Desert Water

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

Chip and I each have a deep affinity for the desert, have spent extended time in deserts, and we are absolutely loving the high desert here -- but I am guessing that our days here have been a bit different from what faraway readers might imagine of a desert lifestyle…


We are in the middle of the New Mexico monsoon (~July through September), which I first became aware of when we bought our land three years ago. We have really only spent time here during the monsoon — two years ago we were out in July, and last year in August. This year it’s rained half the days since we've been here, and our highest daily rain was ~1” which fell in about 3 hours.

That rain and hail storm was at the end of July. We were caught off guard -- Ike and I were in the popup, and Chip was in the outdoor kitchen. Chip and I couldn't get to each other and couldn't communicate even hollering at the tops of our voices with only fabric separating us, because of the thunderous noise -- hail like a machine gun and wind battering the walls. I could barely see Chip through the streaming rain against the popup window's plastic. The wind was blowing so hard that I spent some time holding the popup framework against the wind, and Chip was holding the kitchen shelter. Ike frantically tried to dig a den in the popup floor.


It just kept going and going! It did ping some hail holes in the roof of our big tent, which we have since covered with a tarp.


After the deluge, we went out to find the arroyos running -- one of our neighbors has only seen them run once; we've already seen them a few times. It's nice to see water flowing!


We could hear the frogs out in droves. Chip likes to walk after a rain because it often uncovers artifacts. On the hail day he found the first complete stone tool we've seen here -- a lovely side-notched arrowhead.


Public domain photo -- Western Diamondback, one of two rattlesnake species I'm aware of in the area

When the waters run, they can do a number on our roads. After the hailstorm, our neighbor Brett’s car got badly stuck in the mud in the middle of the night and he had to trek across the open range in the dark to get his truck to pull the car out — on the way he encountered three rattlesnakes! I wonder if they come out in the rain like earthworms?


Last year when we were out the main road into the area kept losing width to a couple of encroaching canyons. Luckily Johnny, a local rancher who lives at one end of that road uses the road frequently to tend to his cows at the other end -- so he keeps it in good repair, and all of us in the area (all ~5 couples or so) are indebted to him!


The upper road, shared by three of us (and a few absentee landowners) probably hasn't seen the blade of a grader since it was first put in 20 years ago. It is in seriously bad shape. We finally got our broken trailer back, and, even empty, we barely got it in to our camp. I've posted a few pictures of the steep part of that road, all rutted and gullied, along our western boundary. There's another way in from the east, which uses the good main road most of the way. The catch there is that there is one narrow point before you get onto our land. A culvert is washing out, and the road gets more and more narrow. My jeep squeezes through. Trucks are dicey. I think our trailer would straddle it -- we don't dare try.


Johnny has a pile of "urbanite" (do they call it that here? ...chunks of concrete from a demolition... ruralite??) out near the front gate from earlier fixes. He gave us the go-ahead to use some of it to fix our bad culvert. We've been talking about it with the two neighbors who use that road most -- we all agree that narrow part needs fixing.


The other day coming in I couldn't bring myself to drive past that pile of rubble while that culvert continues to wash away. I brought 5 chunks and stuck them in the littlest gap. Drop in the bucket! We'll be having a work day soon (the 3 families), maybe with a rented bobcat, maybe with a couple trucks and a flatbed trailer and winch we have between us, maybe with some purchased gravel or breaker rock...

Desert water brings its challenges -- but I'm sure there will be seasons when we're begging for the storms!

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