Last Day in Silver City, New Mexico, then on to City of Rocks State Park

Whitewater Canyon Catwalk National Recreation Trail

A scenic drive to Whitewater Canyon Catwalk National Recreation seemed the perfect diversion on our last day in Silver City. An hour and a half on US 180 dropped us into a narrow canyon where Geronimo and his band of Apache warriors hid from Army soldiers in the 1800s. Butch Cassidy also found the canyon as a good hiding place from Pinkerton detectives and miners tried their luck digging for silver and gold. Today visitors come to the canyon to escape the heat, swim in the creek, and hike along the catwalk.

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Whitewater Canyon Catwalk National Recreation Trail Picnic Area

When John T. Graham constructed a mill at the mouth of the Whitewater Canyon in 1893 to serve the silver and gold mines further up the canyon, a town was born. Water in the creek did not always provide a constant supply for the mill and the town.

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Graham Mill Remnants

This need spurred the construction of a 4-inch water pipeline attached to the canyon walls above Whitewater Creek and stretching three miles into the canyon. Four years later an 18-inch pipeline was installed to provide more water, but required constant repair. The pipeline earned its name as the Catwalk due to repairmen, loaded down with tools, performing balancing acts atop the pipeline as they navigated their way to repair a breach.

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Start of Catwalk Trail

After the mill closed in 1913, the brick, wood, and metal used in constructing the buildings were removed and scrapped, and the residents left town, leaving only remnants of the mill’s foundation.

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Metal Walking Trail Attached to the Cliffs

The area returned to a natural state until 1930 when the Civilian Conservation Corps rebuilt the catwalk, which hikers used until 1961. At that time, the Forest Service constructed the steel walkways. Fires, floods, and landslides have caused damage through the years requiring extensive repairs.

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Look Below at Whitewater Creek

The structure currently runs a span of .5 miles where a bridge once stood allowing hikers to continue up the canyon. Always wanting to know what is beyond the next bend or over the next rise, we stood on one side of Whitewater Creek looking for a way across to the other side. It wasn’t happening without getting wet, so we gave it a pass.

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Not Quite the End of the Line if you Don’t Mind Wet Feet
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A Look Under the Metal Structure
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A Cleat From the Original Water Pipe

We admired the tall sycamores that lined the creek as we made our way back to the picnic area where we enjoyed our lunch in the shade. The creek gurgled a few feet away, squirrels scurried from bush to bush and climbed into the trees, and several types of birds called out to each other. Crowds can grow thick during the summer and on weekends, but we encountered little traffic while there. Rocks and leaves in Whitewater Creek produced a colorful scene to play with abstract photography.

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My Attempt at Abstract Photography

On our drive to and from Whitewater, we passed through another town with the same name as one in the Bay Area. Pleasanton, New Mexico, with a current population of around 100, was founded in 1882 by Mormons.

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Pleasanton, New Mexico

Anglers might want to take a cutoff to Bill Evans Dam where they can try their luck. The Dodge Corporation constructed the dam in 1969 to capture water for use in their mining operation near Tyrone, New Mexico.

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Bill Evans Dam Reservoir

Be sure to make a stop at the Aldo Leopold Vista. It is a great place to take in the wide open expanse of the Gila National Forest. Leopold is considered by some as the father of wildlife conservation in the United States and a proponent for the American wilderness movement of the early 1900s.

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Gila National Forest

City of Rocks

We had one last stop to make before leaving New Mexico and entering Arizona. The short 45-minute drive from Silver City to City of Rocks afforded us an opportunity to grab a spot for the night in the State Park.

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Jon with the City Of Rocks Sign
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City of Rock Visitor Center, Restrooms, and Showers

Obviously, all of the full hookup sites were either occupied or reserved, but we managed to find a space for our rig nestled among the boulders.

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Campsite at City of Rocks

Volcanic eruption and erosion during the past 34.9 million years sculpted the rock columns that reach a height of 40 feet and the paths and lanes that resemble city streets. The unique formations of the “city” reminded me of the Jumbo Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park.

