Billy the Kid Scenic Trails

US 70, NM 380, NM 48, NM 220


Billy the Kid Scenic Byway is featured at New Mexico True

http://www.newmexico.org/billy-the-kid-trail/


Circle Trail #1: 60 miles and includes Ruidoso, Hondo, Lincoln, Ft. Stanton  

Circle Trail #2 : 72 miles and Ruidoso, Hondo, Lincoln, Capitan 

The Trailhead - Hubbard Museum of the American West. The trailhead is the starting of any trail and a great old west word. Yup, western talk helps travelers get into the mood for a trip along a byway named for Billy the Kid.

Another great way to get into an “Old West” mind set, aside from talking Western, is visiting an old west museum. The Hubbard Museum of the American West is a small but well stocked museum. When you are standing next to the covered wagon, stop and visualize for a moment what it was like to have your entire family and all your possessions in that wagon. You would expect your journey west to last between three to six months with travel beginning in late spring . You and your covered wagon would travel between ten and twenty mile every day, rain or shine. Generally, most family members would walk the entire journey. Walking in the rain was a slow steady trudge through sticky, slippery, and deep mud. Everyone and all the animals before you would walk down the same muddy trail. The “shine” part of rain or shine meant walking in steaming hot sweltering desert heat during the summer. We don’t know if the question “Are we there yet?” was frequently asked in those covered wagon days! 

In Western talk, it took grit to uproot a family, leave friends and family, move west, and survive. Grit, is an “Old West” term for toughness, courage, and a willingness to continue despite harshness, hardships, and dangers. The early settlers of the New Mexico Territory certainly had grit.

The Hubbard Museum of the American West is not open everyday year around. Call for hours of operation at 575-378-4142.  Web site is http://www.hubbardmuseum.org  facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hubbardmuseum?ref=ts

Beginning the Journey in Ruidoso and traveling east on US 70.

Conley Nursery - Leaving Ruidoso. Living on the mountain range more than a mile above sea level requires some adaptations. Foods do not cook the same as they do at lower altitudes and people and race horses cannot physically preform the same as they do at lower altitudes unless they have been acclimated. Acclimation takes between 3 to 6 weeks for the blood chemistry to reformat and stabilize. World class athletes often train at these higher altitudes to create more oxygen carrying capacity in their blood. This is called legal blood doping. People and animals can adapt but not most plants. Plants grown at lower altitudes will generally die in the higher elevation of Ruidoso. Conley Nursery grows special high altitudes plants. If you want your plants to live in Ruidoso, then you need to buy them at a high altitude nursery.

Fox Cave - 6 miles from Trailhead. Fox Cave is a smart phone selfie heaven. You can get your picture with aliens, just hatched dinosaurs, monsters or many other odd and strange creatures. Fox Cave and the Ruidoso River Museum are located on the same property and definitely worth a stop. The museum is located in the circle of cabins.

The cave was formed from the erosion of the sedimentary rocks by the Rio Ruidoso River eons ago. Physically the cave resembles the scooped out portion of a hill rather than a small opening leading into a much larger area within a hill. When Indians and others, including Billy the Kid, stayed in the cave, it was up on the hill with the river a hundred feet below.  Fox cave became easily accessible once the highway was created by filling in the area below the cave. In 1951 the cave was purchased and the rock wall was built enclosing the shallow cave. George Fuchs purchased the property. He said his last name was pronounced “Fox” and the property became as it is today, Fox Cave. 

The museum site: http://www.ruidosorivermuseum.com

The museum was moved to Fox Cave and some of the photos on the web site may no longer be accurate. Current information about Fox Cave can be found on their Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/FoxCaveNewMexico 


St. Anne’s Chapel - Little Rock Church on US 70. This small Episcopal chapel was the first Protestant Church built in the Hondo Valley in 1934.  Images of the chapel are found at “https://www.google.com/searchclient=safari&rls=en&q=St.+Anne%E2%80%99s+Chapel+images,+New+Mexico&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8"

Hurd Gallery - 18 miles from the Trail Head. The Hurd Gallery and the San Patricio Retreat Center are located on the same road but are different operations created by different artists. Follow the sign to the Hurd Gallery and pass their polo field (yes, a real private polo field) straight ahead to the gallery. Left of the polo field resides the Retreat Center.

The Hurd story actually begins with N.C. Wyeth, artist and illustrator. He created over 3,000 paintings and illustrated over 112 books. His illustrations in the book Treasure Island are classified as a masterpiece of illustration. This famous artist strongly encouraged his children to become artists. Wyeth taught art to special students along with his children in their large home.

