I have been spending a lot of time in the Rio Puerco Valley lately. One of the big attractions (for me anyway) is the ghost town of Guadalupe, NM. The main road through the valley, County Road 279, runs right through the middle of it. Guadalupe is not much at first glance: a number of ruined adobe houses, one of them a large two story, and what’s left of a church. Oh, and an outhouse right on the side of the road.
But, if you stop and explore the place, you begin to notice the little things that give some clues about the people who lived here when it was a thriving ranching community back in the early part of the last century: niches in the crudely plastered adobe walls, candles, crosses on the walls. In one house, there is an eerie scene: a bed with the covers turned down, a shirt and hat hanging on the wall as if the occupants just stepped out to tend the sheep. I suspect that whomever these things belonged to was a more recent resident of Guadalupe, perhaps someone who was just squatting here and then vanished like those who came before.
When I stand amidst the ruins and look around at the horizon (which is broken by volcanic cones), and the broad swath of the Rio Puerco, I wonder what it was that drew these people to such a harsh land. I know that it was overgrazing which caused them to eventually abandon the place. Places such as this are fragile. Anyone who attempts to make a living off the land must do so in a measured way, or they will likely be driven out leaving small clues to their presence for some future wandering photographer to ponder.