National Geographic : 1924 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE It was Tucumcari, New Mexico, our first known point after the night. We reached it at the break of day and recog nized it, both by the huts and the grave yard, for we had been over Tucumcari before (see page 37). "JOY COMET IN THE MORNING" The sunrise gave us a glorious feeling. When we saw the little Indian town be low we knew that our flight had been well planned. We had delayed the start two hours at New York to avoid being farther west than the town of Tucumcari at dawn, and it was remarkable that we were at this point at this time. The next little settlement was Santa Rosa. We changed pilots here. For a considerable time the flying was com paratively easy. A railroad could oc casionally be seen in the distance and supplied a means of checking the course. We last saw this railroad shortly before we reached the Rio Grande. We flew west, high above the Rio Grande, meandering below us like a dirty, muddy thread in this barren volcanic land of jagged dry rock and sand, and headed toward a winding and irregular pass leading to the summit of the rapidly ascending slope. It was our intention to fly due west, to a point about 20 miles south of the little Mormon and Indian hamlet of St. Johns, Arizona, and from this point change our compass to fly southwest (see thin arrows on map, page 6). Although we were following the lowest topography of the ground, as shown by our contour maps, this southwest course would increase our elevation somewhat, until finally we would reach a precipice which was the rim of a large valley or basin leading to Phoenix, Arizona, 200 miles distant. When we arrived at this point, south of St. Johns, we were in the lowest part of a very large, high plateau or valley, were as high as the plane would go, and the ground in the direction of our in tended course to the southwest was much higher. While we were approaching to the south of St. Johns the ground had been coming up beneath us faster than the plane could climb, until we were very close to the surface and the T-2 was at its ut- most elevation. As each gallon of gaso line was consumed we would get a few more feet elevation, but it was a question of which would win out, the ground com ing up beneath us or the slight increase of altitude, due to the lessening weight as the gasoline was used up. Our maps had shown the country in this vicinity to be about 8,000 feet in ele vation. Our altimeter registered 10,000 feet, or 2,000 feet more. Ten thousand feet was right, as this was an unsurveyed region, and the altitude was higher than that indicated on the map. "LAVA BEDS" PROVE TO BE AN IMMENSE FOREST Looking out to the southwest, I could see the route that we should take, accord ing to our maps. There was a gradual upward slope, the higher and distant part of which appeared to be covered with some blackish material which I thought was lava. It was useless to attempt this route, as the plane would not climb high enough to get over. The only thing that we could do was to keep flying straight ahead in a westerly direction, following the lower position of this high plateau or valley. This course almost paralleled the black lava masses dimly seen at a great distance to our left, where we imagined the high rim or precipice of the big valley or basin to be. We purposely left our course to follow the low places, but eased over to our left when opportunity offered. The high plateau was a very pic turesque country. To the right were the black volcanic lava beds, with the old ex tinct black craters occasionally seen. The coloring was beautiful. The ground was red and pink. There were small, flat topped plateaus, with strata of yellow, gray, and pink soil running parallel with the flat top. After flying for a considerable distance over this plateau, we deflected our course to the left, hoping to get over the higher areas. As we approached close to the black mass which we had imagined was a lava bed, we were greatly surprised to find that it was an immense forest of stately trees. I had never imagined that there was such a large forest in the United States.