Yuccas in Bloom

The front garden at the Painted Pony Resort is always the first thing guests see upon arriving on the estate for a visit and a lot of work goes into making it an inviting area for guests to explore.  There are several large Spanish Dagger plants (Yucca schidigera) in the garden and these are generally the first of the yuccas to bloom.  This year one of them has produced a number of flowering stems which were photographed over a 24 hour period as they began to bloom.  The large thick red flowering stems grew quickly and began to open producing light yellow/creamy white flowers.  Yuccas are pollinated by moths (Tegeticula sp.), with different species specializing in different yucca and with the large blooms it should be a feeding/pollinating frenzy for the moths this year.

Yucca stem starting to open

Yucca stem soon to produce an explosion of flowers

Yucca in bloom (the best image)

Two more flowering stems

Flowers at the top of the 8' yucca


An Image From a Guest

The recent 2015 All-Star Telescope star party at the Painted Pony Resort always brings a host of talented astrophotographers out to image the sky, but the landscape also draws attention.  Recent experiments with black and white photography motivated some others to experiment in capturing the Chiricahua mountains in black and white.  The image below is a view of the Chiricahua mountains in black and white taken by the talented Canadian astrophotograher, John McDonald.  While I get images when and where I can, this is an example of what someone who knows what they are doing and captures the Chiricahuas in a completely different light.  The small puffy white clouds contrast nicely with angular mesquite in the foreground with the 8000' Portal Peak and eastern flank of the Chiricahua mountains in between.  Truly a spectacular image and thanks to John for allowing the reuse of his image.

Other images by John McDonald may be found on his RSAC Victoria Centre Zenfolio astrophotography page

Portal Peak and the Chiricahua mountains in black and white.  Image and copyright by John McDonald.


Moving Clocks

The shift to/from daylight savings time change effects the valley twice a year and it is always a time of confusion when trying to make an event on the other side of the state line.  The New Mexico side of the valley changes time but the Arizona side always stays the same and events across the state line always leads to an arrival either an hour early or an hour late, especially for me.  Though the change to/from daylight savings time has no affect on the views on either side of the state line as evidenced by these 2 views, one east and one west taken at sunrise from the Painted Pony Resort.  The sun still rises over the Peloncillo mountains and the first rays of sunlight illuminate Portal Peak in the Chiricahua mountains.  With views like this it is all right to be late to an event.

New Mexico sunrise
Sunrise over the Peloncillo mountains on the New Mexican side of the valley

setting moon over portal peak
Sunrise on Portal Peak on the Arizona side of the valley with the setting moon


Topsoil Restoration Barriers, an Aerial View

Range land restoration at the Painted Pony Resort uses natural materials from the landscape and redistributes this material to barren areas with little or no top soil to encourage the development of new topsoil and native grasses by slowing water flow and providing microhabitat to catch wind blown seeds.  Using Amaranth, mesquite, or tumbleweed cannoli the before and after aerial views shown below demonstrate how the barriers encourage new grass growth and topsoil creation in overgrazed areas of the high desert of New Mexico.

Google Earth view of the north end of the estate before topsoil barrier construction.  The red line indicates the estate's northern boundary.

A recent still from an aerial video showing the locations of topsoil barriers at the north end of the estate highlighted with black arrows.  Aerial image courtesy of Dalton Wilson.
Another image from Wilson's drone showing state land and the west side of the estate.  Note the large areas where the topsoil is completely lost and large reflective areas of hard desert pan are visible.  These barren areas are restoration goals for the estate, as well as increasing productivity, restoration efforts will slow the water moving across the landscape allowing more to reach the aquifer.

State land versus the Painted Pony Resort an aerial view.


All-Star Telescope Star Party, 2015

With 30 guests All-Star Telescope hosted another successful astronomy retreat at the Painted Pony Resort.  This marks their 7th visit over the past 5 years for a week of astrophotography in the high desert of southern New Mexico.  At night, the hanger becomes the congregating point for the astronomers while others enjoy the hot tub and courtyard area at the main house for other activities.  This year 2 daytime hikes were completed for a total of 11 miles, one hike up south fork canyon for some afternoon birding and a second hike across the high desert to the outcrops at the base of the Peloncillo mountainsDalton Wilson brought his drone and took some magnificent images of the estate and high desert, see below, showing 14 telescopes setup by the hanger.  The area around the hanger is ideal for astronomy since the main house, guest house, and bungalow are over 500' away and with minimal outdoor lighting does not interfere with astronomy activities.  At night only red lights, to preserve the astronomers night vision, can be seen moving around the telescopes in the New Mexican desert as they concentrate on capturing the perfect image of astronomical objects in the southern sky visible from the estate.  With dinners catered by Jackie Lewis of the George Walker house the guests reported having a wonderful time at this years star party and were discussing returning again next year.

