about twenty miles. Turn left on Cabezon Road/County Road 906 (about two miles before San Ysido). Follow the left fork ten miles to the Ojito Wilderness sign.

White Mesa Bike Trails: in San Ysidro, just west of the Ojito Wilderness is another area known for its geological, cultural, and paleontological riches. Meandering through Zia Pueblo and Bureau of Land Management lands, hikers are also welcomed. One segment is even open for equestrian use. White Mesa gets its name from the color of gypsum in the region. The trailhead at Cabezon Road and Junction 17 opens up to 15 miles of bike trails, consisting of two concentric loops. Check out Dragon’s Back and the thrilling ride of high and narrow gypsum mesariders on the Tierra Amarilla Anticline. Drop offs and obstacles abound. Less extreme is the east leg of the inner loop.

San Ysidro Trials Area: this unique slot canyon offers recreation for anyone with an appreciation of natural wonders. This southern tip of the Jemez Mountain range is open for hiking, primitive camping, equestrian activities, and mountain biking. The area is closed to off-road motorized vehicles, except for the special use granted to the New Mexico Trials Association, which uses the area for competitive and practice events.

There are no facilities in the trials area, but the Village of San Ysidro lies about two miles to the east. From Albuquerque, take I-25 to the second Bernalillo exit, then US 550 through San Ysidro. There is a paved pull off along the north (right) side of the highway approximately one mile out of San Ysidro; here, you will see a dirt parking lot and a locked gate. Walk through the pedestrian gate or first borrow a key from the BLM Albuquerque District Office.

Jemez State Monument designated as National Historic Landmark

At a ceremony on May 16, the San José de los Jemez Mission and the remains of the Guisewa village, known as the Jemez State Monument, was officially designated as a National Historic Landmark, joining sites of national significance including the Empire State Building, Mesa Verde National Park, Pecos National Historic Park, and Bandelier National Monument. Less than 2,500 sites in the nation—fewer than three percent of the nation’s historic sites—bear this designation. There are less than four dozen in New Mexico. The site was first listed on the State Register of Cultural Properties in 1969 and was recognized in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The designation also demonstrates the close, ongoing cooperative relationship between the Pueblo of Jemez and the state of New Mexico.

Described as “one of the best preserved examples of a seventeenth-century Spanish colonial mission” by New Mexico Cultural Affairs Secretary Veronica Gonzales, who continued at the dedication ceremony, saying that the site is an “outstanding example of American history and culture.”

Pueblo of Jemez Governor Vincent A. Toya, Sr. addressed the audience in Towa to describe the cultural significance of the site. Several variations of the name expressed the changes the Hemish people experienced when the Spanish conquistadores arrived to occupy the site. Guisewa was one of several villages located a few miles apart in the Jemez Mountains. At the time of first contact, the village comprised about one hundred rooms.

The San José de los Jemez church was built by Jemez laborers over several years and completed in 1681. The structure demonstrates the engineering and architectural expertise of the Hemish people.

“It’s impossible to overstate the significance of this site,” said Bandelier National Park Superintendent Jason Lott, representing the National Park Service. “The Spanish were here nine years before the earliest English explorers, 22 years before the Pilgrims landed. And the Hemish people were here for centuries before that. Their spirits remain.”

“Today we honor the significance of this entire area and pay respects to our ancestors and their blood, sweat, and tears that created this site,” Governor Toya said. “We also recognize the strong working relationships the Pueblo of Jemez has built with federal and state agencies.”

Reprinted from the Pueblo of Jemez’s Red Rocks Reporter.

 Valles Caldera Bill clears key Senate committee

Valles CalderaOn June 18, legislation sponsored by U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich—to transition the Valles Caldera National Preserve in northern New Mexico to the National Park Service to increase public access—cleared the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with bipartisan support.

The Senators introduced S. 285, the Valles Caldera National Preserve Management Act, on February 12, 2013. Hunting and fishing would be mandated under the legislation. The proposal was developed after extensive input from local residents, sportsmen, veterans’ organizations, business owners, and elected officials.

Department of Game and Fish representatives, including Director Jim Lane and State Game Commissioners, met on June 14 with Sen. Tom Udall to discuss the Department’s concerns with proposed legislation. In his letter to the senator, Lane expressed concerns that transfer of the property to the National Park Service would “result in increasing conflict over management authority, a poorly managed elk population, lost hunting opportunity and increased conflicts with adjacent landowners.” He cited vague language in the bill regarding wildlife management authority, and fishing and hunting opportunities, and his concerns that the National Park Service objective is resource preservation at the expense of conservation and recreation.

After the June 18 clearing, Senator Udall, who has been a leader advocating for conservation of the Valles Caldera for over a decade, said, “The Valles Caldera has stood out as the icon of the Jemez Mountains, a treasure to New Mexico and a landscape of national significance. I’m proud to see the legislation we’ve worked so hard on clear this important hurdle. The legislation that was approved by committee today respects and preserves the longstanding educational, grazing, and exceptional hunting and fishing opportunities that are cherished and valued by so many New Mexicans. NPS management will ensure steadier funding, and that more resources are available so the Valles Caldera can continue to prosper as a natural wonder for all to enjoy.”

“By shifting to Park Service management, we can open the Caldera to the public, while conserving the one-of-a-kind resources found there,” said Heinrich, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “The preserve model ensures that hunting and fishing remain central activities for the public to enjoy, and NPS management will help balance expanded public access with conserving the natural and cultural resources found in the area.”

The Park Service management will help bring more visitors and raise the national profile of the preserve for visitors from outside of New Mexico. The increase in visitors at the preserve is expected to bring more than two hundred jobs and $8 million dollars in wages to the communities in the region.

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