Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Cliff Dwellings And A Rock City

Rose Valley RV Ranch
Silver City, NM
November 8-15, 2019

Rose Valley RV Ranch came highly recommended by friends Lisa and Mona Liza which made it real easy for us to plan our stay in Silver City.  

It is a quiet park located in the middle of town.  Unbelievably,  there was no road noise, sirens, or horns blowing...just sweet quietness day and night.    

The sites (we had a pull-thru...#72) are very spacious and even better, very private.

The puppies always enjoy a picnic!

And Joe and I always enjoy a sunset!

Gila Wilderness (775,000 acres), located in the Gila National Forest (3.3 million acres of forest, mountains, and pasture lands) was established in 1924.  

It is the "first designated wilderness" area in the world.  And it is no wonder as the area boasts a rich history....Mogollon and Apache Indians, Spaniards, Mexicans, ranchers and miners all lived here and left their mark.  

Names like Raw Meat Canyon, Teepee Canyon and Grave Canyon tell stories of the past.  One such place, Cliff Dweller Canyon was the real draw for us to visit Silver City.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument : November 10 

Around 1276, Puebloan people built cliff dwellings along the fertile Gila River.  They grew corn, beans and squash,  foraged for native plants and hunted for game in the surrounding forests.  These resourceful Puebloan people chose to build their home inside the caves of Cliff Dweller Canyon with rock, mortor, and timbers.   It is unknown why, but around 1300 there were many migrations in the Southwest (probably due to drought) and, like other locations, these cliff dwellings were abandoned.

Gila Cliff Dwellings NM is about 44 miles north of Silver City via NM -15N.  

This 44 miles of curvy, narrow road is part of the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway.  It took an hour and fifty minutes to make the trip each way.  

A nice volunteer met us at the trailhead.  He shared information about the one mile loop hike and the dos and do nots at the dwellings site.   
I loved the "Deposit Gum Here" box!

The trail starts by crossing the West Fork of the Gila River.

And the excitement begins !

The lower section of trail winds around the canyon floor with several more small bridges for the creek crossings.

About 1/4 mile, the trail makes a sharp turn right and from there it becomes a steady climb.  Just past the turn is a clearing and the first glimpse of the dwellings.

There are five natural caves high in the south-facing cave wall. These caves contain over 40 rooms.  There are only a handful of sites like this where visitors can actually step inside the ruins.  The trail meanders through some rooms and past other rooms that are easily viewed using steps or ladders.  Usually rangers are present to answer questions and to insure that no damage is done, but on our visit there wasn't one present. 

The ceiling is black from soot. 

One of the most beautiful picture windows I have ever seen!

So many peep holes...pretty cool to look out them from the inside.

The trail from one cave to the next...

 One last look...

From here, the trail traverses the side of the cliff and descends back to the trailhead/parking lot.

City of Rocks State Park : November 13

City of Rocks was established in 1952.
About 32 miles east of Silver City is a little gem of a state park.  To get there, take US-180 for 26 miles then make a left turn onto NM-61 which leads right to the park entrance.

There is plenty of parking at the Visitor Center which has huge and colorful exhibits explaining how City of Rocks was formed and some of the history about who inhabited the area.
It seems a volcano erupted about 34.9 million years ago forming the rocks in an instant.  Erosion over the past millions of years slowly formed the sculptured columns.

Hiking trails (in several different directions) start at the VC.  A giant lizard greeted us as we headed off to enjoy an easy pace on the City of Rocks loop trail that eventually connects to the Hydra Trail that led us back to the VC.  We knew from the get go this was going to be fun ! 

Look out for the giant lizard...

We discovered that Silver City is a nice stop when traveling south or north in the area.  It has lots to offer for outdoor activities as well as cultural enlightenment.  We barely scratched the surface with our short time there.

Up next, Florida's emerald gulf coast and state parks so stay tuned.  Until then, 


FYI...When returning to Silver City from Gila Cliff Dwellings on NM-15 S, look for a left hand turn onto NM-35 S at about 18.5 to finish out the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Byway.  This will take you by Lake Roberts.  Next turn is on NM-152 S towards Silver City.  This goes by Santa Rita Copper Mine...it is huge!  The folks at Rose Valley are awesome and have lots of maps and info.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Silver City, New Mexico

Rose Valley RV Ranch
Silver City, NM
November 8-15, 2019

Silver City sprang to life during the summer of 1870 when, you guessed it, silver was discovered.  Miners and merchants flocked to the newly discovered boomtown located in southwestern New Mexico in the foothills of the Pinos Altos Range.  