Aerial view of 14 telescopes set up at the All-Star Telescope New Mexico star party.  Photograph by Dalton Wilson.
A view down the road in South Fork of Cave Creek Canyon with guests out for some birding.


Google+ and BAlvarius

I monitor visitor statistics on the blogs and websites associated with the Painted Pony Resort in an effort to understand what attracts people's attention resulting in a click to visit one of the sites.  I use a number of tools including StatCounter and those provided by Google to compare keywords, images, and subject matter to gauge performance.  It is pleasing when something created performs well and highlights efforts to promote the resort and area in an effort to encourage visitation.  I'm a firm believer that everyone should have the opportunity to make enough money to buy food for dinner and work to spread the business around when visitors are in residence at the estate.  This effort works particularly well when the estate hosts a wedding (there have been 8 so far with another one scheduled next month), since generally the immediate family stays on the estate while other wedding guests utilize local lodging sites in the twin cities of Portal and Rodeo.

Google's foray into social media several years ago with it's product Google+ at first seemed like just another attempt to compete with Facebook, but Google did a couple of things in launching this product.  They tied all the blogs they host to Google+ as well as images.  This immediately created another way for individuals producing content to get their material viewed by a larger audience.  This blog and the Sky Gypsies both now direct their feed to Google+ and the page's performance has done quite well, recently surpassing its' 1,000,000 viewer.  While the images produced and curated on Panoramio have done quite well (with about 1.37 million views), the rate of the Google+ performance is much better and better than both blogs themselves.  Based on this evidence it would seem Google got it right.  The obvious conclusion is that if a business provides online tools, users will make use of those tools and site visitation will follow.  To view BAlvarius' Google+ page follow the link.

Google + page for BAlvarius reached 1,000,000 views


The Road, Cultural Resource Inventory IX

In the 330 square miles of San Simon valley south of I-10 there are only 3 paved roads, Highway 80 (running north/south) Portal Road (running from Highway 80 west to Portal and the Chiricahua mountains, and Highway 9 (running from Highway 80 east to Animas), all other roads are dirt and have changed over time.  Old dirt road tracks are easily identified, being 2 tracks, which differentiates them the earliest "roads" which were single tracks suitable for foot and horse traffic.

Roads and their locations in many cases evolved from game trails to human foot paths connecting cultural centers and water sources which, as the traffic increased with the movement trade goods and people eventually became larger and more established allowing horses, carriages, and eventually automobiles.  In most cases these early culturally derived roads were supplanted by designed roads which followed straighter paths and the early roads were lost.  In the San Simon valley several lines of evidence suggest there was an early road running the length of the valley from Mexico north which has been lost.

1. Distribution of large archaeological sites representing large villages and trading centers.
2.  Early maps and Spanish descriptions of forays into the San Simon valley, as part of New Spain.
3.  Early maps of US explorers pushing westward to the west coast.
4.  Original land surveys of the area.

Archaeological sites of large villages are known along the San Simon valley.  Perhaps the best known site is at the San Bernardino wildlife refuge.  With springs and perennial water a number of sites were identified within the refuge boundaries.  Further north along the valley the Ruben ruin (a late Animas phase site) lies on the west side of the San Simon riverbed, east of the drainage from Horseshoe canyon.  Scattered every 8-10 miles these ruins represent larger occupation sites that would have had contact with one another along a "road" or trail.  This also explains the density of archaeological sites found along the riverbed, they predominate the east bank while the west bank has fewer sites in the vicinity of the estate (personal observation).

Early Spanish explorers in the area noted a number of "roads" connecting occupation sites and frequently the Spanish themselves used these sites for Presidios.  For example San Bernadino had a short lived presido and "roads" leading from the Presidio was used in the Spanish attempts to control the Apache.  This link shows an map of Spanish exploration including the San Simon valley during the period of 1779-1785.  Two expeditions,  The Vildosola of 1780 and the Peru expedition of 1784 traveled along the valley and would have utilized the "old road" connecting native settlements.   Early maps produced during the Spanish colonial period portray the area with varying degrees of accuracy until after the Mexican American war and the subsequent Gadsden Purchase as shown in the video below.

Perhaps the most notable map from the 19th century of the area showing "roads" was produced by the Mormon Battalion when they passed through on their way to the west coast in 1846 - 1847.  A Coyote road or bandit trail was marked running north/south through the valley just east of San Bernardino.  This "road" parallels the modern designed road, Highway 80, but its location was unknown until recently.

Enlarged section of the Mormon Battalion map showing the coyote road running up the San Simon valley.  Map courtesy of Project Gutenberg

Recent searches of the BLM General Land Office records uncovered an 1883 survey map of the township (T.28S., R.21W.) which includes most land encompassing much of the Painted Pony Resort and the future town of Rodeo NM.  This survey was commissioned by Epitacio Sandoval in 1882 at the cost of $650.00.  The resulting map shows several interesting features, the most important being the location of an early "road" along the east side of the San Simon Riverbed.  By the time the first topographic map of the area was produced in 1917 traces of the old "road" were missing but the town of Rodeo was well established.

