Monday, April 4, 2016

~ Chloride Ghost Town ~

 "On the path that leads to Nowhere I have sometimes found my Soul" ~ Corinne Roosevelt Robinson (Younger sister of President Theodore Roosevelt)

Chloride Ghost Town ~ New Mexico

 When you travel alone on a bike, you must be sure you’ve got everything you’ll need for a long-distance trip, like the one ahead of me to La Joya, New Mexico.  I decide that a tent would be a wise thing for rain but primarily mosquitoes.  Three weeks earlier I was in La Joya returning from the Sturgis trip and the mosquitoes were the worst I had ever encountered at Jewels Camp.  So that’s on my mind, I’ll sort out the rest along the trail to La Joya.

Louie, Paula, and Maylee - Barstow, CA
Day 1:  Barstow is my first stop, 225 miles away.  Paula and Louie are expecting me for lunch at 12:30.  I make better time than expected, so I stop by to see Gilbert.  I can see that he really wants to go with me but Melissa is out of town and she is his primary backup for Sally’s care.  I show him the silver stars I’ve added to my saddlebags as well as the roadrunner.  

Paula’s house is next. I eat way too much green chile, beans, meat, and tortillas.  Lawrence and Lea’s daughter Maylee eat with us and she has about the best manners I’ve experienced for a 4-year-old.  I take my first picture of Paula, Louie, and Maylee and I’m off.  

It is a long 540 miles before I reach Upper Satellite camp near Ash Fork, Arizona just before dark.  The moon’s light helps me see until I can get a good fire going.  I have a can of stew and Paula’s tortillas.  I think about this trip – the La Joya Fiestas, the petrified tree, and my hope to find the exact spot where dad had his CCC’s picture taken in 1935.  He can be seen on page 25 of Los Griegos de La Joya.  I think about those petroglyphs he is standing in front and plan to find the exact same spot.  The trail tomorrow will be on scenic Highway 260 in Arizona: Camp Verde, Strawberry, Payson, Heber, Show Low, McNary, Eager; and then I cross into New Mexico: Quemado, Pie Town, Datil, Magdalena, Socorro, Belen, and then La Joya.  This is my favorite ride, higher elevation, and pure country.  In time, it would be a regular trip for me.

Barbara (Griego) DeCosta and Robert Griego
Day 2:  The skies over me are clear but I see clouds to the east, the direction I’m going.  By the end of the day and 416 miles later, I find myself at Datil, New Mexico.  I buy a big T-bone steak at the general store for dinner and go back 5 miles to the camp I call Whispering Pines.  It just rained so getting a fire going will be work.  I also need to have a good fire as elk hunters are sharing the woods too. I move my camp 100 feet over from where Gilbert and I last camped.  This is now called Angle Iron camp.  I made some contingency plans for rain but do not set up the tent.  It is very quiet and I get a good night's sleep.  

Tomorrow morning I plan to visit our cousin Barbara (Griego) DeCosta in Socorro.  Barbara is the daughter of Miguel and Emma Griego.  Miguel was my dad’s brother.  She helped me with pictures for our family book.  I look forward to meeting her for the first time.

My view at Whispering Pines
Day 3:  I eat the last of Paula’s tortillas, wrap up some spam fried over the fire and have several cups of coffee.  Today will be a short one, Socorro is about 60 miles away.  I meet Barbara and her husband John and have a good time.  I tell them that I’m off for the La Joya fiestas.  Barbara tells me that she too was born in La Joya.

I stop by the Assessor's Office in Socorro to find property records and maps for the property adjacent to our mom and dad’s house.  I’m sent from the assessor’s office to Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) office a few miles away and they send me to the MRGCD office in Belen for detailed maps.  Belen officials refer me to the MRGCD office in Albuquerque.  It seems that their property maps do not reflect property that may have been split.  I am trying to find out why dad would split up his property which is now partially owned by Tony and Mary Rivera’s daughter, Rosalie Muller.  I am concerned because Jewels Camp, which I understood to be on dad’s property, legally belongs to Rosalie Muller.