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View from Hydra Trail

The park contains a total of 7.5 miles of hiking and biking trails. Besides camping and hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, birding, and of course photography opportunities make this park a great place to spend a day or a few nights. Campers will find 64 campsites to choose from, some are reserve only while others are first to come gets to camp. Restrooms and showers are available at the visitor center for campers. Vault toilets are also located throughout the campground.

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Parking Area Near Visitor Center

The botanical garden includes information signs with the names of the different cactus plants. We took the Hydra Trail nearby then cut off on the vault 3 spur trail back to our campground.

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Nice Barrel Cactus Specimen

Like naming clouds in the sky we entertained ourselves by making up names for the rock formations as we scrambled over and through the boulders on the Planet Walk Trail.

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Bear Rock Formation
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Heart Rock
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Split Rock
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Balance Rock

We had seen signs for an observatory that is located in the group camping area. Unfortunately, they weren’t offering any night time sky programs during our stay.

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Gene and Elizabeth Simon Observatory at City of Rocks

I tried making some nighttime photos. Obviously, I didn’t get the settings right because none of the photos turned out. The next morning, though, dawned with a beautiful sunrise.

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Sunrise at City of Rocks

With my shoes on my feet, a jacket over my pajamas, beanie on my head, and camera in hand I was ready to greet the light.

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City of Rocks Visitor Center and Windmill at Sunrise
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City of Rocks on Planet Walk Trail

After a quick breakfast, we stretched our legs on the Hydra trail on the east side of the campground looping around Pegasus campground before hopping in the truck for our four-hour drive to Tucson, Arizona.

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Site 16 Spur Trail
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Hardpack under the Creekbed Gravel was Like Concrete
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On one of the Streets through the City
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Close Up of the Beautiful Colors in the Rock

It is always nice when a bird is kind enough to pose for a wildlife photo.

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One Little Birdy Sitting in a Tree

Even though the campground filled up for the night, it didn’t feel crowded or noisy. We’ll consider stopping at City of Rocks State Park the next time we are driving through New Mexico on Interstate 10. The half-hour drive north of Deming will be worth it to spend time among the boulders and away from the freeway noise.

We’ll be taking a digital holiday for a week or so, but we plan to be back with our next post on June 21, 2018.

Safe Travels

 

Silver City, New Mexico

We left the Texas Hill Country on March 14, 2018, the 45th day of our 2018 Winter Tour, headed west toward Silver City, New Mexico. With no reservations, our mantra for the day turned into, “Where oh where will we stop?”

Crossing West Texas

Windmills and oil derricks dotted the miles and miles of groomed cotton fields along Interstate 20. In the larger towns, like Midland and Odessa, energy-related businesses lined the highway with “Now Hiring” banners hung from their walls. Many of the roadside billboards also advertised for energy jobs, claiming their company was the best place for employees. Pickup trucks filled the parking lots we passed, not a Tesla, BMW, or Volkswagen in sight. We had never seen pop-up RV parks. Tucked in behind or beside commercial buildings trailers, fifth wheels, and motorhomes filled the spaces behind temporary fencing and lighting towers. Need a job? Head for West Texas and join the modern-day gold rush with your pickup truck and RV.

We continued on to Pecos, Texas, finding a spot at Tra-Park RV. Then we had another one-night stay at the Las Cruces KOA before arriving at the Silver City KOA in New Mexico for four nights. Visiting the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument was our goal during our stay.

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Silver City Gateway Bridge Crosses The Big Ditch

Silver City, New Mexico

First, a little bit about Silver City that occupies land once used as an Apache campsite. Spaniards also mined copper nearby and archeological evidence indicates the Membres Mogollon Indians lived in the area between 200 and 1140-50 AD.

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Near the Visitor Center is a 1870s Style Log Cabin Gifted to the City by Director Ron Howard. A Set Piece from the Movie “The Missing,” the Cabin is Placed at the Location Where Billy the Kid (AKA Henry McCarty and William H. Bonney) Lived from 1873 – 1875.

