Stumbling Across The Town Of Carrizozo

CARRIZOZO | Driving from Albuquerque to Las Cruces, via the White Sands National Park, in need of a place to stop for some water and a toilet break, was how I unexpected found myself in the town of Carrizozo, New Mexico. I wasn’t expecting to have the experience that I had there, and I’m still perplexed by it today.

Carrizozo was founded on the site of a few ranches and a stagecoach crossing in 1899, as the main railroad access town for Lincoln County. It experienced decades of prosperity, followed by a decline linked to the reduced importance of the railroads. Today, the town has a population of 996, its primary industries being tourism for the curious and cherry picking.

It was around these parts the infamous outlaw Billy The Kid roamed and met his end, and the town is just 56 km (35 mi) east of the Trinity Site, where the first nuclear bomb was detonated on July 16, 1945. That test poisoned the Carrizozo’s water supply, and remnants of the blast’s mushroom cloud reached the town.

All of this created an interesting backdrop for my visit, as I parked the car and got out with my friends, to near silence. The café were planned on popping into for a toilet and supplies was open, according to the sign out the front, but there wasn’t a soul inside or out. The only sounds were that of the slight breeze hitting windchimes, and the old-timey music playing a few stores up. The latter was also supposedly open but again, no people anywhere.

I couldn’t help but think of the season three episode of Twin Peaks “The Return, Part 8”, a large part of which is set in a quiet town, just outside of the Trinity Site. That town is never named, but I’m convinced it’s Carrizozo. Eerie is an understatement.

I wandered around town for about 15 minutes, trying to understand what was going on, but I couldn’t figure it out. It was as if there was a small town operating as normal one moment, then something has happened just before I arrived and everyone just disappeared. But nothing had happened. This was, as far as I was aware, a normal day. The Town Hall website describes Carrizozo as “peaceful”, but this peaceful?

My friends and I jumped back into the car, and drove to the gas station on the outskirts of town. That, and a road with some construction going on further up, were the only places in town where I saw any people. I left utterly bewildered, but thankful for the unexpected detour.

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