Peter Hurd was raised in Roswell and went to school at New Mexico Military Institute. After graduation Peter attended the United States Military Academy at West Point for two years. Peter Hurd left the academy to pursue his love of art and was accepted for an apprenticeship with N. C. Wyeth. Hurd worked with Wyeth for over ten years. A fellow art student was Wyeth’s daughter Heriette. Peter Hurd and Heriette later married and moved to New Mexico.  

Peter Hurd was a Life Magazine war correspondent during World War II and his art brought the war to life in its many facets. This image is from the airpower museum and shows servicemen repairing a shot up bomber. Hurd was able to capture working people in such a way that spoke to the common man. People could relate to the art because they could envision themselves being there and being with the people in the painting.

Peter Hurd returned from the war and resumed his career as a commercial artist. In the early 1950’s, Peter and his wife along with other artists began to paint fresco murals. It took on the average a week for Hurd to paint a large mural and he and his team painted numerous murals in a two year period. His most famous mural is located in the Artesia Library and that in it self is a great story for another trail. Their son Michael Hurd has carried on the family artistic traditions.The Hurd gallery proudly celebrates the three generations of Hurd and Wyeth artists. http://www.wyethartists.com

San Patricio Retreat Center. Tucked away under the trees and across the street form the Hurd complex is a spiritual retreat center. The property was created by artist John Meigs, a recipient of the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence and Achievement in the Arts. The center’s many structures were constructed in the Southwest adobe style. The mission of the retreat center is to provide hospitality and spiritual refreshment in a peaceful contemplative atmosphere. The rooms and meals are priced at a very reasonable rate.      http://www.sanpatricioretreat.org

Hondo Iris Farm - mile marker 284 and sign - 24 minutes from Ruidoso. Do not allow the painted tin siding building to dissuade you from stopping. This stop is a great place to walk about and simply enjoy the beauty of nature. A 2100 square foot gallery offers a unique shopping experience. This gallery is the outlet for its own jewelry factory and jewelry is sold at factory discount prices. The Iris farm is a great place to just stop and smell the flowers. Most often you will see smiling people just strolling about - smiling while smelling the flowers and enjoying a large garden.

North from Hondo on US 380

Lincoln - 10 miles from Hondo. US 380 travels along the Bonito Valley. This valley may not seem of great importance today but in the days of the Old West it was the only passageway for people and livestock between the mountains. In those days this valley was a key transportation corridor for men, wagons, stage coaches, and livestock. Whoever controlled this corridor controlled commerce.

Lincoln, the little town in Bonito Valley, is one of the best known old west towns. Plan to stop, visit, and walk around in this old west town. Relive the past by walking the streets. Lincoln has changed very little in the past century and a half. Many western historians claim Lincoln is the best of the authentic Old West Towns.

Visit the locations where the action took place during the Lincoln County War. The two stores at the center of this conflict are presented as they were during the conflict. Many re-enactments events of the Lincoln County War are held during summer weekends in Lincoln. Guided walking tours are also available during many summer days.  

The first weekend in August, Lincoln hosts “The Billy the Kid Pageant”:

http://www.billythekidpageant.org/Lincoln__NM.html

(Artist Peter Hurd played Billy in the first re-enactment in Lincoln.)

Other Lincoln websites

New Mexico Historic Sites - Lincoln: http://www.nmmonuments.org/lincoln

Wortley Hotel claims “No Guest Gunned Down in Over 100 years:”. Their fun site is http://www.wortleyhotel.com

Another Lincoln website for information and up coming events is http://nmhistoricsites.org/Lincoln

Introduction to Lincoln County in Territorial New Mexico. When New Mexico became a United States Territory everything from property ownership to governance and laws quickly became upended. New Mexico was previously part of New Spain and populated mostly by dark skinned Spanish speaking Catholics. These people had lived in the area for hundreds of years and were governed under Spanish law. Washington sent in overlords to manage the new United States Territorial of New Mexico. These governmental officials were white skinned English speaking Protestants. Language, religion, traditions, and skin color separated the officials from whom they governed. In this topsy-turvy territorial arrangement one item became of great importance - land ownership. Many long time residents holding Spanish land grants had their land ownership questioned and either lost their land or had to re-buy it. 

After the civil war, corrupt and greedy newly appointed territorial government officials quickly realized that they could own a territory. The corrupt New Mexico territorial  government was called the Santa Fe Ring. The Santa Fe Ring used appointed lawmen and the US Army troops to enforce its will. Government contracts were written without a bidding process, only bribes were accepted. Elections were not held but officials were appointed because of favoritism and/or croneyism. Fines, legal judgements, and fees were used as economic weapons favoring the willing and punishing the opposing. The Territory of New Mexico was ruled as a feudal state. The corruption was so very bad that one of the counties tried to pass an Act of Secession from the territory. 

