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The Sacramento Mountains are an oasis of cool pine forests, alpine meadows, and fast-flowing streams. For more than a century, the area has been a summer haven for people living in the surrounding desert. The town of Ruidosoaa Spanish word meaning anoisyaais named for the sound of water rushing over rocks as the Rio Ruidoso runs (and occasionally rampages) through the town. The townas first resident, Civil War veteran Paul Dowlin, built an adobe mill that harnessed the riveras power. Word of the areaas beauty soon spread. Traveling over primitive roads, first by horse and wagon and later by automobile, visitors escaped the summer heat in what became known as aThe Playground of the Southwest.a Some came for horse racing or the gambling and night life offered by the townas many bars; others came to hike, fish, and later ski on the slopes of Sierra Blanca, the mountain whose 12,000-foot peak provides a stunning backdrop for the town.