The excitement of discovery is what draws us to wander. Our travels have taken us to the far corners of our home state of Texas as well as the diversity of the fascinating states of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Florida and Massachusetts.
Join us here as we share some of the special moments we have encountered through our photos and essays.
Spend a weekend exploring the area of Ruidoso New Mexico.
Day One. The Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway
Your first stop should be the historic town of Lincoln, brought to fame in 1878 by violence. The Lincoln County War forever memorialized the story of Billy the Kid, and Sheriff Pat Garrett.
Head out U.S.380 to the town of Lincoln, once the county seat, now a State Monument and a National Historic Site. Start at the visitor’s center and Museum where you can purchase a ticket that entitles you to tour eleven of the original, now restored historic adobe and stone buildings.
Among these are the Tunstall Store, stocked with goods typical of the times, Dr. Woods house depicting life of a 19th century country Dr. and the Montano Store which opened during the war and is a museum interpreting the Native American, Anglo and Hispanic cultures that were central in settling this area.
In 1877 John Tunstall a young English immigrant moved to the area and opened a store competing with L.G. Murphy for financial control of the county. The war was touched off in 1878 when outlaws hired by L.G. Murphy and his henchman Jimmy Dolan gunned down Tunstall. With the murder of Tunstall the citizens began to choose sides. Tunstall’s partner Alexander McSween, backed by his cowboys, called themselves the Regulators, the most famous of whom came to be known as Billy the Kid.
A Five Day Battle in Lincoln culminated on July 19, 1878 with the death of Mcsween and others as they fled from his burning home. Billy the Kid dodged the bullets that day. He was hunted down and eventually captured by Sheriff Pat Garrett on April 28th 1881.
Billy went on to escape his jail cell at the Lincoln County courthouse a few weeks before he was due to be hung, killing both of his guards in the process. A bullet hole as Billy shot his way to freedom can still be seen in the wall of the courthouse. Sheriff Pat Garrett ambushed and killed Billy in Fort Sumner on July 14, 1881 where one can visit his grave.
Next head 12 miles west on U.S. 380 to Capitan. Set between two mountain ranges, the Sacramento Mountains and the Capitan Mountains you will find the Smokey Bear Historical State Park, resting place of the famous bear that became the living symbol of fire prevention. Fire fighters in the 1950 forest fire in the Capitan Mountains rescued the badly burned black bear cub. The museum houses fire ecology exhibits along with the history of Smokey. The slogan “Only you can prevent forest fires” has immortalized Smokey forever all over the world. Smokey died in 1976 at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. which had become his permanent home. Millions visited him and learned from his story. His body was returned to Capitan to be buried. You can visit his gravesite here at the State Park.
If you are ready for some shopping turn south on US 48 towards Ruidoso. The streets in the Village of Ruidoso are lines with boutiques, specialty stores, gift shops, T-shirt shops, as well as Art studios and galleries. After browsing Main St., head out US 70 past the renowned horse race track Ruidoso Downs with its Billy the Kid Casino. The Hubbard Museum of the American West sits at the entrance to Ruidoso Downs and next door is The Billy the Kid Scenic Byway Visitors Center where you can pick up brochures and maps of the entire area.
Day Two. Venturing Off the Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway
The Mescalero Apache Reservation lies just outside Ruidoso The Cultural Center in the Chiricahua Plaza off U.S. 70 houses exhibits depicting early Apache life in this area. A few miles further on the south side of US 70 is St. Joseph’s Mission Catholic church constructed by tribal members using rock quarried nearby and timber from the mountains.
A little further, about a 50-mile drive down US 70, 17 miles southwest of Alamogordo lies White Sands National Monument. This is a huge 275 sq mile stretch of white gypsum sand dunes. An 8-mile self-guided drive from the visitor center is lined with interpretive exhibits. There is also the opportunity to explore four marked trails on foot.
Next, head north on US 54 for 30 miles through Tularosa then another 17 miles north to the turn off for the Three-Rivers Petroglyphs National Recreation Site. Turn E onto CR 830 and drive five miles on a paved road. Etched into the rocks are 21,000 ancient carvings depicting life here a thousand years ago. You can hike a rough 1-mile trail into the site to observe the story the ancient people told and left for us to read and interpret in the rocks.
Head North again on US 54 to Carrizozo, An important railroad town in the late 1800’s it is now the county seat. Just a block off Hwy 54, on Twelfth Street, the Heritage Museum tells the story of the history of life in the South West. Also on Twelfth Street, The Sierra Blanca brewery, New Mexico’s leading brewery offers tours and sells their micro brewed beer.
After visiting turn west on US 380 and drive 5 miles to the Valley of Fires Recreation Area. This is the site of a black band of ancient volcanic matter that measures 4-6 miles wide, 160 feet thick at the center and 44 miles long. The flow oozed south from cider cones and as it cooled deposited a landscape of twisted shapes later called malpais, the badlands, by early Spanish explorers. A 1/4-mile self-guided tour of the paved nature trail, has posted signs describing the many plants and animals adapted to live their lives in this landscape, many of who have changed their colors to match the lava. An unpaved portion of the trail continues on another 1/2 mile. The Lava flow is 1500-2000 years old making it the youngest such flow in the Continental U.S. There is a visitor center, camping sites with ever changing views of the lava flow and mountains and a nice day use area.
The perfect way to end your weekend is with a visit to the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino Apache, on the shores of Mescalero Lake. Guests are greeted at the entrance by a fountain with five bronze figures including an eleven-foot tall Crown Dancer. The lobby features floor to ceiling windows showcasing l Lake Mescalero and Sierra Blanca. There are 4 restaurants including the Gathering of Nations buffet, serving a mix of ethnic food, bars, lounges, shops, and the heart of the complex the casino, offering Las Vegas style gambling.