November 26, 2019
I had plotted an escape to civilization about halfway through our road trip so we could shower, relax and sleep in a real bed. Upon seeing the unusual town name on the New Mexico map, I became curious and began researching the meaning behind it.
The town had previously been named Hot Springs, due to its wealth of bubbly hot pools in the area. But in 1950, a popular radio show called Truth or Consequences reached out to its audience, pledging to broadcast its 10th anniversary show in whatever town re-named itself after the program. And so, this sleepy little town came alive with a huge Fiesta and parade with a simple name change. Only in America.
To be honest, the place felt pretty run down and desolate. We had a lovely AirBnB rental with a hot tub in the backyard, and that’s all that really mattered to us. A couple nights here would recharge us for the remainder of the trip.
Also known as Turtleback Mountain, Caballo Cone was the local hiking destination. Its long, rolling ridgeline stretched for miles along the edge of town. Although there was no official trailhead or trail, there was a pretty legit user path and specific parking directions were easy to find online. No one was there when we arrived, and it appeared to be on public land, so we gave it a go.
As we’d come to expect from our previous adventures, it was cold and windy right from the get go. We bundled up and started hiking quickly, if only to stay warm in the shadow of the mountain. I could see a pointy bit off in the distance, but I knew it was just one of many false summits before we’d reach the top.
The wind was blowing so hard that the ocotillo on the sides of the trail were making me feel nervous. If the wind pushed me off balance, I’d plow right into one of those things, only to be impaled by hundreds of thorns. I worked hard to stay in control of my gait and leaned heavily on my poles.
The trail wove between sun and shade as it made its way up to the ridge. When the wind blew and it was shaded, I felt the cold go right through my body. When I caught a break in the wind and stood in the sunshine, I felt like I could melt. Temperature regulation was impossible; I was a little grumpy.
On the ridge we were faced with seemingly endless rolling terrain until we reached the top. There were some narrow, rocky spines that would have been fun to walk on in calmer weather. We dipped from one side of the ridge to the other, following the path of least resistance.
Once we reached the summit, I signed us in at the register box and we ducked out of the wind to eat some food. It was only 2.3 miles to get there, but we’d done a fair amount of climbing. I couldn’t wait to get back down, get in the car and strip some layers off. New Mexico was pushing my wind tolerance.
With that hike done, we still had most of the day to get out and explore. I was hopeful for some kind of indoor activity and remembered a recommendation that one of the shopkeepers in Truth or Consequences had suggested: the ghost town of Chloride.
We drove for about an hour and pulled into a small parking lot across the street from the Pioneer Store Museum. There was a little park next door with picnic tables and a restroom, so we set up at a table to have lunch. It was still cold and windy; I waited impatiently for water to boil for my lunch.
After getting some calories down, we walked over to the museum, where a sign directed us to the adjacent store. Apparently we’d need a guide to lead us through the museum. We waited, wandering around the store looking at all the trinkets, while the old man made his way to the store. As it turned out, he was the guy who purchased the old store and several other buildings in the dying town. He made it his mission to preserve the history that was hidden inside the old and decrepit structures. This man was full of knowledge of and, obviously, passion for sharing the stories of the people who used to live there. Once he started talking, he hardly stopped to take a breath,
As we stepped inside, the man’s words faded into the background as I was awestruck at what was in front of me. It was a cute little shop, with every horizontal surface covered with relics from the past. On one side, shelves full of groceries and glassware. On the other, tools, books and clothing. The walls were also covered with paraphernalia for a time long gone. In addition, there were displays of old newspapers, advertisements and letters. I almost wasn’t sure where to look!
Our tour guide told story after story with delight. I’m sure he reveled in having a captive audience. This was easily the highlight of my day.
We departed Chloride and headed back towards our rental, making one more stop at the Geronimo Springs Museum. There, we learned much more about the history of the area. Exhibits spanned from dinosaur bones to Native American history to cowboy culture to mohair goat ranching and, of course, the story of how Truth or Consquences came to be.
Back at the rental, I lamented over the weather forecast. It was only going to get worse. Inches of rain were projected to fall in the next couple days, accompanied by more chilly temperatures and treacherous conditions in the backcountry. I searched fruitlessly for hours in every direction to find a place of respite. The whole American west was being slammed by this storm system.
I booked an AirBnB for the next three nights in Silver City, a place I’d never heard of before. What’s a roadtrip without a big change of plans, anyways?