|Artistic legend Georgia O’Keefe fell under its spell. So did Ansel Adams and scores of other artists and outdoorsmen who adored open spaces and alluring landscapes. The good news is that New Mexico still possesses those qualities. Indeed, the state boasts some of the most diverse terra firma in North America. Snowcapped mountains neighbor parched deserts, and secluded natural wonders vie with ancient ruins and other manmade attractions for visitors’ attention.Among it all is the tiny south-central town of Ruidoso, situated within the southernmost range of the Rockies. Consistently voted as one of the best places to vacation, live and retire, Ruidoso (which takes its name from Rio Ruidoso, the “noisy river” running through it) has much to offer those who dream of owning a log home in the Southwest.|
“New Mexico is the fifth-largest state, but only two million people live here,” says Robert Coburn, representative for Kuhns Bros. Log Homes in nearby Cloudcroft. “So you can see why we consider ourselves the greatest secret in the country.”
What’s It Like to Live Here?
In fact, the quality of life in Ruidoso is something residents are determined to preserve. “Everything we have here is a gift of nature,” says Joan Zagone, former executive director of the Ruidoso Chamber of Commerce. “It’s up to us to leave a legacy for others.”
How’s the Weather?
But probably the best part about Ruidoso’s weather is its Alpine climate, featuring low humidity and cool breezes. There’s even snowfall in the mountains of Lincoln County. “There’s enough snow to be enjoyable, but not enough to be a nuisance,” says Alvin Vaught of Log Homes of Cloudcroft. This snowfall has helped Ski Apache become one of the best locations for winter sports in the area.
A Little History
In 1878, unrest between those who worked the land (cowboys and ranchers) and those who owned the city (bankers and politicians) was bubbling in Lincoln County. And during this time, its most famous historical resident was about to take center stage. Billy the Kid, fighting for the cowboys, fled the final shootout of the battle in Lincoln and went on to terrorize the area. He escaped the law until Sheriff Pat Garrett shot him on July 14, 1881.
In the 1920s (with the bloodshed behind them), Ruidoso emerged as a resort community, thanks to wealthy oilmen who sought out southern New Mexico as a place to escape the stifling Texas summers. As word spread, the area slowly became a year-round destination, and, with the introduction of a racetrack in 1948, Ruidoso’s place as a prime vacation destination was sealed.
Meet the Neighbors
Keep an eye peeled for some familiar faces in the neighborhood, including Sam Donaldson, whose ranch is just east in the Hondo Valley; LPGA Hall of Fame golfer Judy Rankin; and bronze sculptor Dave McGary, one of more than 400 accomplished artists who call Ruidoso home.
What to Do, What to Do
And you shouldn’t miss the tradition of horse racing in Ruidoso. In 1946, local cowboys decided it would be a hoot to race their horses for money, unknowingly creating one of the world’s richest horse races. The All-American Futurity is held each Labor Day at Ruidoso Downs and boasts a $1 million purse.
Be sure to take your kids to the Lincoln National Forest in the nearby Sacramento Mountains for a breath of fresh air and a chance the impress fire safety upon them, for it was in this forest that Smokey the Bear was born. As a cub, Smokey got hopelessly stranded in a forest fire and was rescued by local firefighters from high atop a charred tree. The bear cub soon became an international symbol for forest-fire prevention.
If you’re not in the hot-and-spicy mood, the French restaurant La Lorraine was recently awarded four diamonds by AAA and comes highly recommended by locals, as does the Village Buttery. K.C.’s Log Cabin Restaurant in Cloudcroft (located 60 miles south of Ruidoso) is a must for log home enthusiasts looking for classic American fare for breakfast or lunch.
Location, Location, Location
There is plenty of land available in any of the three golf-course communities close to town, but if you’re in it for the view, consider the Alto neighborhood of Ruidoso. Its increased elevation offers some majestic views. Or even venture farther outside town for a first-hand experience of the never-ending vistas that characterize the great Southwest.
“Ruidoso has some of the most striking scenery you can expect to find in Rocky Mountain country,” says Robert Coburn. “It’s bordered by the Sierra Blanca (white mountain) and some of the views of this beauty are breathtaking.”
To read the full story on Ruidoso, NM, check out the 2004 August issue of Log Home Living.
Joanne Poesch is a freelance travel writer from Ashburn, Virginia. While her specialty has been international locales, she’s thrilled to discover all the “Great Places” North America has to offer.