Sunday, September 11, 2016

Scenic Byways and Ghost Towns

Well, we are headed home today but first, we wanted to do some letterboxing and drive the Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway and the Lake Valley Backcoutnry Scenic Byway. You can read about the letterboxing at Lake Valley and Chloride Letterboxing. We left Silver City via US 180 and then turned onto NM 152 at Santa Clara. It wasn't long before we reached the intersection with NM 35. This is where the southern route of the Geronimo Trail ends (but for us today it was our beginning). Very near this intersection is a New Mexico Scenic Byway sign but it doesn't tell you which Scenic Byway. All along NM 15 from NM 35 to Hillsboro there weren't any signs stating that we were on a Scenic Byway much less the Geronimo Trail. We reached the intersection with NM 27 in Hillsboro and turned south here to drive the Lake Valley Backcountry Scenic Byway, stop and visit the ghost town of Lake Valley and plant a letterbox.
At the beginning of NM 27 there were two signs - a New Mexico Scenic Byway sign and a Backcountry Scenic Byway sign. But again it didn't state that we were on the Lake Valley Backcountry Scenic Byway. The Lake Valley Byway starts near I 25 and Caballo Lake and traverses NM 152 and then down NM 27 to Nutt, NM. Along the part of NM 27 is the ghost town of Lake Valley and it is about 16 miles south of Hillsboro. Between Hillsboro and Lake Valley we only saw one Backcountry Scenic Byway sign and again it didn't say which byway. There may be more signs between Lake Valley and Nutt but we didn't drive that part of the byway.v

Anyway, we turned onto Lake Valley School Road. We ended up reaching a gate that blocked entrance into Lake Valley. It was about 9:00am and we saw this sign on the gate . . .

Just when we had decided to turn around and leave, a man in a golf cart showed up and opened the gate.
Lake Valley Home
So we went in and drove to the School House which is now a museum and information center. Here we got a walking tour brochure and talked with the man about the history of Lake Valley. As we asked questions and he answered them we looked around the museum. Then we headed out to do the walking tour. You follow a trail around the town and get information about each building. We started to walk but decided it was too hot. So we got back in the car and just drove around the town and took pictures. Lake Valley was a mining town and it had a famous mine called the Bridal Chamber.

Here are some more links about Lake Valley . . .
Lake Valley Historic Townsite and Backcountry Byway
Lake Valley New Mexico
Lake Valley - Silver Mining Heydays
Tales of Lake Valley

While we were taking our tour Thomas noticed a structure (which looked like an informational sign) out along the highway.
View from Lake Valley
So after our short tour of the town we got back on NM 27 and headed to the sign to check it out. It turned out to be an informational sign about the Lake Valley Backcountry Scenic Byway. So we stopped and took pictures and read about the byway. From this sign you can see the Lake Valley school house and the town. From Lake Valley back to Hillsboro we saw two Backcountry Scenic Byway sign and none that said Lake Valley. But we did see a sign for the Geronimo Trail (which we weren't on that byway, maybe it was just to let us know we were getting ready to meet up with it). After a few minutes from that sign we arrived at the stop sign at NM 152 and I noticed a nice informational sign about the Geronimo Trail (just like the Lake Valley one). So we stopped, read about the trail and took some pictures. After visiting the Geronimo Trail sign we then continued along NM 152 to I 25. Between Hillsboro and I 25 we encountered two Lake Valley signs but no Geronimo signs. I know I mentioned these signs a lot but for some reason it bothered me that the Scenic Byways weren't marked that well. If you start your drive somewhere in the middle you don't have a clue that you are on a scenic drive. The drive this morning from Silver City to Lake Valley and to I 25 was incredible. There was just so much beautiful scenery and wonderful places to stop and explore.

We got on to I 25 and drove to Truth or Consequences so that we could stop at the Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway Visitor Center.
Pioneer Store Museum, Chloride, NM
I didn't check the hours of the center and when we arrived the place was closed. Today being Sunday, it didn't open until noon and we were there at 10:00am. It wasn't a big deal, I just wanted to get some brochures and informtion. So we left T or C and got back on I 25. We drove for a while and then took Exit 83 which brought us to NM 181/52. This is the northern route of the Geronimo Trail.
Monte Cristo Gift Shop & Gallery, Chloride, NM
Not far from I 25 181 & 52 split and we continued our drive on 52 headed for Cuchillo, Winston and Chloride. From NM 52 there is a turn for NM 142 which takes you to Monticello. We opted to skip going there because of time so we just continued on NM 52. Again we were on the Geronimo Trail and the views were incredible and the drive relaxing and wonderful. We passed through Cuchillo and then Winston. In Winston we turned onto Republic Rd. (which at some point becomes County Road CO06. Then we turned onto Wall St. which brought us to Chloride. In Chloride we visited the Monte Cristo Saloon and Dance Hall / Gift Shop and Gallery; the Pioneer Store Museum; the Grafton Cabin and the Hanging Tree. At the Gallery and the Musuem we talked to a mother and daughter (Mrs. Edmund and Linda Turner). We found out that there are 11 people living in Chloride and all the buildings are privately owned. We had a great visit and enjoyed the museum immensely.
The Hanging Tree, Chloride, NM
Here are more links about Chloride . . .
Chloride New Mexico
Chloride, New Mexico: Ghost Town Pioneer Store Museum
Chloride - Center of the Apache Mining District
Chloride, New Mexico
A Resurrection: Chloride, New Mexico

Chloride is off the beaten path but the drive and the town are worth the visit. Make sure to visit the Pioneer Store Museum (you will learn so much about the town). There is no charge to visit the museum but please consider making a donation. They have worked extremely hard to conserve the history and charm of the town.
View Leaving Chloride
We left Chloride and retraced our drive to I 25 so that we could make our way home. The drive back home was uneventful. We didn't make any stops, I think we were just ready to be home after a busy weekend. We had so much fun, learned a lot about the area around Silver City, got to drive on some amazing scenic byways, visit a couple of ghost towns and see places we hadn't visited before. I am hoping we can do this on a regular basis to see other parts of New Mexico.
Sacred Datura
Silver City – Hillsboro – Lake Valley – Hillsboro – Truth or Consequences – Chloride – Santa Fe 
396 miles | 7 hours 26 minutes

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