Gila Cliff Dwellings



The one “touristy” thing we did while staying at Silver City was make the trip out to see the Gila National Monument. It is a forty mile drive that takes close to two hours because of the narrow, curvy road. I should point out that they were having a five-day bike race on this road (and others around Silver City) right after we were leaving.

I won’t repeat all of the history of the Gila Cliff Dwellings, but they were occupied by the Mogollon’s between 1276 and 1287. There are roughly forty rooms in six natural caves. The Cliff Dwellings were declared a National Monument by President Roosevelt in 1907 and the area became part of the first National Wilderness Area in 1924. There was a lot of restoration work to the Cliff Dwellings in the 1950’s but much of the walls are original.

We also visited a second area in the National Forest with a smaller cave dwelling and some petroglyphs.


On the way back into town, we almost ran into a pack of mule deer. They have huge ears and seem much less skittish that the white tail deer we are more familiar with in Texas and in the East.

Back in Time

I missed a couple of stops between Guadalupe Peak and Silver City – so be sure to go back and check out my posts for the Living Desert Museum in Carlsbad, Roswell, Bottomless Lakes, and Oliver Lee Memorial State Park. I still have more to add from Dog Canyon, but that will have to wait until we have internet access again.

We are leaving Silver City tomorrow for Tucson. We’ll have to stop on the way at the Airstream dealer to get a new microwave. Ours fried itself when Alan was trying to cook rice in his microwave rice cooker. Good news though – they have one in stock at the dealer so we won’t have any logistical issues with Airstream in Ohio shipping it to somewhere in Arizona or New Mexico.

Side Note: Tour Dallas

Before we left for our trip, we did Tour Dallas a 30-mile bike ride around the streets of Dallas. It was a first for me. We had ridden quite a bit around Grapevine Lake on the trails since we got our mountain bikes but I hadn’t ridden on the street with cars yet. It was a great day and we had a really good time – even though we had to get up early and drive into Dallas.

There were professional photographers along the route. Alan just found our pictures from the ride on-line. Doesn’t Al look hot in his bike gear?

Silver City

After a quick trip to the local Urgent Care facility (for my annual UTI), we took the time to cruise around downtown Silver City. There is a Quilt Shop here, two bike shops, and a brewery. The whole place was pretty interesting – I would call it a bit bohemian. There were a lot of art “galleries” mixed in with junk shops and one pretty serious-looking biker bar. We had a nice stroll but we won’t be putting Silver City on our list of potential retirement cities.

The Thunder Creek Quilt Shop was one of the most unique I’ve ever seen – it was half quilt shop and half junk shop. There were selling used furniture and other old household items like you would see at a garage sale. The fabric selection was pretty good, but not cheap. Most fabric was about $8.50/yard. I bought a couple more novelty fabrics to use in my Sunny Southwest quilt.

We decided to check out some of the local cuisine. We had planned on eating at the brewery but they only had pizza so we headed for Blake’s Lotta Burger. We’ve been seeing them since we got into New Mexico. The place had a fifties-look and the burgers were pretty good. Alan still thinks that In and Out Burger is better. We’re hoping they have made it out of California and we’ll find one in Arizona.

We still have laundry to do and we haven’t gotten to the Gila Cliff Dwellings yet so we’ll be here for a couple more days and then we are heading on to Tucson.

White Sands National Monument

On our way out of Alamogordo heading for Silver City, we stopped at White Sands National Monument. Of course, the interpretive nature trail wasn’t enough for us, so we decided to head out on the five mile Alkali Flat Trail in the dunes.

 

For those of you that haven’t visited White Sands – it isn’t actually sand but gypsum. It is very fine and sticks to everything. It wouldn’t be here, except there aren’t any rivers that run through this valley (the Tularosa Basin) to dissolve the gypsum and carry it away.

 

The hike was okay – a little dull and repetitive. I had to make a major downhill trek to collect Alan’s “ultimate hat”. But, he had done it for me at Palo Duro, so I figured sliding down a sand dune was the least I could do to repay the favor. There really wasn’t much to see, except for an ant hill and some vegetation.

 

The cool photo of our rig is taken with a big dune in the background. It was just too white to get any better exposure. I think it looks like a commercial photo with a backdrop.

 

Dog Canyon




Next to the Pistachio Ranch, the hike up Dog Canyon had to be the highlight of our stay at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park outside of Alamogordo. It was actually Dog Canyon National Recreational Trail #106 that leaves the State Park and goes into the Lincoln National Forest. A couple of days later, we heard that the entire Lincoln National Forest was closed because of the high risk of fires, but we weren’t sure if it applied to this part of the park.

 

The whole trail is 5.5 miles one-way and climbs over 3,100 feet. This was longer and higher than Guadalupe Peak in Texas, so we decided that we would just hike up three hours and then turn around. There wasn’t really anything at the end of the trail, but there were a couple of interesting way-points along the trail.

 

We ended up hiking to the Highpoint Vista which is at the 4.5 mile point and took 3 and a half hours to get there. We had a great view down the canyon. You can even see our trailer in the campground at the bottom, if you look closely. You can also see White Sands in the distance. The trail guide did say that the trail was a “challenge even for experienced hikers” and they weren’t exaggerating. It was narrow and rocky in places with steep cliffs. I got a shot of the trail that we had already hiked in the distance. Overall, I would say this was a great hike. One of the best we’ve done.

 

On the way up, we spotted “something” on the cliffs across the canyon. They were practically climbing straight up the wall. We still aren’t sure what we saw. I’m attaching the best photos – if you think you know what these were please let me know. They could have been some kind of goat – but they aren’t known to be in the park and these clearly had curved horns.
 

Eagle Ranch Pistachio Farm

We took one of our days at Oliver Lee to visit the Eagle Ranch Pistachio Farm. They are the largest grower in the Southwest and they process all of their own pistachios. This is what a pistachio looks like on the female trees just as they are being fertilized by the male trees:

This is what a male pistachio tree looks like. You need one male pistachio tree to fertilize eight female trees. The male trees don’t do anything except the fertilzation – they don’t grow any pistachios. This is not in any way a commentary on males of other species.

 

Eagle Ranch only sells pistachios in the shell that are perfect and don’t have any imperfections or discolorations. Most pistachios sold in this country are grown in the Middle East. They dye their pistachios red to cover up the discolored shells.


Did you know that pistachio means “happy nut”?

Oliver Lee State Park


We loved Oliver Lee Memorial State Park although at first we couldn’t find the showers! We had a tough time getting the trailer leveled in the site, but it was worth the effort. There were beautiful views up the canyon into Lincoln National Forest and down into the valley below Alamogordo. We could even see the White Sands National Monument in the distance. As we sat in camp, humming birds would buzz us. I only got one decent photo.

Bottomless Lake State Park

 

 

 

 

We had only had one night at Bottomless Lake State Park, so we just took an hour to explore the Park. It is really a chain of eight lakes that are actually sinkholes that range from 17 to 90 feet deep. They were formed when circulating water dissolved salt and gypsum deposits to form subterranean caverns (just like Carlsbad). Eventually, the roofs of the caverns collapsed from their own weight. Sinkholes resulted & soon filled with water & formed the existing lakes. You can only swim in the big lake, but the rest are open for trout fishing in the winter.