The Spanish community in the Bonito Valley was renamed Lincoln when it became the county seat of the newly established county of Lincoln. Lincoln was the biggest county in the United States with an area greater than many countries including Ireland. With a size of 27,000 square miles, Lincoln County was larger than ten states in the nation. The power of the county seat was obtained by its ability to levee fees and collect fines for the entire county. The Santa Fe Ring wanted to control the entire county through a store nicknamed “The House”. The House controlled everything and everybody and a portion of the proceeds from The House made its way back to the Santa Fe Ring. An old saying, “the six gun trumped the law books in Territorial New Mexico” was certainly true for Lincoln County.

After the Civil War, the only cash money in the New Mexico Territory was government money; all other commerce in Lincoln County and surrounding areas was either bartered or traded. The only way to get rich was to be paid with government money. The government paid “cash money” for buying cattle to feed the Army and the Indians on the reservations. Cattle were brought into the area from Texas and eastern New Mexico. The only one store in Lincoln, “The House”, set the price for the cattle and all the kickbacks. The US Government paid a certain price, the cattleman received less than this price, and “The House” got the difference. The difference between what the government paid and what the cattlemen received fueled corruption all the way to Santa Fe, the territorial capital. By controlling the pricing of goods and services, the value of the cash money could also be controlled. “The House” had more power than the Sheriff of Knottingham in the adventures of Robin Hood. Sheriff Brady, along with his gunmen deputies, were the local enforcers for “The House”.  “The House” was run by the Irishmen Murphy and Dolan. Robin Hood was a champion of the poor and oppressed but there were no Robin Hoods in Lincoln.

Englishman John Tunstall, from upper-class London, had immigrated to British Columbia at the age of 19. At 24 years old John Tunstall had much money from successful business ventures and was seeking a new opportunity to make even more money. He decided to become a businessman in Lincoln after he met Alexander McSween. McSween discussed in great length the potential for great profits in Lincoln for a smart young businessman. McSween would be Tunstall’s advisor and, of course, share some the profits. As a young upper-class Englishman with ambition, confidence, and money, John Tunstall thought he could take control of Lincoln by building a competing store. The Tunstall-McSween store was built and is still standing in Lincoln. 

The Englishman John Tunstall immediately disliked the Irishmen Murphy and Dolan who controlled “the House” and similar feelings were reciprocated. Tunstall discovered he had a powerful ally in John Chism, the largest cattleman in the area. John Chism knew he was being cheated by “The House”.  And he also had the largest group of gun toting men working for him in the area, so no direct threat was made against him by the Murphy-Dolan group. Two opposing groups, Murphy-Dolan and Tunstall-McSween, were each trying to control the vast potential riches within the county. The friction between the two groups set the stage for the Lincoln County War. Each side had employed many men who were handy with a gun.

Lincoln County War. The Murphy-Dolan group issued a Lincoln County Order for the confiscation of $10,000 worth of Tunstall’s possessions including several of his horses because of a trumped up legal matter. Tunstall decided to herd nine of his horses to town as partial payment. Tunstall, along with his four hired hands including William Bonney (Billy the Kid), were herding the horses toward town when twelve Deputy Sheriff  posse members quickly rode up on them. The four Tunstall hired hands quickly dismounted and ran for protective shelter some distance away. John Tunstall remained on his horse facing the approaching posse. The posse stopped and without warning fired upon John Tunstall. Tunstall was killed instantly from a shot in the head and upper chest. Tunstall’s horse was also shot. A posse member dismounted, retrieved Tunstall’s pistol from his lifeless body, fired two shots in the air and returned the pistol back to the body. The posse rode away as quickly as they arrived. John Tunstall was dead at the age of 25. Posse members later declared self defense at an inquest pertaining to the circumstances of Tunstall’s death. Posse members also claimed that John Tunstall had fired on them and cited as evidence Tunstall’s pistol containing two fired bullets shells.

William Bonney and the other men who saw the incident rode to Lincoln with the news of Tunstall’s death. Under the authority of the Justice of the Peace, John B. Wilson, new Deputy Lincoln Constables were sworn in to help handle Tunstall’s death. William Bonney was now a Deputy Constable and member of a group later called “The Regulators”. The Regulators were deputy constables seeking retribution for the death of Tunstall and declared war against the Murphy-Dolan group. With each group claiming the law was on their side, the war began. One side had Sheriff Deputies while the other had Justice of the Peace Deputies. Many of the Deputies on both sides were known gunmen and wanted outlaws, including Billy the Kid.

The Lincoln County War was not a war of good vs evil but greed and power vs greed and power. In the day, much press was devoted to the Lincoln County War. Readers across the nation followed the happenings of the war. News of gunfights in the West sold papers and the Lincoln County War had many gunfights. New Mexicans wanted the Territory to become a state and all the bad press from the Lincoln County War was bad for statehood and business. The war needed to be stopped.

