June 6, 2015


“We only understand the present when it is past.”  Han Suyin

Carol writes:  We happily accepted an invitation to meet up in Ruidoso, New Mexico, for the Memorial Day weekend with a dear teacher friend and her husband that we know from our Colorado Springs days.  Our campgrounds were only a few miles apart, so we had lots of opportunity to hang out over the weekend with Barb and Jim and the three pups, who now live in Las Cruces.  Since they were familiar with the town and the surrounding points of interest from previous stays in Ruidoso, we were eager for their suggestions. 

We had a patriotic and reflective start to the holiday weekend at the Memorial Day ceremonies at the veterans cemetery at Fort Stanton.  Set spectacularly alone, under a brilliantly blue New Mexico sky with an incredibly peaceful high-desert juniper landscape below, I couldn’t imagine a more appropriate setting for reflection on the sacrifices that were made by our brave men and women in uniform.

Fort Stanton was established in 1855 as a cavalry fort to defend against the Mescalero Apache Indians.  At the turn of the century, due to its ideal dry climate with plenty of fresh air and sunshine, the fort was subsequently turned into a tuberculosis hospital for the Merchant Marine.  Many of the graves in the cemetery are from patients who died of tuberculosis while being treated at Fort Stanton; today, however, tombstones of veterans of other branches can also be found throughout its hallowed grounds.

Some of the old cavalry-days buildings were nicely preserved and made for an interesting trip back in time.
 Try getting 3 dogs and 4 humans all looking at the camera at the same instant…
Both Barb and Jim hail from Minnesota, and so it was that we spent a delightful afternoon at their campsite learning to play a distinctly Minnesota game called “Carbles.”  Why this game doesn’t have more widespread marketing is a mystery to me!  We found it an addicting combination of team play (guys vs. gals) with Cards and Marbles (=Carbles).  The gals are definitely looking forward to a rematch in a few weeks when we move closer to Las Cruces.

May is iris-blooming time in the mountain elevation of Ruidoso.  The iris were just slightly past their peak the day we took a side trip to a garden oasis at the Hondo Iris Farm.  What is it about large-scale flower displays that instantly lowers the pulse and blood pressure?  I had a fleeting nanosecond of nostalgia over the fact that I no longer have a yard in which to plant bulbs…


The forceful gathering of various Native American tribes onto reservations was not a very proud moment in American history.  The Mescalero Apaches were much feared and were eventually defeated by the cavalry and forced onto a local reservation.  Fast-forward a century and a half, and present-day Apaches have certainly created a way to prosper and grow with a combination of the old and the new.  They own and operate a ski resort named Ski Apache, in addition to one of the most beautifully situated casinos I have ever visited--the Apache-themed “Inn of the Mountain Gods.” 

It looked as if the mountain gods placed it on Earth in a spectacular mountain setting around Mescalero Lake, surrounded by mature pine forests and bare mountain peaks.

We found a reasonable and delicious buffet, and then had a really good time playing ‘friendly’ slots for a couple of hours with the $20 promotional stake offered in the casino.

The Apache artwork was very appealing to the eyes…

The informal family rule is:  If we have spent a day of decadence at a place such as a casino, the next day we try to balance it out by getting back to Nature.

The half-mile hike on the nature trail through the lava beds at the Valley of Fire was quite unique.  This 44-mile long lava flow, which developed from vents in the valley floor 1000 to 1500 years ago, is one of the youngest flows in the continental United States.

The lava itself was both jagged and rippled.

The Chihuahuan  desert plant life that has developed on the lava flow demonstrated the tenacity of life—the blooming prickly pear cactus and stately sotol,

delicate Apache brush,

just-starting-to-bloom cholla,

and an ancient juniper tree that was estimated to be over 400 years old.

During lunch we were entertained by an extended family of towhees feeding their fledgling young.

A visit of any length to Ruidoso would not be complete without a mention of one of the most famous/infamous characters in local cowboy lore—Billy the Kid.  In order to learn a little more about the story of the Lincoln County War and the part played by Billy the Kid, we made a visit to the Billy the Kid Visitor Center, which did a great job of summarizing the pertinent history.  Feeling suitably educated, we were about to leave when the receptionist said we had missed the most photographed part of the museum—in the men’s room!

On the serious and artistic side, the outdoor display of galloping life-size bronze horses was impressive.

From our brief dabble into the life and times of Billy the Kid, we were surprised to find him fondly memorialized in so many ways.  Of course, we had to check out the Billy the Kid Casino on the grounds of Ruidoso Downs Race Track. 

We found Billy’s slots most unfriendly, but what did we expect in a casino named after an outlaw?  We played about an hour on $30 of promotional money and felt lucky to walk out $7.65 ahead.
The Quarter Horse racing at Ruidoso Downs was much more interesting.

One of the races that we watched was won by a lady jockey.  Here is her moment of glory in the winner’s circle. 

I found I got the best pics along the rail.

Then, there was this movie-star-quality guy I spotted in the crowd.

Our stay in Ruidoso was a very pleasant one, made all the more satisfying by getting to share a bit of our lifestyle on the road with dear Colorado friends.  The dry mountain air felt familiar to us, much like Colorado Springs and at about the same altitude (7000 ft) as our former home.  This past week, warm and sunny days were always followed by cool, refreshing nights; but that is about to change…  On Monday we plan to move down 3000 ft in altitude to the desert at Holloman Air Force Base, where we will certainly be testing out our air conditioning for the first time.

"The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket."  Kin Hubbard

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