March 15, 2012

On the Trail of Outlaws, and a Bear

Our stay in Texas drew to a close yesterday in the small town of Pecos.  Tim had wanted to visit the town because he worked at Pecos National Historical Park in Pecos, New Mexico, prior to his current stint at Rocky Mountain National Park.  He thought it would be fun to see the “other” Pecos.

Tim in Pecos, Texas
Pecos, Texas, developed a reputation for violence in the 1890s after several gunfights occurred here.  Judge Roy Bean traveled to Pecos every few months to hold court.  Although Pecos also claims to be the home of the world’s first rodeo in 1893, and is known for its sweet cantaloupes, we found its western history more intriguing.

A stop at the West of the Pecos Museum therefore seemed in order, and we saw the saloon where one of the gunfights took place, as well as the grave of Clay Allison, a notorious gunfighter who “never killed a man that didn’t need killing.”  The museum is chock full of all types of memorabilia, and we wandered from room to room trying to take it all in.  
West of the Pecos Museum
They're Friendly Here
Displays of Cowboy Hats and Barbed Wire
We wrapped up our stay in Pecos and headed north to New Mexico.  I can’t believe that I was in Texas for almost three weeks and never once had the opportunity to eat barbeque or chili.  How could that happen?  Isn’t that a crime?  Oh well.  We did have several great Tex-Mex meals, but that’s just not the same.  We now have one more reason to return to Texas.

We arrived in New Mexico on the trail of Billy the Kid.  Yes, it was to be a day for outlaws. Although Tim had lived in New Mexico for many years, he had never visited the mountains and valleys west of Roswell.  It’s a beautiful part of New Mexico, with peaceful valleys and snow-capped mountain peaks.  Small towns like Lincoln and Capitan have preserved much of their heritage.

Beautiful Valleys with Mountains in the Distance
The town of Lincoln is located along the Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway.  The town became nationally-known during the bloody Lincoln County War of the late 1870s, and Billy the Kid was one of the central participants.  Many of the buildings in the town are now a part of the Lincoln State Monument.  It has often been said that Lincoln is one of the most authentic and best-preserved old west towns in the United States.  After walking though the town today and visiting the museums in the historic buildings, I would have to agree. Lincoln is still a real town, and has only a few simple commercial establishments to cater to tourists.  It’s the antithesis of Tombstone, which I consider to be the ultimate “tourist trap.”  Lincoln is charming and a very low-key place, and I really enjoyed our visit.

The Courthouse in Lincoln Where Billy the Kid Killed Two Guards
and Escaped in 1881
Montano Store Is Now a Museum
San Juan Mission
Interior of the San Juan Mission
The Torreon on the Right
We followed our visit to Lincoln with a stop at the Smokey Bear Historical Park in Capitan. It was nearby in the Capitan Mountains that an orphaned bear cub was rescued during a forest fire in 1950.  This little bear went on to become the most famous bear of all times, and the living symbol of fire prevention efforts.  The park has a small museum with photographs and memorabilia about Smokey.  Smokey lived at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, until his death in 1976, but is buried here in the park.  It was so nostalgic to view all of the exhibits about Smokey.  To commemorate our visit, Tim and I simply had to purchase a little “Smokey Bear.”  He’s the same size as Ranger Lowell, our National Park ranger bear, and both are now sitting on our dashboard.  They have garnered quite a bit of attention.

Smokey Bear Was Found in Capitan Gap in the Background as a Badly Burned Bear Cub
(I Can't Believe that Someone Would Shoot Smokey!)
Smokey's Message Is Still Being Told
Smokey's Gravesite
Smokey Bear and Ranger Lowell


  1. I haven't thought about Smokey the Bear in years! What a blast from the past. He looks good on your dash! LV

    1. LV, I hadn't thought too much about Smokey either, and it was cool to learn more about him. We also think he's pretty cute on the dash. Sarah

  2. Replies
    1. AG, We never seem to know what we're going to find on the road, but Smokey's home has to be one of the most fun stops we've had in a while. Sarah

  3. Aha Smokey the Bear. That is a great story. Sorry I have not been on for a while, just got caught up. Karen says she is loving your stories. Love A

    1. A, We're glad you're back and that you and Karen are enjoying the stories. Smokey Bear's story is one of my favorites. Sarah

  4. Thanks for sharing, Sarah. We should have stopped at the park on our way to San Patricio, but we were anxious to get settled before the rain hit. After seeing so much Smokey memorabilia at the Fire Dept Exhibit at Miramont Castle, visiting the park is a must. We plan to drive the Billy the Kid Trail ... appreciate seeing photos of some of what we might be seeing when go out for ourselves.

    1. I think you will enjoy the park and all of the memorabilia. You can also visit Smokey's grave and drive down the road a bit to see where he was rescued. The scenery along the trail is beautiful, and there is so much history - probably more about Billy the Kid than you ever wanted to know!