Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Chloride, a Ghost Town in New Mexico

I love ghost towns, old dilapidated buildings and rusty stuff left behind from other lives, signs hanging from buildings that creak in a breeze.  Spooky stuff - perfect for Halloween week. The drive out to this town was pretty, lots of rolling green hills and curvy roads, so it took longer than it would have if it was a straight road, but well worth it for the views.

In the late 1800s someone found evidence of lots of silver in the area and word got out quickly. The area was flooded with miners who lived in a tent city until the town was built. The town had multiple saloons, stores, a hotel and boarding houses, laundry and other services were available. There was even a red light district - but no church.


After about 20 years of mining, the town started declining and the community became a quiet little village. The general store finally closed in 1923, but has been revived as a museum by a couple who purchased it in 1989. After years of cleaning and arranging all the contents that had been stored inside for over 60 years, they have made it into what the general store would have looked like if you had walked in during the early 1920s. There is an amazing array of store equipment as well as tools, mining equipment and parts, clothing, kitchen equipment, and items that had been bartered for goods.


On the way out of town, I saw a fixer-upper house that was for sale.

The house I really liked didn't have a for sale sign on it.


Of course, there's the old "hanging tree" in the middle of the street, which is labeled as the "Chloride National Forest".




After enjoying the quietness of this sparsely populated town, I headed home.  I'll be finding more ghost towns in Arizona.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico

Elephant Butte Lake State Park was named for the rock formation shown above. You're going to have to sharpen your imagination to actually see an elephant in that rock, as far as I'm concerned. The left side of the photo should be the face of the elephant, in profile, with the trunk curled to the side. If you look closely, you might imagine an eye, and behind that, an ear, which is where the shadow is. I'm not sure what people were eating/drinking when they named this, but it's really vague as far as I'm concerned. I have seen other rock formations that were named appropriately, since it actually looked like something.
Anyway, this is New Mexico's largest State Park, and it stretches forever, with multiple areas. I'm in a large campground area (the one that has wifi!), and about 20 minutes away, there's another large campground area. There are multiple marinas on the lake, with all sorts of boats - houseboats in the marina as well as anchored out, sailboats and all sorts of power boats. The lake is quite large, even though the water level is low, and has about 200 miles of shoreline. There is a small, older section of the park quite far from most of the others, where they had a store, restaurant, little cottages and RV spaces. This area seemed to be pretty well closed up, which is too bad, since the little cottages looked cute.

Since I've been here, there have been totally cloudless blue-sky days. Today is the only day where there have been little puffy white clouds in the sky. Each evening, the sun as set opposite the lake, giving the lake and mountains in the background a beautiful golden color that turns to a lavender tint.
I have been able to get a photo of my favorite bird - the road runner. I haven't seen many of them, even though they are the state bird. They pretty much run everywhere instead of flying, but the one in the photo below was hanging out on the roof of one of the buildings.

I also saw another bird running around in groups, instead of flying, which was very distinctive because they had a little tuft of feathers on the top of their heads. I found out they're a type of quail.

I've heard coyotes at night, but have not seen them, but I have seen rabbits. Still no rattlers, although my neighbor said she saw one on the road when she was coming in. I guess I must be lucky missing all these snakes!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Yes, there really is a town called Truth or Consequences in New Mexico. It used to be called Hot Springs, but the radio show Truth or Consequences announced in 1950 that they wanted to find a town that would change its name and have the show broadcast there. It would provide free advertising for the town and promote tourism. The name change was put out for a vote and the citizens and was voted in overwhelmingly. Since then, there has been a festival on the anniversary date of the name change.

Before this name change made the town famous, it was well known for the hot mineral springs that are just below the surface of the town. Native Americans gathered in this area for years to utilize these springs. It became very popular in the 1930's when people started opening up little motels with hot mineral baths. The temperature of this water varied from 98 to over 110 degrees, and included 38 different minerals. They have been billed as healing and rejuvenating. Some of these same motels have been refurbished, repainted in bright contrasting colors and are still in business today. People still come into town to enjoy the hot mineral baths. They are inspected and regulated by the State.

