Monday, 16 April 2012

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

The name of the monument comes from the dry salt lakes on the plains to the east of Mountainair.

The area was home to two ancient southwestern cultures, the Ancestral Puebloans and Mogollon, people with roots going back 7,000 years and beyond that to nomadic Indians as early 20,000 years ago.

Abó, Quarai and Gran Quivira were located along major trade routes between Rio Grande villages and plains tribes to the east.  They traded, salt, maize, beans, squash, pinion nuts and cotton for dried buffalo meat, hides, flints and shells.

In 1598 the Spanish arrived bringing with them, horses, cattle, goats, fruit trees, wheat and metal.

Franciscan missionaries came with the soldiers, converting local tribes and building churches, citizens appointed by the governor were supposed to provide aid, protection and education but the system was abused and the area too remote for anyone to check up on what was really happening.

Eventually years of drought, wide-spread famine and a population decimated by European diseases to which they had little resistance led to the abandonment of the pueblos and missions during the 1670’s.

Gran Quavira, 25 miles south of Mountainair on highway 55, the largest of the missions is also where the most excavation has taken place, although the ranger at the park headquarters in Mountainair did tell us that there are plans to backfill the excavated pueblos in order to preserve them.  Unlike Quarai and Abó, Gran Quavira is built of limestone.

At Quarai, about 9 miles north of Mountainair, the soaring walls of the red sandstone church stand high above the mostly unexcavated mounds of the surrounding pueblo.

At Abó just of highway 60 is a stone arroyo and spring where both the pueblo and the church obtained most of their water, apart from one pool of standing water, both were dry when we visited.

The historic Shaffer Hotel in Mountainair, we had a lovely late lunch in the dining room.

The Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument visitor centre, the sky really did look like that.

The monuments spiral out from Mountainair and although it’s a lot of driving, they are very interesting and well worth visiting.

Have fun, we are!

Fort Sumner & Billy the Kid

In 1862 the US army established Fort Sumner as a supply and control point for the Bosque Redondo Indian Reservation.  Navajo were forcibly relocated from the Four-Corners Region enduring or dying on a tragic march known as the ‘Long Walk’.  About 500 Apache were also moved here.
During the existence of the reservation 3,000 Navajo and Apache died, finally closing in 1868, Navajo and Apache returned to their homes. The fort was abandoned in 1869.

Unfortunately for us, the Bosque Redondo memorial was closed the day we visited, at some point in the future we would like to return and visit the memorial.

After surviving the Lincoln County War and escaping from the jail in the courthouse Billy the Kid came to Fort Sumner, although there is not much left of the fort he would’ve known.

The Billy the Kid Museum has some interesting things

Billy the Kid’s rifle

Informers repeatedly sent messages to Pat Garrett the Sheriff in Lincoln telling him where Billy could be found.   Eventually Pat Garrett travelled to Fort Sumner.    

On 14 July 1881, while hiding in Pete Maxwell’s bedroom, Pat Garrett shot and killed Billy the Kid. 

Billy is buried in the old Fort Graveyard.

Have fun, we are!


We left the Hondo Valley moving only about an hour away to Roswell, after settling in to our new campsite, we did what I’m sure everyone does and went to visit the UFO museum.

Even the street lights in that area are alien shaped!

The museum was filled with information about the ‘Roswell’ incident in 1947, things that were found, things that people saw and what happened afterwards.

Apparently, so we discovered, we were actually closer to the site where whatever it was that landed when we were in Carrizozo than we were in Roswell, how weird is that!

I don’t know and I’m not sure whether or not I want to know if such things really do exist, but it was certainly an interesting place to visit.

The Museum and Art Centre by the visitor centre has a replica of Robert Goddard’s rocket workshop

And also his launch pad

Later that same day we visited Bottomless Lakes State Park.   The lakes are collapsed salt and gypsum sinkholes, cowboys trying to find the depth of them tied their lariats together, finding no ‘bottom, they declared them bottomless.   The shallowest is 17 ft deep and the deepest in 90 ft deep.

While this one looks pretty the ‘sand’ around it is very alkaline and would burn you quite badly if you got it onto your skin.

This one is 90ft deep with a swimming beach and you can even learn to scuba dive.

While we were in Roswell we watched some severe thunderstorms lighting up the sky over Lubbock in Texas and although there was the possibility of thunderstorms most days and a severe thunderstorm watch one day, thankfully we escaped the worst of the storm, other areas not so far away weren’t quite so lucky.   One day, Amarillo got 4ft of hail, can you imagine that?

Have fun, we are!

Fort Stanton

Built in 1855 to control the Mescalero Apaches, Fort Stanton was named for Captain Henry Stanton.

During the Civil War the fort was abandoned and burned by Union troops, before being briefly occupied by the Confederate Army.