Founded in 1870 after prospectors discovered silver ore deposits at Chloride Flat, the city is now home to Western New Mexico University and two mining operations that generate approximately $73 million in wages.

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Downtown Silver City

One of the main features of the town is the Big Ditch. After twenty-five years of population growth, the loss of trees to construction and plant life to cattle grazing caused rainfall to rush through the downtown area destroying most of the businesses in its path during a major flood on July 21, 1895.

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Impressive Greek Inspired Architecture for the Town Offices

The solution was a ditch 55-feet lower than the original main street. Residents and visitors can enjoy the tree-lined walking paths at Big Ditch Park.

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Sidewalk Art
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A Space Studio Art Gallery

Silver City boasts a vibrant arts district in the downtown area with musicians and artists, newly renovated Silco Theater, and the Southwest Festival of the Written Word.

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Silco Theater Built in 1912. Renovated and re-opened on February 26, 2016, as Community Movie House
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Copper Quail Gallery Dressed in a Southwest Adobe Style

As usual, the historic buildings had me raising my camera to capture the colorful buildings, detail architecture, and murals.

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The Murray Hotel Chooses an Art Deco Theme
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Murray Hotel Lobby
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The Conway House
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Diane’s Restaurant, Parlor, Bakery, and Deli
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Intricate Detailed Painting
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One of the Murals in Town
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A Building in Need of Tender Care
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Grant County Courthouse

We enjoyed wandering around the town of Silver City and wouldn’t mind visiting there again. The March weather was comfortable, the people friendly, and best of all it wasn’t very crowded. Although I’m sure at times during the year visitors flock to the area.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is only 45 miles from Silver City, but it took us 2 hours. New Mexico Highway 15 (NM-15) twists and turns to the right and then to the left with hairpins that prevent driving more than 30 or 40 mph in many places. A long stretch of the road was narrow with no centerline and many blind curves making the way even slower. Be prepared for oncoming traffic. Some drivers cutting corners on those blind curves almost caused an accident. The road travels from desert to mountain pines increasing and decreasing in elevation until arriving at about 5,700 to 6,000 feet, the same elevation as where it began.

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View Across Gila National Forest

At the end of the road are a small visitor center, restrooms, and docents and rangers on hand to answer questions and direct visitors to the 1-mile loop trail to the dwellings. The well-maintained rustic trail skirted the Gila River and made me feel like I was walking in the footsteps of the people who built and lived in the dwellings.

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Visitor Center and Parking Lot with Bridge to the Trail

At the first view of the dwellings, I wondered what it was like seeing home after a long day working in the fields. Images of pottery filled with water, grain, berries, and other foodstuffs and baskets holding blankets and clothing popped up. Also, fresh baked bread or tortillas and the aroma of vegetables and meat stewing over smoldering coals. I could almost see two little boys running up and down the path in a game of chase.

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Approaching the Gila Cliff Dwellings
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Cave One Depicts Storage Areas, Hearth, Ash Pit, and Cooking Support

Through dendrochronology, (the study of tree ring growth patterns) archeologists dated the timbers used as headers in construction to the 1280s AD.

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About 80% of the Structure is Original. Others are Recreations.

I felt honored to have the opportunity to climb up and roam around the dwellings where the Mogollon Indians lived so many millenniums ago. The docents inside explained the different rooms and the prevailing or differing opinions of how they were used, creating an impression of life in the village.

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Evidence in Subterranean Rooms Suggest Their Use as Either Residences or Kivas
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View From Inside a Cave
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On to Another Cave
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The person in the middle of the photo gives a perspective of the cave’s size
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A Climb Down the Ladder is Included in Tour

On our way back to Silver City, we took NM-35, then US-180 back to our RV site. This made our excursion a loop around the Gila National Forest allowing us to see more of the terrain. This route adds 23 miles to the odometer, but the road is less windy and wider with a centerline the whole way. Perfect conditions that reduce the risk of a motion sickness flare up.

