For the next few weeks I will be posting from New Mexico, where I am visiting family and thoroughly enjoying the kind of dry heat that evaporates all signs of perspiration in a matter of moments. Unfortunately, this same “antiperspirant”-type heat has contributed to what is now the largest wild fire in New Mexico’s history.

We spent yesterday, the Fourth and our nation’s 235th “birthday,” in Jemez Springs, just south of Los Alamos and the parts of the Jemez Mountains that have been ravaged by the Las Conchas Wild Fire–which although now over 25% contained, still burns on after consuming almost 104,000 acres. The celebration featured a parade, a band, the mayor and a state senator, but there was no BBQ, there were no fireworks planned, and this year, there were no horses.

The absence of horses from the parade may not have been directly related to the fire that still sits close enough to Jemez Springs to fill the Jemez River valley with smoke, clouding the usually stunning view of the striated red mountains and turning the late afternoon sun and early evening moon an eery red. However, Los Alamos residents, evacuated last week, moved their horses to several farms and equestrian centers in Santa Fe (where I understand local Pony Clubbers are helping care for them–hurray!). And although residents are now being allowed to return to Los Alamos, heavy smoke and damaged property will no doubt delay the return of their animals.

Smoke from the massive wild fire in the Jemez Mountains casts a shadow across the Caldera (photo by Eric Draper/Reuters).

I pointedly remember our trip last year to Jemez Springs, and a day trip to the Valles Caldera National Preserve near Los Alamos. It was breathtaking, and as I viewed the vast expanse of grassland, dramatically patterned with massive shadows as the clouds traveled quickly across the sun, all I could think about was riding…if ever a piece of land begged for a gallop, that one did. It spooks me to find a different sort of shadow cast across it in this image by Eric Draper for Reuters.

–Rebecca Didier, Senior Editor