Story and photos by Emily Grey
Cradled 6,500 feet in Silver Creek Canyon in Catron County is a magical place. The mining ghost town of Mogollon, New Mexico, population about 15, seems to be in a time warp. Even a painted watch on a riparian rock outcropping suggests that moments stand still.
Driving nine miles from U.S. Highway 180 up the jack-in-the-beanstalk road is an adventure.
The first four miles of the two-lane road breeze by vast open range dotted with various cacti. The final five miles are a challenging one-lane feat. Oh, but the risks are worth it.
Driving past such milestones as Whitewater Mesa, Slaughterhouse Spring, Blue Bird Gulch and Little Fanny Mine, the road then descends 600 feet into the beautiful little hamlet with stone and wooden structures.
A train between Silver City and Mogollon used to offer daily service to passengers, freight and gold and silver bullion. In 1915, 1,500 residents lived in this thriving sky island. Electricity, water and telephones kept a local school, saloons, restaurants and merchandise stores afloat.
There was even a hospital, an auto line, bakery, icemaker and the Midway Theatre. Red light districts lit up each end of town.
Since the late 1800s, manifold fires and floods claimed lives and destroyed infrastructure. With World War II’s demand for manpower and steel, precious metals fell short. Another ravaging fire essentially laid the town to rest.
Now, a tiny art gallery, wood shop and lunch café welcome visitors. On weekends, the town museum is open to the public. Antiques, old photographs and replicas of the Wild West are among the exhibits.
The main road in Mogollon curves past dilapidated shacks into the former Spanish red light district. Gravel becomes dirt, which eventually goes to Snow Lake and Willow Creek where locals fish, boat and picnic.
Perhaps the most intriguing building in Mogollon is the Silver Creek Inn, built circa 1885. The building went the way of the town until 1980 when telephone lineman Stan King rescued the sleeping giant. To this day, he continues renovating his masterpiece.
Two years ago, Kathy Knapp joined King in his labor of love. Today, the couple treats visitors to traditional Southwest hospitality.
“There’s more money to be made in the city but no life,” Knapp, a Chicago native, said. “Here in Mogollon there’s air, wind and freedom.”
A lovely creaking stairway adorned with charming hand-painted gourds leads to a gathering room inside the inn. Guests socialize, play piano or read in this inviting atmosphere.
Four luxurious rooms with private baths and a suite are soothing after a long drive. My room opened to a romantic balcony brimming with herbs and other plants. My attractive, draped window overlooked the historical district.
Baked salmon, steamed vegetables and Knapp’s piping hot pies created a delicious dinner. Breakfast omelets and hotcakes were equally as tasty.
“We loved the setting, the remoteness, the quiet, the gorgeous patio, the hosts and the food, especially the pies,” Mildred Evaskovich, a guest from Alamogordo, said. “And, my husband was impressed with the restoration of the inn.”
Mogollon is a place where one can recapture their spirit. It is a friendly ghost town with a dash of the contemporary and a glint of a promising, low-key future.
IF YOU GO
* WHAT: Silver Creek Inn
* WHERE: Mogollon
* HOW MUCH? Rooms with meals are $150 to $175 per night, double occupancy. Reservations are required.
* ETC: Rooms are for adults only (21 and over) and no pets are allowed.
* INFO: (866) 276-4882 or www.silvercreekinn.com
Mogollon Prehistoric Native Museum
HC61, Box 310
Mogollon, NM 88039
Bursum Rd. through Mogollon
Mogollon, NM 88039