Welcome to “Billy The Kid” country!
Locals call this town Zozo which seems appropriate. Zozo is a cute little town with a historic district on 12th street with cute little old shops and colourful buildings. Don’t miss Roy’s Ice Cream Parlor which is only open in the summer. There is a development outside of town called Valle del Sol where you can buy 3 acres of land for under $13,000, don’t wait!
Capitan is the home of the Smokey Bear Historical Park along with a Smokey Bear Museum and Gift Shop. The historical park offers exhibits on the history of Smokey Bear along with a video and lots of interesting information regarding forest fires, forest health, and fire ecology. There is a short interpretative trail out back with a picnic area and Smokeys’ grave. Next door is the Smokey Bear Museum which sells all sorts of Smokey paraphernalia. Capitan is a cute little area for those interested in Smokey Bear and great fun for me being raised with Smokey commercials and Smokey signs everywhere. Only YOU can prevent forest fires!
Lincoln is deep in the heart of Billy the Kid (AKA William Bonney) country and one of the most dangerous areas at the time in New Mexico’s violent history.
Lincoln is home to Lincoln State Monument which is a state run historic district where you can tour 11 historic adobe and stone buildings from some very violent times in New Mexico history. In the summer they do a re-enactment of Billy the Kids’ escape from the Lincoln County courthouse in Lincoln where he shot and killed two men. The old courthouse has a number of exhibits which detail the history of Billy The Kid along with correspondence between Billy and the governor of New Mexico.
After touring the Lincoln County Courthouse we headed over to the historic Tunstall and McSween General Store and we weren’t in the museum but 2 minutes when we noticed it was hailing outside. We went out onto the covered porch and watched for ten minutes as the hail got bigger and bigger and our car got hit more and more. Two pieces of hail ricocheted off the trees and hit me in the face and in the neck, ouch!
After it was over we went and assessed the damage. Our tow vehicle had broken windshield wipers, a broken side mirror, and hail dents all over the roof and hood and side of the car. Yep, the car was totalled. Not a pretty sight. As my brother said, “Ahh, the perfect toad, it looks like crap but it runs great!”, thank you. No damage to the motorhome as it was safe and sound in Zozo.
About 20 minutes form Zozo is an old mining town which became prosperous in 1869 after the discovery of gold. The town eventually died after the gold depletion and the lack of railway rights. There are some historical buildings to see along with a mining museum. The local cemetery Cedarville is the resting place of many White Oaks citizens along with Deputy Sheriff James Bell who was shot and killed by Billy the Kid during his escape from the Lincoln County Courthouse in 1881.
Ft Stanton State Historic Site
Ft. Stanton is the home of an old Army fort with a varied history. First established in 1855 as a military installation to help protect the locals from the Mescalero Apaches, it changed missions several times and by 1899 the fort was established as a tuberculosis hospital for the Merchant Marines. By 1941 it housed German detainees from the German luxury liner SS Columbus who eventually became POWs when the US entered the war. From 1963-1996 the fort was used as a facility for the care of the mentally challenged. From 1996-1999 it was a women’s low security correctional facility. From 2000-2009 it was a drug rehabilitation center. Ft Stanton is a very interesting state run historic site where you can go on a self-guided walking tour through many of the old buildings. The Visitors Center has a short video, a gift shop, and terrific old photographs mainly focused on when the Fort was a TB hospital. There is a Merchant Marine cemetery nearby which can also be visited.
Ft Stanton – Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area (NCA)
Surrounding Ft. Stanton is a BLM area with lots of hiking trails, road trails, and caves which can be explored. The Ft. Stanton Visitor Center is the NCA headquarters and provides maps, photos and information on the caves and when and how they were discovered. Many of the caves have yet to be fully explored (i.e., they haven’t found the end yet). We were not aware of this BLM until we visited Ft. Stanton and had we known we would have probably spent another week in the area visiting and touring the NCA.
There is a campground called Fort Stanton Equestrian Trailhead (Rod Jaggers Camping Area) just south of Hwy 380 on Hwy 220 on the way to Ft. Stanton with 5 RV sites which would have been a perfect spot for camping and exploring the area.