A Trip Back in Time Part 2

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To view Part 1, here’s the link….http://trailinghookjournal.com/2015/11/17/a-trip-back-in-time/

Day 2

After an exhausting first day, we slept like champs. We were up at 7:30am, gathered up the few things we had out and left the motel by 8. We knew the road would be a long one today, and had quite a few stops to make before our final destination. So after at quick breakfast we were off.

Our first stop would be Hillsboro, NM. It was an easy 35 mile drive that went from flat to mountainous pretty quick. It just far enough to finish our coffee and had a few minutes to stop and grab some photos. It was fun to watch Nicholas set his gear up and try to get the angle he wanted. I was reminded of myself all those years ago, where I tried to see everything through the camera’s eye. I wasn’t much older than he is, and remembered how everything had to be just right. So I gave him that space and time, trying not to rush him through anything.

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He’s learning, but more importantly, he’s willing to learn.

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We stopped a few more times, but each stop was quicker than the last, as the 20mph wind cut right through us. These Texas boys are used to wind, but it’s usually warmer than 45 degrees.

Hillsboro was nice looking small town. There were quite a few residences here as well as a museum and plenty of historical markers. It was a beautiful place with big cottonwoods lining the main street. (always been a huge fan of the cottonwood) Of course at 9am on a Thursday morning, nothing much was happening and everything was still closed. We drove around a while looking, reading and imagining what this place looked like back in 1877.  We headed back the way we came and after about 15 miles, something occurred to me as we were talking. Back? I don’t remember needing to head back to get to Hanover, I think we keep going through Hillsboro. I pulled over, andddd what do you know? We drove halfway back to where we started that morning. I’m just glad it was only a few miles and not a state. 🙂 We turned around and headed back to where we were not supposed to head back from. We drove through Hillsboro again, and after a quick quote from European Vacation, “Hey look kids, there’s Big Ben, and there’s Parliament… again.” we drove on.

Here’s a quote from http://www.hillsboronm.org/  Hillsboro’s history is a tale ripped from the pages of a western novel. Geronimo’s Apache tribe once roamed the rugged Black Range Mountains above where Hillsboro sits along the Percha Creek. The center of a thriving mining district that included Kingston and Lake Valley, in the 1880s the region’s rich silver strikes attracted thousands of treasure-seeking prospectors, who dug mines and tunnels with sweat and blood.

The next stop was Hanover. It was an easy 45 miles through the Gila National Forest. At least it looked easy on the map.

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It was far from an easy drive. We started to climb, and climb, and twist and turn, never getting over 20mph.  It was like a slalom course. About the time I finished turning the wheel to the left, I had to turn it way back to the right. It was a beautiful drive. There were many times i’d look over the edge and see the tops of all those tall pines we passed coming up. Where was my wingman and navigator through all this? Sleeping as usual. I kept telling him to wake up because his head was going back and forth between my shoulder and the window as we drove the slalom course, and was afraid he was going to hurt himself. About the time he was starting to wake up I come crawling around a sharp corner, and it was such a tight turn I didn’t have time to stop as we ran over a rock about half the size of a soccer ball. It was big enough we felt it all the way down and as it exited the back it caught the axle and lifted the car a little. You can bet he was awake now. I found a spot to pull over and check out the car, but no visible damage and no leaking fluid, thank goodness.

I had a little closer look at the map. Some reason I didn’t zoom in close enough when planning times and routes. 🙂

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It was worth the drive just to see all the views.

