Today we stepped back in time – way back! After eating an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast at the hall, we drove up north of Silver City to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. It was quite a drive just to get to the visitor center: 42 miles of winding, twisty mountain roads, with some sections as high as 7,000’ elevation. It’s part of a National Scenic Byway named the “Trail of the Mountain Spirits”. Beautiful Ponderosa forest, though, so we really enjoyed it.
We, as usual, stopped at the visitor center first and watched a little video about the national monument here.
Also got our National Parks Passport book stamped (it’s filling up fast!). Then a quiet lunch outside at one of the picnic tables while we watched about 6-8 hummingbirds at the feeders. Cute little buggers.
We could only drive as far as the first parking lot as the bridge is suffering from some pretty serious erosion.
So now, instead of a one-mile loop trail up to the caves from the last parking lot, it’s a three-mile round trip hike. According to the rangers, they’ve noticed a 50% reduction in visitors. The last part of the walk climbs about 180’ in elevation, but the steps weren’t too bad. This is a petroglyph that we saw along the roadside just a bit after the bridge. There was a rattlesnake nearby, also – our second sighting this week for a total of two (outside of zoos) in our entire lives!
This was our first view of the caves (this is Cave 7). The next two pictures are from just past the caves as the trail winds upward.
The Mogollon people inhabited these caves between the late 1270s and 1300 A.D. They built about 40 rooms inside the natural caves by using rocks, mortar and tree timbers. The wood apparently is one of the things that helped archeologists to determine when the caves were inhabited. No one knows for sure why the Mogollon cliff dwellers left, but nearly 80% of what is left of the walls and other features within the caves is the original construction, so they certainly knew what they were doing. It was quite fascinating to wander through several of the caves and imagine them occupied with people busy with their everyday lives and children running from room to room. One also wonders how many children died from falls…
Can’t forget flower pictures…
The hike down was beautiful, too.
We took a different route home (Hwys. 35 & 61) and enjoyed a slightly more level road winding through the pines interspersed with open meadows. New Mexico has impressed us with the variety of terrain – it’s got a little of just about everything (except seashore, of course!). We didn’t get home till 7:15. Playing tourist is hard work! We know, we know…somebody’s got to do it.