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September 19, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 12: Lightning Field

Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Trip Odometer: 2162

We all rose early to make our way to The Lightning Field, an art installation in a remote location near Quemado, a small village in western New Mexico. Jan had made very hard-to-get reservations as a birthday gift for Dave, and invited their friends David and Kelly as well as us to join them.

GatherinDave, Jan, David, and Kelly took Jan’s Tesla X for the trip, which required planning because of the distance involved and the lack of charging facilities in rural New Mexico. Dave had arranged for the use of a hook-up at an RV park in Pie Town, New Mexico, about 20 miles from Quemado. We charged the car while eating lunch at The Gatherin’ Place, one of three pie shops in this village of about 60 people.

While we were there, the owners of The Gatherin’ Place chatted with us at length about the history of the town, what it’s like there in the winter, where the students go to school, the local economy, etc. This is a really remote place — the nearest law enforcement is nearly an hour away, and we were told that residents of that county are required to carry guns.

After lunch, we retrieved Dave’s car and drove the last 20 miles to Quemado, the headquarters for The Lightning Field. We parked our cars and were met by Kim, our host, who drove us to the site, about 45 minutes over mostly dirt roads. The Lightning Field site includes a log cabin which sleeps six people, and includes a kitchen, electric power, and running water from a well. The Lightning Field itself is an array of 400 stainless steel poles with pointed tips laid out over a 1 km by 1 mile area. In a lightning storm, the poles act as lightning rods, which is one of the attractions of the Field.

After introducing us to the cabin and its facilities, Kim left us, to return tomorrow morning to retrieve us. We settled in and moved to the back porch, with a hopeful eye toward the storm clouds in the sky. We got a few light showers and heard a bit of thunder, but also had time to examine a couple of the poles and for some of us to take a more extended hike.

As sunset approached, the sun fell below the clouds and reflected off the poles, making them much more visible than earlier. This was followed by a beautiful and peaceful sunset, although no lightning on the field this evening. We enjoyed dinner provided by the Lightning Field people as well as excellent wine brought by Dave and Jan.

Per the request of the artist and the Dia Art Foundation, which operates the Lightning Field, I have no pictures of the Lightning Field or the cabin.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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