The view is great from up here…. Another June has passed, and that means, I have made another rock collecting trip to Deming New Mexico. This year’s trip started off uneventful, but did not end that way. The first week was normal, I visited with my friends Ed & Judy, and Judy and I went out several trips to the local agate fields to do some rock collecting.
The second week of my trip, my friend Henry arrived from Houston, we had several things planed but the main event was to be a trip to an old mine. Another friend, Mike, who lives and works in Deming had promised to take me to an old mine to collect some minerals. For various reasons we had not been able to make the trip up one of the peaks in the Florida Mountain Range to the mine when he first offered to take me there. In hindsight I wish we had made the trip several years ago when I was still in my 60’s and in much better shape, now in my 70’s my COPD and 30 pounds overweight is slowing me down quite a bit.
One bright and cloudless morning Henry and I climbed into Mike’s truck, the temperate was still in the 70’s but as the sun rose higher it was expected to crack 100 again. Mike’s truck was a typical heavy work vehicle, bangs dings, scratches, with a large crack running horizontally across the windshield, you could tell it had endured some rough off road travel. Shortly we would find out just how rough the road to the base of the mountain was. The trip took about thirty-five minutes, I swear, at times we probably only had one tire making contact with the gravel – Mike didn’t waste any time getting there, it was a ride that probably would have taken me a couple of hours, had I been driving.
At the base of the mountain, where we parked, Mike pointed out the approximate location of the mine, near the top, about one mile as the crow flies and a rise of about 1,000 foot. When Henry saw how rough the climb was going to be, he suggested that I should stay with the vehicle, but no, I had my mind set, I wanted to see the mine and the minerals Mike described sticking out of the roof.
The climb was rough, all switchbacks, all at a 45 degree angle up, every step was a careful choice, and as if the surface of the ground wasn’t in constant motion with each step, the vegetation was worse, it seems that everything that grows in the desert has its own system of protection, and that usually comes in the form of thin, long or short bunches of pointy needless. Even some of the leaves on the trees had little short spikes all over the sides. I miss-stepped at one spot, and even though I had heavy dungaree pants on, I wound up with several long scratches on one leg which took almost a month to heal.
At about half way, I was taking another break, Henry again suggested that he thought I should return to the truck. I must have really looked bad, I know I didn’t exactly feel that great. I was stopping now about every ten or so steps, just for half a minute or so, and I felt bad about slowing everyone down. When I looked down at where the truck was parked, it looked as if it were only about four inches long.
When we arrived at the mine entrance, it was before midday, I did not pay much attention, it took a bit for my heart rate to return to normal and my vision to return to a point where I could focus again. I didn’t say anything, but that climb was one of the hardest things I think I have ever done in my life. I have done climbs like that and they were no big thing, but that was almost fifty years ago, funny how inside your head, you are always still a young man, no fear and invincible.
I took some pictures and let Mike and Henry do all the rock collecting, I took one specimen from near the top of the mountain, it now sits in my mineral cabinet. From up here the truck was only half inch long and hard to pick out. The trip down was in some ways harder the one up, now you could see just how narrow the trail was, because looking down you could see that just a mere eight inches from where you placed your foot was a sheer 200 or so foot drop, and I don’t even like to climb the step ladder to change the battery in the smoke detector.
When we arrived back at the truck, Mike and Henry went off to look at a place the Indians ground their corn, I sat in the truck and drank several bottles of water, I had brought six with me and brought six empties back. Reflecting back on the trip; I had wanted to see the mine, I had said I would make it to the mine, I did, I didn’t quit. But then again looking at the other side, I had gone somewhere that I should not have, and in the future, I think I will not make that trip again unless there is a paved road that stops fifty feet from the mine entrance and a nice shaded table with an ice cold pitcher of lemonade on it, a place I can sit and enjoy the view.