Where to start? The guidebooks invited us to start at the Geronimo Springs Museum in Truth or Consequences, so we did. Website here.
The museum was filled with all the usual old western art and artifacts, as well as specific items referring to Geronimo, the Apache-settler-army conflicts, and the development of the town of Hot Springs which, in 1950, voted to change its name to Truth or Consequences. A life-size wax statue of Geronimo himself greeted us, urging us to buy T-shirts and a bag of the freshest pistachios we have ever eaten. In return we were given a copy of a most comprehensive guide book to the Geronimo Trail. More pictures of the museum can be found by clicking this link.
Sunday was the start of our actual tour. We headed south to one leg of the trail, following NM 152. First stop, Hillsboro, a town that dates back to 1877, following the discovery of gold in the surrounding hills. Website here. By 1890, the town had a population of 700, and by 1907 there were some 1200 folk living there. Fires, floods, influenza epidemics and economic downturns took their toll on Hillsboro, but the town survived and is now a small active community of artists, ranchers and retirees.
We had a delightful breakfast at the historic old General Store Cafe, in continuous operation since 1879, and looking much as it did 100 years ago. Restaurant Review here. The food was scrumptious, and we interesting neighbors to chat with at the next table.
Hillsboro used to be the Sierra County Seat, but lost that honor to T or C in a hotly disputed battle. The ornate, three-story red brick courthouse stands in ruins today, in front of similar ruins of the old stone jail.
And the jail holds only memories of notorious scofflaws of the past.
For more pictures of Hillsboro, see our Web Album here.
West of Hillsboro by a few miles lies the town of Kingston, born five years after its neighbor, and because of silver instead of gold. Kingston grew faster, with 7000 residents by the year 1890. Kingston died harder, too. The US Government opted for the Gold Standard in 1893, the price of silver plummeted, the townspeople dismantled much of the town for materials to rebuild their lives elsewhere.
One of Kingston’s leading citizens, Sadie Orchard, also happened to be the town’s madam, who built her brother down at the end of Virtue! Sadie was the town’s chamber of commerce, and was responsible for raising enough money to build a church and a school for Kingston. Shady lady, perhaps, but also a major benefactor of the town.
The Percha Bank was, in 1890 the biggest bank in all of New Mexico. After the 1893 silver panic, the bank moved to Hillsboro, and the building was saved to serve as Kingston’s Post Office until it closed in 1957. Today it is the privately owned Percha Bank Museum, open on Saturdays and Sundays, free but donations accepted. Website
We were lucky to be touring on Sunday, so we were able to meet Mark Nero, owner of the Percha Bank Museum, here chatting with Suzy in front of the original bank vault. Nero is also the owner of The Cranberry Press, Website which he runs from the back room of the bank, using turn-of-the-century letter presses, and setting the lead type one character at a time.
We visited with Mark for nearly a half hour, then moved further west, climbing better than 3000 feet on twisty but well paved highway 152 to Emory Pass, at 8826 feet, where we were treated to a nice but uninspiring view of Hillsboro, Kingston and beyond to the Rio Grande Valley.
For more pictures of Kingston, go to our Web Album: Click Here
Getting hungry, we returned to Hillsboro and the Barber Shop Cafe.
The cafe used to be down the block in the old barbershop, but it was moved into an abandoned mercantile that had also once served as a community gathering place, saloon and dancehall. The bar counter remains, with a mural on the back bar representing the social nature of the old place.
The meal was so-so, but Suzy met this neat lady who had also seen us at breakfast across the street that morning. She introduced herself as a member of one of the old families in Hillsboro. She had moved away, gotten a degree at Harvard, and was back visiting friends and family.
That concludes Sunday’s visit to the Geronimo Trail. We did make another loop afterwards, on the Lake Valley Scenic Byway, but we’ll tell you about that next time. Our day was so full (driving nearly 200 miles, taking almost as many pictures as miles driven) that we have taken Monday off. We’ll return to complete the Geronimo Trail some day later in … Our Life On Wheels.