Saturday, April 28, 2018

Exploring the area around Truth or Consequences New Mexico (Photo Rich)

Desert Explorations

Truth or Consequences - Cuchillo - Winston - Monticello - Chloride

We have moved from Carlsbad to Truth or Consequences and Elephant Butte Lake State Park. What a beautiful place to stay. We are in the Desert Cove Campground Loop above Elephant Butte Lake. The desert here is a wonderful but arid place. The lake is just a bit over one hundred years old and is a haven for desert dwellers.  It's beautiful.

Our campground review

Elephant Butte State Park - Elephant Butte, New Mexico -  5/5 Outstanding Campground

WIFI - Yes, but we could not connect
AT&T - Yes, two bars but very unstable and dropped a lot
VERIZON - Yes, 4 or 5 bars and reliable but quirky in that pages didn't always render on my pc
SERVICES - 20.30.50 amp sites, water, sewage dump in the park

COST - $14 Nightly


REVIEW - We loved Elephant Butte. It was clean, convenient to the city of Elephant Butte and Truth or Consequences. Good hiking near, beautiful desert lake. Sites are level and big. They are separated by vegetation though not strictly private. Water pressure was 45# but the water smelled and tasted of iodine (it was safe though). Two dumpsters on each loop, recycle plastic and aluminum. Each site had a casita.

Elephant Butte Lake - Sandcastle at the Marina

The CCC built the dam and adjacent support structures

No burn ban (for now)

Desert near our campground

Truth or Consequences

The city of Truth or Consequences is a spa destination because of its hot mineral springs. The entire town is dotted with spas where you can soak in the hot mineral water. Massage and other spa services are also available, although, sadly, they weren't in our budget this trip.  The mineral spring soaks are very reasonably priced. We chose "Riverbend Hot Springs." An hour soak at the nicely appointed spa was $30 for the two of us. They have both public and private soaking pools.  The private rooms are outdoors and are divided and very private. Each of them overlook the Rio Grand. They also have curtains that can be drawn if you prefer a more private setting, or want to close out the sun or the wind.  Closing them for privacy is unnecessary as there are no buildings or roads on the opposite side of the river.

An art community

A hippie kinda place

Geronimo Springs Museum Building in T or C

If you get into Truth or Consequences make sure you visit the Museum. Entry is $6.00 (discounts for senior or military) and it is packed with memorabilia from the town. Some of the displays might be boring for young ones.  There is also a military museum in T or C, but we decided to skip that one.

The exhibits at the museum center around life in T or C.  There is even an exhibit that explains how Hot Springs (1917) became known as Truth of Consequences (1950)  which was the name of a popular 1940's and 1950's TV game show)

Desert life is hard on some trees and agrees with others

Hotel California by the Eagles Lyrics Paraphrased

"On a hot desert highway, warm wind in my hair
the smell of colitas, rising up through the air."

Crossing the desert

before you arrive
I imagine the drive
the dusty winds
roads blown sand blind
the breath hot desert
red upon your back
the drown of dripping sweat
a mirage, a swimming lake
an oasis, of mind escape
how you travel as saguaro fields fly by - CA Guilfoyle"

The Desert is a place of stark contrasts

The desert is a place of hopes and dreams ruined

Chloride, NM 

(the following was taken from the towns website)

Chloride by any definition is a place of days gone by. Chloride - (Click here for more information) got its start in 1879 when the first cabin was built. A year or two before, Mr. Harry Pye was passing through the area with a mule train heading for the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. He spent the night in the canyon, camping in thick brush to help conceal his location from Victorio, an Apache Chief. While in the canyon, he picked up some ‘float,' rocks that had washed down the creek when it was in flood stage, thinking that the rocks looked promising. 

He eventually had his float samples assayed, and found that they were high in Chloride of Silver. Pye then had to make a decision: he could terminate the freighting contract he had with the Army and prospect for the source of the high grade ore he had picked up, or he could continue his contract and go prospecting when the contract period was over. He elected to continue with the contract, maybe because the pay was assured while prospecting was not. He kept his find a secret until the contract had expired, then he began to try to find prospectors to come with him.

While in Georgetown, on the west side of the Black Range Mountains, he met two young men who were recently arrived from Kansas and were looking to get involved in the Silver activity. Most of the experienced men would not come because they were aware that this area was a favorite hunting ground of the Warm Springs Apaches, and they were killing intruders. It has been reported that Pye told the young men, Forbes and Elliot, that he knew of a secret canyon that had a ledge of silver. They agreed to accompany him to his secret canyon.

They arrived in present day Chloride Canyon in late 1879. They build a log cabin for shelter, near the west end of the canyon before it boxed up. They soon located, in a rock face of a mountain, a seam containing material similar to that which Pye had found two years earlier. They began a drift into the mountain, and got in about 10 feet before Victorio and his band of warriors found them. There was a fight, and Pye was killed when his gun jammed and he could not keep the warriors away from him. The other two men held out until dark, then were able to make their way south to a mining camp near present day Hillsboro. There they told the story about the fight, and also about the ‘rich’ find Pye had told them about. That started a rush, and the records indicate that soon the entire canyon was a tent city.

