V A N   P A T T E N   M O U N T A I N   C A M P

He who neglects to drink from the spring of experience is likely to die of thirst in the desert of ignorance --Ling Po

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, Organ Mountains, New Mexico

+Roadtrip::Dripping Springs+

[Van Patten Camp]   [Boyd's Sanatorium]   [La Cueva]

explored by: Shady & Angeleyez (photos by Shady)

Dripping Springs, New Mexico

above: guests leaving Van Patten hotel for a trip by horse-drawn wagon into Dona Ana, 1897

When we first hit the trail for the 3 mile hike up into the mountains, we thought it would be a piece of cake- a nice, marked trail leading to some preserved ruins in a public wilderness park. Ha. Yeaahh, right. As you can see from the rather foreboding warning sign above, this is anything but an easy hike. We walked a good 45 minutes on a rough, rocky inclined path into some very untamed and desolate wilderness, before we even saw the hint of the first structure. But when we finally did, we couldn't help but get excited... this was it, the legendary Van Patten Mountain Camp!

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Major Eugene Van Patten was an impressive man who lead a pretty interesting life. A former Confederate soldier who served under General Stonewall Jackson, Van Patten married a half-Spanish/half-Piro Indian woman in 1865, and in 1872 they settled in Las Cruces, New Mexico. In the late 1800's Van Patten began construction of the Van Patten Mountain Camp- a remote resort nestled deep within the rocky heart of the Organ Mountain range. These simple wooden buildings, above & below, are the first structures we came upon along the rugged canyon path. Located 1/4 mile down the canyon from the hotel, they were constructed in the late 1800's and served as the livery and mercantile for the resort; wagons were kept in a barn (which collapsed long ago).

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

A stageline from Las Cruces, 17 miles away, would carry the guests by stagecoach along the rocky path up to the hotel itself. The stagecoach or wagon would then return to the livery until needed. Milk cows, chickens, and a vegetable garden were maintained in this location as well, to provide the fresh milk, eggs, and vegetables for the hotel's dining room. In early 1900's, guests arrived at the hotel by automobile as well as by horse and wagon. We, however, had to continue on foot, following the same twisting path the hotel guests traveled all those years ago, until the remains of the resort began to peek into view as we neared the upper peaks of the mountains 1/4 mile later (above, right)

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

By the time we reached the Van Patten ruins, we were winded, exhausted, and very aware that we were utterly isolated. The site of the resort is tucked into the rocky peaks at an elevation of 6,000 feet (which is 2000 feet higher than Las Cruces). In it's heyday, the luxurious resort boasted 2 stories and 14 rooms, dining and recreational facilities, and a gazebo that functioned as a bandstand. The hotel was constructed of native rock and a mud based plaster. Many famous people, such Pat Garret and Pancho Villa, stayed at the Van Patten Mountain Camp. The mostly-intact building with the raised wraparound terrace was the dining/entertainment hall, and the crumbling maze of walls behind it are what's left of the rooms themselves.

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

A number of native Indians lived and worked at the resort. They tended the livery and path, hand-carried buckets of water from the spring up to the hotel attached to long poles balanced on their shoulders, and sometimes they even performed dances for the amusement of the guests. In 1906, a unit of 18 rooms was added onto the hotel. Looking around the back of the main building, above right, you can see just how closely it was constructed up against the stony side of the mountain peak.

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Nowadays, the remains of the resort are reduced to these crumbling ruins among the rock and cacti, home to desert creatures such as lizards, rattlesnakes, and mountain lions. Inside the main building, you can still see tattered strips of the luxurious stretched muslin wallpaper which once covered the walls and ceilings of the place, now hanging like musty shrouds from the sun-baked walls.

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

Van Patten Mountain Camp, New Mexico

In 1915, Van Patten came into financial difficulties. The hotel was closed, and the resort sold to a Dr. Nathan Boyd, a native of Illinois who had studied medicine in San Francisco and practiced in Australia. The Van Patten Mountain Camp was not destined for another lifetime as a recreational resort; Dr. Boyd had other plans for the area. In fact, the crumbling fruits of his labor still lay hidden just a little further up the path...

CONTINUE ON THE TRAIL TO BOYD'S SANATORIUM

 

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