Soldiers from the Fort Stanton arrived in Lincoln supporting the side of Murphy-Dolan. The troops surrounded the McSweeney house occupied by The Regulators. The troops, with a cannon and a gatling gun, outpowered the Regulators. The troops fired on the house, set fire to the house, and tried to shoot anyone who escaped the burning house. Billy the Kid and some of The Regulators were able to escape. 

US President Rutherford B. Hayes removed the corrupt New Mexico Territorial Governor Samuel Axtell and appointed General Lew Wallace to be governor. For a short time Billy the Kid was in protective custody at  Fort Stanton because Governor Wallace was trying to end the war. Governor Wallace declared a general amnesty to all participating in the war who were not under indictment. The added words not under indictment were needed because of the number of wanted criminals participating in the war. (Anyone who thinks the story should end at this point does not know the gunmen of the Old West.) The participants of the war gathered in town thinking they were ALL free of prosecution. Being free of prosecution meant a celebration. The gunmen celebration involved whisky - lots of whisky. During the celebration guns were drawn, shots were fired, and the amnesty deal went up in gun smoke. The Old West has a saying, 95% whisky and gunpowder do not mix well, and it was true that day. The story of Billy the Kid does not end on that day because a price was put on his head and Billy the Kid was once again officially a wanted outlaw.

A reward notice from the Governor’s office was posted Dec. 1880 in the Las Vegas (New Mexico) Gazette.

Billy the Kid

$500 Reward

I will pay $500 reward to any person or persons 

who will capture

William Bonny, alias The Kid, 

and deliver him to any Sheriff of New Mexico

Satisfactory proofs of identity will be required.

Notice, the name Bonny was misspelled in the notice. 

In the days of the Lincoln County War, an average wage was $1 a day. A $500 reward was a huge amount of money. The words “any person who will capture” was an open invitation to any bounty hunter or gunman to pursue Billy the Kid. Also in old west days wanted posters rewards would be paid if the person was killed in the process of being captured. The reward notice did not state “Wanted Dead or Alive”, but that was understood. While on the run, or so the story goes, an intoxicated gunman named Grant loudly boosted he would kill Billy the Kid on sight and collect the reward. Grant had never seen Billy the Kid in person. A young man, while listening to Grant’s boosting, asked to see Grant’s pearl handled six shooter. The gun was handed to the young man, who happened to be Billy the Kid! In those days, only five of the six cylinders held a bullet. The empty cylinder was located below the firing pin to prevent an accidental discharge of a bullet. When the pistol was cocked the cylinders would rotate one place and the firing pin would be above a live round. While Grant was ranting about his prowess in gun fights, Billy the Kid moved the cylinders back one notch. This action meant that when the gun was cocked the firing pin would be above the empty cylinder. Grant holstered the pistol after it was returned to him. “The Kid” announced who he was. Grant drew his pistol, cocked it, pressed the trigger, and heard the sound of a click when his firing pin hit the empty cylinder. Billy the Kid immedIately shot and killed Grant while later saying, “It was a game for two and I got there first.” In the movie, “Young Guns”, Billy the Kid removed all the bullets before handing the gun back. The result was the same; the gunman hunting Billy the Kid was dead.

Please view the 21 minute history video listed below. The video gives a great condensed history of Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County war.It is titled “Lincoln Historic site Orientation”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLOfO0w53kQ

Side note: Governor Lew Wallace wrote the last part of his novel Ben Hur while in Santa Fe. Ben Hur was first printed in 1880 and is still available today in many forms. The novel was considered the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century. In the late 1800s, Ben Hur was the second best selling book in the nation only surpassed by sales of the Bible. The story, Ben Hur, is about a Jewish Prince who is captured by the Romans, made a slave and later becomes a Roman charioteer. Ben Hur’s life changes when learning about Christ and he becomes a devout Christian. The 1959 Ben Hur movie was the most expensive movie made to date and became the biggest box office success of its day. The new Ben Hur movie is to be another high budget major picture. Trivia: This will be the fifth screen adaptation of Lew Wallace's novel. The first was Ben-Hur (1907), the second was Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925), third one and the most acclaimed one was Ben-Hur (1959), and the fourth was the animated Direct-to-DVD Ben-Hur (2003). 

Our favorite New Mexico cowboys and cowgirls sing about Billy the Kid: The Flying J Wranglers  http://www.flyingjranch.com/

Billy the Kid. The Lincoln County War created the most famous wild west character of all times - Billy the Kid. The name Billy the Kid is the most recognized name of any old west outlaw in the world. More media attention has been given to this old west outlaw through the ages than any other. Billy the Kid holds the record for the most motion pictures made about a single individual in the history of filmmaking. 60 movies, 4 television shows and 1 ballet has featured Billy the Kid. “Young Guns” is classified as the best and most accurate dramatization of the Lincoln County War and Billy the Kid. This is a very intense “R rated” movie and is not for the faint of heart or children. At the time of this writing the movie “Young Guns” could be rented with live streaming from several sources. 

