The ranch was owned by a man named Howard Munsell (now deceased). Unlike a lot of Southern Plains ranchers who are, shall we say, standoffish toward strange visitors, he had previously run a trail-ride business, and so he was able to handle several dozen campers on his land, providing water and basic sanitary facilities.
(After his passing, the 13,000-acre [5260 ha.] ranch was sold: see photos at this real estate agency’s website.)
One May weekend in the 1980s, M. and I took our turn at carefully piloting our ’69 VW Westfalia camper across a ford in the Apishapa River. What was the attraction? An archaeological site — and the 37th degree of north latitude.
Most of our fellow campers were UFO hunters. A couple were “crusties” who looked like they had crawled out of a Dumpster just long enough for the weekend. For our part, we were excited about a chance to get into a place that is normally closed to outsiders, look for rock art, and just poke around. If the Space Brothers landed, that would be only a bonus.
Chuck [Zukowski] has investigated several cattle mutilations in Southern Colorado over the past few years, and while preparing a talk for a recent UFO conference, he was trying to look for patterns in the places that the mutilations took place. With this on his mind, Colorado had its largest natural earthquake in a century. It was a 5.3 on the Richter scale and centered in the southwest part of the state. Within 15 hours Virginia received one of the largest earthquakes it had ever had as well. It registered as a 5.8. Neither quake caused much damage, but Chuck noticed that they were both near the 37 degree latitude line. He then noticed that his cattle mutilation cases were also near the 37 degree latitude line.
Oh dear. Cattle mutilations. Been there, done that, got the Fate magazine T-shirt. But I can credit the “mutilation” flap for introducing me both to ceremonial magic and newspaper reporting as a job, which is another story.
So what does this all mean? I have no idea. Chuck has speculated that perhaps there are secret military bases in these areas. It is hard to say, and Debbie says she is still in the middle of increased UFO reports.
Yeah, me neither. But I will always be glad that I could walk the bluff along the Apishapa (Ute for “stinking water,” by the way, referring to its late-summer stagnant pools) while the true believers watched for UFOs.
UPDATED TO ADD: I did read Ben Mezrich’s The 37th Parallel: The Secret Truth behind America’s UFO Highway. It’s junk. It’s full of basic geographical mistakes, for one thing (“El Paso” is not a city in Colorado, but Mezrich keeps saying that it is). Apparently he wrote it from taped phone calls or something and never visited the places that he writes about — he just takes everything that Zukowski tells him and treats it as gospel.