Back to the Enchanted Circle

This week I am back in the beautiful Enchanted Circle region of New Mexico which has been a source of inspiration for my writing and has played an important in the development of Footprints in the Dew.  Merry Christmas to you all!

Welcome back. Mine Shaft, Powder Keg and Bad Medicine, there’s only one place in the world where you’ll come in contact with these bad boy ski runs and that’s coming down from the top of the 10,350 foot mountain range called Red River.  The history of this old mining town starts with the gold rush but nowadays its tourists that bring in the gold and with plenty of snow this year the local merchants should be hitting the mother lode.

Here are a few facts about a town that has a year round population of 600 but plays host to thousands of visitors each year: There are 41 lodging establishments, 16 restaurants and 25 annual special events including “Mardi Gras in the Mountains”, “Rivers & Brews Blues Fest”, and the “Harder than Hell” mountain bike race. It is also the only ski area I know of where elk, deer and yes sometimes bear walk right down the main street.  When there is heavy snow this is often the only pass open through the mountains.  Another great thing about the town is once you get there you don’t need your car because the ski lift sits right in the center of town surrounded by shops and eateries. Red River is 168 miles from Albuquerque, 260 miles from Denver, 285 miles from Amarillo and 612 miles from Bartlesville.

Once again Loretta and I will be adding a touch of mystery to our trip when we spend time with a ghost who was recently spotted roaming the halls of the historic St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico. When I passed through here a few months ago some paranormal investigators had bugged the place from top to bottom, making me afraid to even take a shower. Apparently things have been getting weirder there as they have recorded some more distinct but ghostly images.

I’ll be here and at the Angel Fire Resort for Christmas and I’ll be sending in a report on the snow conditions, the number of visitors and the beauty of this area called the Enchanted Circle next week.  Since our first visit several years ago Angel Fire Resort has been steadily growing and improving both their trails and their ski season activities. They have added a new C-4 Black diamond trail and have opened a Nordic Center for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Snowboarders will find more than a dozen freestyle features including reconfigured jumps and transitions. In addition I understand that they will have a torchlight parade and fireworks on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve which should be beautiful. They are also offering special lodging and skiing packages and will be serving gourmet Christmas and New Year’s dinners in the Elements Restaurant at the Lodge.

But first I’ll be stopping at a place that former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating and his wife call “God’s Country.”  The beautiful forests and alpine meadows that are filled with wildlife made Keating declare that “the UUBar is more like a state than a ranch.”  The UUBar lies next to the Philmont Scout Ranch and also shares a border with one of Ted Turner’s ranches. All three ranches are managed with an eye to conservation of wildlife habitat and the wildlife corridors between the three ranches. Good stewardship of their resources and the goal of protecting these spectacular places for future generations are the guiding principles for these owners and land managers. Along the way I expect to see plenty of elk and pronghorn antelope along with many other creatures that call this area home.

The Enchanted Circle also includes Taos, New Mexico where Easy Rider was filmed and where actor Dennis Hopper who recently died is buried. Off the road a piece between Red River and Taos is San Luis where the mutilated cows have been showing up and I know it would be interesting to spend more time there if time allows. The Continental Divide is to the west, the Carson National Forest is north, the Turkey Mountains are east and so my friends for the next two weeks you are in the Sangre de Christo mountain range where the average snow fall is 188 inches.  Till then I’ll see ya down the road….



Christmas in Oklahoma

The flow of a river is sometimes wide and slow moving and other times narrow and moving violently. This project is much like a river and so for now I hope you will enjoy a few Christmas stories from my weekly column.

        Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

Welcome back. With the holidays officially here this week found me at a number of grazing areas, commonly known as Christmas parties.

First up on December 1st was the Chamber of Commerce’s monthly members gathering which was held at the Johnstone Apartments which we locals know as the Hotel Phillips.  When the Hilton Garden Inn was completed last year, this elegant hotel was converted into a 55+ living complex and they are now renting out apartments.

During a tour of the building I saw some very nice (and affordable) multi-room apartments with full kitchens, computer hook-ups, good sized baths and everything else you might need for easy living. The newly re-opened Grille 66 also caught my eye and I discovered that it is open to the general public as well as to residents of the apartments. If the excellent chicken wings they served at the reception and the over the top friendly staff are typical of the restaurant I can’t wait to try it!

This was hard to beat but after the Business after Hours Dr. Everett Piper and his lovely wife Marci were hosting the annual Christmas party at Oklahoma Wesleyan University which also included a feast prepared by their outstanding food service company.  If you didn’t already know, the college also has a great cafeteria that is also open to the public. The food is wonderful and very affordable, and the cafeteria has a great setting right in the middle of the campus.

The party was held in the renovated La Quinta building which is now used for office space, meetings and special events. This building is the original H.V. Foster mansion and from the moment I set foot in the building I felt his spirit.  In the 1930s successful oil man Foster built his estate, which he called La Quinta, on 52 acres at a cost of $500,000. Edward B. Delk was the architect for the project and he became quite famous in his own right designing many other well known buildings including Country Club Plaza, Philbrook, Villa Philamonte and the Philtower.

After Foster’s death, his daughter Marie lived here and then an organization called the American Boy Academy rented the home. In 1941 the American Military Academy moved in and then in 1948 the facility was closed. In 1950 Central Christian College, an arm of the Church of Christ, took over the building but they soon moved.

Colorado Bible College from Colorado Springs took over in 1959, reopening La Quinta as Central Pilgrim College and a year later they merged with a college in California becoming Bartlesville Wesleyan College. Several years ago the college was renamed once more as Oklahoma Wesleyan University in recognition of its growing statewide and national reputation.

By now I think you all understand why I had to check out this beautiful historical building and the tour didn’t let me down. La Quinta has been restored from the basement (where I understand there used to be some big poker games) to the second floor bedrooms. The ornate carved woodwork,  period rugs and paintings along with original photos from a bygone era have been loving restored and contribute to a sense of authenticity so strong that I had to turn around twice to make sure old H.V. wasn’t standing there waving goodbye as I left. (source: Washington County A Centennial History.)

The Bartlesville library has a lot more information about La Quinta and the Foster family so if you’re interested, check ‘em out. As for me I wrapped this week’s festivities at the Members-only shin-dig at the Frank Phillips Home. As always the house is beautifully decorated, based on family photos taken when the Phillips still lived here. I get the same feeling here as at La Quinta when I walk up the stairs to the front door, half-expecting Frank and Jane to be there welcoming everyone inside. History is still alive here asmany of the members knew the famous oil man and his wife personally. We can not thank this group enough for their donation of not only time and money but the heart and soul they pour into maintaining the home so beautifully for visitors. The festive atmosphere, great food and drink and the camaraderie among the guests made me happy to support them. The home will be open through the holidays so don’t miss the chance to stop by and see the beautiful decorations.

And speaking of support: December is the official month for giving and yesterday I was incarcerated as part of the annual Muscular Dystrophy fundraiser. There are many worthy organizations in the community that need both time and money and there is no more generous place that I know of in America.

Till next week I’ll see ya down the road….