DNA-X #7 Mysterious New Mexico
Colorado faded into the distance behind us as our DNA-X crew headed south. We had our sights on New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. The terrain slowly flattened into grand mesas, colorful buttes and sagebrush plains where trees became smaller and water was as scarce as hen’s teeth. There is something decidedly mysterious about this state, something not quite touchable but you can feel it.
Unexplained phenomenon lurk around these desert lands and we got our first clue in a roadside open range cattle sign – with a UFO hovering above the steer. Could this be related to the infamous “cattle mutilations” which began in the 1960’s? Over the years, numerous events of cattle and other stock being killed, drained of blood and organs, skillfully operated on with no sign of tracks, blood etc. left everyone looking for answers. UFO’s were a prime suspect as was cult activity and even the elusive Chupacabra, one of those hair-raising monsters of legend. For a friendlier version check out Scooby-Do and the Monster of Mexico. Meanwhile all the cattle signs we saw had that UFO on them…hmmm.
We headed for the highest (7000Ft.) and oldest state capitol in the U.S., the beautiful city of Santa Fe where we would set up camp for some area exploration. Our “camp”, the cozy Inn of the Five Graces, is downtown in the oldest part of the city and within walking distance of most of the action. The city has a central square where concerts can be enjoyed as well as crafts and jewelry sold by Native American artists. There are many excellent restaurants here but we found the nearby Pink Adobe great for some local ambiance and historic charm. Across the street is the oldest church in the U.S. the Chapel of San Miguel built around 1610.
Beyond the usual tourist attractions, 35 miles north west of the city is Los Alamos, ground zero for the government’s top secret Manhattan Project of the 1940’s. As far as the public was concerned this place did not exist, anyone who worked here on the classified research and development of nuclear weapons had a P.O. Box in Santa Fe. The Los Alamos National Laboratory is still in business today and busy with “Scientific inquiry supporting nuclear deterrence, Reducing global threats, Fostering energy security”. Apparently the nuclear waste here has been cleaned up and although the first bomb was developed in Los Alamos it was “tested” further out in the desert at the current White Sands Missile Range. We toured the nearby Bradbury Science Museum to learn more and noticed a surplus of security cameras all around town. You might think any evidence of that era is gone but no! For a taste of the Cold War we went to the other side of town to visit The Black Hole. Peace activist Ed Grothus who had worked at the lab started this five-acre bizarre government surplus store in 1951. Any and all Manhattan Project equipment was for sale here under eerie flickering lights and anti-nuke paintings. Unfortunately family members closed this time capsule in November and the remaining equipment was auctioned off.
Not far from Santa Fe is the ancient Native American cliff dwelling of Puye. Set along the cliff face of the Pajarito Plateau, the ancestors of the Santa Clara Pueblo sculpted their homes in the soft volcanic rock high above the valley 2000 years ago. This is a hauntingly peaceful place eons away from the nuclear age and guides will take you up the cliffs for a personal look at the past. Not far away is Bandelier National Monument a larger site of Ancestral Pueblo dwellings. Access to the primary visitor area is by shuttle bus only.
So far we have collected more questions than answers on our New Mexico Mystery Tour. There always seems to be an unseen shadow following us. Maybe it’s the altitude or eerie silence or ancient spirits or leftover radiation or…? Tomorrow we head further south, further out, into the desert unknown.