Forgotten Cimarron

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

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  • Fall color in the high country: More than two hours northeast of Santa Fe and surrounded by open land Cimarron is a place to get lost in.

    Fall color in the high country

    Douglas Merriam

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As is true with the tales about ghosts. Every old hotel has one, but the St. James supposedly has three, including the obligatory man-shot-dead-during-a-poker-game. There is, however, a padlock on room 18, where the hapless card player died, and the room is never rented out. Liability concerns, says Smith. Haunted or not, the hotel has 14 original rooms named for frontier celebs like Annie Oakley who are said to have slept there, in addition to 10 modern rooms equipped with TVs and phones. The vibe is pure Old West, from the 150-year-old roulette table in the downstairs hall to the buffalo head in the lobby.

Settled in 1841, Cimarron was a way station on the Santa Fe Trail. At its peak in the 1870s, the town had more than a dozen saloons, a slew of bordellos, and a reputation for living up to its name, which is Spanish for untamed. The railroad passed it by, and today the tiny business district has the basics: a western-wear store, a grocery, and a few shops and galleries. The Cimarron Art Gallery, for one, serves milkshakes and the only lattes in town from a 68-year-old soda bar.



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