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09 Oct

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Falling in Love with the Desert: The Story of Claunch

October 9, 2012 | By | 24 Comments

I became obsessed with this area. And while most people would look at me strange if they knew it is a vast desert of nothingness, I will still tell you that I fell in love. There is a reason why I took 3 1/2 hours to drive the 63 miles of road.

Being from New York City I’ve learned to appreciate places of total silence and isolation. My route was meant to drive past Co Road 55 (See Map) and continue North but when I passed the sign that said: “No Food, Gas, or Lodging”, I saw it as an opportunity to take a risk and go into the unknown.

I entered the road and immediately stopped my car in awe when I saw the incredible landscape. It was mesmerizing and seemed like something I would only see in books or movies.

I continued driving on the road, stopping every so often to take in the scenery, breathe the air, listen to the wind, look for animals, and get some sun.

Since then, I dream of this place almost every other day and it had such a profound effect on me. I walk around NYC knowing that there is so much more to life than all this hustle and bustle because I’ve seen it and experienced it with my own eyes.

Halfway through the journey I reached a very small town named Claunch. I thought, wouldnt it be amazing to meet someone who lives in this faraway town? I wondered what people were like, so I stopped my truck in the middle of the street.

I honked. I screamed out, “Hello!?” and waited but no one responded.

The town was dead. With its small church and “Elevator museum” (Which seems a bit ridiculous) the town of Claunch was like a ghost town only to be gawked at and viewed from afar. I’m sure people live there, but I didn’t meet them.

I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone but I’m almost positive most people haven’t experienced the world like this. Its a very unique and specific feeling of Isolation and Pure Emptiness that is incredibly beautiful.

There are even plenty of wildlife to catch. I saw 2 deer, a few hares, and plenty of large eagles. Better yet, If you like motorcycles, this road would be the perfect drive.

If you ever get the chance to see New Mexico and drive down one of these empty roads, take a risk, go beyond your limit, and explore areas that you would never think of exploring. You will thank me.

Comments

  1. sandy

    Came upon your site by accident. I am originally from Claunch, NM. My Dad was a pinto bean farmer there. Currently there are 8 people living in Claunch. I left in 1963 but go back every year around Memorial Day to decorate family graves in the little cemetery.

    • Dotan

      Amazing Sandy! I really fell in love with that Desert and stayed there for 4 hours just relaxing in the May sun. I never felt like that before in my entire life. I’m from NYC and its the complete opposite experience of being around thousands of people every day.

      Thanks for writing me!

  2. Dotan,

    My sister Sandy (there are 3 of us sisters) told me about your site. So amazed that some one from NYC would visit Claunch. I realize that you can’t help but love it and find a peace there you will probably not find any where else. Growing up in N. Mex. is indeed magical and we are all the better for it. So glad you loved Claunch. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Dotan

      Thanks for checking out my story. I hope to head out to Claunch once again sometimes in June… I just hope it isnt too hot (it probably is)… Maybe I’ll see you out there! haha

  3. Mozie

    Hello Dotan,

    Loved your site. I grew up in Claunch, NM. We owned a ranch there after the booming years of the pinto bean era. My mom spent many hours in the womens club quilting and we still stay in touch with dear friends from our childhood there. When we drive through there today, there are so many memories. The second picture of the long straight highway was one of those. It would rain so much that the entire valley would flood and we would be stranded until the water went down. It doesn’t rain like that anymore. As you turn off the main highway (54) about 2 miles down on the right, there is a chimney standing where my grandparents homesteaded. We still go there when we can. Thank you for sharing. :) Sigh!

    • Dotan

      Beautiful! Its so wonderful that I connected with you and your siblings about the area where you grew up. I have those images of the road distinctly in my brain and I will never forget that time I drove down there. I was alone and it was such an incredible experience. New Mexico in general was a beautiful place and I knew nothing about it when I arrived. I hope to come there in June when I come back from Central America. I’m in El Salvador now playing piano on the streets here.

    • Shannon Smith Cumiford

      I learned to quilt there.

  4. Be sure to visit all of Lincoln County, New Mexico when you return! Another interesting spot wher time stands still!

  5. Matt

    e-mail me if you are in the neighborhood again. I live about 60 or so miles east of Claunch, and there are many interesting things in the neighborhood.

    • Dotan

      Sounds great. Will do! Thanks for checking out my blog!

  6. Lynette

    Sir, I’m so glad that you decided to take a tour of the awesome town of Claunch, NM…Wished ya could have meet the ranchers of this awesome community….I grew up on a ranch there….I have been a lot of places in my lifetime and I have never come across a place that will totally accept you for who you are and be willing to give you the shirt off their back to help….the people are so loving, kind hearted people…please stop in at one of the houses there and they will give ya all the tall tales….

    • Dotan

      I would love to stop by again and this time knock on someones door to say hello. It’s definitely a place that I will never forget. Thanks for reading my story, Lynette

  7. Sherry

    Thank you so much for letting the world know about our little piece of paradise. It truly is something special for those of us who grew up there – maybe because it was not an easy life, but believe all of us are the better for it. When I go back to Claunch, I step back into all the memories of my childhood – something that can never be taken away. We love that little place.