Colonel Kit Carson re-opened the Fort for the Union in 1862, after it’s abandonment as a military post it was the first tuberculosis hospital in New Mexico and was an internment camp for German prisoners of war during WWII.
I think this was Kit Carson’s house.

Black Jack Pershing, the Buffalo Soldiers and Billy the Kid also passed through the Fort at various times.

The chapel
The Fort is also home to the only inland Merchant Marine Cemetery in the USA.

Each year the fort hosts Fort Stanton Live, when the fort is full of the sound of re-enactors and visitors.

Have fun, we are!


As we drove higher into the mountains in blue skies and sunshine we watched the truck thermometer drop lower and lower, it was cold out there only in the 50’s, but then again we were at nearly 9,000ft.
The viewing area for the restored Mexican trestle railroad bridge is well worth visiting.
The line operated until 1947 and was so popular that at times, people sat on top of the carriages on the way up the mountain!

From the viewing area you could for miles, the white in the photograph is White Sands.

We stopped for coffee and hot chocolate, at the beautiful Lodge

After coffee, we took the self-guided tour around the Sacramento Mountains Living History Museum which was very interesting, although it is a little scary that stuff I remember from when I was a kid is now marked as ‘antique’!

On the way back we stopped at a layby in the forest for a snack and to enjoy the views.

Have fun, we are!

Santo Nino De Atocha, Three Rivers

About 6 miles further along the road from the Three Rivers Petroglyph site is the tiny church of Santo Nino De Atocha.
Cottonwood and apple trees laden with blossom guard the entrance

The beautiful church built in 1911.

In a beautiful, peaceful spot the church is open for prayer, don’t forget to leave a donation and make sure the door is closed behind you.

Have fun, we are!

White Oaks, New Mexico

A few miles north of Carrizozo lies White Oaks, once a substantial gold mining town but now apart from a few people a ghost town.

Gold and coal were discovered in the 1880’s and the town grew practically overnight, at one time the town had an opera house, stores, saloons, a school, town hall, fire station and even a bank.  Stage coaches arrived daily from San Antonio, Billy The Kid even hung out there in the early 1880’s.

A cold spell and snow had blanketed the mountains surrounding the town in white the day we visited.

The ‘No Scum Allowed’ (isn’t the name wonderful?) saloon is open on weekends.

This building was definitely closed,

The Miners Museum was open, and yes that is snow on the roof.

White Oaks declined after negotiations with the railroad failed, the townspeople wouldn’t give way on their demands thinking that the only way for the railroad to go was through White Oaks.   The railroad said no, walked away and built the track further west sealing the fate of the town.

It’s an interesting place and on weekends and during the summer, the school house museum is usually open as well.

Have fun, we are!

Three Rivers Petroglyph Site

Just south of Carrizozo Three Rivers is amazing, there is a guide pointing out the location of some not to be missed petroglyphs, but other than that you can wander at will among the rocks.   The only thing you need to do is, as always, be careful where you put your hands and feet as the oils from your skin damage the petroglyphs.

Across the road is a mostly unexcavated village, home to the people who created the petroglyphs.

There are over 20,000 petroglyphs at the site, here are a just a very few of them.

The purpose and meaning of the petroglyphs isn’t known, it could be anything from finding the best water holes, places to hunt, places to avoid, there are all sorts of learned and insightful explanations.
On the other hand they could just mean something as mundane as ‘don’t forget to pick up some bread and milk on your way home’ who knows?

Have fun, we are!

Historic Lincoln & the Lincoln County War

During the 1870’s L G Murphy and his partner James J Dolan operated the mercantile company L G Murphy & Co enjoying a monopoly in Lincoln County.

The store later became the Courthouse.

In 1876 John H Tunstall an Englishman arrived joining forces with cattle baron John Chisum and local lawyer Alexander McSween to open a store just down the street.  

The Tunstall Store

There was immediate and intense animosity between the two factions.
Within 12 months L G Murphy had sold his interest in the store to Dolan and Tunstall had been gunned down by Dolan’s Sheriff’s posse.
McSween was dead, gunned down by Dolan’s men when he tried to escape his burning house.

Site of the McSween home, it was never rebuilt.

Dolan’s store went bankrupt, murder and ambush on both sides increased the violence.

Legend has it that this bullet hole was put in the wall by Billy the Kid escaping from the courthouse.

Eventually the army were brought in to clean up the county and the Lincoln County War was over.

Lincoln today is a quiet town, with interesting museums and friendly folk, a few of the historic places in Lincoln.

The Wortley Hotel, once owned by Sherriff Pat Garrett

The Torreon, one of Lincoln’s oldest structures, built in the 1850’s it provided protection against the Apaches and was used by Murphy’s sharpshooters during the Lincoln County War.

Have fun, we are!