1883 rodeo nm township map
1883 township map which includes the Painted Pony Resort and the town of Rodeo NM, north is up on the map.

The outline (red) of the Painted Pony Resort on the 1883 township survey map superimposed on satellite imagery showing the location of the early "road" along the San Simon Riverbed, north is up on the map.
The 1917 topographic map showing no evidence of the early "road" along the San Simon riverbed and only 2 tracks of modern dirt roads, north is left on the map.
The discovery of the 1883 township map neatly ties together early maps and descriptions of a road running along the San Simon valley with current land use and maps of the area.  While no traces of this early "road" have yet been discovered, the location of the presumptive Post Classic Mimbres hamlet ruin on the east side of the San Simon is explained the early "road" running along the riverbed as well as other sites such as the Trinchera at the mouth of Antelope Pass.  In addition, if the early "roads were controlled by the drainage patterns then other "roads" may exist along these drainages.

Addendum:  After scaling the township map and carefully placing the overlay on Google Earth evidence of the "old road" became apparent south of Rodeo.  A winding faint track was observed leading south from the "old road" on the township map along the San Simon riverbed.  The presence of a visible track lends support to the idea that this early "road" was the main thoroughfare along the valley.  Subsequent township mapping of these areas did not take place until after the turn of the century and no evidence of the "old road" was found.

A faint winding track which may represent a continuation of the "old road" along the San Simon riverbed.



Creating a Sense of Place

Creating sense of place is a useful way to enhance a visitors experience.  We all have memories of favorite places we have either lived or visited and central to those experiences is the sense of place.  Whether the landscape or the people, a sense of place embodies the idea of time.

At the Painted Pony Resort creating a sense of place revolves around an understanding the land, who was here before us and how was the land utilized.  This not only helps in current land use decision processes, but creates a sense of place.  Below is a short but very good about creating and preserving a sense of place.


Fun in the Mud

2015 started off with a bang for the first set of guests at the Painted Pony Resort.  Thirty five guests for a weekend retreat and it rained.  While the estate receives over 300 days/yr of sun shine, it does sometimes rain here in the boot heel of New Mexico and everyone is thankful for the rain.  The high desert receives on average about 12"/yr, enough to keep the desert alive and well, but it can make things more difficult for short periods of time.  Unfortunately the weather and guests coincided for this retreat and I received a phone call late Friday afternoon that some guests had gotten stuck.  So I hopped on the tractor and headed over to find out the problem.  I found a vehicle with a trailer off the side of the road in the mud surrounded by guests.  After hooking up a tow strap to the rear trailer hitch, the vehicle was pulled out of the mud and back onto the road.  While I hooked the trailer to the tractor the guests piled back into their vehicle and headed on to the estate.  The tractor easily pulled the trailer back and the first problem was solved.  Several hours later I received word of another problem with guests over in the air park so I got back out with the tractor and found another trailer and vehicle in the mud.  After making a wrong turn a whicle pulling a dual axle trailer was having problems.  After unhooking the trailer the vehicle was able to navigate the mud and I turned the trailer around and loaded the trailer tongue into the bucket and pulled it about 1/2 mile back to the turnoff.  Driving in reverse on the tractor pulling a large dual axle trailer in the mud was slow and eventually I had to stop and reorganize.  On more stable ground I reversed the tractor and was able to pull the trailer in rain.  Getting back to the estate the trailer was quickly unloaded and the fun began.  Even with the rain the guests had a good time and I look forward to more retreats.  Fortunately the weather started to clear Sunday and the guests were able to enjoy some of the views from the estate. 

I should note that I have not looked at the road to the estate yet but suspect there is some road work to do after an inch of winter rain and lots of vehicles.

A muddy tractor after pulling vehicles and trailers out of the mud.



It is easy to get lost in southern New Mexico, whether distracted by the views of the landscape or just trying to find your way.  Online and GPS maps of the area were out of date with roads that did not exist, directions that would not work, and guests coming to the Painted Pony Resort would often have some difficulty finding the place.  So additional maps to the estate were created and online mapping services were provided with updates to allow guests to find their way. 

A view this morning though provides evidence that getting lost in New Mexico is not limited to those driving.  Upon exiting the trailer this morning I noticed the contrails from 2 jets above the Peloncillo mountains.  One was a zigzag line while the other shorter one was straight.  My conclusion - another visitor to the area got lost.  I don't know if it is true but but it is consistent with guests sometimes having trouble finding the estate.  Unfortunately the jet could not pull over and ask directions, the runways on the estate are to short.

Lost, not lost
Presumably not lost, a launch from White Sands Missile Range did occur yesterday according to their facebook page and is the most likely explanation for the zigzag contrail.