Ever see a Main Street washed away to become a permanent stream? I had that opportunity this past weekend while attending a Write Retreat in Silver City, New Mexico. Driving up to the Murray Hotel in beautiful downtown Silver City, we noticed the tallest curbs ever made by man – some concrete slabs towered higher than the hood of our car. This is not a place to wander home after the proverbial “two beers” at the Buckhorn Saloon and Opera House and step off the curb. It might be your last.
During three days of sitting, listening, writing, and discussing, the two leaders of the retreat rousted us out of chairs each afternoon to take a nature hike “spending time outside in nature, observing, listening, taking notes, finding inspiration and telling detail.”
Our first outing took us along the Big Ditch Trail Walk. Our tour guide told us in 1870 Silver City was a thriving mining town with shops, businesses, and homes perched along Main Street. Unfortunately the town was in the direct path of rain runoff from the nearby mountains. In 1895 one heck of a rainstorm washed away Main Street, buildings and all. Left behind was a ditch 55 feet below where the street had been only yesterday.
Not easily discouraged, shops on the former Main Street started using their back doors as new front doors which makes for unusual addresses. But the residents learned that sturdy concrete walk ways were needed during the rainy season.
Hiking through the gully where the stream still runs, our guides pointed out non-native plants that dominate. These species take over quickly and slurp more water and nutrients than native plants. They also have few predatory insects which native birds need to sustain their young. So unless some civic-minded residents can motivate some enthused college students to take on the challenge, the stream will continue to nibble away at what once was a thriving street.