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Old 09-18-2009, 06:40 AM   #1
el tortuga OP
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Butterfield trail - NM

After months of no dirt, and with the Doc’s quasi-blessing, I’m back riding the lily-white trails.
I decided get on with my little project of finding a route that approximates the Southern Emigrant Trail through southwest New Mexico. So I loaded up the mighty XT in the truck and headed south. First, let me add a disclaimer. Some pictures of this route (La Mesilla to the Hatch highway) were done in July when I was hobbled by my acl recon so I was in my truck, not on a motorcycle. A lot of the route I retraced again on the XT as I tried to find connecting roads from the Hatch highway west. I figured this post would be more cohesive if incorporated as a single route from Las Cruces to Lordsburg those that may be interested in following the route.

History 101 – as told by me
Yeah, you’re going to get edumacated. But there are plenty of pictures too!
Mid-1800’s, the Mormons decided that they needed to move out from wherever they were in the mid-1800’s. The President granted permission for them to establish a route west. The whole Manifest Destiny thing, don’t ya know?
The Mormon Batallion was formed and they marched along the Santa Fe Trail, Camino Real to the Las Cruces area where they headed west to the coast. The trail they blazed was used later by folks emigrating west and since it was south of the “other” emigrant trail it is called, wait for it, the Southern Emigrant Trail. About 10 years later the government decided it needed a mail route to California and a man named Butterfield won the bid. He utilized this trail for his route and on some maps, you still see it called that. Po-Tay-Toe, Po-Tah-Toe. (Actually, I think the S. Emigrant Trail veered to the west around Hatch and the Butterfield turned west just outside of Las Cruces but I’m playing loose with the facts)

So anyway, there were a lot of stage stops on this route and a few remains can still be found.

Here is a pic of the route, with the zig zaggy line being the route I took and the other being the Butterfield trail.



La Mesilla Plaza





The La Posta restaurant - this is listed on the National Historic Registry. According to their web site, Sam and Roy Bean ran a freight and passenger service to Pinos Altos in the 1850’s from here (La Posta Compound). Later it became a prominent stop on the Butterfield Trail.
The rooms inside this restaurant used to be an old leather shop, blacksmith, café, bunkhouse schoolhouse and more. Cool stuff.


The old courthouse. Billy the Kid was sentenced to hang here. Afterwards, Billy said F that and escaped. Nowadays this is the Billy the Kid store. If you’re interested in buying some BtK tourista stuff, check it out.

Leaving old Mesilla, I connected up with I-10 for a short ride west. A few miles later I got off and connected up to a county road 09 that allowed access to roads that paralleled the BT.


Fort Mason. I’m not sure if this was a significant stop on the BT but it was on the map, so I stopped. Like a lot of the stage stops on this route it seems water and forage agencies were the key to their existence. Not much to see here other than the borders of buildings.

Westward ho!, at least for a while. I end up having to turn south again because a possible route west was not located. A lot of this route was planned using topo maps and google earth and I wasn’t sure how successful this would be. Some roads are overgrown and cannot be located easily and others are gone. So, I ride a little south and hit a power line road that heads west. This connects up with yet another county road(s) that follow along the BT. The powerline road can be sandy and the mesquite can snag you if you wander too closely.


The old Burris homestead. Don’t know much about this but it appears to be recently abandoned. Still has a nice well/water hole.








Snake!
A local resident. slightly pissed off after I ran over him. I have no clue what species of rattler this is. It's amazing how well they can withstand being run over. If it's a dirt road, they seem to fare pretty well. It's rattle was very quiet but I'm thinking it was because of the tire running over his ass, breaking some bones.


Petroglyphs!


Mortar Holes!


Ranch!!
This is where I get thwarted in my attempt to continue west. The ranch sits smack dab on two county roads. There is a pipeline road that heads south from this ranch but it is a brutal. Don’t take this on a loaded bike. Plus, there’s a no trespassing sign on the second to last gate you get to.
I’m pretty sure you can take an obscure westward trail just south of the ranch. I tried to come in from the west but I ran out of time to confirm. I got within four miles being certain.


Looking west towards Cookes Peak. This pic was taken very close to the BT and shows the general direction you’d be taking. There was a stage stop near the hills in the foreground. After that, the next stage stop would have been at Fort Cummings.
The roads from here to the old fort are bladed county roads (lily white).





