Saturday, April 16, 2011

New Mexico Backroads

We’re still meandering around New Mexico, biding our time before we can head north for the summer.  We spent some time in the Albuquerque area, and were curious about a place that was listed as one of the area’s “top ten” places to visit by Trip Advisor.  So, off we went to the Tinkertown Museum, a quirky, one-of-a kind memorial to one man’s passion for carving, circus, and well…..stuff.Tinkertown Exterior  It took Ross Ward over 40 years to assemble this museum, a hodge-podge of miniature carvings, circus memorabilia, and interesting odds and ends.  It’s difficult to describe – but we had a great time, and were amazed at the detail in his carvings and the patience it must have taken.  Walking through the museum and surrounding buildings gives you a case of “sensory overload” – every nook and cranny is filled with a sign, carving, exhibit, design……it’s quite a place.  Tinkertown WallIt’s also a sad story of how an immensely talented man was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at an early age.  We had a great visit with his wife, a delightful lady, who helped explain where many of the items in the museum came from.  If you like to visit unusual places, this is a place to see!  Tinkertown Display
Tinkertown Circus
From Albuquerque, we traveled down I-25 to spend a few days at Caballo Lake RV Park, a great little park next to the lake and just down the road from Truth or Consequences.  And yes, that’s really the name of the town, changed from it’s original name of Hot Springs as part of a publicity stunt for a radio show. Elephant Butte Lake T or C, as it’s more easily known, is next to Elephant Butte Lake, the state’s largest reservoir that appears to be shrinking rapidly.  The town seems to consist largely of RV and boat storage lots – literally miles and miles of dusty, chain-link fenced lots full of cheap trailers and old boats.  It’s not exactly a picturesque place, especially at this time of year, and we wouldn’t want to be here in the heat of summer.
One of the great things about the Southwest is the diversity of terrain – if you don’t like the desert, just drive a few miles.  In our case, it was just a half hour drive west into the Black Range and the town of Hillsboro, an old gold and silver mining town.  Once a thriving village of 1200, the population now stands around 235, and aside from a few galleries and a restaurant, there isn’t much to attract visitors.  It does have some interesting sights as you drive around, like the ruins of the old jail and an interesting antique truck.Hillsboro Jail
Hillsboro Truck
A few miles further up the road brought us to Kingston, another old mining town, once 7000 strong, now with only about 25 residents.  It’s another interesting place with a history, and a cemetery that’s worth a visit.  We don’t normally visit cemeteries, but this one intrigued us.  Located on a hill outside of town, there is no discernable order to the graves; they’re scattered here and there, some with readable gravestones, many that have been eroded and faded over time. Kingston MOH Grave At the entrance is the grave of James McNally, a Medal of Honor recipient from the Indian Wars.  Walking around the hillside, you’re struck by the random location of graves – the hard ground required that dynamite be used for burial sites, and apparently the distance between markers is because of this.  There’s no grass, in fact, nothing much is green, just shades of brown broken occasionally by the placement of flowers.  More than any old buildings in town, it gives a sense of the hard life people must have lived here.
Kingston Cemetary B&W
Our next stop was the highest point along the route, Emery Pass.  It’s amazing that you can travel from sere desert to pine-forested mountain in such a short time.  The overlook was 20 degrees cooler and dust free, stark contrast to the hot and dusty desert below.  According to the sign, Lt. Emery must have been well liked – they named that pass after him even though he may not have traveled over it!Emery Pass Sign
On the way back down, we stopped for a picnic lunch at a Forest Service campground, near the site of the Battle of Massacre CanyonPicnic in KingstonHere, a band of Apaches, let by Vittorio, nearly wiped out a company of U.S. Calvary in one of the last major Indian battles.  We didn’t see any Indians, but after hearing something moving toward us through the forest, this female Javelina wandered through the area, pretty much ignoring us as she foraged for food.
As always, we’ve enjoyed exploring the back roads and sharing our travels with you.  We’ll be heading south towards El Paso next, so c’mon back and see what we’ve found!


  1. I love the first 5 pics - now that looks like so much fun checking the area out... Looks like you kids are having a lot of fun!! Wonderful


  2. That was a very interesting post. I have never been to any of those places so I enjoyed the pictures and your commentary. I have a couple of friends in NM so hope to get there someday.