Wanna hear a cool story that involves UFOs?
In the years prior to Charlie and I finding each other, I took numerous solo motorcycle trips out west. These pilgrimages usually started out looping up into Colorado, across the Rockies and then over the Lasals and into Utah. A quick dip into the northeastern tip of Arizona would set me up for the last leg of the loop, the promised land of northern New Mexico. Because then the not so good part; facing the twin infernos of Texas and Oklahoma.
And why do I hate traveling across Oklahoma? It’s long, but not long enough; too long to be done in one day, especially when you figure in the preceding miles across the Texas panhandle, then the 2.5 hours from Ft Smith to Little Rock once you enter Arkansas. But while it’s too long for one day’s transit, it’s not quite long enough for two; nowhere to camp, and who wants to get a motel when you’re only six hours from home? So your only choice is to just put you head down and grind it out, battling the choppy hot crosswinds coming up out of the south that transform a normally well-behaved motorcycle into a bucking bronco. This is why I think their official state moto should be “Oklahoma; the Alzhiemers of good road trips”, as it makes you forget the good times immediately preceding it.
But it’s not all bad; you do have a plethora of truck stops and casinos to explore, if you’re into that sort of thing.
But back to New Mexico; I so fell in love with the State of Enchantment that I soon found myself reversing my loop to run clockwise. This allowed me more time to poke around in places like Chama, Taos, Eagles Nest, Tres Piedres, and the Rio Grande Gorge; if I ran out of time, I could always jet the twelve hours from Raton back home to Arkansas.
After many such trips, JoAnn was getting sick of hearing me yammer on about New Mexico, so we decided to take the Subie out west to do a bit of car camping. Our first night on the road was at Clayton Lake. I had no idea that Clayton Lake State Park is a internationally recognized Dark Sky area. In 2010 the park completed lighting retrofits to conform 100% with the shielding and spectral considerations for low-light areas; it’s not just dark, it’s REALLY dark.
But the real beauty at night is the lake itself. Clayton Lake is shielded by bluffs on all sides, so the wind doesn’t often disturb the water. This results in a mirror-like surface that perfectly reflects the night sky above; the belt of the Milky Way seems to extend from the sky into the lake. It’s a bit vertigo-inducing, looking down and seeing the stars above.
This is where I became interested in dark sky photography. I’m not particularly good, but what I lack in skill I try to make up for with blind luck. The Milky Way was so vivid that night that I just had to Google “night sky photography” right then and there, and I was hooked. I had my old Canon/Tamron DSLR mounted on a tripod at the time, but have since learned that you can take really impressive pictures by fiddling with the settings on a smartphone.
This is where it gets a bit weird. The next night found us camping across the state at Heron Lake, just south of Tierra Amarilla. Once again, I had the camera set up and pointed at the south sky where the Milky Way seemed to fade into the mountains. JoAnn had long since given up on my new photography obsession and from the sound if it, was operating a small lumber mill from inside the tent.
I’ll be paying for that comment later. Actually, my initial thought was that she had somehow smuggled a pod of snorting piglets into her sleeping bag, but I deemed it unwise to mention it at the time, as she had possesion of the primary pistola on her person.
Anyway, back to aliens. Before that night, I had never believed in UFOs. Then again, I had never NOT believed in UFOs; I really hadn’t given it much thought, as it seemed that there was enough unexplained BS going on right here on earth to spend much time meditating on what might or might not be “out there”.
So, there I was, kicked back in a lawn chair with the camera pointed south when I caught movement in the sky off to my right. Well, alrighty then… I repositioned my camera towards the west and the lens caught a ball of light descending. It wasn’t streaking across the sky as you would expect from a meteor or satellite wasn’t dropping quickly, but more a squiggly descent. But what made it increasingly odd was that a second smaller orb was following the path of the first. They then made a “J” hook back upwards for a bit, then a brief beam of light passed between the two.
By the time I rousted JoAnn from the tent to be a witless to this phenomena, the northwestern sky was filled with many of these lights. I had no idea how close they were, as you can see forever out in the backcountry; it may have been yards, it may have been many miles. They were absolutely silent, but they actually looked kind of happy, bouncing and zipping around the northwestern sky.
For nearly an hour, JoAnn and I were intrigued and delighted; it was a pretty stunning aerial display. Then, JoAnn just had to do what JoAnn is known for doing; she just had to “get involved”. I keep some pretty powerful flashlights on hand for camping, home inspections, etc, and I’m pretty sure that you can guess where this story is heading. JoAnn just HAD to use one of these lights to flash REPEATEDLY towards the night sky. What could go wrong with this course of action? I can’t fully explain why I felt this way, but this caused the lights in the sky to seem to get a bit more interested in us. And I am dead certain that they drew a bit closer, or at least it seemed that way to us.
Not good. I’m a friendly type of guy, but I have no inclination towards playing a rousing game of “hide the pellet” with visitors from another galaxy. Even JoAnn recognized the error of her ways, and what was kind of intriguing quickly turned more than a little bit scary. She was even wanting to go to neighboring campsites to wake others up to warn them of the impending invasion. This was not going to happen; Arkansans have a bad enough rap about this sort of thing as it is, and I didn’t want her to go adding to the stereotype. We then scuttled into the security of the tent, as if its thin nylon walls were going to offer any defense against four fingered alien claws.
The sun rose that morning to find all of our orifices unprobed and in normal working order, at least as normal as to be expected when one passes the age of fifty. I’ve often wondered about those northwestern lights, as all of extratesticlular activity one hears about in New Mexico seems to be concentrated towards the south: Roswell, Los Alamos, Area 51, and so on. And I wonder about it still.
A few years have passed, so why bring it up now? Just last weekend, I was scrolling through some Youtube videos and happened across a story about Dulce, NM. I’ve been through Dulce many times, and never given it much notice, a small desert town on the edge of the Jicarilla Apache reservation just south of the Colorado border. According to numerous investigations, it is also the site of a huge joint military/alien compound located deep beneath a mesa north of town, and supposedly even once involved an underground battle that resulted in local coroners seeing bodies later extracted that were not human. Sounds farfetched, you say? I would agree, except for the fact that there have been far too many witnesses.
But the real reason? Dulce is approximately 45 road miles northwest from Heron Lake where we were camping, or 20-25 miles as the crow flies.
If the crow was flying towards the northwest. At night. Into a gaggle of unidentified flying objects.
Your mileage may vary.