Monday, May 01, 2006

The Road to Kelly

Three and a half miles from the town of Magdalena, New Mexico, according to this historic marker, is a ghost town called Kelly. I had seen it on a few maps, but had not decided to go there. When I read on the marker how close it was, though, I could not resist!

The road to Kelly starts out a normal, wide, paved road, with an unnecessarily constrained speed limit of 25 MPH. One of the houses on the left has a sign offering a "Kelly Mine Pass" for sale, but that seems a bit too intense for this little side trip of mine. I drive on. After about a mile, though, perhaps less, the paved road turns into what one might call a dirt road. Dirt is only part of what's there, though. It's mostly loose bits of rock - loose shale, I want to call it, but I don't know whether that's right.

After a while I come across some unlabeled bits of brick that might be some kind of mine works, or building foundations, or neither. It seems too soon to be the ghost town, so I drive on. Shortly after that I come to a fork in the road. There's a little yellow sign with the number 103 (301? I forget) on the right fork. I turn right.

This is a mistake. The road winds past ranches and remote private homes. The rough road is shaking my poor car unmercifully, even at 10 to 20 MPH. Eventually I turn around in a driveway that's still being bulldozed a few feet away. Perhaps 50 yards farther on, a woman in a car is talking to someone in another car. I wait for her, and ask directions.

She turns out to be very nice, professionally dressed and with a smallish terrier in the front seat with her. The woman tells me that the ghost town is on the left fork, and impossible to miss from there. I follow her down to the fork. She waits for me to make sure I know where to go from there.

Peggy Lee's Is That All There Is? plays on my car stereo as I struggle over the rough road, ironically a little less horrific for the car than the fork that leads to places where people still live. I eventually come upon an intact church (St. John the Baptist Catholic Church) on the right hand side of the road. I park there, and take the last half mile or so on foot - very carefully. Spraining an ankle yet again would be a disaster in a place like this!

Aside from the church, there are no intact houses or businesses left, just foundations. Ghost towns on tv are usually full of weatherbeaten but intact wooden buildings, but I have yet to see one like that in real life. Kelly is much more typical of the ones I've seen. Yeah, Peggy. Is that all there is to a ghost town?

But up ahead I see a sign: Kelly Mine. I struggle on.

Soon I see mine works, this time for sure, off to the left of the sign. I pass a barrier meant to stop cars from going further, and walk a little closer to the mine works for a picture or two.

I have no idea what any of this stuff did in its day, but Kelly was a silver mine, and later a source of zinc carbonate for paint. A web page promoting the mine pass says that over 80 minerals have been cataloged here, including smithsonite, whatever that is. (I assume it has something to do with the fellow whose endowment got the Smithsonian started.) The page also say that the metal bit above, the "steel headframe," was designed by Alexander Eiffel back in the 1880s!

I do not approach the mine works any closer than necessary to get a good shot with the zoom setting on the camera. Then I turn and start back down, slowly, carefully. I'm almost back to my car when a truck pulls up, containing, based on appearances, a rancher and his lady friend.

"Need a lift?"

"No thanks. I'm almost back to my car."

"Oh, that's your car. We're going to drive to the end and come back. You can ride along if you like."

I decide to take no further chances on this little adventure. "No thanks. Have a good day!"

And that is that. I get back to the car and head back to Magdalena.

Still at least one installment to go, folks!


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Carly said...

Hi Karen :)

I really enjoyed the this entry and the one before. It reminded me of the trip I took to Virginia City last autumn. It's so strange, when I was looking at the picture in the previous entry, i got the strangest sense of Deja vu. I know I have never been there...but it seemed so vivid it was like I could almost feel the temperature in the room and the smells. That doesn't happen often for me.

DesLily said...

ummm does anyone beside you and me know who peggy lee is? LOL LOL

Doug Rodely said...

I enjoyed your post on Kelly, it felt like de javu! I have been there three times now and have to say it is one of my favorite ghost towns. If you are interested on ghost towns in New Mexico I would appreciate if you took a peak at my blog. I am also interested in any other stories you have to share. Thanks again!!!

Doug Rodely said...

Sorry for writing this as a comment but I didnt know how else I could give you info on Kelly. You can go so much further than where you stopped at, but you were smart stopping when you did. You do not want to go alone. The caves shown on my blog are above the mine shaft. The pic you commented on was taken by a little bench about 200 yards up from the mine. You are supposed to get a pass to go in there, but im yet to get one. Thats all up to you if you choose to take the chance. The cemetary is a must see also, with tombstones dating back to the late 1890's. Here is my email adress if you want more info.-

P.S. thanks for the comments!