Fort Cummings. Doesn’t look like much ‘cause ya gotta get close, real close.
At the time, this was an important stop because of the reliable water source at nearby Cookes Spring. The fort had a group of buffalo soldiers staying there for a bit, including a woman by the name of Cathay Williams (google her). There are still some decent ruins left that give a good idea of the layout of the place.


More pics




– old cemetery



Butterfield stage stop.




Cookes Spring Station - a few hundred yards away is an important water source that was used for centuries.




Leaving the fort you’d be heading west through a canyon that was a favorite killing spot for the Indians. The peak to the south is called Massacre Peak. Looking at maps along this route, the word “massacre” pops up quite frequently on many landmarks. J It seems anytime the geography presented a good opportunity to attack…





Just outside the fort I come across a set of graves of some poor souls that didn’t make the trek. I wandered around for 30 min looking for these and ended up finding them 20ft from where I parked. For me, finding stuff like this is too cool. This area of the state is very desolate and it makes it very easy to imagine the apprehension travelers must have felt as they passed through this area.

Topo maps show other grave sites and I understand there are mortar holes up in the hills in this area but I was running out of daylight so I didn’t have time to find them on this trip.


Coming down this route was a little rugged. Rocky in spots, sandy in spots and nice in other spots. This was a sandy spot. I was able to locate a two-track that connects up the two county roads, allowing you to avoid heading south.

Some nice scenery pics…






I based out of City of Rocks State Park during my Sept. trip. This was my first time there and if you need a spot to camp, I recommend it. All the campsites are tucked up into the rock formations. They even have showers. I think they have some kind of star viewing history and all the campsites are named after various celestial-type things like Bootes, Leo and such. And yes, there’s even is a site called Uranus. While I was there nobody was camped in Uranus. hah








Following the BT from here gets dicey because of the ranches and the zig zagging roads and the playas that are north of Lordsburg. More importantly, there isn’t anything to see until you get Doubtful Canyon on the AZ border. Doubtful canyon was another ambushing spot for the Apaches and there’s a headstone there for guy named Goodings. I skipped that.
After that, you have to backtrack to Lordsburg where you can check out the ghost town of Shakespeare. This used to an important stop on the BT. The owners open it up one Sunday a month and this visit wasn’t that day. Since they charge to come onto the property you’d think they’d be open more than on day a month. Although it’s an interesting spot it isn’t interesting enough to plan a trip around their open day. Here’s a link on it. http://www.shakespeareghostown.com/
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Old 09-24-2009, 05:18 PM   #2
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Hey, nicely done...good pics and story..
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Old 09-24-2009, 05:43 PM   #3
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Nice writeup and pics. It may be just a coincidence but 3:10 to Yuma is on right now on TCM. Glen Ford just robbed the Butterfield Stage. It looks like they might have filmed it in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine. I like wild west type history. Keep up the good work!
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Old 09-24-2009, 07:20 PM   #4
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Awesome! Thanks for posting that (and thanks to another ADVer for alerting me of this thread).

I, too, have been tracing the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, but in Texas. I started at the OK/TX border and the Red River, working my way south to Fort Chadbourne in Hill Country. I don't know when I'll be able to continue, but one section I eagerly look forward to is that through the Guadalupe Mnts and into NM.

Tell you what; let's make a deal. When I get it together to take the DR down for several days to that area, perhaps we can meet up and explore that together. You can be 'guide'. And, if you are ever in Texas, it would be my pleasure to guide you on legs of the trail. The most fun (aka interesting) is the trail after it heads south from Gainesville and along the string of forts. You'll get a belly full of history, too (I'm a history buff).

I haven't finished the posts, but the travelogue for the beginning can be found here (reverse chronology) and here (other bits and pieces). It's neat to put the Texas and New Mexico trail sections together.

Thanks for the travelogue, photos and history tidbits.
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Old 09-24-2009, 07:38 PM   #5
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great stuff!

I've been on a small section of the Butterfield Stage line, down in SoCal around Agua Caliente.... I've been down around that portion, but always blasting thru on pavement on the outskirts.
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Old 09-24-2009, 07:42 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blakebird
great stuff!