I put all that aside and go see our cousin Tudie Romero at Tabet Lumber Yard.  He says openly that he is going to the fiestas. I invite him to Jewels Camp for a few treats.   I stop by Veguita’s for ice and some basic supplies.  I stop by Leo’s and buy a few tamales, jerky, and chicharrones.

La Joya is like a magnet, always pulling me home.  Before I unload my gear at Jewels Camp, I want to pay my respects to Pablo and Alejandra Griego at the cemetery.  The plaque is gone and I am very upset and at loss for words.  I take a video to document what has occurred.  The fiestas are tomorrow and I plan to enjoy them.  I try hard to put this behind me.

My friend, Buck
It is dark and I see that Buck wants to talk so I go over to where he stands.  His ears are up and he listens to every word I say.  I rub his head and he loves the attention.  I tell him about my disappointing day at the cemetery and share with him my deepest thoughts on the matter.  There are no mosquitoes so my bed is close to the ground, the North Star will be my compass to guide the turmoil I feel tonight.  Such turmoil.

Day 4:  After a good hardy breakfast (orange juice, donuts, tortillas, cocktail fruit, and coffee), I set out to walk around La Joya and see what’s up.  Before I get down the road, a fella stops me.  His name is Louie Lovato and he’s quite a talker.  A younger man by the name of Jerry Esquibel stands close and listens.  I like the quieter one and I tell him that I’m on a journey to find where my dad took this picture which they both examine with a great deal of curiosity.  He tells me immediately that he saw very similar petroglyphs while hunting turkeys in the mountains near Chloride.  He sounds so convincing that I make plans to go there tomorrow.  He is a building contractor and is rebuilding a house he bought.

I want to see Mary Rivera.  I now know that her daughter Rosalie Muller is the owner of the land which my dad once owned.  Mary is busy baking pies for the fiestas and we have some small talk.  She is a historian and tells me about the International Hispanic Cultural Center (IHCC) 40 miles or so south of Socorro.  Last year Gilbert and I went to Fort Craig, and the IHCC is just 10 miles away.  She tells me quickly that Rosalie does not want to sell but takes my name, address, and phone number in case she wants to contact me.  She tells me angrily about the fight they are having with Charlie Mackey, owner of the dance hall.  She also says that Ernie Cordova is putting garbage in front of the dance hall to sway Charlie into opening up a historical road that his property has cut off.  I see that she is very angry so I thank her and let her know that I plan to ride to the IHCC today.   There is plenty of time for the fiestas.  

The IHCC celebrates the earliest Spanish families in New Mexico.  On a wall, I see the name Juan Griego along with others who accompanied Juan Oñate in 1598.  I spend several hours here and get a sense of the challenges the early pioneers faced when traveling from Zacatecas, Mexico along the Jornada de Muerto, past Fort Craig to Santa Fe.

I build a good fire at Jewels Camp before I walk across the dance hall land to the church where the fiestas are just beginning.  Tudie does not show up and Elva and Robert are in Albuquerque and won’t be able to come.  The food is unbelievable and I buy two portions of beans, chili, and sopapillas.  The music is now in high gear and people are dancing.  The musicians play mostly Mexican music but mix it up with some good country/western songs.  I meet several people, including Rudy Baca, who knew mom and dad well.  They seem pleased that I am here.  I see Bobbie Martinez, Stanley Esquibel, and Jerry Esquibel; all in a happy mood.  

