Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Engle, New Mexico and Jornada del Muerto

I skedaddled out of T or C toward camp; once I was almost there I decided camp could wait, but adventurin' couldn't. I headed toward Engle for no particular reason.


I am 101% certain that the road south out of Engle was dirt last time I was there (during the Flood of '13). Or it was underwater. Either way, it was not the smooth, paved number I found this time.

Once I saw how easy life could be, I turned right on Upham Road (A013) and headed generally toward Spaceport America.

Upham Road parallels, and sometimes is Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death). These days, you're cruising with a Circle K Cola of Death, so it's not so scary. Unless ... but, I'll get to that.

I approached Spaceport America and found a guard shack, so I paused. Go on up? Move on past? I rolled up and asked if I could just take some pictures. The friendly guard assured me I could, after he ran my driver's license. I parked and headed for the fence.

I wasn't clicking very long (30 seconds) when a Jeep pulled up - the driver, Tim, very urgently insisted that I get back on the pavement. He explained that rattlesnakes here don't rattle anymore.

He thought I might be on my own Jornada del Muerto.

I got back on the pavement just to make him happy. While I had him there, I asked a question, and so he got out and started telling me stuff. "I've been here long enough - I can give you the $70 tour."

He explained the perfection of this geographical area for rocket launches: its elevation, corridor to the Gulf of Mexico, hauntings ... but I'll get to that.

James Doohan's ashes were sent into space from here. 

Tim told me about the tarantula hawk, the oryx, the silent rattlers, the ghosts ... but I'll get to that.

The facility is self-contained. Almost everything is solar-powered. Waste is treated on-site. There is a 2.5 mile runway that is not visible except from above. 


Bernardo Gruber (El Alem├ín - "the German") was a trader who traveled this way in the 17th century. Maybe he died from lack of water. Maybe he was another victim of the Spanish Inquisition (they apparently "inquired" heavily here, too). He was suspected of witchcraft, and may not have realized how strong the Catholic influence was in the New World. After all, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition. 

Does he haunt Spaceport America? My guide believes. He has seen too much, he said, to be a skeptic any longer.

I can't say I felt anything but the beauty of the area and Tim's infectious enthusiasm for the place. But, then, not every scary thing rattles...


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