The year 1880 saw many of the tents replaced by sturdy structures. Most of the building done at this time used local materials, which consisted of adobe, rock and logs. The dirt floor of the canyon was acceptable for making adobes, and building rock was plentiful in the canyon a few hundred yards to the west. A cliff of red sand stone continually sloughed off chunks of rock that appeared to be hewn to a square shape. These could be built into a wall with out the need for further cutting. Many of the walls were laid up with no mortar or with only adobe as mortar.

The logs used were harder to obtain. They were harvested from the Ponderosa Pine forests that were located several miles west of the town site, higher up toward the Continental Divide. The logs were hewn to fit together tightly, and the corners were usually a form of a dove tail joint. Many of the buildings built in 1880 are still in use, a testament to the skill of the builders. 

Chlorides Historic General Store

The Pioneer Store was built by Mr. James Dalglish in 1880. He had come to the southwest from eastern Canada to improve his failing health. He built the large, log building of hand-hewn Ponderosa Pine logs harvested from the mountain forests to the west of present day Chloride.

By late 1880, the building was completed and The Pioneer Store opened for business. Mr. Dalglish operated it throughout the Silver Boom years of 1880 through 1897, carrying all the goods needed for the miners and their families. The store stocked all manner of household goods, including food for residents and their animals, clothes for the entire family, mining equipment and tools, and ranch equipment and supplies. Wagons, buggies, and other large items could be ordered, as well as such specialty items as brides' trousseaus.

A United States Post Office was established in the front part of the store building in 1881, and a newspaper, The Black Range, began publishing weekly from the upstairs rooms in 1882. The large safe in the store building served as a local Bank for the remote mining operators and for the scattered ranches. It also served as a ‘Pawn Shop’, as records show “--- $2.00 loaned on watch in the safe."

When the Silver Boom ended in 1896, Mr. Dalglish leased the building to others who continued its operation until 1908. At that time, the building and its contents were purchased by the U.S. Treasury Mining Company. That company soon became the property of the James Family, who had arrived in Chloride in 1882.

The James’ operated the store as a commissary for the employees of their mining, timbering, and ranching operations, but by 1923, most of the residents of Chloride had moved on, and the James' businesses had fallen on hard times. The family decided to close the store, and sealed it up with lumber and tin over the doors and windows. All of the original furnishings for the store and the Post Office, along with all of the items of merchandise, including food, were left in the building.

The intent was that by the time the James’ young son, Edward Jr., got an education, the town of Chloride would have a resurgence, and he would have a business to step into. It did not work out that way. Edward Jr. was educated as a Scientist. His work back east, then at Los Alamos, and finally at Livermore Labs in California, kept him from returning to Chloride except for an occasional visit.

When we met Mr. James on one of his visits to Chloride in 1979 we found that he and the remaining residents of the town had a strong interest in preserving what was left of a once bustling, but now almost deserted, Silver Mining boom town.

Mr. James showed us the old Pioneer Store building, and in spite of the fact that it had been closed
 for 68 years, and was full of bat and rodent debris, it

was an obvious treasure trove of the past. An agreement was made that it should be a Museum, but he lived in California, and we lived in Las Cruces, and had only weekends to spend in Chloride, so there was no one to do the restoration work that was needed. I retired in 1986 and we moved to Chloride to live, and we again discussed the Museum project with Mr. James. In 1989, he agreed to sell us both the Pioneer Store and the adjacent Monte Cristo Saloon, including the contents of both buildings.

In the interior, we found that most of the town records from 1880 to 1923 had been stored in the building in boxes that had been stacked high. Over the years, the boxes had weakened and toppled over, spilling the contents over nearly the entire length of the building. Before work could start on the inside, all of these records had to be picked up, cleaned, and repacked to await time to sort and classify them properly. The building contained approximately 50 boxes of personal, business, and town site records.

Because of the extensive bat and rodent debris, all of the store furnishings and items that had once been the store’s inventory had to be taken out, cleaned and refurbished. Once the interior was cleaned and re-white washed, the furnishings were reinstalled as they had been, and the store’s inventory was replaced on the shelves.

Somehow there is still life and hope in the desert

A life hidden from public view

"An open door says, “Come in.”
A shut door says, “Who are you?”
Shadows and ghosts go through shut doors.
If a door is shut and you want it shut,
     why open it?
If a door is open and you want it open,
     why shut it?
Doors forget but only doors know what it is
     doors forget."  -  Carl Sandburg

"Maybe there is more of the magical
in the idea of a door than in the door
itself. It’s always a matter of going
through into something else." - Marge Piercy

 A place of dreams and learning being re-claimed by nature

The Rio Grande

We took a side trip to what is left of the Town of Engle. Engle was once the closest rail hub in Sierra County.  The town boasted the Hickock Hotel, five saloons, a general store, post office, two churches, a rail freight shipping facility, a train depot and many corrals that held cows for shipment. But now days there is only one surviving building, the old schoolhouse which is now a community church.

Engle, was founded in 1879 as a station on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. Engle became a thriving cattle town and was a shipping point for ore and other materials from nearby towns including Chloride, Winston (originally known as Fairview), and Cuchillo.

The rail hub served Hot Springs (now Truth or Consequences) which is 21 miles away. In those days it would take four days to take to the silver town of Chloride by wagon. After that advent of automobiles it would take two days to travel the 46 miles from Engle to Chloride via Model T with a layover in Cuchillo. More on Chloride in our next Blog Entry.  The town of Engle is now a very large ranch owned and operated by TV Mogul Ted Turner of Turner Broadcasting.

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