Billy the Kid was less that 21 years old at the beginning of the Lincoln County War. Crazy and deadly young men do crazy and deadly things. Billy the Kid’s group “The Regulators” featured in the movie were crazy deadly young men.

Possibility the worst Billy the Kid movie ever made is featured in the movie poster below.

A trailer for Billy the Kid vs Dracula can be seen at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rE-chhwi0bw


Little Circle - Trail #1 Lincoln to Ft Stanton 

(Scroll down for Larger Circle Trail)

Proceed on US 380 for 7 miles and turn onto NM 220

Fort stanton - 3 miles away on NM 220

Ft. Stanton has had many lives and following is a brief chronological listing:

1855 - Fort Stanton was established to provide protection from Indian raids for settlers and wagon trains traveling in the area.

1861 - Members of the Confederate Army captured the Union fort, stole its supplies and burned it.

1862 - Kit Carson reoccupied the fort and began to rebuild it. The fort provided protection of the surrounding area from outlaw gangs and Indians.

1878 - Soldiers from the fort arrived in Lincoln supporting the side of Murphy-Dolan. The troops surrounded the house occupied by The Regulators (Billy the Kid’s group). The troops set the house on fire and tried to shoot anyone who tried to escape. Billy the Kid and a few of The Regulators were able to escape. Later, Billy the Kid was held in protective custody at the fort because the new Governor of the New Mexico Territory, General Wallace, was trying to end the Lincoln County War.

1892 - The fort was closed because threats from outlaws and Indians had disappeared.

1899 to1953 - The fort became a tuberculosis hospital for the United States Merchant Marines. Common names for tuberculosis are consumption or the White Plague. The United States Merchant Marines are seamen who serve on United States owned ocean vessels. Over 5,000 sailors were patients at the hospital between 1899-1953. 1,500 Merchant Marines are buried in the cemetery just outside the fort. (The U.S. Merchant Marines suffered the greatest casualty rate of any service during World War II, but were denied veteran status or benefits until 1977.)  A detailed account of the “Healing Consumptive Sailors” can be found at http://elpalacio.org/articles/spring11/Stanton-2-Sailors.pdf

1930s - The fort served as a CCCf (Civilian Conservation Corp) work camp.

1941 to 1945 - The fort became the first civilian internment camp in World War II. The German luxury liner SS Columbus was sunk off the coast of Cuba before the United States was involved in World War II. The male crew of the German ship Columbus were not in the military but were of military age. It was determined that these crew members were to be held in the United Sates in a remote area until the end of the war. The first group of 39 civilian German seamen arrived at Fort Stanton. These men refurbished and expanded the CCC work camp. Eventually all 410 Columbus crew men were held at Ft. Stanton. As the war progressed more German seamen were sent to Ft. Stanton until its population reached 652. The Germans were allowed to build and expand the facility to include a gymnasium, gardens, roads, cabins, soccer field, and even a swimming pool. The Germans started a farm and provided food for the fort. They were even paid for the excess food they grew and sold. The camp had a German library and social center. Personal items such as cigarettes, candy, ice cream soft drinks, and even home-made beer (two bottles per day was the official limit) could be purchased from the canteen. The German seamen worked in a voluntary capacity for profit which differed greatly from POW camps.  Few items remain of the German seamen’s five year stay. Above the door way to the now crumbling gymnasium is an inscription, “Erbaut 1944” - translated “Built 1944”.

1953 to 1997 - The United States military fort was given to the state of New Mexico. While under state control the property was used as a state hospital, a minimum security women’s prison, a juvenile detention center, and finally a drug rehabilitation center. In 1995 state operations at the fort were closed. The state put the property up for sale.

1997 - A non-profit was formed to save the property and a program of renovations, repair, and upkeep of the property was begun.

2007 - The fort became Fort Stanton State Monument and is in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM controls the land surrounding the fort.

Present - Fort Stanton is located on 240 acres surrounded by 1,300 acres of undeveloped BLM land. Visiting the undeveloped land is step back into the past and the land of the Old West. A few of the 88 buildings on the property date back to the days of the Lincoln County War. Admission to the grounds is free but a donation is greatly appreciated.

The summers are full of events at the fort. Check the site for event dates and other news. The site is fact filled and offers many pictures of past events at the fort. The museum is not alway open. Call 575-354-0341 for museum information.

