Boy, do we have a lot of Ghost Towns in New Mexico! Well over a hundred and certainly more. Recently, we at Travel Guide NEW MEXICO had a chance to visit a few of these. I apologize for no pictures with this post … guess the ghosts had a different idea of what should … and shouldn’t … be photographed!
Part of our trip is along the Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway which starts in Truth or Consequences. We didn’t make the entire trek along the by way but certainly got a good start and had a great time.
The trip was incredibly interesting. We started in Truth or Consequences, which really isn’t a ghost town but certainly isn’t booming the way it once was. After spending time here, I’m convinced that a “boom” is just around the corner. With hot springs bubbling everywhere (remember … T or C used to be Hot Springs, New Mexico) and the Spaceport getting ready to launch sometime within the next year or two, Truth or Consequences is really a great place to visit.
I’ll bet I’ve driven by the Geronimo Springs Museum a couple dozen times and never stopped. Boy … what a pleasant surprise inside. The folks at the Truth or Consequences visitors center, located right next to the museum, were incredibly helpful. And, LaRena, the museum’s director, is a wealth of knowledge about this great little city. You’ll learn why T or C is no longer Hot Springs. You’ll walk around one corner and see one of the largest displays of Native American pottery that I’ve ever seen.
And then there is Geronimo himself in life size form. As LaRena told me … “he was small in stature but big in reputation.” If she’s around when you visit ask her what others thought of this most famous warrior. You might be surprised.
Fossils of our ancient mammals are also in abundance. I didn’t know they roamed here, but why not?
I could go on and on about the hot springs but I’ll leave that to our friends at the Grande Sierra Lodge and Spa. What a place this is! 18 luxury rooms and four hot spring pools plus a lot of other amenities. Manager and part owner, Sazzi Marri, and her staff will be happy to show you around. You won’t believe this place and owe it to yourself to call and make a reservation to spend a day or more (www.sierragrandelodge.com). Be sure and tell Sazzi I said “hello” and recommended you call.
Okay … now on to the Ghost Towns. Our first stop was Hillsboro, which is still home to about 100 people. The folks there told me they have the two best restaurants in New Mexico and we thought the food … all home made … was great. Hillsboro’s really laid back so be patient when ordering. There is no rush! One of the restaurants is open for dinner on Saturday night so if you time your visit right you might have a fun evening with the locals. Be prepared, however, because they only make so many meals. When they are gone they’re gone!
You have to visit Hillsboro’s old courthouse with a great history and story about a very famous trial that was held there.
The jailhouse next door was more interesting to me than the tales of what transpired in the courthouse. Steel doors and windows are still intact and you can peer into the cells and see just exactly why you wouldn’t want to spend time there. The view is so spectacular one of the locals told me he thinks the folks housed there probably asked to be arrested just to enjoy the view!
I would encourage you to walk the Main Street and side streets. If you see people sitting on the porch or walking nearby stop and ask them questions about the homes and town. They’ll be more than happy to answer your questions.
Down the road a few miles is Kingston, in the late 1800’s the largest city in New Mexico outshining Albuquerque by about 1,000 people. Today, only 10 people on full time basis call Kingston home. Founded about 1880 this mining boom town quickly became the place to be. If I remember correctly there were somewhere around 28 saloons, a post office, general store and hotels. Then the price of silver dropped by 90% overnight and the mining stopped as quickly as it started. The Percha Bank Gallery & Museum is a wonderful place to visit. It looks exactly as it did when the town was booming, complete with teller cages and huge vault. Mark Nero, the director, will be happy to share the history with you. There are great old photographs of the folks who once lived there – a lot of fun to look at while visiting with Mark!
Just west of Elephant Butte, out near the airport, is Cuchillo. Now this is a ghost town complete with ghosts! Paranormals have confirmed the presence of spirits throughout the town and a couple of the locals I talked with have heard the recordings and one recognized the voice of the person speaking. A little spooky … but the local café, which is open Friday-Sunday, is a great place to stop for a friendly … and ghost free … meal. Here, the specialty is Mexican food … not New Mexican food. This means the chile isn’t hot but everything is made fresh and worth the stop. Don’t be surprised if the kitchen help comes out and chats with you about the town and history!
We continued past Cuchillo and headed toward Chloride where the road literally ends! Just off Highway 52 past Winston is this great little town, which is literally being restored by Don Edmund, his wife and daughter. I could write a book about my conversation with Don. He showed us all over town and explained every building there, including the bank that never had a dime in its vault! And the “hanging tree” that never hung anyone!
When you visit stop in at the general store and ask if Don’s around. If he’s available I’m sure he’ll give you a guided tour like none other. This is truly a labor of love for the Edmund family. Don took us up the hill to the cemetery where we noted two graves that said “Killed by Indians” and saw where famous bad guy, John Wesley Harden’s, brother is buried. His brother was allegedly the “nice guy” of the family and is so honored on his headstone.
Oh … when you talk with Don ask him about his “hidden treasure” … one of the buildings he bought from the decedents of the original owner and what he found inside after the building was opened for the first time in over 60 years!
Chloride is really something to see and I can’t wait to take another trip and spend a little more time with Don.
These ghost towns are pure gold in New Mexico and need to be treated with respect. Remember … take only pictures and leave only footprints when you leave.
And let me know if you run into any ghosts while you are there!