The town's founders decided that Silver City would be "built to last" and in 1880 passed an ordinance requiring masonry construction for new buildings.

Despite all their careful planning,  a series of floods between 1890-1910 washed away the original Main Street.  It left behind a big ditch 55 feet lower than the original street. 

The Warren House was the only brick building along Main Street to survive.  

Today, in historic downtown Silver City, the streets are lined with art galleries and studios, restaurants and coffee shops, a university, and museums...mostly in the buildings that were  far enough away from Main Street and have withstood the test of time thanks to the 1880 ordinance.

November 9 : Our morning started at the Visitor Center.

We took a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful tile work that was on both sides of the entrance to the building.

In the 1970s the big ditch was slated to to be paved over to add downtown parking.  A group of citizens decided they wanted to create a green space and preserve the area.  Bridges were built for walking over Big Ditch...  

and trails were made for walking along Big Ditch.
 Big Ditch Park was also developed just below the Warren House.   I think this is much better than a paved parking lot ! 

One thing we found interesting while walking around town are the high sidewalks...some even had stairs.  The person responsible for them is Elizabeth Warren (she lived in the Warren House that survived the flood).  When her husband died, she had many different jobs.  

One of those jobs was a general contractor and she oversaw the shoring up of the sidewalks and buildings against the floods. 

Silver City is home to more than 50 murals.  Many of them were completed by the Mimbres Region Arts Council Youth Mural Project. 

 The Silver City Museum (admission is free, donations appreciated) is located in a restored home that was built in 1881.  

One exhibit of interest explained about the flooding in Silver City complete with actual pictures showing the devastation. 

But our favorite exhibit was Ranching in Grant County.  

The exhibit presents historical photographs, artifacts, and family histories to tell the stories of how ranching in Grant County has changed over the years. 

Families migrated to the area from Mexico, Texas, California and the Great Plains bringing with them diversity and traditions.  Raising livestock in this area continues to play an important role in the economy and culture of the region today.

Nearly half of Grant County's 4,000 square miles is home to livestock.  

November 12 : We also enjoyed time at the Western New Mexico University Museum.  WNMU has been an important part of Silver City since 1893.  

Flemming Hall was completed in 1917 to house a gymnasium and science department. Today, the 100+ year old National Register of Historic Building is the home for the university's museum. 

The museum is an open, light and climate controlled environment that houses the largest, most comprehensive collection of scientifically excavated prehistoric Mimbres materials from a single Mimbres site.  

The excavation site, located 40 miles away is NAN Ranch (NAN Ranch Ruin has also been added to the National Register of Historic Places).  Excavations began two decades ago.  Artifacts date back to ancient Mimbres culture the thrived in the area about A.D.600 to 1140.  The ruin offers the clearest picture to date of who the ancient Mimbrenos that were in relation to their Anasazi and Hohokam neighbors.  The picture below tells how Dr. Shafer almost declined the offer to excavate at the ranch...

Joe and I moved quietly and solemnly from shelf to shelf...totally in awe of what we were seeing and totally amazed at what we were reading.

Sometime after A.D.1128, the Mimbres had a room dedicated for brewing maize beer.  The large vessel shown here holds 147 liters...that is 39 gallons of beer !  

The lower floor is available for visitors as well.  There is a room with cabinets full of pottery that was not identified. 
And another room with baskets, candles, awls, cloud blowers, arrowheads, cuffs, etc.  I was particularly drawn to the baskets...

and sandals.  

I didn't get info on how old the basket is or the material used.  

But the sandal is dated 1050 with a  checker weave using a whole narrow yucca leaf.

There is no admission (donations accepted) to visit the museum.  If you are interested in pottery, artifacts, lots of information, and ancient cultures this is definitely a worthwhile stop when in Silver City.  We almost missed the museum...we had planned to go to the Catwalk Recreation Area (which we will have to do next time we are there) but woke up to a very chilly morning and decided on an indoor activity instead.  Afterwards, we had lunch as Jalisco Cafe.  We enjoyed that too !

Up next a National Monument and a State Park so stay tuned.  Until then,