Monday, June 11, 2012

Fire on the Mountain, Run Boys Run

The song says "run" twice, so that's what we've now done.

The smoke from the Little Bear fire north and west of our new part-time home in Ruidoso NM drove us down the mountain to Alamogordo last Saturday night. But when we got up Sunday morning and looked north, the plume we could see the evening before stretching east from Sierra Blanca seemed to be gone. So we packed up and drove back to what passes for home these days.

When we arrived, the sky over the village and the Upper Canyon where we're renting was clear. We had a relaxing day on the deck playing with Elizabeth. The bear came back, but he just ambled around looking pudgy and comical, and he loped away when a bunch of neighbors came after him with cameras. You can throw rocks and he doesn't care, but apparently he wants no pictures.

Things looked much grimmer this morning, however. The advisories said the wind had diminished, but it had also shifted. The fire's perimeter now encompassed more than 35,000 acres and had advanced to as little as four miles from the top of our canyon. Evacuation prospects for our area had changed from "possible" to "probable." Worst of all, there was an acrid mist in the canyon that the smoke hazard websites warned could be dangerous for anyone with sensitive lungs.

We decided we should leave again and stay away for a while. But where to go?

After considering the options, we decided on a three-stage escape. First stop would be our place in Puerto Vallarta for ten days, then back to New York for an adoption hearing we all have to attend, then back to a hopefully safe and sound Ruidoso in time to replace the 30-day temporary license on our "new" car.

But of course like all our plans lately, this one quickly seemed doomed. Pam had her passport and Elizabeth's in her purse, but mine was stored in a box of papers and documents that I brought to Ruidoso in my rental moving truck and left in a mini-storage locker with our appliances for the new house.

The locker is in Alto, just a few hundred yards beyond where authorities have blocked the highway heading north from Ruidoso toward the burn area. We had also turned over our only key to our builder so he could fetch some of the appliances for installation before we arrived in town. The builder, an avid bow hunter, is in Maine trying to skewer a bear. (Yes, I know.)

You might have thought this meant the Mexico option was off the table, but not if you know Pam. She called the owner of the mini-storage, who agreed to meet us at our locker with a grinding wheel and a new lock.

On his advice, we drove north, turned right just before the National Guard's roadblock, left into a residential area and then left again onto a dirt road marked "Private, Trespassers will be Prosecuted." It let us out onto the highway about a half mile behind the roadblock in an area where unauthorized persons are subject to arrest. Pretending to be invisible, we scooted across the road and up the hill to our locker, watched Van destroy our lock, and retrieved my passport.

But tonight we're not on our way to Mexico. We're in yet another forgettable motel in Sweetwater, TX, on our way to stay with friends in Dallas. I'm not sure why we changed our minds. Probably because it would have been too luxurious and relaxing, and we can tell the universe doesn't think we deserve it.


  1. Dave, I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry for you. But all these bear stories are reminding me of the one you told of your family and my mom on the trip through Yellowstone.

  2. Sarah, I'm laughing and crying at the same time. All that trouble for a passport to get to Texas! (OK, full disclosure: I'm disappointed because they decided against PV.) Scary stuff, all of it. Hoping mightily that the fires spare the new home.