A COLD NIGHT
Our first site on this grand adventure across the American Southwest was a campsite in a quiet valley off a dirt road in northern New Mexico. Our first camp set-up was a long one and consisted of pitching a large shade structure with tarps and aluminum poles under which the kitchen was erected, hauling out buckets of food and dishes and gear from the vans as the sun went down. Next, we scattered to pitch our tents – five of us pitched near one another without really conferring on it. New to sleeping out in this unfamiliar landscape, there was some comfort in being closer to one another I suppose. The sky threatened rain.
We sat together for dinner and then cleaned dishes in frigid water. We pulled camp chairs into a circle around a gas lantern and held our first seminar. We shivered noticeably in our sweatpants and layers of sweaters and wondered quietly in our heads if we had packed incorrectly. Weren’t we supposed to be too hot on this trip? I fretted slightly about how I would shake this chill but once I slipped into my sleeping bag I warmed up immediately to the point of sweating. Invest in good gear, then you can trust your gear. Being exposed to the elements 24/7 is no joke. It can lead to a world of discomfort.
THE JACKPILE MINE AND LAGUNA PUEBLO
Our next day was with Curtis Fransisco, a Laguna tribal member and geologist who fed us a meal he had prepared and took us around the old town and various areas affected by the infamous Jackpile mine. The Jackpile mine is the largest deposit of uranium in the United States (and possibly the world?) We visited radioactive run-off that was apparently “hotter” than some of what you’d find at the mine itself. It was difficult to learn of the Native American community that had paid the heavy price of ruined health and spoiled land for the temporary profit the mine offered. Never have I felt more uncomfortable in a landscape, and I was only there for a day. After just a day’s visit, I don’t feel I know enough about this area to go on beyond these few sentences.
A TEMPO RUN IN THE VALLEY
The following morning, I managed a 5.5 mile run along the dirt road we came in on – only I continued on in the direction beyond camp where we hadn’t yet gone. It was near impossible to catch my breath – when on foot and not in the van, I realized just how hilly the terrain was. The 7700-foot elevation made itself known in the burning of my lungs. I hadn’t been able to run for four days though and felt cooped up in the car for two days, so I pushed the pace and freed my legs. I returned to camp in time to hike up the ridge with the group to view shards of painted pottery from countless years ago. From the top of the ridge you could see the entire valley I had just run an hour earlier. To think my body carried me that far was a tad baffling. I don’t often get the chance to see the distance I run from that vantage point. 2.7 miles never looked so far.