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 Ruidoso-a Spanish word meaning "noisy"-is named for the sound of water rushing over rocks as the Rio Ruidoso runs (and occasionally rampages) through the town. The town's first resident, Civil War veteran Paul Dowlin, built an adobe mill that harnessed the river's power. Word of the area's 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 "The Playground of the Southwest." Some came for horse racing or the gambling and night life offered by the town's 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.