Since I was here, and 2 friends from Albuquerque came into town to spend a few days, we decided to experience a few of the mineral baths. The first one we went to was on the roof of a small hotel, under the stars, but with a walled-in enclosure. It was a jacuzzi which had been filled with the hot mineral water, and it was hot. We stayed in for about 45 minutes, sitting on the edge when we got overheated and then submerging again. By the time we got out, we were feeling like overcooked noodles. It was SO relaxing!

The next day we went to a different one that was in a closed in room with a mural of New Mexico scenery on 3 wall. The pool was large and made of stone, with stone benches on two sides with jacuzzi jets, probably about 8' x 8' overall. They provided a pitcher of ice water and towels for us and we spent well over an hour in there. We've been told that this complex was owned by Ted Turner. It was a very nice experience. The next experience was also nice, but the jacuzzi was smaller, although there was also a sauna in the room and a regular shower. Only one of us went into the sauna.  These photos aren't necessarily the ones we used, but the signs are more interesting than the ones we used.

Downtown was interesting, had some interesting buildings and nice shops, but after a couple days, we learned that the shop owners open when/if they want, or not at all. They might be on island time.   There was a very relaxed atmosphere and we had breakfast in one restaurant that had license plates covering the walls that were from most of the states and including some foreign ones and antiques. The food was good with large portions.  The Post Office is in a nice old building but is only open from 9 AM to noon on weekdays.

For some reason, New Mexico seems to like to decorate their water towers, and this is the one in Truth or Consequences.  I enjoyed T or C (as the locals call it) and I was glad to have the opportunity to experience the mineral baths.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Lake Valley Ghost Town, New Mexico

My state map shows ghost town with a little icon in the shape of a building.  I set off one day to visit three of them that were grouped in a general area.  One of them was reviewed as the best of New Mexico in a southwestern publication.  All three were described as mining towns. 
As I approached the first one, Hillsboro, it didn’t look like a mining town from the 1800s.  There were some abandoned buildings, but didn’t look old enough.  Other buildings and homes were occupied.  I stopped when I saw a building on a hill constructed of stone.  I took a few photos and then I heard someone tell me I could come up and take more photos. 
The building had been an old power station for the town, but he had purchased it and made a unique home.  We talked about the town and he told me that after it had been declared a ghost town, people started moving in.  
I was in search of a real ghost town, buildings from the 1800s and totally deserted.  I decided to go on to the town that was described as the best ghost town in New Mexico – Lake Valley.  It was just a few miles further down the road and it was a very scenic drive, a very pretty day. 
Lake Valley did turn out to be a ghost town, with no current residents except for the caretakers, a couple who lived in their RV in back of the schoolhouse.  They had been there for over three years, taking care of the place and telling visitors about the town’s history.  There had been a lucrative silver mine here, complete with a railroad.  Unfortunately, there was a massive fire in 1895 and most of the town burned.  During the first half of the 20th century, there was manganese ore mined in the area.  The last of the residents left in 1994, he had lived there 90 years.
This was definitely a ghost town – a few of the buildings were still standing and in good condition because they had been maintained.  Another few were either caved in or on the way to caving in.  The ones that looked like they would cave in next had signs posted that they were private property – Keep Out!  When I questioned the caretaker about them, she said that the state could not find paperwork on them to find out who actually owns them.  It seems that the families believe they are still owned by the respective families, but the State could not find any paperwork to back up their claims.  Therefore, the State will not improve the properties, since they may not belong to the State.  Unfortunately, since no one is maintaining them, they will fall in one day and some of the history will be lost. 
Back in some bushes are the remains of a 1935 Plymouth.  The wheels are gone, as are the windows and the body is just sitting on the desert floor.  The engine was somehow taken out of the car and is sitting on the dirt right next to the car.  The caretaker said that no one knew who it belonged to or how it got there, but it just appeared one day.
The schoolhouse is a huge building that has been maintained well.  There’s a museum on one end a in an area where they had community meetings, and the schoolhouse is on the other end.  The schoolhouse still has an old piano and piano stool, as well as all the desks.  An old wood stove sat at each end of the building.
            This was what I expected when I wanted to see a ghost town.  I’m looking forward to seeing more here and in Arizona.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Oliver Lee State Park, New Mexico