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Finally after what seemed like forever, we were starting to come down through the mountains. Speed limits where back up to 35 and 40mph. Only problem was, we were now behind a 1970 Toyota pickup with what looked like all their belonging shoved in the camper shell and still going 20mph. The pine views were now turning to desert views and the curves weren’t as bad, but still not able to safely pass. I’m not much of a speed demon, but the hour that the map said it would be was now over 2 hours, and I needed to get moving. Finally, a stretch to pass this truck, I gun it. Let’s put a little time back on the clock. As I get moving along down this stretch of isolated highway, around the corner up ahead, comes sheriff’s car. He hits his lights and I immediately pull over. He pulls around behind me and gets out just about the time the 1970 Toyota pickup slowly passes by. I just look down and pretend they aren’t laughing at me. He got me going 10 miles over the limit….the same speed limit as Loop 306 in San Angelo, 65. We talked and joked a bit about the day and what we were doing. He left to make sure i’m not wanted and came back with just a warning. Yeehaw!

“Hope you have fun and a great rest of your trip”.

I thanked him and told him I appreciated him doing that for us and letting me keep my record intact.

“Record?” he asked.

“Yes sir, only 3 more years and i’ll have 20 years of no speeding tickets.”

“That’s a pretty good record, but how many warnings have you had?

“Warnings aren’t tickets so I lost count, I mean, I don’t count those.”

He laughed, bid us farewell, and off we went. Just a little slower.

On our way to Hanover we noticed a ton of big trucks and lots of traffic coming from a bunch of roads. We pulled over into a viewing area that had all the history and a place to watch all the action. It was the Santa Rita mine and one of the oldest open pit copper mines. The place was huge and had those gigantic dump trucks we only have seen on tv, going everywhere inside the fenced off area. It was quite a sight, just out of it’s enormous size.

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We drove through Hanover, and stopped to get a few photos. Although there wasn’t much there, you could see remnants of the old mining days. It took longer to read about the history than it did to view. Like a lot of these old mining towns, most the “real interesting” things to see are on private property or shut off from the public because of the dangers. We still enjoyed being able to walk through the history and envision it back in its glory days.

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Next stop was Fierro, which was only a mile or so away. We drove around there for a few minutes, stopping to snap a few photos. Like Hanover, there wasn’t much here other than the history itself. There were houses around, but not much activity. More info…http://cityofdust.blogspot.com/2015/05/zinc-town-hanover-new-mexico.html

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Next it was off to Pinos Altos, 17 miles away. This was another nice looking town with lots of houses and RV’s. It looked like a tourist town, except without many people.

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This was the only snow/ice we saw the entire trip.

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We drove around on some dirt roads surrounding the area then tried the museum. It wasn’t open yet and we couldn’t wait around until it did. After about thirty minutes of roaming around, we decided to head to our final stop for the day. More info….http://www.pinosaltos.org/

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Our final stop for the day was 185 miles west, in a town called Tombstone, Arizona. I had never been there and was excited to check it out.  We arrived with about an hour’s worth of light. They have done an amazing job giving you plenty of things to do there.This was the only place I didn’t print out the history for. I figured we could learn everything we needed to know once we got there, and we weren’t disappointed.

We walked the streets and went in a few shops. The whole place just has a cool vibe to it. The highlight was the Birdcage Theater, the only building there that hasn’t been touched since it’s heyday in the 1880’s. It was an amazing experience with all the sights and smells of the old west. When I say smells, I mean it just smells old. Another good decision was to take the Ghost and Gunfighter tour. It’s basically a guided walking tour of the town. The stories were told by a tour guide in 1880’s era clothing. We went through all the what, when, where, and how’s of all the buildings, people, killings and the real history  that is far from what the movies tell us. Although the movie Tombstone with Kurt Russell was playing in an endless loop at one of the establishments. It may be all fiction for the most part, but still a dang fine flick.

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It was well worth the trip. The guided tour we took is done after dark every night which gives it a pretty cool feel with what we were hearing.

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After the tour was over at 8:30, we ate at the Longhorn and planned on heading to our home for the night, the Tombstone motel, which was only a few hundred yards from there. While we sat there eating, a plan was hatched to get finish here, go back to the motel to grab some warmer clothes and head back to get some night shots. Who knows, might even catch a ghost in the act.

