11 Jul 2016

Notes from the Road: Alfalfa Fields and Arroyos

Alfalfa fields in New Mexico

Sunrise News
More feathered friends: In addition to the mom-duck with her teenagers, we have now have a second duck family: a mama with five much-younger ducklings. As stated before, we figure they were hatched at a neighboring pond and have moved to the Sunrise Springs pond for safety and food.

Due to some construction and electrical issues, the Aqua Wellness area is now scheduled to open in the next week or two. 

As I drive guests up the hill from Albuquerque, they often ask me where I’m from. My mother, Ellen, came to New Mexico initially for health reasons—she had respiratory problems and was advised to take in the clean, pure desert air. In the 1930s she attended The Normal School in El Rito, NM, which prepares Spanish-speaking teachers to teach in New Mexico. After El Rito, she lived briefly in Santa Fe and then moved to Albuquerque to accept a job with the weather bureau, and that’s where she met my father, “Chub” Dickens. He was an air traffic controller and had fallen in love with New Mexico when he traveled through the state on aerial photograph or mapping assignments.

My parents married in 1945 and immediately moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, where my sister Lisa was born. After two years of the cold and dark my mother insisted the family move back to Albuquerque. They purchased a home on 4 ½ acres of irrigated farmland in Los Ranchos. That’s where I grew up, a childhood of alfalfa fields and arroyos.

I also like to tell guests about our Native American population. Most of the land between Albuquerque and Santa Fe is Pueblo Trust Land or reservation. The Pueblo Indians were peaceful farmers who built and settled communities along water courses; fifteen of the nineteen pueblos in New Mexico are north of Albuquerque, mostly along the Rio Grande. Other nearby tribal communities include the two bands of Apache (Mescalero and Jicarilla), and the Navajo, whose reservation occupies a swath of the Four Corners region.

I tell guests that Route 66 and El Camino Real shared a route from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, one of the few instances in the US where historic trail and classic motorway share the same path. As we drive up it, I explain that La Bajada Mesa was one of the major challenges on this route for wagon trains, horseback riders, and motorists alike. This steep escarpment presented a trying obstacle to weary travelers trying to reach La Cienega, the last stop of El Camino Real before Santa Fe.

Community News
Speaking of the history of Sunrise, I recently spoke with Sylvia Baca Vandewater, whose family, the Bacas, owns property on both sides of Sunrise—and who once owned the Sunrise property itself. Sylvia, now 84, was born in the house just south of Sunrise called El Alamo. Sylvia has fond memories of spending time here with her aunt, Carmelita Baca Viera, and her uncle, Jose Viera, in their old farm house, now the Blue Heron Restaurant. As the story goes, Jose was from the Azores and came to the US to avoid being conscripted into Portugal’s military, which was then fighting in Africa. Jose traveled to be with other family members in the Santa Fe area, and there met Carmelita. Although they eventually fell on hard times and the property was foreclosed upon, the two lived many long and happy years on the ranch. Sylvia speaks of an orchard on the property reputed to have been planted by Bishop Lamy himself, a claim I am researching.

Guest Comments from the Road

The Sunrise Springs staff were so generous with their hearts and their time.

Sunrise Springs is a place of rejuvenation.

The entire staff was so humble.

The highlights were the hikes with Daniel.

Carl Dickens

Carl Dickens, Human Resources Coordinator
Carl Dickens grew up in New Mexico, his parents having met and fallen in love here. After a brief stint in Alaska, the family returned to the warmth and light of the high desert. Carl was raised in the farming community of Los Ranchos, in the North Valley of Albuquerque, among alfalfa fields and arroyos. He began working at Sunrise Springs in 1984, the same year he and his young family moved to the valley. Carl remained at Sunrise Springs for five years, returning again in September of 2012. Carl is active in the local community and is passionate about the history of the area, preserving its agricultural traditions and water conservation.