One scene sticks in my mind.  I see an old man about 95 years old walk slowly with his cane towards the arena where the dancing is happening.  He wears a cowboy hat, cowboy boot, and is dressed nicely for the fiestas.  He moves at a snail's pace.  Just then a group of children runs right past him playing a game of tag.  Neither the children nor the old man seems to see each other and the image of youth and old age profoundly unfolds in front of me.  The old man seems to falter so I’m quickly at his side and say hello.  We talk, he with a faint Spanish voice, and me in English.  I young man brings a chair over for him and there he sat for an hour watching the dancers and hearing the music.  His cane keeps a good beat.  I love the fiestas because they touch my heart and the traditions of La Joya.  I walk back across the Dance Hall property to Jewels Camp where I add more wood to fire and go to sleep.  

The music continues well into the morning hours and it’s the last thing I hear as I fall asleep.  I think tomorrow morning I will go see Marcello Abeyta, the caretaker of the La Joya Cemetery.

Day 5:  “Come in and have some coffeseto and donuts,” Marcello says as he greets me at his front door.  Today is a special church mass so I know he is getting ready for that.  Marcello lives just across from Jewel Camp and has always been a good neighbor.  His son Tom is busy working in the fields and to my surprise, Tom has a twin brother.  His name is Tim.  They look identical and I quickly mistake Tim for Tom who doesn’t remember that we talked last night.  I share with Marcello that I went to the cemetery to pay my respects to Pablo and Alejandra Griego and found that someone had taken their plaque from the petrified tree.  He asked if I knew who took it down and I say no.  He adds that someone knocked down several markers and shakes his head. 

I am setting in front of the petrified tree and wondering what to do.  I begin to write a letter:  To Whom It May Concern…….I want them to know that what they have done is wrong.  I place a picture of the plaque that I brought with me inside a baggie with the letter and tie it with string to the petrified tree.  My letter is clear, "please return the plaque"; I provide my name, address, and phone number.  

I call Gilbert and Susan; they hear the anger in my voice and offer words of concern.  

I have a traditional New Mexico breakfast at Sofia’s Kitchen in Socorro -- huevos ranchos, green chili, sopapillas, and coffee but the turmoil I feel is there.  

There is a band playing some great music – Mexican and country/western and I forget my problems, if only for breakfast.

~~ A Quest to find the location of dad’s CCC picture (page 25) ~~

Sebastian C. Griego

La Joya is now behind me and I’m traveling to Chloride, New Mexico.  Jerry had said that he’s sure he saw petroglyphs like the one in the picture in the mountains near the ghost town of Chloride.  He tells me I must go to the end of the paved road and follow a dirt road 5 miles to some caves that are on the right-hand side.  

He assures me that the dirt road is passable.  Wrong.  The dirt road is very rough and follows a stream up the mountain.  I am at the base of the Continental Divide.  The road and stream are often one and I work hard to keep my bike upright.  

After two miles, I know that it is too rough and if I broke down out here, nobody would find me.  Before I left La Joya, I told Denise where I was going.  I did not know until later that she could not find Chloride on the map.  I find a flat spot and decide this is where I will camp tonight.  I will walk the remaining 3 miles in search of the caves and petroglyphs.  It is beautiful.  Quiet. I am surrounded by high cliffs as I walk up this road/stream bed.  I am surprised to see a white 4x4 truck coming down the road.  They must be surprised to see me walking up the road.  We say hello.  They are miners and are looking for mines.  They have a computer in the truck that is tied to GPS with a topo map.  He shows me where I am and points out that the caves are another two miles further.  I reach the caves but do not find any petroglyphs and return to camp before dark. 

Robert Griego - Elephant Butte, NM

Tomorrow I will ride to Elephant Butte near Truth or Consequences where dad may have been stationed at a CCC camp.  Louie Lovato in La Joya says that I might see such pictures in their outdoor museum dedicated to the CCC’s.

I like this campsite in the Gila National Forest, west of Chloride.  I call it Chloride Ghost Camp.  I have sopapillas with some chicharrones for dinner along with some fruit cocktail.  I’m tired after my hike and sleep soundly.

