April 11, 2013 – Smokey the Bear

Today we headed to Capitan, New Mexico – the birthplace of Smokey Bear.

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We were treated to this small herd of mule deer crossing our path:

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Here is a little background on Smokey.

During World War II, much wood was needed to build battleships and military transport crates. The government worried that fires could damage the forests that provided our timber. In response, the USDA Forest Service and the War Advertising Council launched a poster campaign that they hoped would help prevent forest fires. Early posters featured Bambi, but the campaign soon switched to America's favorite toy animal—the bear. In 1944 illustrator Albert Staehle drew the first Smokey, a big-eyed, round-nosed bear in a park ranger's hat. The bear was named for "Smokey" Joe Martin, the former assistant chief of the New York City Fire Department.

In May of 1950, a large fire in the Lincoln National Forest destroyed 17000 acres.  On one of the days a crew of firefighters found a small 5 pound cub bear, badly burned clinging to the side of a burnt pine tree.  They brought him into the fire camp, tended to him that night, then flown to the veterinary hospital in Santa Fe by Game Warden Ray Bell.  Ray later kept Smokey in his home until he recovered.  At that time the Forest Service had Smokey flown to Washington DC to the National Zoo where he stayed until his death in 1976.  His remains were returned to Capitan where he is buried in the Historical Park.”

More info at: http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/SFD/SmokeyBear/HistoryofCooperativeForestFirePreventionCampaign.html

So the village of Capitan is home to Smokey Bear Historical Park and the Wildfire Museum.

We started watching a short movie on Smokey and forest fires and then went into the exhibit area:

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Smokey’s grave:

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Part of the museum was on Wildfires – history, preventing, fire fighting, types and more.  This just blew me away:

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What a wonderful museum and highly recommended if you are in this area:

From there we continued west to the Lincoln Monument.  Now I have to tell you that I did not do any research on this and found out that most of the town is the monument.  However, we came at the wrong time – most of the buildings and sites were closed.  I did get a picture of this building – I think it was the jail:

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We headed back to Capitan with some incredible views:

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And had lunch at “The Grazing Bull” – WONDERFUL.  It is a new little place that just serves lunch.  The owner came out to talk with each person after they ordered.  Then as we left, he thanked us for stopping, shook Andy’s hand and gave me a hug..  WOW!

From there we went back to Carrizozo – love these plains:

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The dark line in the middle of the photo is the lava field – this is about 8 miles away:

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Instead of going back we decided to head to White Oaks that was listed as an 1890’s gold mining town with a few museums.  We first stopped at the visitor center in Carrizozo for information but they were closed. :-(((  So we went ahead anyway. Great scenery on our way there:

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And, alas, nothing open.  But I did get a few pictures:

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One final view of the lava flow:

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What a nice road trip in our incredible country.

Tomorrow we are on another adventure so stay tuned.

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