Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gila Cliff Dwellings ...

Last Friday Wendell and I went to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  It was just an awesome day.  The trip there, the tour, the trip home ... all outstanding! 

We left pretty early for us, about 9-ish.  Drove a sort of out-of-the-way route there, going through some new territory for us.  Most of it was in the Gila National Wilderness Area, but some through ranching areas.  Lot of open range, with cattle free to roam onto the roads.  We arrived just 1/2 hour before the one and only guided tour of the day was to begin, so our picnic lunch would have to wait.  We grabbed a bottle of water and headed UP the trail. 

We walked a nice groomed trail up a canyon, climbing all of the way.  We crossed and re-crossed the same stream numerous times.  At the base of the cliff we started to climb up the steps ... WHEW!  We both stopped several times to sit on benches, get our breath and rest.  But we made it in time for the tour.  The volunteer guide, Paula, was super!  She knew her stuff.  It was cool in the canyon but as we climbed we took off our jackets and left them on a bench with the other tourists' things.  There were four couples in the group.  I'm putting some pictures here and at right.  I took LOTS of pictures ... more than I could or should  post here.  We learned a lot about these people who went to all of the trouble to build this lovely place, then only lived here for about 30 years.  All 700 year ago ...

The park only has three paid employees.  Everyone else is a volunteer, including the maintenance people.  They have a dorm, FEMA trailers, or their own travel trailers where they stay.  They are asked to commit to volunteer for at least 3 months.  What a great way to spend the summer (or winter!).

You can tour on your own but we think we learned a lot from Paula.  And when the official tour was over you could stay as long as you wanted to look around and take more pictures.  What an awesome place.  We are so glad we went.  An aside: we climbed up with a woman who had started up the trail with her 91-year-old mother but turned back to return her to their car.  Then she came on with us.  She climbed all of the way up to decide that she felt dizzy and another volunteer had to take her back down!  I can't imagine going all of the way up and then not see the thing!!!  I think that if she had just sat for a spell, and had some water, she could have gone all the way.  We hope she and her mother got back to Silver City okay ...  they were gone when we finally returned to the parking lot. 

When we returned, about 3:00, we sat on the tailgate of the truck and had a delicious lunch (anything would have tasted delicious after that climb!).  Then we headed back to Silver City. 

The Gila Cliff Dwellings, looking up from the trail.

Looking out from inside cave dwelling #3.  Awesome!

This is the ladder we climbed to get from one level to another.  Wow!
Wendell drove home; I had driven there.  It was by the more direct route but just let me say this about that road (NM highway 15) ...  When you leave Silver City, going north on that highway, it says "Gila Cliff Dwellings, 44 miles, allow 2 hours driving time" ... does that give you an idea of our trip down the mountain?!  Narrow, no center line, twists and turns.  That's it.  But it was BEAUTIFUL!  I was glad to be riding and not driving. 

More later ... and I promise I'll post some pictures of this place we're staying ...