28 September 2010

Hiking Adventures: Some Interesting Local History

Mullein and Rebar, Magdalena Mtns., NM, Sept. 2010

Autumn in New Mexico... well, I can't write anything original about it, so I'll just call it absolutely enchanting. Most days are crystal clear, and the shifting light reveals new details in the landscape that awaken my inner vision yet again. Knowing time is short till winter sets in, I've been getting out for good hikes whenever possible. Last week I cruised up to Kelly and then hung a right on a rough dirt road to see what I could find further afield. After parking, I hiked a steep road up past 8,500 feet towards what looked like a mining site, taking in the magnificent view of the crest between North Peak and North Baldy. Hints of gold and russet tell of autumn, and the ridge was so tantalizingly close that I considered plowing towards the top....

I then came across a sign, fallen and clearly out of commission for a good long while, indicating that I was at what had once been a research site for military munitions storage. I took a picture of the sign so I'd remember the name of the site (no, not because it's so picturesque) and, upon Googling various combinations of the terms, finally found a document entitled "Environmental Assessment and FONSI for the Joint United States/Republic of Korea Research and Development Study for Improved Underground Ammunition Storage Technologies Tests, Magdalena, New Mexico." [FONSI stands for Finding of No Significant Impact," meaning the proposed project would  not significantly affect physical, cultural, or other aspects of the site.]

This report describes in full detail the purpose and nature of the experiments conducted there and actually answers the first question in my mind: Why would the Army Corps of Engineers pick such a remote, hard-to-reach site? Well, the obvious answer is so that they could blow stuff up in peace, but apparently the geologic structure of this area, its relative proximity to New Mexico Tech, and ready-made testing chambers in the pre-existing Linchberg Mine helped tip the scales. Some of the debris left behind, including the heavy steel plates twisted by heat and shot full of holes, suggest the tests were rather comprehensive, but what of all the unused equipment and supplies left behind? The document states that "Posttest, any disturbed ground caused by construction will be recontoured, and construction debris removed from the test site... and disturbed areas will be reseeded with native grasses" (p. 62). The contractor's plan would include restoration which "would provide for a reasonably natural appearing final condition of the area" (p. 27).

Um, yeah. Are they just not done yet (16 years after issuing the FONSI report) or...? I'm not complaining too loudly because this site offers some very cool photographic opportunities, but it's still not right to leave all the crap up there just because it's remote and the locals have no real means of recourse. Just sayin'...

1 comment:

Anna said...

Dear Anna,

i always enjoy reading your blog as you can express in words your life experiences so well. My favourite season is the year is autumn so I really enjoyed your descriptions of autumn in New Mexico. It seems that the landscapes here in Calgary do not differ too much from yours although we are somewhat at a lower altitude (Elevation 1,048 m (3,438 ft)) than Magdalena and obviously further north.

To the South and East of Calgary one can see the prairies which offer amazing views with their open spaces and incredible skies. To the West of the City lay the Rockie Mountains. They also offer spectacular views. I haven't been out much to either since I had my gorgeous baby boy, James, this past August. But I think he will be soon ready to take trips with me out in our natural wonders.

So...thank you for posting your beautiful pictures and describing trails in your area.