We awake in Roswell, but nothing is open until 1 p.m., meaning we’re spending the morning in our hotel room, recuperating from the busy two days we’ve experienced. A spot of lunch, then a visit to the Roswell Museum and Art Center, located across the Spring River from the Roswell Convention and Visitors Center on Main Street.
The museum, established in 1935 as a Works Progress Administration project, features permanent collections of art by Peter Hurd and Henrietta Wyeth, a pair of names most Lincoln County residents know. But there’s also a number of rotating exhibits, including contemporary art created by current residents of the Anderson program – the same program that fills the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art not too far from here.
While much of the museum’s collection is unchanging, these rotating exhibits allow visitors to come numerous times and experience something they’ve not seen before.
One of the more popular exhibits celebrates the work of Robert Goddard, who came to Roswell in the 1930s, after having been run out of Massachusetts because his rocket experiments were setting fire to the countryside.
His pioneering work in liquid fueled rocket technology eventually led to the space age – although Goddard never saw that in his lifetime. He died in 1945, just before the U.S. Government’s development of the space program began in earnest.
Goddard’s work was the direct inspiration for almost every accomplishment by NASA. The Space Shuttle – which recently made its last flight – was liquid-fueled.
The museum is one of several museums in Roswell – including the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico and – yes – the UFO Museum in downtown Roswell.
But time is running out on our trip, and now we head west on Highway 70, making our ascent into the Sacramento Mountains on our way home. We’ve made this trip numerous times, but we’ll be stopping somewhere we’ve never been, the Hondo Iris Farm.
The farm is the work of artist and writer Alice Seely, who has created a cool and quiet sanctuary at the intersection of Highways 70 and 380 just outside of the community of Hondo.
Seely’s art, tapestries and jewelry cover the walls and shelves in the adobe building located on the grounds, as well as items from around the globe. But the focus is many species of irises that grow there. We haven’t arrived at the optimum time – when the flowers are in bloom in spring – but the shaded groves and running canal are a welcome respite from the heat of the day.
Combined with the jewelry factory annex just down the road, the farm is the second largest employer in the valley, outside of the school district. Seely has also brought in a specialist to work on a catalog of all plant life growing in Lincoln County – something that hasn’t been done since the turn of the 20th century.
Finally, we make the trip up 380 through old Lincoln, the site of the infamous Lincoln County war that made Billy the Kid so very famous. We don’t have much time, so we must content ourselves by driving past historic sites and buildings that have changed very little since the 1870s.
It’s on to Capitan and the Smokey Bear Historical Park, dedicated to the famous bear cub rescued from a wildfire in the area in 1950. The U.S. Forest Service already had Smokey Bear as its mascot, but now it had a real bear to play the part.
This is another hidden jewel, a facility and garden that celebrates both the history of wildfire prevention efforts and the diverse fauna that grow in the Lincoln National Forest. It’s also eye-opening to see what the Forest Service has learned about fighting wildfires, and how so much of this knowledge could have been used to prevent the recent devastation of the Little Bear Fire – had the Forest Service been allowed to do its job.
We’ve decided to bypass Carrizozo and the Three Rivers Petroglyph site on the west side of Sierra Blanca, because we’re tired and really want to get home. It’s only been three days, but it feels like two weeks. We’ve traveled almost 600 miles and done some intense sightseeing in those three days. We could make the same trip three or four times and experience something different each time.