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, 


Monday, November 25, 2019

Petrified Forest National Park, Day 2

Holbrook/Petrified Forest KOA
Holbrook, AZ
November 3, 2019

Our second day at Petrified Forest NP was just as colorful, beautiful and interesting as the first day.  This day we chose to enter the park from the north at the Painted Desert VC and travel south.  Our first stop for the day was Painted Desert Inn.  

 The inn was built in the 1920s and bought by the National Park Service in 1936.  The Fred Harvey Company (remember he built the La Posada Inn in Winslow) took over management of Painted Desert Inn in 1940.  Lodging, food (served by the legendary Harvey Girls), and souvenirs were provided to travelers along Route 66 for about 2 years.  The inn was closed in 1942 due to WWII, but in 1947, Mary Colter (remember she was the architect for the La Posada Inn) was given the responsibility for renovations.  The inn is situated on a mesa overlooking the colorful Painted Desert
so the first thing she did was to have new and bigger windows installed to capitalize on the surrounding landscape.

She changed the color scheme and hired Fred Kabotie, a Hopi artist, to paint murals on the lunchroom and dining room walls that depicted Hopi culture.  The murals were painted in 1947-48.
The Buffalo Dance Mural, painted by Fred Kabotie, depicts a ceremonial dance performed in the winter to pray for good hunting and snow.
While Painted Desert Inn gained status as a National Historic Landmark primarily due to its architecture, the murals of Fred Kabotie made a significant impact on the nomination.  They are beautiful ! 
One of several murals painted by Fred is titled  Salt Lake Mural and tells the story of two young Hopi men on a salt gathering journey. It is a 230 mile trip from their home to the Zuni Mesas and back which took them through the Petrified Forest. It is not only a physical journey, it is a sacred one. 

Another Mary Colter renovation was an enormous skylight.  The skylight has multiple panes of translucent glass painted in Indian pottery designs.  

The inn is made of native stone.  The walls are more than two feet thick and covered in earth toned stucco.  Ponderosa Pine logs and flagstone add color, texture and shadows.   

Outside, flagstone terraces are surrounded by low walls that overlook the desert.
The inn closed in 1963. On a side note, I read that the inn was scheduled to be demolished in 1975, but a campaign to save it won out in the end.  The inn now appears as it would have in 1949. 

theIt's not just any's Painted Desert with breathtaking vistas.

Did you know that Petrified Forest NP is the only park in the National Park system that contains a section of Historic Route 66?  Our next stop was to check out an old rust bucket...a 1932 Studebaker.  Not sure this car actually carried any passengers on Route 66, but many a car like it did.  

If you look closely on the left side of the picture above there are "historic" telephone poles that once lined the famous "Main Street of America" or "Mother Road" as it passed through Petrified Forest NP from 1926 to 1953  

Heading south, up next was Puerco Pueblo.
Puerco Pueblo is a 100+ room pueblo site located near the Puerto River.  When it was at its largest size around 1300 it was home to around 200 people.  

Archeologists say the one-story high village was built around a rectangular plaza.  The rooms were for living quarters and storage and most of the activities of the day took place in the large plaza.  

There are no doors or windows on the exterior walls of the pueblo so entry into the village was by ladders used to climb over the walls to across the log, brush, and mud roofs that covered the rooms. 

There are a large number of petroglyphs also on site.
One interpretation is that Hopi stories tell of big birds that came to villages to eat bad children.  Another interpretations is  that it is an Ibis (native to Petrified Forest) eating a frog with water drops falling.  I kind of like the Hopi story!   
The two squares with "steps" represent migration. 

Petroglyphs that interact with sunlight and shadows as the sun moves across the sky to mark the passage of seasons are called Solar Calendars.  One of these Solar Calendars is at Puerco Pueblo.  For about a two week period around the summer solstice (June 21), a shaft of light is projected onto the boulder and travels down the side to touch the center of a spiral located in the crack/crevice on the smaller boulder.       
Summer Solstice Marker

Just passed the Pueblo site is a pull-out for Newspaper Rock.  An official pointed us in the direction of a short paved walk to an overlook.  

There are over 650 petroglyphs documented with some 2,000+ years old.  

The etched out carvings were hard to see partly because of the sunlight, but mainly because they were below us on several boulders that had fallen from the rim wall.

With so many "writers" over so many years (between 650 and 2,000 years ago) it is impossible to read the rock face. Modern Native Americans see family and clan symbols, spiritual meanings, calendar events, territory boundaries and migration routes.

 Blue Mesa was our last stop of the day.  Aside from all the colorful logs we had seen, Blue Mesa turned out to be my favorite section of the park.  It is a 3.5 mile driving loop close to the center on the main park road.  One of the pull-outs is a paved walk.  If you like hiking and don't mind a short 1 mile loop with a steep downhill/uphill at the beginning/end of the trail, this is a gorgeous part of the park.  The trail enters a unique, vibrant badlands landscape with colorful petrified wood.  
In hindsight, we should have gone straight to Blue Mesa first thing to catch the early morning sunlight.  It was well after lunch when we started the hike and our pictures don't show the  contrasts and colors. 

This concludes our stay in Holbrook, AZ.  There is lots to explore in the area and our time there flew by.  Up next, Silver City, New Mexico so stay tuned !  Until then...