I've been on a small section of the Butterfield Stage line, down in SoCal around Agua Caliente.... I've been down around that portion, but always blasting thru on pavement on the outskirts.

Same here... always passing through, looking off into the emptiness thinking there must be some good riding and great history out there.



thanks for the report!
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Old 09-24-2009, 09:50 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jethro

I based out of City of Rocks State Park during my Sept. trip. This was my first time there and if you need a spot to camp, I recommend it. All the campsites are tucked up into the rock formations. They even have showers. I think they have some kind of star viewing history and all the campsites are named after various celestial-type things like Bootes, Leo and such. And yes, there’s even is a site called Uranus. While I was there nobody was camped in Uranus. hah








Following the BT from here gets dicey because of the ranches and the zig zagging roads and the playas that are north of Lordsburg. More importantly, there isn’t anything to see until you get Doubtful Canyon on the AZ border. Doubtful canyon was another ambushing spot for the Apaches and there’s a headstone there for guy named Goodings. I skipped that.
After that, you have to backtrack to Lordsburg where you can check out the ghost town of Shakespeare. This used to an important stop on the BT. The owners open it up one Sunday a month and this visit wasn’t that day. Since they charge to come onto the property you’d think they’d be open more than on day a month. Although it’s an interesting spot it isn’t interesting enough to plan a trip around their open day. Here’s a link on it. http://www.shakespeareghostown.com/

Holy cow...havent seen that place in years!!

City of rocks is a really great place to camp. Years ago, we went there late in the fall during a full moon when my kids were still very young...we went out walking among the tops of the rocks under the full moon. It was much like walking on the surface of the moon, didnt even need a lantern or flashlight...what a beautiful evening!

My daughter still talks about wanting to go back to city of rocks to camp sometime...kind of tough to do since were up in Washington State now and shes getting ready to go to college (sigh). My how times flys...thanks for bringing back some fond memories!!
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Old 09-25-2009, 03:48 AM   #8
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Great report
Thanks for sharing
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Old 09-25-2009, 05:27 AM   #9
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Man i love this stuff, great pics and report, thanks for posting it.
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Old 09-25-2009, 06:09 PM   #10
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Thanks for the positive comments. I don't post a whole lot but I figured some folks may find it interesting. As I get older and approach becoming history myself, I find the trials that folks endured establishing the US fascinating.
Last year I did a ride along the Old Spanish Trail that I aborted shortly after the route became pavement but I think the seed was planted and I gravitated towards rides that had some history associated with them. When I saw the "Butterfield Trail" on topo of southern NM I thought it might be interesting. Fortunately, the NM portion has a lot of BLM land in the section and it is very isolated. It isn't hard to picture what earlier settlers saw and quite honestly, they had some balls.



Quote:
Originally Posted by TexasShadow

Tell you what; let's make a deal. When I get it together to take the DR down for several days to that area, perhaps we can meet up and explore that together. You can be 'guide'. And, if you are ever in Texas, it would be my pleasure to guide you on legs of the trail. The most fun (aka interesting) is the trail after it heads south from Gainesville and along the string of forts. You'll get a belly full of history, too (I'm a history buff).
Shoot me a pm when you're planning to ride. If our schedules work out I'd be happy to show you the route. I'm planning on riding it again, probably this winter when the weather is cooler and there is talk of a little bit longer ride to Tombstone. I'll keep you posted if you want, or you can visit www.nmdualsport.org .
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Old 09-25-2009, 06:22 PM   #11
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Great history lesson...thanks
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Old 09-25-2009, 06:31 PM   #12
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Big sky country.. love those wide open shots.. iconic American landscape! thanks for posting and providing us with the link to more eye candy
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Old 09-26-2009, 05:10 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vincenthdfan
Holy cow...havent seen that place in years!!

.thanks for bringing back some fond memories!!
I was amazed how well-kept the site was. Kudos to this place for spending my money wisely.
I slept with the rain fly off while I was there and even through the netting I was able to watch the Milky Way rotate around me.
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Old 09-26-2009, 06:18 PM   #14
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Very interesting. Thank you.
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Old 09-26-2009, 06:29 PM   #15
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All these trails and historical routes, and only so much time.

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