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The town's "original" attraction is its hot springs. The entire downtown area is located over a table of odorless hot mineral water, 98° to 115°F (37°-46°C), that bubbles to the surface through wells or pools. The first bathhouse was built in the 1880s; most of the half-dozen historic spas operating today date from the 1930s. Generally open from morning to early evening, these spas welcome visitors for soaks and massages. Baths of 20 minutes or longer start at $7 per person.

The chamber of commerce has information on all the local spas. Among them is Sierra Grande Lodge & Spa, 501 McAdoo St. (tel. 575/894-6976; www.sierragrandelodge.com), where Geronimo himself is rumored to have taken a break. Artesian Bath House, 312 Marr St. (tel. 575/894-2684), is quite clean and has an RV park on the premises.

I highly recommend the Hay-Yo-Kay Hot Springs, 300 Austin St. (tel. 575/894-2228; www.hay-yo-kay.com). It has natural-flow pools (versus tubs filled with spring water). The tub rooms are private and gracefully tiled. The Long House, a cooler tub, is the largest in town and can hold up to 20 people. Hay-Yo-Kay is open Wednesday through Sunday 11am to 7pm. Massages and reflexology are also available.

Exploring the Ghost Towns in the Area

North of Truth or Consequences -- About 40 miles from Truth or Consequences are the precarious remains of Winston and Chloride, two so-called ghost towns -- abandoned mining centers that nevertheless do have a few residents. Exploring these towns makes for a nice side trip off I-25. You may want to include a visit to the Very Large Array and the old mining town of Magdalena in the trip. However, be aware that if you do, much of the journey from Winston to the VLA is on graded dirt road.

Winston, 37 miles northwest of Truth or Consequences on NM 52, was abandoned in the early 1900s when silver prices dropped and local mining became unprofitable. Some of the original structures from that era are still standing. A similar fate befell Chloride, 5 miles west of Winston on a side road off NM 52, where famed silver mines had such names as Nana, Wall Street, and Unknown. Chloride also figured in many battles in the turn-of-the-20th-century war between cattle-ranching and sheep-ranching interests. In the very center of town is the "hanging tree," where the town used to tie drunks to "dry" in the sun.

South of Truth or Consequences -- Thirty-two miles from Truth or Consequences, via I-25 south to NM 152, then west, is Hillsboro, another ghost town that's fast losing its ghosts to a small invasion of artists and craftspeople, antiques shops, and galleries. This town boomed after an 1877 gold strike nearby, and during its heyday it produced $6 million in silver and gold. It was the county seat from 1884 to 1938. Hillsboro's Labor Day weekend Apple Festival is famous throughout the state. You may want to plan your drive to include breakfast or lunch at Hillsboro General Store & Country Café, on NM 152 in the center of town, (tel. 575/895-5306). Serving excellent burgers and burritos in a historic general store ambiance, this spot also has some of the best pie in the region; it's called bumbleberry and combines many berries in a flaky crust. Open daily for breakfast and lunch.

The Black Range Historical Museum (tel. 575/895-5233 or 575/895-5685) contains exhibits and artifacts from Hillsboro's mining boom. In the former Ocean Grove Hotel, a turn-of-the-20th-century brothel operated by Sadie Orchard, the museum collection includes some of the madam's effects. This volunteer-staffed museum is supposed to be open Wednesday through Saturday from 11am to 4pm, Sunday from 1 to 5pm, but it isn't always. It's closed most major holidays. Suggested donation is $2 for adults, $1 for children, and $5 for a family.

The Enchanted Villa bed-and-breakfast inn, a quarter mile west of Hillsboro on NM 152 (no street address), P.O. Box 456, Hillsboro, NM 88042 (tel. 575/895-5686), is a 1941 adobe structure that offers decent accommodations. The rates, $84 for a double and $55 for a single, include full hot breakfasts.

Nine miles west of Hillsboro on NM 152, just after you've entered the Gila National Forest, is Kingston, born with a rich silver strike in 1880 and reputed to have been among the wildest mining towns in the region, with 7,000 people, 22 saloons, a notorious red-light district (conveniently located on Virtue Ave.), and an opera house. Kingston was also once the home of Albert Fall, a U.S. secretary of state who gained notoriety for his role in the Teapot Dome Scandal.

Your headquarters in Kingston should be the Black Range Lodge, 119 Main St., Kingston, NM 88042 (tel. 575/895-5652; www.blackrangelodge.com), a rustic stone lodge that dates from the 1880s, and over the years has housed miners and soldiers, as well as Pretty Sam's Casino and the Monarch Saloon. The lodge has seven rooms -- all with private bathrooms and some with private balconies -- a large game room with a pool table and video games, and family suites, as well as a new luxury guesthouse. Rates are $89 for a double, with multiple-night discounts; the guesthouse is $139 per night. Well-behaved pets are welcome for a $5 per day fee.

Among historic buildings in Kingston are the brick assay office, the Victorio Hotel, and the Percha Bank, now a museum open by appointment -- ask at Black Range Lodge. The town bell in front of the Volunteer Fire Department was once used to warn residents of Native American attacks.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.