Find us on Google+ Rick and JoAnne's RV Travels: Trail of the Mountain Spirits to Gila Cliff Dwellings - Part 1

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Trail of the Mountain Spirits to Gila Cliff Dwellings - Part 1

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From City of Rocks State Park and just east of Silver City, we began our journey on the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway, which itself was an amazing, picturesque drive through historic places, over the Continental Divide, along a creek, and spectacular vistas through deep, old forests ending at the remarkable Gila Cliff Dwellings. This is going to be a long post, so I am splitting it into two parts. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.

We made an unfortunate quick stop at Ft. Bayard.  It was one of those typically great and unexpected “quickie stops”. However "I say unfortunate because on this day they were not open to visitors.  So, the best we could do was read about it and take some photos.  The Fort served as a U.S. Army post during the Indian Wars between the years 1866-1899, and then as an Army Sanatorium from 1899 – 1920. It was home to Native American Indian Scouts, Buffalo Soldiers, and during WWI and WWII Veterans were rehabilitated, and German POW’s were housed here. So, you can readily see how it would have been so interesting to visit and learn more about the history of this place. Many of the buildings, old hospital, and barracks still stand…in disrepair. Sad - yes, but still hauntingly magnificent!


Our next stop was Pinos Altos (Tall Pines), an old mining town at an altitude of 7067’ that was developed in 1860 as a result of a gold strike. The town hosted 49ers, outlaws, as well as Judge Roy Bean. This town, once abandoned is now a place for summer residents and tourists. It reminded us of Jamestown, CO. But beware, they are very, very serious about trespassers with several signs posted “NO TRESPASSING – VIOLATORS WILL BE SHOT AND SURVIVORS WILL BE SHOT AGAIN.”


As you travel on NM15, you will go on a mountainous road through ponderosa pine country of the Gila (HEE-la) National Forest, which was set aside in 1924 as the first wilderness area in the USA. It definitely was not the terrain one would think of for New Mexico. Yet, here we were in the midst of winding roads, stunning vistas, thick forests and mountain lakes. We made a stop at the Ben Lilly Park which was established to honor the mountain man lion-hunter. You would never know about the “honoring part” since the plaque describing his life and philosophy is unreadable due to graffiti.



Passing other areas of interest, the slow, two hour journey made us even more excited to finally get to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. The road lead us right to the visitor center for the dwellings. They had an informative, well done movie on the Mogollon Puebloan peoples and some beautiful artifacts. The staff was most helpful and directed us to a petroglyph site as a first stop.


More pictures here.

Tomorrow we will post about our experience and impressions of the Gila Cliff Dwellings.



8 comments :

  1. Sounds like a terrific route. Too bad Ft. Bayard was closed. This sounds like a great find. My husband would love this place.

    Can't wait to read about the Gila Cliff Dwellings...love cliff dwellings!

    Thanks for sharing! We will keep this in mind for next year.

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    1. Yes, it is a really nice drive - Wouldn't want to do in the RV as the road has a lot of up and downs and lots of sharp curves. The Cliff Dwelling will go up later today!

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  2. We took the drive up to the Gila Cliffs dwellings and had a great time. When we finally were ready to make the long drive back to Silver City late in the day, I discovered our front brakes had failed totally. Ooops! Luckily we had a Jeep with a manual transfer case and I drove back in low gear on the downgrades and slowly up the other side. It took forever, but there wasn't any traffic and by using the emergency brake very little we made it back to town. Never a dull moment.

    Check out the Catwalk while you are in the area. It's great.

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    1. Yikes, I can't imagine. Missed the Catwalk. We are now in Elephant Butte State Park.

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  4. I still use a coffee mug I bought at an artisans gallery along that road 8 or 10 years ago. Came around a bend in the coach and saw the gallery AND a place to park AND she was open so we shopped and then had lunch. That was above the Catwalk and before the twisty road to the Cliff Dwellings. We have been up to the Cliff Dwellings in the tow'd, was wondering how you had done it with the coach. We are just behind you, stopped at Saguaro SKP in Benson for a couple of days. Don;t plan on going as far north as you since we did City of Rocks west bound.

    Safe travels

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    1. Oh, we didn't do it in the Coach. We drove the toad from City of Rocks. We are in Elephant Butte SP right now and will be heading over to either Oliver Lee or Valley of Fires on Sunday. More to see around here than we had expected.

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