Ruidoso lies in the Sierra Blanca mountain range of south-central New Mexico, where it merges with the Sacramento Mountains to the south. Ruidoso is a mountain resort community close to the slopes of Ski Apache, the Mescalero Apache Tribe-owned ski resort on Sierra Blanca, a 12,000-foot mountain. The tribe also operates the Inn of the Mountain Gods resort in the area, which includes a casino, hotel, and golf course. Ruidoso is the largest community in Lincoln County, and serves as the regional economic hub. The village received its name from the Rio Ruidoso (Spanish for “Noisy River”), a small stream that weaves through the city.
At nearly 7000′ elevation, Ruidoso is a great summer destination due to milder temperatures, particularly at night. A lot of frontier history can be explored in and around the area and there are numerous other things to do including exploration of nearby mountain villiages, White Sands, and the White Sands Missle Range to name a few. The Trinity Site, location of the first detonation of a nuclear weapon is also nearby. It was conducted by the United States Army at 5:29 a.m. on July 16, 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project. This site is open to the public two time a year but we have been told it can be difficult to be one of the limited few who manage to get it.
We had the extra treat of having our daughter, Amanda, join us for a few days here then travel on to Albuquerque with us.
Ruidoso Downs has been the home of the World’s Richest Quarter Horse Race since the All American Futurity was first contested on Labor Day in 1959 with a $129,000 purse. This past summer the Rainbow Futurity and the Rainbow Derby were on track to become $1,000,000 races. It is the only horse track in the United States and Europe that has a separate quarter horse straightaway and oval thoroughbred track giving spectators a unique venue.
We spent two days here enjoying the races and were able to just about break even after we found it was better to bet on longer odds horses who were expected to at least show (come in 3rd place).
Ski Apache is a ski resort on the slopes of the Sierra Blanca mountains northwest of Ruidoso. It is owned and operated by the Mescalero Apache Tribe. Ski Apache is the only ski resort in New Mexico with its own gondola lift. Ski Apache has nine lifts including the gondola lift, three Quad Chairlifts, and four triple chairlifts. The resort gets an average annual snowfall of fifteen feet. Ski Apache also has 3 zip lines. The longest is 1 mile long and starts at 11,500 elevation.
We took a day trip up to the resort to see some of the mountain views.
White Sands National Monument
We picked a great day to visit White Sands National Monument. It was overcast and about 15 degrees cooler then it had been the day before.
Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this unique dunefield, along with the plants and animals that live here.
White Sands Missile Range Museum
At the White Sands Missile Range museum you can trace the origin of America’s missile and space activity, find out how the atomic age began and learn about the accomplishments of scientists like Dr. Wernher von Braun and Dr. Clyde Tombaugh at White Sands. Displays also include the prehistoric cultures and the rip-roaring Old West found in southern New Mexico.
Outside the museum is a missile park displaying a variety of missiles and rockets tested at White Sands. These include everything from the WAC Corporal and Loon (U.S. version of the V-1) to a Pershing II and Patriot. More than 50 items are on display.
Established in 1855 as a military post to control the Mescalero Apache Indians, Fort Stanton may be one of the most intact 19th century military forts in all of America today. It is certainly one of the most impressive historic settings of any site in the southwest United States. Although the use of many military forts established during the western expansion diminished by the turn of the century, Fort Stanton continued on in its noble service to New Mexico and the nation well into the 20th century.
In 1861, the Fort was abandoned to Confederate forces in the early stages of the American Civil War. The retreating forces tried to burn the fort, but a rainstorm extinguished the fire. The Confederates completed the destruction when they left after only a month’s occupation. The fort returned to the Union fold in 1862, under the command of the legendary Christopher (Kit) Carson. The Fort was rebuilt after the war. During the 1880s, Black soldiers from Fort Stanton helped pursue Apache bands led by Victorio and Geronimo. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing served two tours of duty at Fort Stanton in the 1880s. After closure as an Army post the Fort served as a Merchant Marine Tuberculosis Hospital, a WWII internee camp, a training school for the mentally disabled and most recently as a low security women’s prison and hosted several juvenile, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.
Smokey Bear Museum
In 1979, Smokey Bear Historical Park was established to honor Capitan’s favorite son, Smokey Bear. Nearly three decades earlier, Smokey was an orphaned little bear cub with burned paws, found in the aftermath of the Capitan Gap wildfire. Smokey Bear rose to fame as an icon for forest fire prevention and he lived in Washington, D.C.’s National Zoo for 26 years. When he passed away, the famous black bear was laid to rest in his hometown. His burial site is a special place within the Smokey Bear Historical Park.
Cloudcroft is a wonderful mountain villiage roughly between Ruidoso and Alamagordo. We stopped through on the way back from the White Sands area where it had been about 95 degrees and the temperature in Cloudcroft was a cool 65. We got coffee and pie from a shop downtown – the coffee wasn’t good but the pie was great. We came back another day to eat BBQ at Mad Jacks. Jack came from Lockhart, Texas outside Austin and learned his trade via YouTube and conversations he had with Aaron Franklin of the legendary Franklin BBQ in Austin. We arrived at 10:30 to be in line when the place opened at 11:00. It was 12:30 when we were able to order and not long after they ran out of Brisket. Normally that didn’t happen until about 2:30 per Jack. Go early if you want to visit. The BBQ was great!
The Lincoln Historic Site is a community frozen in time — the 1870’s and 1880’s. The historic site now includes 17 structures and outbuildings, 7 of which are open year round and 2 more seasonally as museums. Most of the buildings in the community are representative of the Territorial Style of adobe architecture in the American Southwest.
Lincoln is a town made famous by one of the most violent periods in New Mexico history. Here you can walk in the footsteps of Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and other famous and infamous characters of the Wild West. You can also trace the events of 1878 through the Courthouse and the Tunstall Store, with their preserved 19th-century atmosphere.
Remarkably, the Tunstall Store contains displays of the original 19th-century merchandise in the original shelving and cases. Continuing on the you will see the El Torreón (a defensive tower built by native New Mexican settlers in the 1850s), the San Juan Mission Church, the Convento, Dr. Woods’ House, the Montaño store and other historic structures throughout the town. The Anderson-Freeman Visitor’s Center & Museum features historical exhibits in a timeline starting with American Indian prehistory and ending with the Lincoln County War.
Inn of the Mountain Gods
We went to the Inn of the Mountain Gods with Anna’s Nephew Sean for the Fourth of July. The inn is a resort run by the Mescalaro Apache Indians and is set on a beautiful lake in the mountains just outside of Ruidoso. They offered shuttle service from the parking lots to the event but by the time we got there we were in the last parking lot. Although it took a while for the shuttle to come we found out on leaving that this was actually the best place to park as traffic was not too bad there. The fireworks were spectacular – probably one of the best shows we have seen. It lasted a full 30 minutes and there were always numerous fireworks in the air at all times. There were probably 8 times where there were so many explosions it felt like the finale but the actual finale was just crazy.