    Sherry – the third sister!

  8. cherry

    I lived in that area for a number of years, Carrizozo to be exact. And yes those lonely desolate roads do have a draw…. So glad you fell in love with the NM desert… Lots of storys to be told about that area… Do return one day, and stay long enough to knock on some doors and sit and visit a spell…

    • Dotan

      I guess if you live there, its not as mesmerizing. I mean I’m from NYC and its not as mesmerizing to me as it is to others… The grass is always greener on the neighbors lawn… In this case, The Sand… Thanks Cherry!

    • Shannon Smith Cumiford

      Hi Cherry –et al–

      I went to grade school in Carrizozo. My parents owned the house with the orchard and tabletop pasture behind the general store and post office in Nogal between 1968-72. They started the renovations, which I understand are finished now, all but my brother’s name in the cement on the side steps, and his ‘construction site’ which he dig into the side of the hill.

  9. Denise

    I recently attended a funeral in Claunch and the church wasn’t big enough to hold the crowd, people stood outside with the wind howling while the service was conducted. He was then taken to the cemetery in a wagon pulled by two big black horses and his horse saddled led by his son and the people walked behind it to the cemetery . Just that sight left a feeling in you that you won’t ever forget. Afterward a dinner was held with the community and friends bringing dishes to share. A small community is one of the most beautiful things our country has! The people are very close and strong! So glad you were able to come to that part of the country. I live in Corona which is close to Claunch and also a very small community, and has the same kind of strength!

    • Dotan

      Wow. that must have been so interesting to see.
      You are totally right. Community is pretty much non-existent in New York City. Everyone has their apartment and no one really talks to each other. At least thats what I’ve found in the places I’ve lived in Manhattan. Thanks for writing me!

  10. Mumzie

    We’ve lived near Claunch forever; next time you head our way give us a call at 575-849-1451 and we’ll have a meal ready for you. Have you seen the youtube video on Claunch? it’d be interesting if you could speak Russian or Czech.

  11. Carlyn

    I saw your blog on Sandy’s FB Page, I too was raised in Claunch. My grandparents Homesteaded 4 sections there in the 1920′s. my father farmed Pinto Beans long after his parents & 3 sisters and 1 brother left. We moved to Carrizozo in 1957 because of the drought, i was in the 4th grade. Our school @ Claunch had been consolidated with Corona (which I attended from Jan-May 1957) & it was. 60 mile round trip, if the weather looked like snow my father told my mother to not wake us as we werent going to school that day. Mother told me this years later & that she kept a diary & we went to school about 6 weeks that 5 month period. The plan was to move back when my older sister & I finished High School. My father was killed in 1965, so that never happened. My grandparents passed in 1966 & my aunts & uncle sold the homestead shortly thereafter. I saw where a comment said ‘visit all of Lincoln County’ but Claunch is in Socorro County. Thank you for admiring what those of us who were raised there LOVE SO MUCH ! !

  12. Rebecca

    Everyone loves Claunch. And if you go to visit, they will all love you, too. :-) It’s almost a retirement community now. When I was a little girl, the only in-town residents were my grandparents; the rest of the population was 20-30 miles out. There are still some in the “suburbs,” like my parents, and my grandpa is still there, but so are 8 or 10 other retirees who know the stories and like to tell them.
    Yet Claunch is silent because it does not demand that the world revolve with people. Rather it is a world that still lives in reality, a community whose livelihood (apart from the retirees) relies on the land. That land is hot now, and dry. The cattle are slowly being sold off and the wildlife will follow if the rains don’t come. I grew up there, and I, too, am fascinated sometimes by the emptiness, a fascination stemming from the fact that this is a world reliant on a Creator, a world beyond human control.
    I appreciate your advice, that travelers take a back road, experience the silence. Perhaps if more did, our world would be less in danger from those who think that human activity is somehow the only solution.

  13. Victoria

    I was thrilled to read about your visit to Claunch. The library that is housed in the Post Office, where you do not have to return the books. An active Claunch Women’s Club. Wonderful people. My grandparents and my father are buried in the Claunch Cemetery. Hope you will return someday and take advantage of the hospitality that has been offered . Thanks again!

  14. Natalie

    Hi Dolan. My husband John and I have been to Claunch a couple of times but never saw one person. It is a fascinating area. we live in Tularosa NM but are originally from Alaska.

  15. Mike Wade

    My family homesteaded in Claunch and farmed beans until the rains stopped coming. My Dad and most of the family are buried in the cemetery on the same road and just a little north of the community center you posted a photo of. When one of the people that have ties to Claunch passes away then all the As a small boy back in 1955/56 I remember seeing miles and miles of Pinto beans on the sides of these roads you have shown in this story. The Wade homestead is just to the north of the community center and that property is still owned by the family…..Next time you go through take a walk through the cemetery for a look back at the hay days of the little community……I could tell you many stories about my time in Claunch…………..

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