Day 6:  I love this area and hope to return another day.  I stop by the ghost town and take a few pictures but no one is home.  I ride onto Elephant Butte near Truth or Consequences.  I find the CCC outdoor museum and I meet a couple of historians who look at dad’s picture and like it.  They advise that I should go to the Museum in Silver City where I might get some good leads as dad was stationed there.  They also feel strongly that the drawings are just North of Silver City at Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument.  I look over the map and draw a line directly to the Silver City area where I am now going.  I forget about the time and only feel a strong desire to follow the leads.  I have never been here or Silver City.

I arrive in Silver City, New Mexico to only find that the museum is closed on Mondays.  I buy some fried chicken for dinner and decide quickly to explore the Gila Cliff Dwellings as suggested earlier.  It is another one-way road, fifty miles in and fifty miles out.  I stop by a ranch house and ask if I can fill my water bottles.  A guy working on his car says sure.  I ask him if he thinks it is going to rain tonight and he’s not sure.  The dark clouds ahead of me tell a different story.  I’m thirty miles up the canyon when the dark clouds begin dropping buckets of rain.  Just about then, I see a USFS sign for McMillan Campground.  I pick a good site and quickly begin to set up my tent.  It goes up quickly and my gear is now dry.  There is plenty of firewood around but the fire is not cooperating.  I gather pine needles at the base of the pine trees and they persuade the fire to light.  I soon have a roaring fire and warm up my chicken.  The thunder and lighting throughout the night is intense.  In my tent, it is dark one moment and light the next.  It is hard to sleep tonight but I feel lucky to be in this dry tent.

Day 7:  I have a few cups of coffee and a light breakfast, actually very light.  I am now at Gila Cliffs Dwelling and the ride here was spectacular.  I hope to find the spot in the picture.  The lady at the Visitor Center quickly determines that the rock in dad’s picture is not here.  Another lady, Kara Naber suggests that the location is likely in Bandelier National Park in the Jemez Mountains.  She offers to send my picture to some of the archaeologists in that region and to a friend who hikes those hills extensively.  I plan to do that when I get home.  I am also told that I may find the drawing in Glenwood, Reserve, or Apache Creek.  I see some Petroglyphs by the Mogollon people 600 – 700 years ago and take a few pictures before I leave.  I waste no time and head for Glenwood.   Pat Morrison, the USFS District Ranger at Glenwood feels certain that the drawing will be found at the Apache Creek site.  She tells me that there was a CCC spike camp located there in the 1930s.  She shows me several CCC pictures but my dad is not there.  She suggests that I go see Jeanne Schofer, the North Zone Archaeologist in Reserve which is an hour away.  It is 3pm and they close at 4pm, so I hurry.  

When I ask the receptionist for Jeanne Schofer, Jeanne appears holding a picture of dad.  She tells me that this picture is being circulated among archaeologists throughout the state of New Mexico.  She tells me that she has heard about my quest and that I’m traveling on a motorcycle in search of the spot where my dad took the picture in from of some petroglyphs.  I’m floored.  She and others want to help me find this exact spot.  She suggests that I go to Apache Creek and check out the petroglyphs there first, spending the night at the USFS campground.  If I don’t have luck there, she feels strongly that it can be found at the Tularosa site near Reserve; a very pristine archaeological site.  She draws me a map and says that she feel comfortable knowing that I will not disturb this archaeological site that dates back to the Mogollon people some 600 to 700 years ago.  I promise.

I find the trail up the mountain at Apache Creek and begin a 1-mile hike to the top.  I am feeling deep within me " this is the site.I begin to imagine dad climbing up this trail; the views are breathtaking.  I can also see several hunting camps in the forest.  I find the petroglyphs and many are very similar to the picture but not the right ones.  I descend the mountain and find a good campsite which I call Big Nail.  There are elk hunters in the area and I see several dead elk that they are dressing.  I need to be safe and alert in this environment.  I build a good fire that burns all night.  My sleep on the ground is interrupted by rain.  At first, I think I am dreaming but the persistent raindrops tell me otherwise.  Fortunately, I had prepared a lean-to with my rain fly and I crawl under it to escape the rain.

