A remote riparian canyon just north of Placitas
Backcountry hike to benefit Las Placitas Association
—REID BANDEEN, LAS PLACITAS ASSOCIATION
Diamond Tail Ranch is hosting a backcountry guided hike
in the remote Gonzales Canyon area of the Ranch on Saturday, October
13. This area forms a major wildlife corridor for the Sandia Mountains
to the south and Ortiz Mountains to the north, and is home to
bears, bobcats, mountain lions, deer, and as of recently, elk.
Gonzales Canyon is an area of remote wetlands, streams, and forests,
and also holds significant cultural resources. Remnants of historic
mining and farming communities, as well as pre-Puebloan cultures
are scattered throughout. The event is being conducted as a benefit
and fundraising event for the Las Placitas Association, a local
nonprofit natural resources conservation organization.
This is an opportunity not to be missed. We’ll meet at
9:30 a.m. at the Placitas Post Office, and then carpool out to
Diamond Tail. High clearance, four-wheel drive vehicles are required,
so please bring one if you have it and are willing to drive. A
picnic lunch will be provided courtesy of Diamond Tail Ranch.
We’ll return mid-afternoon. Cost of the event is $15 per
person, or $25 for a party of two. All proceeds are being donated
to the Las Placitas Association. Reservations are required, so
please call Diamond Tail Ranch at 771-2000 by Wednesday, October
10 to RSVP and reserve your spot.
Please bring proper hiking clothes, sun protection, and drinking
water. Due to the primitive nature of the ranch roads in this
area, the event may be cancelled in case of heavy rains.
Just put an asterisk on the whole region
—RAY RING, HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
I wrote this column in two minutes and seventeen seconds.
I typed more than three hundred words per minute, including the
time spent getting the ideas out of thin air and editing myself,
running the spell-check, and the ultimate writer’s reward,
patting myself on the back.
It’s a new world record for column writing. How can I,
a mere mortal, do it?
Let’s just say, if the San Francisco Chronicle
investigates me for possible abuse of performance-enhancing steroids—expanding
on its case against the new superhuman home-run king, Barry Bonds—I
have no comment, at least not until I talk to my lawyer.
You see, thick-necked sluggers—including some who’ve
confessed and more who’ve fallen under suspicion—are
not the only beneficiaries. Steroids, whatever their nefarious
side effects, can juice up anyone. I see many suspects. And it
seems to be a Western thing, more than in other regions. Our rootin,’
tootin’ society, characterized by the two-pistoled cartoon
Yosemite Sam—whose boots rarely touch ground as he blasts
in all directions—seems addicted to performance boosters.
Check out California’s bulging megagovernor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The former body-builder and action-movie star must be setting
the record as the strongest governor ever. Arnold could whip all
the other forty-nine current state leaders at once, with one hand,
while pressing a Hummer upward with the other hand. Does Arnold
look like natural evolution culminating in the 2007 modern man?
Only if you include man-made chemistry.
Atop our politics, how do you think Wyoming-rooted Dick Cheney—sixty-six,
mechanical-hearted, clogged-veined—keeps on running the
most powerful nation with a ruthless grip? Cheney is surely setting
a record as the most powerful vice-president ever, though his
lawyer would probably also fend off the steroids question with
a “no comment.”
Really, it goes way beyond steroids. For popularity of illicit
drugs such as marijuana and cocaine, compared to national averages,
the people of Colorado, Montana, and Oregon rank very high, and
those in Washington, California, New Mexico, and Nevada are noticeably
above average. Utah has the biggest percentage of people taking
pain relievers for nonmedical purposes, according to an authoritative
2005 federal survey. Arizona, Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming rank
very high for alcoholism.
Millions of people get their heartbeats and respiration cranked
up by Starbucks, the Seattle-based caffeine cartel. The whole
construction industry in boomtowns from Phoenix, Arizona, to Bozeman,
Montana, runs on Red Bull energy drink. Chaws of tobacco power
the rodeo circuit. A lot of Rocky Mountain oil and gas drillers,
working their 24/7 shifts of dangerous labor in all weather, are
said to run on meth.
How great would Hollywood be without silicone implants and wrinkle-erasing
Botox injections? Ditto for Las Vegas.
All that high-priced Western art—the paintings and sculptures
of cowboys and Indians, bears and landscapes? The artists often
consume mind-altering substances they imagine enhance their creative
acts. That rainbow-hued Santa Fe-carved coyote you bought for
a loved one? Do you think the carver was sober the whole time?
How about the famous festival called Burning Man, where every
year crowds get high on anything and everything to party amid
flames in the Nevada desert? Telluride, Colorado hosts the somewhat
more sedate annual mushroom festival, which celebrates some of
the hallucinogens, masquerading as science. Some Southwesterners
openly blast off on more hallucinogens they get by chewing or
smoking a wacky cactus, peyote, claiming it’s a religious
What’s the official state snack declared by residents of
Utah? Jell-O. A sub-region called the “Jell-O Belt”
extends outward from Utah, into parts of Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada,
California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, corresponding to
the predominance of the West’s most noticeable religion,
Mormonism, whose followers prefer sweets like cinnamon buns to
pump up their energy levels. Anyone imagine that Jell-O’s
million flavors and colors are all pure and chemical-free?