I’m so glad we were able to finally make it to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Now we are planning a trip to Colorado during the summer to see the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park.

Safe Travels

 

Fort Stockton TX and Deming NM

Rocking, rolling, and bouncing in the truck while pulling a trailer along freeways, highways, bi-ways, and farm to market roads for 3,000+ miles takes a toll on the equipment. On Monday, February 20, rain pelted the truck and trailer a few miles outside of Fredericksburg, and then the trailer’s running lights failed to glow under cloudy skies. Great, something to fix.

On our way, we made reservations rather than end up driving around after sundown looking for a place to stay. Four rigs pulled into the entrance of Fort Stockton RV Park ahead of us, and we figured we were in for a long wait. Good thing we had called ahead because a man in a golf cart pulled us out of line, showed us to our spot, and said to check-in later when the office was not so busy.

The rain decreased to sprinkles allowing us to set up without getting too wet. We arrived with plenty of time before dinner, so I checked out the laundry room. A sour mildew odor smacked me in the face as soon as I opened the door. I didn’t bother to enter, just shut the door and walked away. Not doing my laundry in there.

We drove into town for a good dinner at Alfredo’s Mexican Restaurant, stopped at AutoZone to pick up a replacement fuse for the running lights, and with a little daylight left before sunset, we checked out Historic Fort Stockton, which had already closed for the day.

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Historic Fort Stockton

The complex includes original and reconstructed buildings that depict officer and enlisted men’s living quarters, guardhouse, kitchen, and parade grounds. Established as Camp Stockton in 1858, then abandoned in 1861 during the civil war, Colonel Edward Hatch, Commander of the 9th Cavalry, reestablished the fort in 1867 with buildings completed in 1868.

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Fort Stockton Officer Quarters
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Fort Stockton Kitchen
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Fort Stockton Barracks

Living History Day is held the third weekend in October at the Fort where life in the 1800s at Fort Stockton is reenacted with cannon drills, Native Americans and teepees, Texas Camel Corps, baseball, and a chuck wagon.

Maybe it was the gloomy weather or the temporary women’s restroom, but most likely it was the stinky laundry room. In any case, one night in Fort Stockton was enough for us. The one welcome surprise was the onsite café that served up a reasonably priced and delicious breakfast. It’s always nice to start a day of driving with a hearty meal of pancakes, eggs, sausage, and a cup or two of hot coffee. The bonus of not having to cook it or clean up the mess afterward was a treat.

A couple we met a few weeks back recommended the Little Vineyard RV Park in Deming NM. Since we missed seeing the Enchanted Rock when in Fredericksburg, I thought the City of Rocks State Park might make up for my disappointment. On to Deming.

We arrived at Little Vineyard with plenty of time to throw in a couple loads of wash. When I walked into the laundry room, I was pleased to see a woman cleaning the washers and sweeping the floor. No stinky smells here, only the freshness of cleaning products wafted in the air.

We’re not sure how Little Vineyard got its name because there was no sign of grape vines near the place. There are two wineries in or near town though, Luna Rosa Winery and St. Clair Winery. Unfortunately, we had no time to visit and partake in a tasting.

I already had seen a doctor after the little dog bit me in San Antonio. Now I needed a dentist. A portion of a filling fell out of a molar while eating risotto for dinner and more came out after breakfast. I didn’t really want to have an unknown dentist jam his fingers and tools in my mouth, but I was more afraid of my tooth breaking. Fortunately, Dr. Trevor Williams of Deming Dental Services fit me in at 2:00 pm to confirm my suspicion, and again at 4:00 pm to do the repair. Darn, no City of Rocks for me.

In between my dentist appointments, we managed to visit the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum, housed in the old National Guard Armory, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a State Historic Site. For a city with a population 14,000 to 15,000 and a county population of only 25,000, volunteers have managed to curate an impressive array of historical artifacts for their museum over the past forty years.

