It’s been well over a year since I spent a night at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park near Alamogordo, NM. It was autumn of 2017 when I stayed at the park, and I was sad because The Man and I were in one of our off-again phases. This post will not be the most in-depth of my reports on a New Mexico state park, but I’ll tell you about the basics.
I’d left the primitive camping area at Brantley Lake State park with a final destination of Truth or Consequences, NM. I decided I’d visit White Sands National Monument on my way since I’d never been there before and always heard it was a magnificent place. My New Mexico State Parks Pass was firmly attached to my windshield, so I could camp in any developed site in any New Mexico state park with no out of pocket expense.
I knew Oliver Lee Memorial State Park was a bit out of my way, but I didn’t realize it was quite so far out of my way. I didn’t mind the extra miles I drove to get to the park since my pass got me in at no additional cost. Also, I like to see new places and was enjoying my tour of New Mexico state parks. However, if I didn’t have the annual camping pass, I wouldn’t necessarily to go out of my way to spend one night at the Oliver Lee campground.
I arrived at the state park late in the afternoon, after eating at an Asian buffet in the White Sands Mall in Alamogordo. I drove the 17 miles not really sure where I was going but following the instructions of the Google Maps lady who lived in my phone. I didn’t realize until the next morning that to get to the park, I passed the turn off onto Highway 70, the road that would take me to White Sands National Monument. I typically hate backtracking, but I didn’t stress out too much about it since doing so allowed me to visit a new-to-me state park.
When I arrived at the campground, I drove around the two loops looking for a developed site with no hookups. I settled on site #32.
I knew I should go to the visitors center and learn something about the area, but I just felt blah. I really only wanted to stay close to my van and digest all the food I’d stuffed down my gullet at the Asian buffet.
I did hang out at the van for a while, then decided I should go for at least a short walk. When I’d arrived at the campground, I saw a sign pointing to Frenchy’s cabin. I wondered who Frenchy was and why s/he had a cabin in the park. I decided to walk over there and investigate.
According to a New Mexico website,
In the mid-1880s, a Frenchman named Francois-Jean “Frenchy” Rochas started homesteading at the mouth of Dog Canyon. He built a rock cabin…
Frenchy mysteriously met his end just after Christmas in 1894, when he was found dead in his cabin, a bullet in his chest. Although the local authorities determined it was suicide, historians believe it was more likely that someone murdered him in a dispute.
It sounds like the first chapter of a Tony Hillerman novel or a Western movie starring Clint Eastwood!
After I checked out the remains of Frenchy’s cabin, I took a walk to visit the shower house. I found the facilities clean and well maintained. After using the flush toilet and washing my hands, I went over to one of the showers and turned on the water to determine if it would get hot enough for my comfort. Yet again, I found a New Mexico state park with no hot water in the shower house. While there was NO WAY I was going to take a cold shower, I wasn’t too sad because I was headed to the hot, hot water in the bathhouses in Truth or Consequences.
You may be wondering who in the heck Oliver Lee was. According to the aforementioned New Mexico website,
Oliver Milton Lee, [was] a famous local rancher, who raised both cattle and horses, and was instrumental in the founding of Alamogordo and Otero County. Lee established his ranch south of Dog Canyon in 1893 and lived there until 1907…
During this period, Lee was involved in a controversy involving the disappearance of prominent New Mexico Lawyer, Albert Fountain, and his eight-year old son, Henry. The bodies were never found, the case against Lee and others was circumstantial, Lee was acquitted, although the mystery remains.
Oh boy! Sounds like another Tony Hillerman/Clint Eastwood plot. I guess the wild, wild West was no joke!
Apparently Oliver Lee built a ranch house too and folks can visit it, but only with a guided tour. You can call the park (575-437-8284) to find out when you can take the tour.
Those are the Sacramento Mountains you see in all the photos. They look pretty rugged, don’t you think?
After I determined I would not be taking a cold New Mexico state park shower, I went back to my van and hung out until it was time for bed. I wanted to get to bed early so I could wake up before the sun and head out to White Sands National Monument. Before bed, I decided I should visit the restrooms. Luckily I grabbed my Luci light because it was DARK out there. Some of the RVs had lights on their campsite, but there were no streetlights lighting the way to the restroom. I actually appreciated the lack of light pollution so I could get a good luck at the night sky.
I did go to bed early and I did wake up before the sun. Before I hit the road, I was rewarded with the beautiful beginnings of a sunrise coming over the mountains in the east. Oliver Lee Memorial State Park was a lovely place to wake up.
I took all the photos in this post.