Smokey the Bear, Billy the Kid, and ETs: a trip to Roswell

Read it and weep.  The nuclear age begins here, and rocks glowed

Read it and weep. The nuclear age begins here, and rocks glowed, sayeth the kids.

My recent vacation in New Mexico was combined with a work trip for my wife.  Leaving Albuquerque, we took a longer but  more interesting route south and east.  We couldn’t take a picture of the “Very Large Array” of radio telescopes (Featured in book/movie Contact), as it was 50 miles off the highway.   But the site of the first nuclear detonation was a bonus, if a bit depressing.  The drive was boring for a long way until we neared Capitan, where the landscape got greener as we gained elevation.

Smokey The Bear near Capitan, NM

Smokey the bear representation near Capitan, NM, where he was found as a cub

Capitan offered a Smokey the Bear museum, but we simply took a quick look around the gift shop.   Apparently Smokey the Bear was already an advertising concept, when a real black bear cub was orphaned in a fire here. in 1950.  After attaining some celebrity, Smokey was later shipped off to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. to amuse onlookers and eat bon bons.

Lincoln County War

Lincoln, where Billy the Kid was involved in the Lincoln County War

The next town, Lincoln, was more famous for the carnage that emerged from a power struggle between rival factions.  Henry  McCarty, aka William Bonney, later known as Billy the Kid, happened to be on one side.   It was a bloody time of back and forth revenge killings.  In 2013, the town is remarkably quiet, but there are lots of great interpretive signs to peruse.  Again, we opted not to pay for the museum.  So much to do, so little time!

Nuclear heat on our arrival in Roswell

Nuclear heat on our arrival in Roswell: see the temp at the top

From Lincoln, we powered straight through to Roswell, and hour away, where it was a bit warmer.  Did I mention it was hot?   Okay, Roswell was baking.  Of course, it was a dry heat.  Still, we were thankful for air conditioning.

Bitter Ponds

Bitter Lake

The next day, while Denise worked, I headed for water.   Jackie Chan and I drove east of Roswell to Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge.  I didn’t know what to expect, and ended up doing a nice little driving tour around multiple lakes.  At one point we got out and walked, but it was soon too hot for much walking, even before noon, and Jackie was a bit under the weather.

Jackie is not digging the heat: the upland desert trail

Jackie is not digging the heat: the upland desert trail

I did enjoy the bit of walking we did.  The trail took us away from the lakes in a forbidding landscape.  I saw few birds, but appreciated the plant life.


Great seed pods–yucca, I believe.

Don't tread on me, the prickly pear says

Don’t tread on me, the prickly pear says

Desert flowers always surprise

Desert flowers always surprise

Upland Desert Trail near Bitter Ponds Wildlife Refuge

Upland Desert Trail near Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Strange metal supposedly recovered from UFO crash site.  Probably Japanese jewelry

Strange metal supposedly recovered from UFO crash site. Some now say it’s a style of Japanese jewelry.

Before leaving town the next day we hit the UFO Museum.  It had some cheese factor to its displays, to be sure, but it also offered food for thought.  What if aliens did land near Roswell in 1947?  Would that change our world today?  Fun things to consider, but it was time to leave and return to Oregon

These guys wouldn't talk to us.  The UFO museum before we left town.

These guys wouldn’t talk to us. I think they heard about waterboarding.

About Josh Baker

"The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ― John Muir

Posted on August 7, 2013, in Desert, Flora and Fauna, Hiking with dogs, Historical sites, Outdoors, Uncategorized, vacations and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. That was fun, thanks–always wanted to go to Roswell! Now you already did it for me.

  2. I don’t care how kitchy (sp?) it is, I still want to go to Roswell! And too bad you didn’t get to see the VLA. I relate to Jackie, the heat always gets me down too!

  3. Poor Jackie – the heat makes me lethargic, too 😦
    Amusing caption on your last image!

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