Find us on Google+ Rick and JoAnne's RV Travels: Trail of the Mountain Spirits to Gila Cliff Dwellings - Part 2

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Trail of the Mountain Spirits to Gila Cliff Dwellings - Part 2

Rick Morgan

Continuing yesterday's post...


From the petroglyphs you travel a short distance to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. What a marvel!  Not because they are magnificent and captivating, but because the park service has kept them relatively untouched…well as much as you can from their discovery in 1878.

The one-mile loop trail winds through a step canyon, crosses a river, and rises 180 feet above the canyon floor. The steep rock steps are often narrow, and even for Colorado people, it is a climb! But I wouldn’t want to discourage you, just take your time, wear sturdy shoes, and bring water. You will be blessed by your efforts when you finally reach the first of the 6 caves. Dwellings were built in 5 of the caves and you actually walk through 3 of the largest caves.




Stunning! Stunning! Stunning! That is how I would describe the dwellings. We have been to Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings and several others, however there was something magical about these - maybe because you can truly visualize living there, maybe because they are more intimate.



The dark smoke stained ceilings, the sectioned rooms, the ladders from one section to another. Or that it is easy to imagine Mogollon families living here...I’m not exactly sure but as you can tell we were really taken by them. 


Archeologists have evidence that many different groups have inhabited this area over thousands of years. Questions like; what motivated one group to build inside the caves between 1270 and 1300 and why was their stay so short still linger and lead to further mystery about the dwellings.


The first to build cliff dwellings were the Mogollon (mo-go-yon) culture. They built the dwellings with rock, mortar, and timbers from trees cut between 1276 and 1287. They lived, farmed, hunted, and raised their families in the dwellings until the 1300s. After they mysteriously left in 1300, (reason still unknown), no one lived there for over 100 years.

It is unclear who or if others lived in the Gila Cliff Dwellings after the Mogollon’s left? The Mimbres branch of the Mogollon culture was in the area as were the Chiricahua Apache. With their leader Geronimo, (who was born near the Gila River headwaters) the Apache stayed in the area for a while, and left artifacts such as bows and arrows.  There is also evidence of miners and Spanish explorers here.


So as you can see, not only were we taken with the buildings, the area, and its’ peoples. We are fascinated by the mystery and beauty of it all. If you are in this part of New Mexico this is a must stop... it is an interesting and intriguing place.

 If like us all the exploring leaves you famished - stop at Little Toad Creek Inn and Tavern for some good food on the way back to Silver City. 


 More photos here.