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We got back to the motel around 11pm and started getting things ready for the next day. That included transferring all shots and video to the laptop. It helps to have an empty card to start the day, but does take a bit of time. It’s amazing how much we can shoot in one days time.

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Day 3

The next morning we got up and out the door at out regular time. We walked back to Allen St and went in a few shops that were closed before we got there the day before. We wandered around a while and figured it was time to move on down the road. We took a quick pit stop on the way out at Boot Hill Cemetery. It was not what I expected. Boards with writing in black sharpie on them. It was definitely tricked out for the tourist. We stayed maybe 10 minutes before we’d had enough.

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We had a ways to go before our next stop. Another 250 miles to Lake Valley, NM, followed by 200 miles to our final stop of the day. It was going to be quite a haul, but we were excited to get back up in the mountains and relax our final days of the trip. But before we could get to the mountains, there was miles and miles of desert that had a beauty of it’s own.

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We arrived at Lake Valley, NM a little after 3pm. We saw it from a distance as we came around the corner and immediately thought, this is gonna be cool. We pulled up to what looked like the entrance and got out.

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We were met with plenty of signs and a huge safe by the road. Story was, when the fire burned down half the town, that safe was on the upper floors and fell straight through to were it now sits today. Very cool to see. And although I didn’t witness it, i’m pretty sure Nicholas searched for loose change around it. 🙂

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There was a sign that directed us up to the schoolhouse and where to park. We drove to it and another sign directed us to ring the bell to summon the town caretaker. We rang the bell, and within a minute a very friendly man let us in and gave us the run down of the town, the schoolhouse, the mines, and everything we wanted to know.

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There were plenty of relics from the old days everywhere inside. He showed us on the big maps, where all the mines were located…… and sealed off, so don’t get any ideas. I was amazed at how many mines there were. It looked like hundreds, all in a very small area. He continued with his history lesson, then handed us a town map. Only issue was the gate closes at 4pm. It’s almost 4pm. He said no problem, just park your car outside the gate and walk back in. Stay as long as you like. I was really liking this guy.

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We parked the car and got out to roam. There were still quite a few buildings still standing and a few we wondered how they could.

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But even with all the harsh barren land surrounding us, we found it extremely intriguing.  This is what I had hoped all the towns would look like. Besides the BLM employee and his wife way off in a RV, we were by ourselves in the middle of this town, free to roam. It was eerily quiet. Like if you listened hard enough, you might just hear something from the past. Then the coyotes started calling. That was one of the coolest feelings. Standing in the middle of a ghost town and hearing that. Quite surreal.

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Of course, we couldn’t roam every where. They were serious about the dangers that lay await for foolish wanderers.

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But, sometimes you wonder what’s over the next hill. Just be careful that you don’t do it around a kid with a camera. 🙂

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There were a few mines you could see from the town, and they really looked like they needed a quick peek inside, but I used my camera instead because i’m a good boy and always follow the rules.

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Another one of the great things about this town was the amount of things left behind from the old days. My favorite was the 1935 Plymouth, left behind by a resident a long time ago.

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At this point we had been here for over two hours and still had 200 more miles before our home for the night. The sun was going down, but I just couldn’t pass up the old cemetery on the hill.

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It was filled with residents from past and somewhat present. Some where nicely made, some a little more plain. But we had nothing but respect for these souls that lay here. Some moved on to other places and some are planted here, but they gave it a go trying to make a living or strike it rich.

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As the sun finally faded behind the hills, we drove off and spent the next few hours talking about this place. It was worth the trip and all the miles.

more info…http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/nm/lakevalley.html

 

Here’s the final chapter….http://trailinghookjournal.com/2015/11/23/a-trip-back-in-time-final-chapter/

Scott

Scott Gartman

Scott Gartman

Scott Gartman is a photographer and filmmaker. He is also an avid fisherman, kayaker, backpacker, and overall outdoorsman. His accolades are too many to list, as with the many streets and towns named after him. He’s a legend in his own mind. Check out his home page at www.flyrivermedia.com

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