Chapter 3, In Which we Stay at the NRA Whittington Center (Gasp!) Near Raton, New Mexico
When Beechnut mentioned we were due to stay at an NRA center in New Mexico, I scowled and whined. My views on gun ownership and control are very mixed and complex (the subject of another blog if I ever dare post it). However, I was blown away by the Whittington Center. It is located in northeastern New Mexico in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This center has miles upon miles of absolutely beautiful land and amazing wild life as well as many amazing shooting ranges. Unfortunately, there wasn't much room for enjoying a picnic dinner at our site. We traded in the goat heads and flies from Caprock for swarming mosquitos...ick! The sites were gorgeous, though, with immaculate bathrooms, scenic views, and a very peaceful and quiet atmosphere. This is a very nice place to stay for anyone passing through the area, welcome and friendly to anyone, gun lover and NRA member or not. I would highly recommend it! RV sites have full hook-ups and there are also cabins available.
We drove into the quiet town of Raton for dinner. The place recommended to us was closed on a Monday evening, so we went to our second and only other choice if we weren’t going for fast food, a local place called The Oasis. The food was great and the local atmosphere was nice too. It seemed literally everyone knew each other and were visiting with each other. One table housed a group of weathered men and bikers, full of character, and clearly from generations of earning an honest living. Vanilla Bean, thankfully, was wonderful throughout dinner, leaving us to readily adsorb the scene. The constant stream of old lady attention didn’t hurt. He loved flashing his coy smile and flirting with everyone.
Back at Whittington, we drove the property. I still cannot believe how mammoth it is. To be precise, the center is located 33,300 acres at elevations between 6,300 and 8,100 ft. The wildlife we saw was a thrill for me; many antelope, but the highlight was a doe with her two tiny fawns. You can't get much cuter than that. We drove as far back on the property as we could onto a steep and windy dirt road that wove uphill and into the tree line. As dark approached and we drove further and further away from civilization, my sense of adventure was mixed with my ever-ringing alarm bells. The road led us to an abandoned mine that ran on the property until 1955, when it was bought by Kaiser Steel. The land was purchased by the NRA in 1975. I still cannot get over the size of it. A vast expanse with rolling hills with mountains on all horizons, and a hop, skip and a jump from the more well known to many of my friends, Philmont Boyscout land. Barret gave us hell again about simmering down for sleepy time, and knocked his head hard on the curtain railing of the Airstream. It didn't seem to be bothering him, but that goosegg made me so nervous. Nervous mom proceeded to spend the entire next day’s drive Googling: when to worry about head injuries in toddlers.
I capped the visit off with a sunrise run. Unfortunately the wildlife for the run was not as fantastic - only saw three bunnies, but still the most invigorating and wonderful way to start the day - especially since the altitude had not caught up with me yet.
Here’s a write-up of the Whittington Center from the New York Times.