Official site of Fort Stanton is: http://fortstanton.org

Another Fort Stanton site is the New Mexico Historic sites at:http://www.nmstatemonuments.org/fort-stanton

Fort Stanton Cave. The Fort Stanton Cave was discovered in 2001 and is thought to be the longest continuous cave formation in the world. At the time of this writing over seventeen miles of passageways have been explored and more areas have yet to be surveyed. The cave is not open to the public at this time. The cave is also called Snowy River Cave because when the cave passageway was discovered it resembled a river of snow. Cave news and images of this cave are found on the site http://www.fscsp.org  A great video of the cave can be found at http://conservationlands.org/snowy-river-cave-nm-video

Spencer Theater. Jackie Spencer Morgan had a love of the arts and theater. She wanted to bring big name shows and performers to her town, Ruidoso. The best way to do this was to build a unique intimate performance theater. And she did just that. As an heir to the Wall Street Journal empire she financed the theater of her dreams.

The theater opened in 1997 and was named one of the seven finest theaters in the world. The 514 seat theater provides an intimate show experience. No seat is farther than 65 feet from the stage. The broadway size stage and staging area is 4,700 square feet which is very unique for a theater of its seating size. The Spenser stage can and does handle full sized Broadway productions with 48 fly lines capable of handling the sets for any touring show. 

The eight story sloping structure is in the shape of a inter-locking triangles with a protruding atrium. The artistic shape of the theater is portrayed as a glacier protruding from desert terrain. The outside of the theater is covered with 140 tons of Spanish mica-flecked limestone. The exterior limestone structure glistens as a glacier would because of the light reflecting property of mica. The theater is a one of a kind art structure in itself. 

The interior, with its huge open air atrium called the Crystal Lobby, contains custom made hand-blown glass sculptures. Dale Chihuly, a world renowned American glass sculptor, was commissioned to create these works of art. When entering the Crystal Lobby, your eyes will automatically be drawn to the Sunset Tower, a 14 foot tall red tree shaped glass sculpture containing 564 glass pieces. The photo of the Sunset Tower in the Crystal Lobby is taken during a typical New Mexico sunset.

Show, touring and other information is available on their site: http://www.spencertheater.com  A video tour is provided by KRWG https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEIsA__J_0I

Authors Note: We have and will continue to see productions at this theater. This intimate theater gives everyone a front row seat and the choice of productions is outstanding. We are patrons of the theater and highly recommend a visit to the theater.

Returning to Ruidoso on NM 37

Detour on Ski Apache Road to Winter Park, Monjeau Lookout and/or Ski Apache

Winter Park. If you have kids then Winter Park is the place to go for snow play. Sliding down a snow covered hill can be fun for the whole family. Visit their site for a list of activities. http://ruidosowinterpark.com  (Our grandchildren had a grand time tubing down the runs this winter.) 

Monjeau Lookout. The Monceau Peak Lookout was constructed between 1936-40 by the CCC, Civilian Conservation Corp. The tower is constructed from native stone. During the CCC days, construction of native stone meant young men would dig out, break, sort, carry, stack, and mortar the rocks together to make a structure. Trails and stairways to the lookout were also constructed of natural stone. The CCC was a work relief program for unmarried and unemployed men. In its years of operation from 1933 to 1942 a total of three million men participated in the program. Generally camps were established in close proximity to the project being built. Each worker would receive food, clothing, shelter and $30 a month ($25 of which had to be sent home to their families). 

The National Historic Lookout Register’s first listing in New Mexico was of the Monceau Lookout. This rock built forest fire lookout station is not open during the winter. 

Ski Apache. Robert O. Anderson, an oil man, rancher businessman and philanthropist, was the seventh richest man in the United States at one time. One of his oil companies discovered the Prudhoe Bay oil field on Alaska’s North Slope. Under his leadership his company and six others constructed the 800-mile four foot in diameter Trans-Alaska pipeline. Mr Anderson maintained a residence in Roswell for many years and was very acquainted with Ruidoso. In the 1960’s he owned ski resorts in New Mexico and Colorado. In 1961 he built the Sierra Blanca Ski Resort in Ruidoso. In its first year of operation the ski resort moved over 2,600 skiers on three T-bar lifts to become the Southern most ski slope in America. In 1963 the resort was sold to the Mescalero Apache Tribe. In 1984 the name was changed to Ski Apache.

Ski Apache has a peak elevation of 11,500 feet with a vertical drop of 1,900 feet. 55 trails are located on the 750 skiable acres. Ski Apache has the highest lift capacity of any ski resort in the state. 5,600 skiers and/or boarders can be lifted up the mountain per hour.

