Road Miles: 162
Trail Miles: 1.5
So, I guess if there is a bright side to getting sick on the road, it’s waking up early enough to watch the sun rise. New Mexico has some of the most gorgeous sunsets I’ve ever seen, but because I’m a) not a morning person, and b) always worked nights when I lived here, I don’t remember ever having seen a sunrise. But now, finally, after hacking and throwing snot rockets all fitful night long, I was rewarded with finally catching one, and it was spectacular! All of those rowdy little birds were back, loudly catching each other up on whatever it was they’d been up to in the last 8-10 hours, and from the sound of it, there was plenty to share.
After packing the van up, we went back into Fort Sumner to check out the Billy the Kid museum which is the central feature in this tiny town. Turns out the proprietor used to work with RC’s dad building roads around Clovis many moons ago. Once this discovery and connection was made, the somewhat stiff politeness of the two elderly cowboy gentlemen behind the counter toward these two hippie-looking travelers immediately dissipated, and we were getting an extensive interpretive tour of the front area collections and tips on what not to miss in the rest of the museum (e.g., pretty much everything).
I loved this museum, not the least for its total randomness. It houses not only Billy the Kid stuff (I especially liked the entire section dedicated to “proving” that Brushy Bill was an imposter), and a life-sized replica of his grave authentic down to the cage that now encloses it, but also various artifacts from farm and ranch life in southeastern New Mexico, and a variety of mid-20th century objects like glassware and toys. There are also numerous displays related to the owner’s family, and a collection of motorized vehicles, none of which was probably used by Billy the Kid. It was a fun stop and awesome for RC to meet one of his dad’s contemporaries who remembered him so fondly. Which is as it should be, because Hubert Smith was an awesome man.
Finally, we started east again, stopping in Clovis at Don Maria’s for a delicious and reasonably-priced lunch. From Clovis, we cut north on deserted NM 209 to enter Deaf Smith County, Texas. Yes, Deaf Smith County. Texas is clearly not PC and this is all the more hilarious in that it also aptly described my current travel partner.
We arrived at Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge, a US Fish & Wildlife site southwest of Amarillo, late that afternoon.
Did you Know? Public lands make up only 1.3% of Texas’ (the 2nd largest state in the USA) 261,231 square miles.
Buffalo Lake NWR is a pretty and well-maintained site, although there really is no lake – it’s a usually-dry bed. We took the scenic drive, which is dotted with interpretive signs, and the short walk to the wildlife observation deck at Stewart Marsh. We didn’t see much besides birds, but numerous caution signs along the drive indicate the types of animals typically found here, including tortoises, deer, and lots of snakes.
I was worried that we might have a hard time getting a campsite because it was Saturday, this site is close to the population center of Amarillo, and the weather was beautiful (albeit windy). Turns out my concerns couldn’t have been any more unwarranted: we were the ONLY people in the entire well-designed and maintained campground, with its more than 20 sites. Maybe it’s because automatic gates close you in from 8p – 8a? It’s hard to say. On the one hand, it was awesome to have virtually the entire refuge to ourselves, but on the other, it’s too bad more people aren’t taking advantage of this West Texas gem, where incidentally, the sunsets are almost every bit as beautiful as they are in New Mexico.