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Deming Luna Membres Museum Housed in the Old Deming Armory Building

Farm and military equipment are displayed outside the museum, as well as a memorial to the men who served in the 200th/515th Coast Artillery Anti-Aircraft Regiments during World War II in the Philippines. The monument lists every New Mexico soldier who was a prisoner of war during the Bataan Death March. Of the 1,900 that went to the Philippines, only 900 returned home.

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M42 40 mm Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Duster

Inside, rooms and display cases group the artifacts into themes or categories. These include a doll room; military room; art gallery; transportation annex; collections of nutcrackers, bells, and beer steins; Native American crafts; a Mimbres Indians pottery room; and more. The main street display was my favorite because it was like walking downtown and passing stores or service establishments. Such businesses included a barber and beauty shop; grocery, hardware and clothing stores; a café; and a funeral parlor. After seeing the implements of torture in the mocked up dental office, I was glad dental technology had improved considerably during the past century or so.

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J.A. Mahoney Hardware Store Depiction

The old jail caught my eye. It was in use at the Luna County jailhouse from 1918 to 1975.

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Old Luna County Jail
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Old Luna County Jail Lock and Keys

The Diamond A chuck wagon, built in Deming around 1900, had its own fenced-off section.

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Diamond A Chuck Wagon

I also liked looking at all the old transportation vehicles.

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American Lafrance Fire Truck
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Old Cars and Trucks Displayed in Transportation Hall
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Penny-Farthing, or High Wheeler
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Soap Box Cars

The replica of the silver spike used to join the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railroad and the Southern Pacific Railroad was used during the March 7, 1981, Deming centennial celebration. Founded in 1881 by railroad employees, Deming received its name from Charles Crocker, President of Southern Pacific. Crocker’s wife’s maiden name was Deming.

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Silver Spike Replica

The Harvey House, designed in the architectural style of Midwestern towns rather than Indian or Mexican styles, operated from the 1880s to 1930s.

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Harvey House Depiction

We made the Luna County Courthouse our final stop for the day. Constructed in the architectural style of the Midwest, it is located 10 blocks south of the downtown business district. Originally built in 1910 and 1911, an extension was added in 1963, and major renovations occurred in 2007.

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Luna County Courthouse in Deming NM

That’s it for Fort Stockton and Deming, except someday I’ll return to see the City of Rocks. Next stop Tucson AZ.

Safe Travels

Las Cruces and Mesilla NM, and Alpine and Marfa TX

We hopped on Interstate 10 toward Las Cruces NM on Monday, January 23, 2017. With strong winds forecasted for the night and into the next day, we checked in at the KOA for two nights until we could safely travel. Braving the cold wind the next day, we ventured out to see Fort Selden Monument only to find a “Closed on Monday and Tuesday” sign on the gate. That will teach me to look up places online to check hours of operation.

Ace navigator here, I plotted a route to Peppers New Mexican Cafe & Bar on the Mesilla Plaza for lunch. Somehow the roads did not match the little map I held in my hand so we wound up driving in circles, in and out of historic neighborhoods, up one street, and down another before finally arriving at the plaza. The host at Peppers sat us in the colorful courtyard near the water fountain, giant palms, and ferns.

There are rumors the building is haunted and looking around the place it is easy to see why with the gold framed historic photos, mirrors, low lighting, lace, and red velvet curtains.

After our meal at Peppers, I wanted to walk around Mesilla Plaza to take more pictures, but one shot of the Basilica of San Albino and we ran for the truck to get out of the cold wind. Boy, we sure are a couple of wusses.

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The next morning, Wednesday, January 25,  we left for Alpine anxious to stay at the Lost Alaskan RV Park. We had wanted to stay there last year, but they were all booked up for the Cowboy Poetry event. On our way to Alpine, we stopped at the Prada store that stands alongside US 90 about 1.5 miles for the town of Valentine.

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Prada Marfa Art Installation

Why is a Prada store sitting out there in what seems like the middle of nowhere? It’s not a working store but a sculpture built in 2005 by artists Elmgreen and Dragset. The Department of Transportation designated the installation as a museum in 2014 after a Texas artist vandalized the building. I’m glad it stands as a curiosity on the highway. it would be a shame if it were destroyed or allowed to decay.

