Fort Stanton, NM

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As we left Roswell the irrigated fields of the Pecos River Valley gave way to rolling brown hills and west-bound Hwy 380 eventually began to climb a valley into the mountains.

We made camp at the Fort Stanton Equestrian Trail head which is about the same place as the Rob Jaggers Camping Area. The camp area is near Capitan, NM – birthplace of the bear cub who would become Smokey the Bear – it’s a fine spot and at 6300 feet above sea level it’s fairly cool. There are camp spots with water and electric ($5 each connection) and there are several spots without hook-ups and they are free.

I took the walking tour of Fort Stanton and learned about the history of the place as a military fort and as a hospital. Near-by is a cave system that stretches for over 30 miles (when we were there the caves were closed for research projects). The area also has nearly 100 miles of trails open to horses, hikers, and bicycles.

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In Capitan I went to see the Smokey the Bear Historical Park where I was reminded about the story of the Smokey the Bear campaign and the discovery and rescue of the little bear cub who would become the living symbol of Smokey the Bear.

Small-talk at the market in Capitan was about how dry the winter and spring had been. The grass and plants in the meadow near our camp were dry and crunchy – it sounded like walking on soda crackers. Much the same conditions as those in 1950 that lead to the fire which orphaned the little bear cub.

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