Cabezon means "big head" and that's what it looks like. It's a volcanic plug, 2200 ft, the largest of those in the Mount Taylor volcanic field.
New Mexico Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary, T.M. Pearce, editor, and The Place Names of New Mexico by Robert Julyan, both note the Indian "legend" that the Cabezon is that of a giant monster slain by Twin War Gods. The Navajo called it "black rock" but the Spanish named it for what it looked like and what some believe(d) it to be.
Wait, did you see that?
In the eighties and early nineties we camped a lot. A different trip planned that Saturday got changed after the Jeep overheated. So instead of a San Pedro Parks trailhead we ended up on BLM land near the base of the head of Cabezon.
From here there was a trail to the top we thought we might attempt in the morning. We had passed a car headed out and there was no one else around. It felt safe. And there was a perfect fire ring and some wood already stacked, so we decided to camp. Today you can't camp at that place, I don't think. I'm sure that's a good thing.
It was a beautiful high spot with a spectacular view west and southwest over the surrounding pinyon and juniper. The giant hulk over our shoulders wasn't that noticeable at first. Or we ignored him.
What we noticed were other weird things happening as we set up the tent. Under every piece of wood was curled a huge bright red worm. They were all over. We flicked away dozens of them. Big swallows swooped on us, dive bombing our heads. Strange croaking noises came from behind the bushes and trees. We heard rustling noises outside our tent.
We tried not to freak out. We were experienced campers, after all. Rich with awareness and self defense training. What was there to be afraid of? We cooked steaks, warmed the potatoes, drank the wine and laughed as we pushed away worms with designated wormsticks. We ducked diving birds and wished we'd brought the dog when we thought we saw movement in the junipers.
At first it was all funny. Then it was annoying, then funny again. Then the weather changed and it got scary.
Get in the truck, quick.
The afternoon had been clear and warm. Within an hour of our arrival a cloud grew on top of Cabezon. We didn't really notice since a lot of other things were going on. Then the thunder and lightning began. Spectacular roaring and bright strikes on top of the mountain. It sounded like a fight. Rain raged down and wind bent the big tent in on us. We thought we heard yelling, we later recalled. We cowered, amazed and off guard, shouting at each other over the rolling thunder. The windows were down on the truck and the tent floor was flooding.
We decided to make a run for the truck but in the time it took to unzip the tent, it all stopped. Silence except for dripping. As we walked over to the jeep, stunned, the sun came out from behind clouds low in the west. Everything turned bright pink and purple. The temperature rose to a balmy degree.
We couldn't speak. In the last moment we had both been silently resigned to packing up and going home - a savage defeat for a weekend camper. Now, again without a word, we pulled wood from under the truck, started a small fire and finished the dinner we'd started.
Warm low light lit up the desert and the other rocky knobs. But Cabezon looked even blacker. It seemed to absorb this light.
I heard it too.
When the other noises started we were cozy in the tent - dried out after the storm and tucked into down beds on the air mattress. At first it sounded like a small mammal running or scratching. I got up and checked it out 3 or 4 times, each time shining the flashlight on the quiet nothing. This kept both of us awake for at least three hours.
Then we both had a dream. Or maybe it wasn't, because whether or not we had fallen asleep is still unclear. What we both heard, or dreamed we heard, was someone walking outside the tent and saying, quietly, "Check this out!"
We were awake then. Unmoving. Petrified panic. Whispering. ::Man. Out there. Now::
No noise for what seemed minutes. We tried to make our frantic breath silent.
Then in a crazy fit I reached for the flashlight, the tent zipper, fumbling out of my sleeping bag into moccasins, stooping up and out of the tent, standing up into the warm, clear, empty, silent night. There was nobody there.
The stars were incredible. I looked up at how they outlined the blackness of the head. There was suddenly nothing in the world but space and that blackness. That moment I saw that this was his mischief. Or worse. The birds and worms and croaking were warnings and he was only just getting started.
Sometime later I heard from a friend of an archeologist who worked on pipeline surveys around there, that some of his Native American workers objected to camping within sight of Cabezon. This is hearsay but I believe it.
It is also interesting to note the grim fate of the agricultural settlements in this part of the Rio Puerco Valley. They included a village called Cabezon, or La Posta, a stage stop for fresh horses on a route from Santa Fe to old Fort Wingate.
From Julyan: The development of alternative transportation routes, overgrazing by sheep, and a falling water table along the Rio Puerco caused a general decline in the region.