Saturday, February 14, 2009
Life in Datil
I arrived here in this magnificent sanctuary of a town in November of 2008. It took me several weeks to get used to the remoteness, the altitude, the quiet and the huge, expansive views. See, I'm a city girl from way back. Little by little though, I've been shedding my city skin and making friends with the mountiains. Now I feel as though I've been here forever.
Thirty-six miles west of Magdalena, at the western edge of the San Agustin Plains, the Datil Mountains rise and pinon and juniper trees emerge from the bush and grass. At the intersection of U.S. 60 and S.R. 12 at an elevation of 7500 feet sits the town of Datil. To the Spanish settlers the seedpods of the prevelant yucca resembled dates, and "datil" is the Spanish word for date. Levi and Fred Baldwin established the first Datil store and post office in 1884 to serve the cattle ranching families.
The hub of Datil is the Eagle Guest Ranch (pictured above) which dates from the 1920s when Agnes Morley Cleaveland's sister, Loraine, and her husband, Tom Reynolds, opened the small store. With a cafe, motel, general store, gas station, and RV park, the Eagle Guest Ranch today serves as a general meeting place for the 150 townsfolk and the surrounding community of ranchers.
One of the early settlers, Agnes Morley Cleaveland, described ranching in Datil in the 1880s in her well-known book, No Life for a Lady (see link in the left column to order her book). A monument to her parents can be seen on U.S. 60 five miles west of Datil.
Pickups have replaced the horses, but ranching remains the main occupation in the area. And with more elk than people, the emphasis is on outdoor recreation in northern Catron County. Hunting for elk, deer, bear and wild turkey is extremly popular during fall and winter.
The temperature averages range from 32 degrees to 70 degrees with 350 sunny days a year. But once the sun sets behind the mountain trees, the winter temperatures drop quickly. The coldest night I've experienced so far is 3 degrees! Brrr. Monsoon showers hit hard in July but do not last long.
The Datil Well Campground, south of town, commemorates the site of a cattle watering well on the historic stock driveway from Springerville to the railhead in Magdalena, our neighboring eastern town.
So far, life here has been more of an adventure than I had imagined it would be. The magnificent beauty that surrounds me is a constant source of inspiration.