This park has a unique rock formation as shown in the above photo.  There is one trail up and you can go as far as you like, or as far as your legs will hold out – as long as you save enough energy to get down the trail, which is very steep in most parts.  There are parts that are very much like a steep staircase, but to balance that out, there are a couple areas that are nice flat meadows with wildflowers.  As a matter of fact, there are probably a dozen different wildflowers along that trail.  That’s in addition to lots of cactus and other plants with spikey branches reaching out to grab your legs as you go by.  And of course, there are rattlers and tarantulas.  I have still not seen a rattlesnake (whew!), but I did come across a furry tarantula on the trail – only about a foot away from my foot.  As far as I know, he could have been napping because he didn’t move – but I sure did.


 After two hours of hiking, mostly uphill on the steep rocky trail, I looked over the valley through the canyon walls.  This was about the three mile mark and it was as far as I had planned to go.  I was contemplating the view before I started back down the trail.  The flat valley below spread far into the distance, to a mountain range, which was just a dark shadow on the horizon.
I saw tiny little cars down in the valley below, traveling on little roads that looked like ribbons on the land.  I started wondering what I’ll find around the next bend, and what adventures I’ll find at my next stop.  That’s what entices people with the “gypsy spirit”, the wanderlust that keeps them wanting to explore.  That spirit is alive and well in my 5th wheel.

And I’ve been seeing great sunsets.



Monday, October 13, 2014

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

White Sands National Monument is an area of about 275 square miles of gypsum sand dunes, the largest area of its type in the world.  There are dunes with vegetation and vast areas of dunes where there is very little life, either vegetation or animal.  Any animals in this area have evolved throughout the years to white coloration to blend with the sand – such as lizards. 
I started a hike across the dunes, the “trail” was marked by 4’ stakes that were driven into the dunes spaced so that you could see the next one, thereby assuring that you shouldn’t get lost as long as you were paying attention and didn’t wander too far.  The sand is very bright, not exactly white, but very close.  In the bright sun, there were grains that were very shiny and reflective.  Luckily, I had remembered to put sunscreen on my face, or the reflection would have burned me. 
The trail was over a sand dune, down the other side and up the side of the next one, then repeat.  In some places, the sand was soft and very deep – just like a beach with lots of loose sand.  In other places it was more hard packed, easier to walk in.  There were areas with ripple patterns made by the wind blowing over the sand.  When it blows over the roads, they have to plow it and there are piles on the sides of the road, looking suspiciously like snow.
I was probably about a half mile into the trail, having just trudged up the side of one dune, standing there on top, looking at unlimited dunes in front of me, with the mountain range in the far distance.  It was very dramatic, something I had not seen before and something I may never see again.  There were miles of dunes in all directions, nothing else in sight except for those mountains way off.  As I looked at the next trail marker, on the top of the next dune, with a valley between the two dunes, I decided I had gone far enough.  It was very hard walking through the soft sand and I had not started early enough in the morning.  It turned out to be a good decision because I found out the trail was 5 miles long, not the two miles I had thought.  And by the time I got back to the beginning, it was lunchtime. 
There were lots of families there and the kids had plastic saucer type toys to slide down the steeper dunes, other people were using flat cardboard to slide down.  As I was leaving the hiking trail, two people started on the trail with those saucer type sliders – I told them it was a great idea, they can hike up one side and then slide down the other side.  Meanwhile, it could be used as a sun shade!  It sure looked like it would have made the hike more fun.
The area is definitely unique and totally different from the rest of the surrounding area, which is part of the Chihuahuan Desert that is mostly in Mexico, but extends to parts of southern New Mexico. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

Chaco Canyon is located a long way from anywhere.  The route we took included 21 miles of dirt/rock road that had a serious washboard texture, as well as ruts in some areas.  I was so glad I was not driving my truck.  A friend was driving us in her Range Rover, which has a great suspension.  It was so nice to sit in the back seat and just sightsee instead of doing the driving.  There were four of us going, a girls’ day trip, and only one of us had been there before.