Day 8:  My fire burns all night, so starting it up again in the morning is easy.  Hot coffee and toasted tortillas sure help me get going in the rain.  The skies are dark and Jeanne had told me earlier that there was an 80% chance of rain today.  I break up camp quickly and head for the Tularosa site just 12 miles away.  I feel like her map, if followed precisely, will lead to the buried treasure.  It is detailed but I get lost along the way.  A lady simply asks, “Who are you” when I cross her property by mistake.  She sympathies with me and directs me in the right direction.  I’m now at the Tularosa site.  "Just follow the trail" she had said.  Soon I am at the base of a cliff.  Did she mean for me to climb that cliff I wonder?  I decide to climb the cliff, thinking that if I fell, no one would know that I was here.  Carefully, I ascend to where I see some petroglyphs but again, they are not the ones in the picture.  As I head back to my bike, I wonder if she wanted me to cross the Tularosa River for the petroglyphs.  I find a low point and jump across and bingo – hundreds of pristine petroglyphs all along the face of the rocks.  I feel as if I just entered a sacred place and take pictures and movies to document the area.  I search and search but again, I do not find the exact petroglyphs in the picture.  I am tired and stop by Jeanne’s office to report what I found or didn’t find.  I say good-bye and decide it is time to head home.  It is raining hard.

I’m now in Arizona in a hard rain.  I see a sign for Petrified National Park and decide why not.  I have never been there and I am amazed at what I see – petrified trees everywhere.  The colors are amazing.  This is a very short visit and I’m now on interstate 40 heading for Flagstaff.  The rain is now harder and the visibility is not good.  As I approach Flagstaff, the storm is directly on top of me.  I have all of my rain gear on me.  The semi-trucks have slowed down to 40 miles per hour and I have a hard time seeing the white lines.  I desperately want to get though Flagstaff as rain here often turns into snow.  I make Williams and the storm is behind me.  Motel 6 is my campsite for tonight.

Day 9:  I am in Needles now where it is hot.  I stop by to see my high school buddy, Bobbie Martinez.  He retired this year and is enjoying himself.  Sandy is at work but plans to retire at the end of the school year.  My visit is short, knowing that today will be 600 plus miles.  I had told Paula earlier that I would stop by if it wasn’t too late.  I let her know that I'll be there at about 4pm.  On my cell phone, it sounds like she says, “I’ll fix you some salmon eggs,” and I quickly tell her that I don’t eat salmon eggs.  She laughs. She then speaks clearly, “scrammed eggs” which sounds much better.   As I’m leaving to go to Leo’s house, Veronica, Joshua, and Dylan stop by.  My last picture is of them with Paula.  Joshua and Dylan have grown quite a bit.  It is good to see them.

Gilbert meets me at Leo’s house and Irma fixes us enchiladas.  I’m full but this is too hard to pass up.  I show Leo and Gilbert the information I found at the Socorro Assessors Office and plan to send them an electronic map of the entire La Joya area.  This is a great map as it shows historic property owners, and I see many family names from my genealogy research.  I say goodbye and I’m off by 8pm.  It is a bit cooler than I thought but I enjoy traveling at night so I push on over Tehachapi, Bakersfield, and then Three Rivers.  I arrive home a little after midnight.

Odometer records 2,644 miles . . . . .
Open Range, near Chloride, NM.

Whispering Pines Camp, near Datil, NM.

Campfire at Whispering Pines, a perfect t-bone steak.

Robert Griego was born in this adobe house ~ La Joya, NM.

I was born in this La Joya house.

My dad built this adobe house in La Joya, NM.

Open Range, near Chloride, NM.

Apache Creek Campground.

Finding the Tularosa site.

Near Petrified Forest National Park.

My sister Paula and her daughter, Veronica, and grandchildren, Dillion and Joshua Alexander.

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