90,000 Miles to Me

26,052 Miles • New Mexico’s Grassland

Did you know that New Mexico has grasslands? There is a small bit of northeastern New Mexico called the Kiowa National Grasslands, that I have wanted to visit just because the idea of grasslands in New Mexico is so foreign to me. 

After spending five days there, I would have to say that the name “grassland” is a bit of a stretch. While it does have grass, that is like calling my back yard a forest because it is home to three stubby trees.

At a low angle, at this particularly grassy area, it looks like the ground is covered with grass.

It is only if you get down low enough that the angle hides all the brown patches and it looks like there is a field of grass. 

It’s really not. For comparison, this is the same area as in the photo above from farther away and a bit higher off the ground.

The designated camping area itself, however, was mostly classic northern New Mexico, and I found it lovely and had a grand time far from the faintest wisp of cell or internet service.

It was classic Northern New Mexico, that is, except for a small oasis with a bit of swampy area, a bunch of trees, and some great rocks to climb around on.

That little puddle of water in the rock was home to a thriving ecosystem of algae and insects. It was fascinating to squat next to the edge and watch the lively hubbub for a while.

I also enjoyed using my wildflower book to try to identify some of the wildflowers in the area. Although the field guide was specifically for this area and climate, I couldn’t find one of the local flowers in it. I liked this red one the best, and yes, I know it is a cactus in bloom and not technically a wildflower.

I had better success identifying the clouds. On day four, the clear sky turned into gray clouds and it looked like a storm might be brewing. I had seen several signs posted about the roads becoming dangerous when too wet, and was wondering if I should leave before it got impassable. With no cell, I cranked my AM/FM emergency radio to charge it yet couldn’t get a signal from any useful station for a weather report.

So I pulled out Tristan Gooley’s book The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs, and carefully read the chapter on reading clouds. With some time and thinking and a lot of looking back and forth between the clouds and wind and book, I thought that most likely there would be some light, scattered showers for a while, but nothing major. Guess what. I was right!

Coincidence? Possibly. I’ll have to try this out more often to see if I have a budding skill as a cloud-reader and weather-predictor. Either way, this was pretty cool and it felt great to be able to feel, for a little while, like I had a connection with, and understanding of, the world around me. A very different feeling from the weather being an unpredictable and unknowable random thing whose whims I am subject to.

When I left five days later to find a library with WiFi in the nearest town, it was only to realize that it was Memorial Day and they would all be closed. I did find a WiFi signal, though, while parked in front of a senior center, and as I wrote an email I was serenaded by patriotic hymns played on church bells a block away.

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