Forgotten Cimarron

New Mexico's high country is populated with aspens, bison, and ghosts of the Old West

St. James Hotel

St. James Hotel’s tin ceiling features the requisite bullet holes.

Douglas Merriam

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The woman checking into the St. James Hotel looks a little surprised when the desk clerk tells her there's no TV in her room.

"No TV?" she asks.

"No ma'am," says the clerk, adding that there is no telephone or Internet access either in any of the 125-year-old hotel's 14 historic rooms. "It's very quiet here," she says.

"Quiet" could be the motto of Cimarron, a northeastern New Mexico town that drowses in the shadows of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Here buffalo still graze golden prairies beneath infinite blue skies, and cell phones often won't work. A million acres of ranches and protected public lands ring the town and serve as a fortress between its 900 residents and the modern world.

The classic Western terrain surrounding Cimarron has sparked the imaginations of writers such as Zane Grey, as well as controversy between environmentalists and oil companies over whether or not to drill for natural gas beneath the nearby mountains. It's one of the last places in the West to look and feel like the age before superhighways and subdivisions.

 

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