I'd been itching to take a trip to the Oliver Lee State Park about ten miles south of Alamogordo, New Mexcio, for nearly a month now; the park boasts the restored nineteenth-century ranch house of Oliver Milton Lee (1865-1941), a rather colorful character in New Mexico history. As as you all know by now, I love old stuff and I've been in serious withdrawal since moving to El Paso--the only historic house in El Paso is closed for restoration with no sign of reopening any time soon.
The park is located at the mouth of Dog Canyon in the Sacramento Mountains; according to the park's literature, water flows year-round in Dog Canyon (although we didn't see any on our visit), making it a location that was highly sought after by nineteenth-century homesteaders.
Unfortunately for us (okay, more like me), the Oliver Lee ranch house is completely inaccessible to the public during the week; I knew that the rangers offered tours of the house on the weekends but I thought that meant we could still walk up to and check out the house without taking a tour, but I was wrong. I guess that just means I'll have to make another trip up there one weekend in the future.
We walked around the park for a bit, taking in the desert scenery while trying to figure out just how one could get down to the ranch house (before we realized it was a no-go); rather, John and I walked around while I pushed Sammy in the stroller--after seeing all of the warning signs regarding scorpions, rattle snakes and cougars (!!!!) in the area, I decided it was probably best if Sammy was relatively restrained on this little adventure.
Quite possibly the coolest remnant of the park's homesteading background were a series of hand-laid rock walls snaking up and down the rather steep walls of the surrounding Sacramento Mountains; these impressive boundary markers were placed stone by stone by Francois-Jean "Frenchy" Rochas in the late nineteenth century to delineate his property line and to corral his livestock. The park also has several hiking trails that we simply didn't have the time to attempt, but I would definitely like to go back again and give it a go...as long as we don't run into any cougars!