Fort Stanton was built in 1855 by soldiers of the 1st Dragoon and the 3rd and 8th Infantry Regiments to serve as a base of operations against the Mescalero Apache Indians. It was established to protect Hispano and White settlements along the Rio Bonito in the Apache Wars. Kit Carson, John “Black Jack” Pershing, Billy the Kid, and Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry all lived here. In 1899 the fort was acquired the fort as a tuberculosis hospital and then in WWII it was home to internment camps for German and Japanese. There is a lot to see here and we rode trails to it to explore.
I won’ t go into too much detail about all the buildings at the fort, you’ll have to see for yourself. What did impress me is there was an Amusement Building that featured a 174 seat movie theater. It cost a dime for adults and a nickel for children.
The giant ranch and farm operations in the hospital years produced enough to not only feed everyone, but they had excess to ship to other locations. By they had 2,000 head of cattle and the hospital also was raising sheep, pigs, chickens and turkeys along with horses and mules.
The trail map for Fort Stanton shows 93 miles of trail and we didn’t ride them all, just the best. The trails aren’t really the main attraction, but we found a lot of fun ones and put together a big loop. We rode miles with 2542′ of climbing. These aren’t maintained much and are definitely rugged.
We started on Apache Trail that dropped down into the canyon on a narrow rocky trail that crossed the dry bed several times. We popped out and rode Rio Bonito Trail to the Fort where we toured around for awhile before hopping on the Kit Carson Loop. This seemed like newer trail and took us up through a recent burn with views of the valley below. The climb was easy enough and we eventually hooked into Capitan Overlook Trail
The Capitan Overlook Trail was tough. It’s very loose and rocky in parts and that made for some tough climbs. Again, we got great views of the valley below. Even though this was a tough trail I really enjoyed the rugged feel of it. When we finally made it to the top of the mesa we rode a never used jumbled rock trail down the side of the next canyon. I think it was called Skyline Trail. It was a blast but I wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t like steep loose rocky downhills.
Skyline Trail continued across the entire meadowy mesa on a very feint trail. Most of the time I was guessing where the trail should go, it gets that little use. Fine by me. Did we mention we didn’t see one other cyclist the entire day? About this time I ran out of water but we still had the giant climb back up to the final mesa. This part is a rocky rode, but it was steep and hot. This is where we hit the max grade of 19.8%. Oof.
My new book is a new novel about Bonnie of Bonnie and Clyde. It’s fiction but follows true life very closely. Not so glamorous. With all this open space of mountains and forests and very little development, I feel like I’m in the Wild Wild West.