Last year I saw love locks attached to a fence behind the building and I was curious to see if they were still there. There weren’t as many as those seen in Lovelock NV behind the courthouse, but it looked like there were more than last year.

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Love Locks Behind Prada Store

A few miles down the road, we saw a white blob off in the distance. What was that big Snoopy looking balloon? Was it tethered to the ground? The wind was pretty fierce so it couldn’t fly. Finding a spot to park on the side of the road while pulling a thirty-foot trailer isn’t an easy task but eventually, we found a spot so I could zoom in to get a closer shot with my camera.

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Tethered Aerostat Radar System

It turns out the object was a tethered aerostat radar system. Having passed through a number of federal agencies over the years, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection assumed responsibility for its funding in 2014. The balloon provides low-level radar surveillance along the southwest border between Mexico and the United States.

The lady who checked us in at The Lost Alaskan RV park warned us about freezing temperatures overnight. We followed the instructions she gave us, but our water hose still froze along with our filter. Lesson learned: Make sure to remove all water from the filter and hose during an overnight freeze. Turning the water off is not sufficient. Duh!

Our son-in-law raved about Marfa TX and encouraged us to stop there. We couldn’t see what was so special when we drove through on our way to Alpine so we decided to give it a closer look the next day. On our way there, we stopped at the Marfa Lights Viewing area. Apparently, people have seen the lights since the 1880s and for years UFOs, ghosts, and other unexplained phenomena were thought to be the cause. Recent scientific research debunked those ideas and attributed the lights to atmospheric reflections of car headlights and campfires. The family of the first man to write about the lights during the 1880s donated the funds to build the viewing area. Around the property are brick kiosks with plaques that tell of the history of Marfa and the surrounding region, making this site an interesting educational stop during the day.

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Marfa Lights Viewing Area

Like most states, Texas offers plenty of plaques along the roadsides, which provide information on historical events that have occurred at that spot or nearby. We stopped at one that described the Paisano Pass, which emigrants used on their way to California. What we couldn’t figure out was why someone had cemented into the ground a ladder over the barbed wire fence. There was no evidence a trail existed there, but perhaps we didn’t look good enough. I wasn’t about to climb over and scout around.

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Ladder Near Paisano Pass Informational Plaque

Once we hit Marfa city limits, Jon slowed the truck and I scouted down each street until we found the one leading to the Presidio County Court House. Churches, hotels, motels, and businesses, including an NPR station, housed in historic buildings, also lined the roads. Art galleries and studios are scattered around Marfa and the town is home to a four-day Marfa Myths Music, Film and Art Fest held in March. I love that counties have preserved the historical character of their courthouses.

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Presidio County Courthouse

A sampling of churches clustered near the courthouse in Marfa TX.

The Hotel Paisano, built in 1930, was used by Warner Brothers during the filming of the movie Giant starring James Dean. The hotel includes a large gift shop where tourists won’t have trouble finding the perfect gift for friends and family.

A few of the buildings in Marfa TX.

We stopped in at Capri for a lunch of the best butternut squash soup we’ve ever tasted served with housemade hearty slices of bread. The restaurant offers many seating options, choose inside in the bar, in the garden, or on the patio.

Our short visit showed us why our son-in-law promotes Marfa with excitement. It is definitely a unique little town with a lot to offer the visitor. Fortunately, another trip is needed to take in the Chinati Foundation and the art galleries. More items to add to our must see list.

Back in Alpine, we walked down West Holland Ave. The Kiowa Gallery has a wide range of photos, paintings, jewelry, clothing, and other art objects for sale.

Looks like the occupants of this Tiny House have everything they need to live off the grid. The vehicle sported Alaska license plates. Were they visiting the Lost Alaskan?

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Tiny House

We could have stayed several more days but rainy weather was forecast so back on the road. Next stop, San Antonio after a night in Del Rio.

Safe Travels.