We’re spending a week or so in Capitan, NM. Capitan is just down the road from Ruidoso.
There’s not a lot to do in Capitan but there is one historical point of interest.
When a human-caused fire in 1950 burned 17,000 acres of forest in the Capitan Mountains, a little bear cub was found in a tree, with badly burned paws. The Santa Fe newspaper called him Hotfoot Teddy. The little bear grew up to become a celebrity, Smoky Bear.
A few months after Pearl Harbor was bombed, forest protection became important when an enemy shelling occurred near Los Padres National Forest off the cost of southern California. The War Department considered lumber nearly as crucial as ammunition. In response to the danger, the U.S. Forest Service organized the CFFP (Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention) program in 1942.
We spent some time going though the Smokey Bear Museum. It’s a nice, small museum.
Some early posters:
Smokey Bear retired from the forest service on May 2, 1975. He was 25 years old, which, in people years is 70. In those days 70 was the mandatory retirement age for all Federal employees. Smokey was honored as the first bear to become a full-fledged member of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees.
Smoky lived at the Washington Zoo where on November 9, 1976, at age 26, he died peacefully in his sleep of old age. His remains were moved to Capitan. The boulder that marks his grave was brought down from the forest where he was found.
If you find yourself in Capitan, New Mexico, stop by this interesting little museum.