One detour I wish did not have to be ...
A major section of the last route shown in the previous post is currently off-limits, and once it is no longer off limits, it may no longer be as scenic as it used to be.
The Las Conchas Fire in northern New Mexico began early Sunday afternoon, and within hours, it had consumed several thousand acres. This section of the road is now closed:
The fire started at one of my favorite picnic spots in the mountains, the Las Conchas recreation area just past where Highway 4 (westbound) leaves the vast grassy area called the Valle Grande, a crater caused by the collapse, about a million years ago, of a huge volcano.
The fire has spread mostly eastward but also outward in other directions. The thumbnail photo above was shot by Lupita L. Tom-yepa at Cochiti Pueblo, about 20 miles southeast of the blaze, Sunday night. Pat and I were on the way south from Heron Lake to Albuquerque, and we went through thick smoke from Española through Pojoaque and on to Santa Fe. From Pojoaque on, we could see the flames erupting from the ridgelines. We were getting gas at Santo Domingo, near Cochiti, about the same time Lupita took her photo -- alas, that tiny picture does little justice to how scary it is to see such a huge portion of the mountains on fire.
As we were driving, we tried to get news on the radio about the fire. We tuned in to KRSN, Los Alamos' local radio station. The signal was poor; the smoke plume from the fire caused a lot of interference. But there was a live interview with one of the people in charge of fighting the fire, and he was reassuring -- while there were mandatory evacuations in parts of the mountains, people in Los Alamos and White Rock with respiratory problems should evacuate, but everybody else could stay put but be prepared in case of mandatory evacuations. I had a mental flashback, to the La Mesa fire in the late 1970s, with the late, legendary Bob Burns, patriarch and owner of KRSN, reassuring everybody with his gravelly but comforting voice. The station normally signed off at 11 p.m., but during that crisis, it was on the air all night. Bob is long gone, but he is fondly remembered.
We got fed up with the poor signal and decided to change from KRSN to Albuqueruque's all-news station, KKOB. We were just in time to hear an official Emergency Broadcast System alert that there was a fire emergency in Sandoval County. Well, duh.
Just over 11 years ago, I was cleaning out the guest room in case my folks had to evacuate because of the Cerro Grande Fire. They did have to evacuate a couple of days later. Now, we're cleaning out the guest room in case they have to evacuate again. This time around, there shouldn't be as much danger, since the Cerro Grande removed much of the fuel that would take the Las Conchas into the town. But still, the flashbacks happen.
Labels: desert, family, journalism, new mexico, travel