The ski slope also offers summer activities, summer hiking, zip line, and special events. Visit their site for more information.  http://www.skiapache.com


Bigger Circle - Trail #2

Lincoln to Capitan on US 380 - 10 miles away

Capitan. Capitan became a town when coal was discovered in a nearby area. The Capitan coal field encompassed an area of about 32 by 24 miles. The Capitan coal mines were the third largest coal producers in New Mexico during the early 1900s. Coal was the most common fuel source of the day and did more than just warm houses and businesses. Coal powered industry, trains, electric power plants, mining operations, saw mills, and more. The largest coal production years were between 1905-1906 with over 600,000 tons of coal extracted. All the coal mines were closed by the 1930s. The railroads had played a vital role in the growth in Capitan. 

As demand for Capitan’s coal and its production decreased so did the railroad service. The railroad service to Capitan was eventually stopped in 1940. Steel was needed to build equipment and weapons during World War II.  By 1942 all the rail tracks in and around Capitan were removed to supply the much needed steel.

Smokey Bear - Introduction. The origin of the name Smokey Bear is unique. On February 23, 1942, during World War II, a Japanese submarine attacked the mainland of the United States. The attack was on the Ellwood oil storage depot located on the coast of southern California near Santa Barbara. The targets were the big oil storage tanks located next to the ocean. A Japanese submarine surfaced and fired on the depot. The submarine had only one small cannon and missed every shot in its twenty minute attack! Some minor damage was done but no oil storage tank was hit. The Japanese attack on mainland of the United States caused a panic. Many feared more attacks. 

Many “What if” situations were openly discussed by military leaders and politicians in Washington. “What if” the Japanese used incendiary shells to cause fire in the forests along the western coast of the United States. “What if” these fires burned all the forests along the western coast. Acting on this “What if”, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Forest Service organized a forest fire prevention program. The program was designed to encourage civilian participation in forest fire prevention.   

Leaders in Washington believed a character was needed to convey the message of fire awareness and prevention. First, Walt Disney’s “Bambi” was used in fire prevention posters. In 1945 it was decided while Bambi was too cute and a more forceful image was needed for the forest fire awareness campaign. The decision was made to drop Bambi and use a drawing of a bear with his name on his ranger’s hat, Smokey. 

Capitan Gap Fire. In the spring of 1950 a fire called the Capitan Gap fire burned over 17,000 acres of the northern portion of the Lincoln National forest. Men from around the area began to fight the fire. As the fire continued to grow and spread because of high winds, more men were needed to fight the fire. Soldiers from neighboring bases joined to fight the raging forest fire. While fighting the blaze, 30 servicemen became trapped inside the forest fire. The strong wind had suddenly changed direction and caused the raging fire to change direction too. A new towering wall of flames blocked the servicemen’s escape route. The servicemen were able to hide under large rocks formed from an ancient rock slide before the inferno enveloped them. Within an hour the fire had literally passed over them. The servicemen had all survived with only a few burns, scorches, and some clothing with fresh burned markings. After leaving their protective rock hideaway the men surveyed the hot, still smoldering, empty gray and blackened area. The once vibrant green forest was gone.  

The only thing alive besides themselves was a very small black bear cub who had climbed up a tree to escape the fire. The tree had burned along with the bear cub. The men removed the burned bear cub from the tree and took it to the fire base camp. From there the black bear cub was flown to Santa Fe for extensive veterinary treatments. The miraculous surviving of the bear cub became news throughout New Mexico. The national wire services picked up the story and spread it around the nation.

The injured bear cub captured the imagination and concern of many Americans, especially the children. Smokey received bags and bags of letters and get well cards. Smokey’s health and recovery became a national news story and would soon become the face for the forest service fire prevention program.

In the 1950s, Smokey’s image could be found on lunch boxes, caps, pins, lunch trays, piggy (actually bear) banks, jewelry, cookie jars, dolls, brown forest service hats, posters, metal signs and so much more. A Smokey Bear fan club and collectible association exists today. Information about them and their conventions can be found at: http://smokeybearassociation.com/items-of-interest/collectibles/

Smokey would live out his days at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

Smokey Bear Historical Park. Note, the name is Smokey Bear not Smokey the Bear. It may sound trivial, and it is in a way, but many in people in Capitan want the name said correctly. The Smokey Bear Historical Park is a definite place to stop and visit. Smokey Bear memorabilia is displayed throughout the museum along with a small theater showing related films. Smokey Bear’s grave is also located at the historical park. The park is open on non holidays from 9 to 5 in the summer and 9 to 4 in the winter. Their phone number is 575-354-2298. The official lyrics for the Smokey Bear song along with other items can be found on the Park’s web site. http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/SFD/SmokeyBear/SmokeyBearPark.html

Smokey Bear days. Smokey Bear days are a celebration of Smokey’s birthday. The event is held on the first Friday and Saturday in May.  Visit their site for more info.  http://www.smokeybeardays.com

Smokey Bear Stampede. The nation’s largest open rodeo is held at Capitan during the 4th of July weekend.  http://www.smokeybearstampede.com

More events and happenings in and around Capitan can be found at http://www.villageofcapitan.com/cc-events.html 


Smokey Bear as a Cub with Judy Bell. USDA Forest Service

Ruidoso from Capitan on NM 48 - 20 miles away 

Little Bear Fire. Along Highway 48, evidences of a major fire appears everywhere. This fire began in June 4, 2012 and burned 44,300 acres along with 254 buildings. The fire became the most destructive wildfire in the state’s history. The fire took almost a month to extinguish. Here is a view of Ruidoso with the Little Bear Fire in the background.

