Friday, May 27, 2016

New Mexico May 2016 Westward Ho! 10 Lincoln NM and Ft Stanton

Once we left Roswell we were once again on long straight flat roads but we'd eventually climb from 3200 ft/975 m to 5700 ft./1.079 km. by the time we reached Lincoln, NM.

We had really no set plans except I'd read 3 things that appealed to us:  Lincoln NM is considered by many to be the best preserved 19th century western town, they had an interesting history AND there is an especially good coffee shop in town.  ALL of them proved to be true. The area around Lincoln had, of course, been inhabited for centuries by native people, in this case, Mescalero Apaches.  The Conquistadores "discovered" it but did not settle but in the 1850s Mexicans began to settle there and called it Las Placitas del Rio Bonito (the Rio Bonito next to the town.) When white settlers came they renamed it Lincoln (after the president) and it became the county seat for Lincoln County which was, at that time, the largest county in the US and its territories, as NM would not become a state until 1912.  The county was bigger than the entire island of Ireland. President Rutherford B Hayes would call Lincoln, "the most dangerous place in America" and he may not have been far wrong, at least for awhile.

As we drove west out of town we saw this rock, an ersatz or modern day, Independence Rock, where travelers and others have left their names or paintings

We entered Lincoln, the main part of town is a designated historic landmark and is maintained as such by the town's residents, from the east on Rte 380 and at that point drove through to our next camping site, on BLM land.  While a lot of BLM land is open space and has only coordinates to identify it, this site actually has a name (Rod Jaggers BLM campground at Ft Stanton Snowy River Cave Conservation Area) and electric and water.  Once again, because of our "golden" years we could camp there for $5 a night with water and electricity, so instead of worrying about the fact that rain was projected for all 4 days we'd be there, we simply opted for the hook ups.  There was no sign the first night that bad weather was coming and all of us, cat, dog, Don and I spent time roaming around the wide open space.  There were 3 other campers there when we arrived.  I went over, paid at the "self serve" kiosk and posted our tag and we settled in.  The winds came up so we pulled in our awning and settled in for the night.

The next day the winds were up and so was Phoenix-at 5am!-so she and I walked out the road into the boondocking area all the while cognizant of the warning I'd read the day before about cougars.  The wind was cold and whipping around my legs but the evening primroses I'd noticed the night before had not yet faded so I had to get pictures! Without incident she and I finished our respective duties, returned to the MoHo for a hot cuppa and morning meal and then as the morning got going, the wind really began to blow.  

The view from our campsite


Evening primrose about to fold

Our plan was to go to town so we did.  We parked at the far end of town and on our way to the "beginning" we stood and talked with a guy who'd grown up in Lincoln and told us not to miss the creek below town.  Right now it was a small flowing trickle of water but after large rainfalls he said it rises almost to the level of the houses a good way up the banks and becomes a roaring river. 

Once we reached the far end of town we started our tour at one of the best visitor centers we've encountered with a film about Lincoln and then toured the equally comprehensive museum.  There were displays of the Apache, Hispanic and Euro-American residents as well as one about the Buffalo Soldiers (see the bit about them in Westward Ho! 7) who were at nearby Ft Stanton.  You see Lincoln actually had a  war. It was called the Lincoln County War and it was classic.  Rich guys, corrupt politicians and lawmen, a mob boss, and Billy the Kid, a "bad" boy who had a lot of "good" people who liked him, sides with the new guys as a member of the Regulators. The guys who own the only store in town AKA a monopoly, and have most of the town "leaders" in their pockets, revolt against the "new guys" who have started a competing business and more importantly are getting contracts with Ft Stanton.  For a more comprehensive history see: Lincoln County War, Billy the Kid and the US Marshals Service.  

The rock was presented to the town by the captured German merchant marines who'd been POWs at Ft Stanton (see below for more)
 The Lincoln Historic Site Museum is yet another example of small town excellence in historical museums

