We can pack a lot into a day of exploring the local area and with the distances between things out here, you wouldn’t want to travel to them individually.
Our first stop was in the little town nearest our campground, Carrizozo, New Mexico. For some reason, the residents and shop owners of Carrizozo like to display painted donkey statues. There were 50 or more of them around the downtown and on top of buildings.
The next stop on the tour was the Smokey Bear Historical Park in the town of Capitan. We saw this facility from the motor home on our way into the area. We read up on it a bit and went back to see it. The Smokey that we all know from the posters and TV ads was created in 1944. But in 1950, there was a real bear that was designated as the one and only living Smokey Bear and who lived most of his life at the National Zoo in Washington DC. Well, the living Smokey was a bear cub who was found clinging to a tree in a forest fire near Capitan. The badly singed cub was nursed back to health by a game warden who sold the concept that this should be the living Smokey. Smokey lived at the National Zoo for 26 years and was seen by millions of people. And when Smokey died his body was returned to New Mexico and buried back in Capitan at what is now the Smokey Bear Historical Park. There are all things Smokey at the museum from the many campaigns Smokey appeared in over the years.
We drove on to the town of Lincoln. In the 1870s, this territory was a mostly lawless area. The Lincoln Wars over control over the commerce of the area gave rise to the Regulators and to the infamy of Billy the Kid. Billy was convicted of murdering a sheriff and was housed in this jail awaiting his hanging. Somehow he gained control of a gun, shot two guards and escaped. Three months later Pat Garret hunted him down and shot him dead. There are many other period buildings in the town.
From Lincoln we drove up into the mountains and through the forested ski town of Ruidoso. The ski area there is Ski Apache and is owned by the Apache Indians. We also took in The Inn of the Mountains Gods, well at least the casino part, also owned by the Apaches. Gary played a poker tournament and said he was doing quite well until his Queens in the hole ran into Kings in the hole.
Our last stop of this long day was at the Three Rivers Petroglyphs. These rock carvings were made some 600 years ago by a prehistoric Indian tribe of which there are no known descendants. It is unclear why these carvings in the rock on a ridge were made or what they signify.