Detour to Bonita Lake from hwy 37 to Bonito Lake Road. Bonita did not begin as a lake but a town called Bonito City. This mining town on a river in the mountain was mainly a cluster of log cabins and tents but it had a church and post office. A church and post office made the town official and not just a campground for miners on the move. The most notable event in the history of the community was the killing of an entire family by a gunman. After this violent episode and the lack of finding a major gold strike, people left the town and moved on to the next rumored gold field. 

In the 1900’s the Southern Pacific Railroad needed good water for their steam engine. Most of the available water in the basin was high in mineral content and unsuitable for use. The railroad bought up the water rights, damed Bonito Creek, and built a wooden pipeline to carry the water down hill. This pipeline extended over 130 miles. Bonito has an elevation of 7,500 feet and the basin below is 4,500 ft. Water falling over a half a mile down hill does not need any pumping system, gravity just does the work.  In the late 1920’s the water supply was not sufficient for the needs of the steam locomotives and the railroad petitioned the government to build a bigger dam. The town, Bonito City, with its few people, buildings and cemetery were moved. The dam was completed in 1931 and took two years to fill. The lake is about a mile long with a maximum depth of 70 feet.

In the 1950’s the railroads switched to diesel electric locomotives and no longer needed the cool clear high quality mountain water from the dam. With the down hill piping in place the city of Alamogordo bought the water supply. Most of the water from wells in the basin surrounding Alamogordo is not desirable for a municipal water system due its the high mineral content. The pure good tasting mountain water was piped 90 miles to the city below.

Ashes from a fire when mixed with water create an alkaline or caustic solution. Heavy rains came after the Little Bear fire, sending ash and silt into the lake. This filled about one third of the lake and made the water unusable. Many millions of dollars and years of work are needed to clean and return this lake back from ruin. The mountain lake can still be viewed but not used. At the time of this writing the lake is closed but funding was received to restore the lake.

Returning to NM 37 highway and returning to Ruidoso

Detour on Ski Apache Road to Winter Park, Monjeau Lookout and Ski Apache

Winter Park. If you have kids then Winter Park is the place to go for snow play. Sliding down a snow covered hill can be fun for the whole family. Visit their site for a list of activities. http://ruidosowinterpark.com 

Monjeau Lookout. The Monceau Peak Lookout was constructed between 1936-40 by the CCC, Civilian Conservation Corp. The tower is constructed from native stone. During the CCC days construction of native stone meant young men would dig out, break, sort, carry, stack, and mortar the rocks together to make a structure. Trails and stairways to the lookout were also constructed of natural stone. The CCC was a work relief program for unmarried and unemployed men. In its years of operation from 1933 to 1942 a total of three million men participated in the program. Generally camps were established in close proximity to the project being built. Each worker would receive food, clothing, shelter and $30 a month ($25 of which had to be sent home to their families). 

The National Historic Lookout Register’s first listing in New Mexico was of the Monceau Lookout. This rock built forest fire lookout station is not open during the winter. 

Ski Apache. Robert O. Anderson, an oil man, rancher businessman and philanthropist, was the seventh richest man in the United States at one time. One of his oil companies discovered the Prudhoe Bay oil field on Alaska’s North Slope. Under his leadership his company and six others constructed the 800-mile four foot in diameter Trans-Alaska pipeline. Mr Anderson maintained a residence in Roswell for many years and was very acquainted with Ruidoso. In the 1960’s he owned ski resorts in New Mexico and Colorado. In 1961 he built the Sierra Blanca Ski Resort in Ruidoso. In its first year of operation the ski resort moved over 2,600 skiers on three T-bar lifts to become the Southern most ski slope in America. In 1963 the resort was sold to the Mescalero Apache Tribe. In 1984 the name was changed to Ski Apache.

Ski Apache has a peak elevation of 11,500 feet with a vertical drop of 1,900 feet. 55 trails are located on the 750 skiable acres. Ski Apache has the highest lift capacity of any ski resort in the state. 5,600 skiers and/or boarders can be lifted up the mountain per hour.

The ski slope also offers summer activities, summer hiking, zip line, and special events. Visit their site for more information.  http://www.skiapache.com


Billy the Kid PDF  

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