the two factions in the Lincoln County Wars

Wm Bonney AKA Billy the Kid

We left the visitor center ready to walk through town when I told Don I wanted to stop at the coffee shop I'd read about.  It was close to lunch time and I really only wanted a small pick-me-up.  But, I'd read that Annie's Little Sure Shot was in a trailer and all we saw was a little building.  We went in to ask and found that indeed, Annemarie, the owner has both and during the summer is the only time she uses the trailer.  The front rooms of this house converted to a store hold the works of about 27 area artists and the back area, which opens onto a cool covered porch has the coffee.  Wow!  The reviews were right.  AnneMarie is a certified barrista and watching her was like watching an artist at work. Don and I both chose her signature Chimayocha coffee, with Chimayo chile, Vietnamese cinnamon and chocolate and I got a salted caramel chocolate chip cookie (because hey! coffee and cookie IS a healthy alternative to lunch!) and Don chose a cranberry orange scone. We then settled out on the porch where a group of local residents were also enjoying coffee and conversation and playing with a rescue lamb.  One of the women's husband had been out by his boyhood ranch when he found a newborn lamb, almost dead and tangled in a cactus. It was so badly caught he figured the mother had to abandon it. He brought it home and they had been bottle feeding it for only 3 days and the lamb was as adorable as could be.   And then a miracle happened.  When Annemarie asked how we'd enjoyed the coffee and treats Don actually said "The scone was delicious.  Best I've ever eaten.  Really good."  Words I had never heard come out of Don's mouth about food had filled our ears.  "It's OK, That was good, Thanks..." pretty regular utterances but sentences, raving reviews? Wow, that must have been a GOOD scone! As we were leaving we mentioned we'd be heading to Capitan the next day for the annual Smokey Bear Days celebrations and Annemarie told us not to miss Renee's Real Food, where she suggested we grab some pizza after the parade.

Looking from the art gallery out onto the shady porch

the rescue lamb

Having had "lunch" we visited the sites, bought a few souvenirs and went back to the car to get Phoenix, soundly asleep with the wind keeping the car cool and went down to the creek.  It really was small but cool and refreshing and we all dipped our feet to cool them off before returning to the car and the campsite.  

The Torreon
One of the earliest structures it was built in the 1850s by Spanish-Americans as a defense against Apaches.  It was also used during the Lincoln County Wars by the Murphy faction sharpshooters

The Tungstall's living room and bedroom (formerly two rooms) the hole in the floor on the left is where Billy the Kid is supposed to have hidden after he was injured in one of the shoot outs.

Joe Pye weed

La Inglesia de San Juan Bautista
St John the Baptist Church

inside the church

In the Tungstall Store

This is what came if you had a fire

This is what brought the doctor

The prototype for the new RVs with outside kitchens?

Old Lincoln Church

Mailboxes like the ones in the PO when I was young on St Croix

The Courthouse
Notice the shingles on this building.  According to the ranger all of the shingled roofs in town will need to be replaced following last October's hailstorm.  He said the size of the hail, mostly golf ball, was not unusual.  The fact that the storm lasted more than half an hour was and what caused all the damage.

On the way to the creek and next to 

the picnic area and outhouse.

green and quiet

the tiny cool and refreshing stream-just enough to cool the feet

When we got back to the campsite the wind was up so high that we pulled our full slide side in to prevent the slide cover from ripping off or getting damaged.  It was a veritable gale and it continued for 2 days so we kept the slide in which made the space a little cramped but fine as we didn't feel like we were going to take off into the air! The campground is known primarily as an equestrian area, although no-one staying there had horses and when we returned from Lincoln there were two trailers with riders just returning with horses.

The next day we went to Capitan, home of Smokey Bear who was found in a forest fire there.  See: Westward Ho! 10a Capitan.  When we returned there were once again people riding horses and one was a beautiful Friesian we'd seen in the parade.

After our day in Capitan, we wanted to visit Ft Stanton which tied in with the history of Lincoln and was just down the road.  Once again, a great site filled with history.  It started as a fort to "protect" the settlers from "marauding bands of Indians." (Mescalero Apaches)  It was seized and held briefly by Confederate forces during the US Civil War and then ceased its military role in the 1880's.  By the late 19th century the Mescalero Apaches had been pushed onto a reservation and the site became a tuberculosis hospital or sanatorium for Merchant Marines which lasted until 1953.  During that time it was also a CCC camp and an internment camp for a group of German merchant seamen POW's arrested after their captain scuttled his ship, a luxury liner, rather than be captured.  The CCC, to me, was a really interesting chapter in US History and I have talked about it before and will again but the story of these sailors was equally interesting.  The captain wanted his men to stay fit so sought and got permission for them to build a swimming pool and tennis courts.  The courts are long gone and the pool is an empty cement hole but the pictures on display show an entirely different view of a prison camp than any I have ever seen.  

The fort has served, as well, as a home for developmentally handicapped persons, juvenile, drug and alcohol rehabilitation center and a women's prison.  Seeing it and considering some of its purposes is easier than imagining it as others.

Our next stop would be an overnight in Socorro at an Alpaca Farm.  It is a Harvest Host site and when I had spoken to the owner he told me he is a school  teacher and would be home in the afternoon, so we decided we would take the time to visit a site along the way: Valley of Fires Recreation Area in Carrissozo.

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