Originally published 15 February, 2014
At the entrance of the cave dwellings.
We got started out early today, as we were traveling far.....everything out here is far. Nothing is close. Our destination today was the Gila Cliff Dwellings.
Remote desert moutnains
To say they are remote would be an insult to remote. They were out there. It's around 45 or 50 miles from where we are to the cliff dwellings. There is NOTHING between here and there. And we're not talking the figurative nothing....we're talking the real nothing. No stores, no fuel, no towns, NOTHING. We head out. About ten miles into the trip, I realize that we didn't fill up with fuel before we left. We had half a tank...and I thought we would have enough to make the trip. I also had ten gallons of fuel in Jerry cans in the bed, which buy me another 200 miles....so I knew we were fine. We press on.
Pinos Altos, New Mexico
It is a long way to the dwellings. Most of the road has a speed limit of 45 mph, and it's curvy as hell. There are major ups and downs and you're at an elevation of over 7700 feet above sea level. You can burn a set of brakes up quick. I found myself gearing down the transmission to let the engine slow us. We made several stops to take in the view and take pictures. Sadly, the pictures don't show the magnificence of what we have seen. It's just too vast and too detailed. We saw quite a few black tail deer, and they are big! No other interesting critters though.
In the cliff dwellings
We arrive at the dwellings, check out the visitors center, and go up to the dwellings. It's about a two mile walk to the dwellings and back, and you have to remember you're at high altitude. While not at the 7700 foot level, it was in the 6000's. You're up there and it's not as easy as climbing when you're at sea level. We live in the mountains, but our place is at 1200 feet above sea level. 7700 is quite a bit higher. We trudge on up, but at a pace slower than we normally do. It's just not wise to push things when you're this far out in the boonies.
We get to the cliff dwellings, and Laurie is very excited. One of her degrees is in anthropology and it's of great interest to her. There are volunteers there to answer questions, and today, we talked to a guy named Marty Hooker. He was originally from Michigan, retired Air Force, worked 20 more years as a school guidance counselor in Albuquerque, and now is a national parks volunteer. He was very knowledgeable, and answered a lot of questions. He is truly a credit to the national park service volunteers.
Marty told us about how the people lived, when they lived there (around 1200 AD), and details about their lives. We wandered the caves, saw where the people lived, and how they lived. It was a great place to visit, and it was not even close to crowded. It's remote, being 45 or 50 miles from the small town of Silver City...and requires a 2 mile walk. While not that difficult, it is not for the timid and those afraid to travel. This keeps the crowds down.
The view from inside the cliff dwellings
We left the cliff dwellings and headed around a "loop", which was supposed to take us to several towns and attractions....which were wide spots in the road with most of the businesses closed or out of business. And it's Saturday! We continued our trek.
Towards the end of our trip, one of the sights was an open pit copper mine. I am a mining engineer so yes, I was interested. There was an overlook and we were able to look into the property to see some of the mining operations. It was quite interesting. It was a short 10 minute stop....but I enjoyed it. I always like seeing other mining methods. The place was MASSIVE, and I've never seen a mine so large. It's a major employer here and puts food on the table of many homes in this remote region.
We leave the copper mine and decide to go to an old army base called Fort Bayard. It had to do with the indian wars, and in the days when it was still a major disease, a tuberculosis hospital. It was actually a working hospital until 2010, when it closed and the entire property of about 400 acres was abandoned. They just closed up and walked away.....leaving what is basically a ghost town.
Fort Bayard tuberculosis hospital
Laurie and I are big fans of abandoned places. We like to go in and look at places.....figure out what the place was, how it was used, and who lived there. It's history right in front of you...and we love playing amateur forensic anthropologists! We wound up staying until dark!
Abandoned town of Fort Bayard
We couldn't access interiors but we could wander the grounds and check the buildings out from outside. I imagine all the people who went through there, who lived there, and yes, who died there. And I'm sure many did die there. Not so much from the cavalry and such that was stationed there, but from tuberculosis which killed so many. I got to do a fair amount of photography with my film cameras. While working, i would imagine the places I'm shooting full of people, living their lives and making history.
The place is kinda spooky, but it just draws you to it. Laruie and I were discussing it with a local there shooting pictures. We compared it to Chernobyl, without the radiation. It's like everyone just walked away one day and left everything there.
Fort Bayard Post office
I could stay at Fort Bayard with my film cameras for weeks, shooting hundreds of rolls of films. It was just an incredibly interesting place...and such a testament to those who have gone before us. We closed out our visit with a walk through the military cemetery.
I like going through grocery stores, as it teaches you a lot about where you are visiting. Cemeteries tell you about who lived there and who they were. It's small stones with blurbs about who the people were. So many were simple people who were thrust into extraordinary circumstances.....and became part of history. Some went on to have families and lives, while others did not get the chance. While somber and humbling, it's very educational.
After we leave the cemetery, we head back to the motorhome and dinner. Tomorrow is moving day...and we head to Arizona. Talk to ya tomorrow!
Quote of the day- "Traveling is almost like talking to men of other centuries."- Rene Descartes
Song of the day- Time Passages- Al Stewart
I'm Bill. My wife Laurie and I love to travel and share our stories. We especially love it when we have been able to motivate our readers to start traveling on their own, and making their own stories.
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