Cloudcroft, New Mexico
We arrived on Friday afternoon, last September. Don and I were nearing the end of our month-long road trip.
We had heard about this village from friends who once owned a home here. It was hard to believe this town of less than 700, sitting at 8,600 feet, surrounded by the Sacramento Mountains and Lincoln National Forest, was really in New Mexico!
The Newer Lodge
We drove up a quarter mile from the sign and found this curious lodge sitting on top of the slope.
Originally a log constructed lodge was built in 1899 to house loggers, I guess. By 1908 a fancier lodge was built, mostly for travelers coming to escape the Texas heat. That one burned in a fire and the current lodge was built in 1911.
What To Do?
There was a horseshoe pit and a volleyball net, below the pond. The weather was cool and gloomy when we arrived, so no one was making use of those options.
But there were a number of guests unloading golf clubs. I don't care much about golf anymore, so I would rather go back to 1911, when there was dancing in the pavilion and tennis courts and bowling and burro rides for the kids.
The small lobby desk was bustling just inside the door.
So was the gathering room with the copper-lidded fireplace and stuffed beasts, above and beside the hearth.
The crowds dispersed (off to the golf course) and I could manage a few photos without men in sweaters, greeting one another with loud voices and handshakes.
Nice guys, I'm sure. I just hate it when I feel like we're crashing someone's private party. There seemed to be a lot of groups.
Finding Our Room
The decor in the lobby area reminded me too much of a Texas Ranch House. I was excited to head for our room and see some proof that our hotel was over 100 years old.
We passed the gift shop (which had some fun stuff, actually) and I was delighted by the set of windows with layers and layers of shiny varnish.
Up, Then Down
I had to stop and just stare at the worn wood on a few steps down to a lower hall.
Could one ever come close to calculating the number of shoes that have worn down that wood?
Stairs and a Window
We paused in the hallway, which was filled with wonderful history and news clippings and then made the hike up the red stairs to the second floor.
It's nice they had a landing with a pretty window, in case you need to disguise your exhaustion by pondering over the pretty glass design. I wasn't quite used to the altitude, so I was huffing and puffing.
There wasn't anything too special about the hall, but we were down at the end on the left.
It wasn't exactly the hall from "The Shining", but there was a resident ghost named Rebecca. So I kept an eye out.
We had a brass Thank You For Not Smoking reminder on our door. I laughed at first, since it looked antique. But we all know that people smoked wherever they wanted in 1911.
Then again, maybe not here. The Cloudcroft area was a big retreat for those suffering TB and other health ailments. Who knows.
Surrounded in Pine
Don and I were thrilled to luck into a corner room.
There wasn't much of a view, since we couldn't see past the pine branches. But I was fine with that!
A Very Cozy Room
We are used to small rooms, small beds and baths. If you like historic hotels, you expect it.
But since we were not in a huge touristy area, I thought $154. was a little high for a room of this size, that hadn't been renovated in some time.
I appreciated the coffeemaker and the ice bucket, glasses and cups. But we hardly needed the big phone.
There was so much crowded onto the dresser, they had to build a corner shelf for the TV. I could have done without that, too. In all truth, I really wanted to declutter the tiny room. All Don ever wants besides a bed is a suitcase stand and all I need is a nightstand and lamp.
Our bathroom had a feisty pocket door that wouldn't really close. At least we had a door. We've dealt with curtains, and shutter screens and all sorts of oddball privacy inventions in aged hotels.
There was no tub, which is fine. And at least the oddly shaped vanity, had a bit of space to unload your toiletries. But what cracked me up, was having 3 framed "antique" paper fans. Each one had the exact same image. Was there a sale on hand fans?
A Fine Bar
Rueben was a delight as he served us at the "certified" Brunswick bar. Supposedly the carved bar once belonged to Al Capone. There were some other characters seated nearby and we chatted with many.
There was a young man who seemed homesick and giddy when he learned we had a son who shared his name. There was a curious, but bossy older woman with amazing stories of her grandmother, the concert pianist and her father who cured the poor... but when she began to rant on about how her father tried to throw LBJ in jail for corruption... Don and I decided it was time to go explore the tower!
Tower at Sunset
Rueben encouraged us to get the key from Kelly at the front desk and hike up for the view. I raced up the stairs, scared I'd miss sunset and practically had a heart attack.
I hadn't noticed the altitude until I stopped at the first level. I gasped and laughed at the leather "recovery chairs" that seemed to be put there for people like me.
Just in Time!
We paused not too long, before continuing up to the last level.
The funny shaped windows gave us a better view, over the trees to the mountains beyond. And straight up we could see the light from the cupola windows.
There was also a sign, reminding us to refrain from carving our names into the wood wall. Which is pretty funny because when Judy Garland visited long ago, she carved her name, as well as another special guest, Clark Gable!
I couldn't believe no one else was racing up the stairs to take in the view with us.
What a perfect sight. I still could not believe I was seeing this view, in New Mexico!
A Dinner View
Earlier, I had peeked into the dining room to see what the seating options were.
From looking at old photos, I could tell that this dining area by the windows, had once been the porch. What a wonderful view.
The Original Dining Room
We made reservations for 8:00, in hopes that the dining groups and families would be finished up by then.
It was quiet when we walked through this room, but the piano player was still performing... on the platform between rooms.
Next to Rebecca
It was dark when we were seated down in the corner, past the stained glass image of Rebecca, the hotel ghost. It turned out to be the coziest table we could have hoped for.
And after weeks of travel and chitchatting with strangers (which we mostly love) we were ready to hide out in a corner and dine. Unless Rebecca got chatty!
My photo expression is more than odd, but I was delighted with our dining experience. Not only was our space cozy, but we had comfy wicker chairs with hefty cushions.
First off, the salad & bread was heavenly. My Veggie Pasta Alfredo, with thick noodles and green chiles was pure comfort. Don's pecan crusted salmon with asparagus and rice, tasted as good as it looked. And our young server Leigh had sweet stories of raising her small daughters in the Cloudcroft world... which sounded sort of like fictional, Mayberry.
Cold and Sunny
We slept well despite the fact Kelly at the desk had apologized the night before, "Oh, I'm afraid your room doesn't have heat, but I can get you a space heater and more blankets!"
It got down in the thirties, but we were fine. We hiked in the morning and ended up sitting in the back of the hotel as the day began to warm.
Coffee and Coats
There was complimentary coffee in the morning and we took it out by the pool and watched a cute family playing catch on the lawn.
We were still full from dinner, so we shared a day-old muffin, before packing and moving on down the road.
As we headed down the drive, I felt like I hadn't had time to figure this place out. It felt like a retreat/resort that families or golfing buddies return to year after year.
Not that everyone knew each other, but I felt like we were the only first-timers. Mostly I'll remember the isolation of this odd building up on the hilltop. If the weather had been more ideal I would have really craved a porch!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!