June 29, 2019
by David Ryan
Taking advantage of a very cool day for late June, the dogs and I decided to wander to a very remote parcel of BLM land (public land) north of Cuba, New Mexico, in the heart of what was once home to the “Gallina Culture.”
The Gallina were an isolated people living in very remote and rugged fortified locations north and west of the Jemez Mountains. Some of their fortifications resemble towers. The Gallina were more or less contemporaneous with the nearby Ancestral Puebloan cultures of Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde. They disappeared almost 750 years ago.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that their disappearance was not pretty. Many if not most Gallina sites show signs of extreme violence. Some group, for some reason or another, had it in for the Gallina, and they either killed, chased, or scared them out of the region. It is unknown if the Gallina died out or were assimilated into another group.
The BLM parcel that we intended to visit has several Gallina sites including a tower. I had been there before, but it has probably been 15 years since my last visit.
After two hours of driving we finally reached our destination. Unfortunately, the road providing the easiest access to the BLM land had a locked gate and was posted with No Trespassing signs. Luckily we were able to find a nearby oil well pad that was not posted with No Trespassing signs. So we parked the car and started walking.
If you are an outdoor explorer, it is helpful to know your state’s rules on trespass. In New Mexico, fences, gates, and the like must be posted with No Trespassing signs to enforce laws prohibiting trespass on your land. If a location is not posted, it is legal for you to park your car and start walking. With that being said, it is always best to keep your expeditions as close to or on public land for as much as possible.
Because we were starting from an unfamiliar direction we had to pass through some rough and wooded country to reach our goal. If you’re interested in exploring an area without an established path or road, a good tip is to find a cow path or game trail heading in the general direction as your destination. You may have to dodge some branches along the way, but you’ll at least be following a route that takes advantage of the land’s natural folds and contours.
That trace of a path going off to the right is an elk run and is the easiest way to navigate through the woods.
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