It extends to how we treat the land and other species. Almost
all our crop and meat production, from California’s Central
Valley to Idaho’s dairies and cattle, is based on an evil
synergy of weed-and-pest-killing chemicals, stimulants and manufactured
hormones. Those long plumes of orange powder the planes and helicopters
drop on wildfires, trying to retard the flames on millions of
acres—does that look natural?
So it seems a bit hypocritical for any Westerners to tsk-tsk
Barry Bonds or put an asterisk by his name in the home-run record
book. Who are we kidding? Our whole region rates an asterisk.
Ray Ring is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a
service of High Country News (www.hcn.org).
He is the paper’s Northern Rockies editor in Bozeman, Montana.
Heard around the West
Just two decades ago, pink coyotes were ubiquitous in downtown
Santa Fe. They howled at oil-painted moons, or were sculpted from
metal, or were accompanied by acrylic neon landscapes. To some
high-minded folks, the fad was much worse than a particularly
bad moment in Southwestern-style kitsch; it seemed to signal the
imminent demise of civilization itself. Nevertheless, by the skin
of its dentures, civilization has held on, more or less. And these
days, even Santa Fe is making a comeback as a cosmopolitan center
with internationally renowned food and art venues (enough to inspire
a recent multi-page story in the New York Times travel
section). The New Mexico city has also moved up in the wildlife
world. The pink coyotes have long since been evicted to languish
in garages across the nation. Nature, however, abhors a vacuum:
The coyotes have been replaced by a mountain lion with an apparent
hankering for some serious bling.
Around midnight on a recent Friday, the Santa Fe police received
reports that a big cat was prowling around downtown and banging
on business doors, reports the Santa Fe New Mexican.
After finding a hole in the glass door of a jewelry store, the
cops slowly entered, found the cat, and fired a shotgun at it.
Two hours later, a wildlife officer showed up and located the
cat in a toilet stall—rumor has it it was reading the aforementioned
Times article — where the officer pegged the feline
with a tranquilizer. To its chagrin, the cougar was relocated
north of Santa Fe to decidedly less chic Chama.
We all know about headless chickens running around the farmyard,
but what about bodiless snakes chomping down on someone’s
finger? After central Washington farmer Danny Anderson decapitated
a rattler with a shovel, he reached down to pick up the disembodied
head. But the head “did a back flip almost and bit my finger,”
Anderson told the Tri-City Herald. It’s not the first time:
Scientific American reports that snakes’ chompers remain
potentially active for twenty to sixty minutes after death, and
that at least five people have been bitten by dead snakes.
Jonathan Thompson is associate editor of High
Country News (www.hcn.org)
and is filling in for Betsy Marston, who’s had it up to
here with zany news from the region.
State Parks director urges Elephant Butte Lake
visitors to take precautions, especially with pets
Elephant Butte Lake State Park is advising dog owners to take
certain precautions, following the death of a twelve-pound Jack
Russell Terrier at Elephant Butte Lake State Park, who died after
possibly ingesting naturally occurring blue-green algae in the
lake in September. The dog had been swimming for several hours
along a cove, when he became ill and later died.
“There is a suspicion that algae consumption may be to
blame, though it hasn’t been confirmed,” said State
Parks Director Dave Simon. “Until we know for sure, it’s
advisable to keep pets out of the water where algae are present.”
Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, are aquatic, photosynthetic
microscopic organisms that occur naturally in lakes and streams.
Algae forms when conditions include the presence of warm, shallow,
stagnant water that receives a lot of sunlight. Toxic algae blooms
are usually localized, sporadic, and last a very short amount
of time, primarily in the summer.
Though not naturally a toxin, algae can produce toxins which
can make animals sick when consumed, except for fish. Algae toxins
have been shown to attack the nervous system of animals, which
can lead to death if not immediately treated. When swimming near
algae blooms, people can develop skin rashes, and might experience
symptoms similar to that of food poisoning.
As is the case in any body of water at any location, algae are
more prevalent (if present at all) in isolated coves during the
summer months. Algae might be present in water that is visibly
discolored, and can include shades of green, blue-green, yellow,
brown, or red.
To minimize risk to people or pets, readers should note the following:
• State Parks requires that pets be kept on leashes no
longer than ten feet. Keep pets close and out of water where algae
• Avoid swimming in areas with large quantities of algae.
• Wash hands after swimming, especially prior to food preparation.
• Rinse pets off instead of allowing pets to groom themselves.
• Never drink untreated surface water, whether or not algae
blooms are present.
• People, pets, and livestock should avoid contact with
water that is discolored.
Further tests are being conducted to determine the potential
role that blue-green algae may have played in the death of the
dog. Rangers will also look for the presence of algae along coves
where water may have been stagnant. Visitors to the park will
be notified about the possibility of toxic algae.
For more information, contact New Mexico State Parks at (888)