 Chaco includes a massive area of Anasazi Indian ruins that were abandoned before the 12th century.  It is thought that the community included about 5,000 people.  They built “great houses” near the sheer rock walls of a canyon.  The houses were built so close to the rock walls, that some of the roof beams were imbedded in the canyon walls for support. 


The largest great house was called Pueblo Bonito and contained over 600 rooms and 33 Kivas.  A Kiva is a round room that was built underground for religious ceremonies.   They were lined with rock walls and benches around the perimeter, with rock-lined areas for fires.   


 This area has survived quite well after all these centuries, a testament to the solid construction of this extensive area.  The walls were as much as 2 feet thick in some areas, built from rocks quarried from the canyon walls. 

There is a campground on the site, but without hookups.  I have heard that the road coming from the north is in much better condition, with very little of it being dirt/rock.  To see everything and do some of the longer hikes would require staying for a couple days.  As it was, we were able to see most of the major areas and we had done as much as we could in one day.  It was a long drive home and we were tired, so we stopped at a local restaurant for some Mexican food.  You can always tell a good restaurant if the locals are eating there.  We all agreed that it had been a fabulous day, the weather couldn’t have been better and we all enjoyed the trip.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Red Rock Park Hiking, New Mexico

There are some long hikes at Red Rock Park, I spent two mornings on the most popular ones.  The first is shown above, called Church Rock.  I thought that was quite impressive, until the next day.  The next day I hiked up to Pyramid Rock.  I thought it would be just a hike to the base of the pyramid, similar to Church Rock.
 After about an hour of uphill hiking, I began to realize that the trail went further than I figured.  It seemed to go around the rock structure, and got steeper.  If there’s a trail, I typically go to the end, especially if there’s going to be a great view. 
Along the way, I found many rock formations such as the one shown below.  The base is red rock and the boulder perched on top is a totally different type of stone.  There were quite a few of them.
When I finally made it to the top, there was an area surrounded by boulders, many of them squared off.  The view from the top was spectacular.  I could see Church Rock off in the distance and was actually looking down at it.  I was on top of the highest structure for miles. 
After a while of taking photos and gazing at the wonderful scenery, I decided it was time to start my trip down.  I walked gingerly toward the edge where the trail started.  Keep in mind that I really don’t like heights and I get nervous when I’m within 12 feet of the edge.  It makes me nervous to see other people standing by the edges of cliffs.
 I made it down to an area in which I felt more comfortable.  For some reason, there were cairns, used as trail markers.  I hadn’t noticed them on the way up and wondered how I had missed them.  After about 10 minutes, I realized that somehow I had gotten on a different trail.  Apparently, when trails split, they aren’t marked except by cairns and unless you remember every turn, you can get lost.  I backtracked (going uphill again!) and found a familiar rock formation, and I knew I should be on the other side on the opposite ridge.  Instead of backtracking all the way, I decided to follow what looked like a trail down one ridge and up the other side.   Obviously, I wasn’t the only one who missed the turn.  Going down from the first ridge was easy (gravity helps).  Going up the other ridge was, of course, much steeper and longer.  Success!  I recognized the area and the trail on which I had hiked up.
I found the little guy in the photo above right in the middle of the trail and he was kind enough to sit and pose for me, obviously unfraid. 
The rest of the hike was easy downhill walking.  After 3 hours of hiking in the hills, I finally got to my truck to head home for lunch.