• Gretel Enck

Two More Arrows

If you've been following along, you know I have a slight obsession with historic concrete airmail arrows strung about the Intermountain West (they exist elsewhere but even obsessions must have limits). You may recall the ones in west Texas I visited, or the ones around the Great Salt Lake.

This week I'm in Albuquerque for a training class for work. Because we had a mid-day start today and I drove in yesterday, I had the morning to go find two arrows west of Albuquerque.

One of them is just at the western edge of town, past the housing developments, near the giant motorhome park and container storage yard. I had plotted my approach on Google Earth, and wonderfully the first dirt road that ran around to the back of the motorhome park was open and in decent condition. The second road, turning south at a right angle from that, was blocked by a barbed wire fence encrusted with tumbleweed. So I parked, crossed the fence, and followed the road in accordance with my print-outs. In all of five minutes I could see its metal parts sticking up out of the ground. I found it easily and documented it for posterity. Yes, it was before 8:00 a.m. and still around 80 degrees. Lovely morning. Off in the distance was a VorTac.


Then I drove on to Seama, fifty miles farther west. I did not actually expect to see this arrow because it sits on top of a mesa 200 feet above a dirt road, a mesa topped with a cap of sandstone that looked, again from Google Earth, to be unscaleable. A dirt road that led to the top of the mesa looked a bit challenging for the Subaru. And it was likely on Indian land. That said, I took my sneakers anyway.

I scouted the dirt road and found a possible approach about a half mile shy of the destination. This was on the Acoma Pueblo, which signs alerted me to, including all the rules. Of course: I had no intention of trespassing. So I went back to the paved road and with the guidance of a road flagger found the tribal office. Frank in Natural Resources told me he would issue me a Trespasser permit if first I drove another fifteen miles to the cultural center and bought a camera permit. I did this. Frank also confirmed that the road up top was a bit rough. So permits in hand, and with a stop for more water and gatorade, I laced up my sneakers, headed back down the dirt road, parked at a wide spot, and headed up the hill.

Steep hot climb up, but I did find exactly the break in the rock to slide through and made it up on top of the mesa. Simply followed the ledge (at a safe distance) through pinon-juniper forest to where the arrow was supposed to be. Sat on the arrow, in the shade, for a break while vultures circled closely overhead. I assured them I was fine, but I'm sure they were riding a nice thermal there.

Took some pictures and came back down, all much too quickly for full appreciation. But I needed to get back to my class. Beautiful rocks to climb around on and I'm so lucky to have gotten permission.


And so what to say about the arrows? If I'm not forgetting any, this is numbers 5 and 6 of arrow's I've actually seen. I've failed at a couple of sightings. The second one today is definitely the most physically challenging (and really only challenging because of heat and time constraints and permissions--OK, I guess that's a lot). But I dig it. I dig that this really is now a bonafide hobby. Next? Nevada has the motherlode (pun intendend), so one day I'll get back there. I'm pretty pleased with today's results.

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