Dave & Son - Gila Hike and Bike
Silver City Museum
Pinos Altos - Former Mining Town on road to Cliff Dwellings
Keeping the forest floor clean of debris
The T window is copied from Anasazi design
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday 11-7,8,9-2010. After arriving late in Silver City on Saturday and having had our butts kicked by Emory Pass, we decided to make Sunday a rest day. We rode into town to Gila Hike & Bike Shop for new tires on Norb's bike, and maintenance checks. We had an enjoyable visit with Dave and his son. We also spent time getting information from Glenn, who lives in Silver City, and is a hard-core bicycle tourist who is familiar with the general area. Glenn reaffirmed our decision to go off the ACA route and head south to Lordsburg. Whether we head west or south, we can't avoid climbs over the Continental Divide. By heading south, we can expect slightly warmer weather and some lodging. While our bikes were being serviced, we walked the downtown area and visited the local museum housed in a unique former residence of Italianate design. This town of 10,500 has many interesting brick and adobe buildings dating back to the 1800's when it was a thriving mining community. In the early 1800's, City Fathers passed a law that disallowed any structure to have walls framed with wood, fearing fires that had destroyed other mining towns. Even though a WalMart exists east of town, the downtown area is vibrant with restaurants, shops, and people milling about. It is an interesting mix of people - some tourists, hikers, bikers, cowboys, and aging refugees from Woodstock. On Monday we procured a rental car from a local used car dealer in order to drive north through the mountains to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. As we left town, a sign announced the 45 mile drive would take 2 1/2 hours. We took Hwy 15 that is a narrow band of asphalt which hair-pin curves, drops, and climbs through some beautiful scenery in Gila National Forest. On our way we encountered a prescribed burn that the Forest Service was managing for about 3 miles. After arriving, we enjoyed the Visitor Center and then hiked up Cliff Dweller Creek that is fed by a spring at the head of a canyon. The spring ensures a constant flow of water that sustains this canyon oasis, and provided water for the Mogollon (muggy-own) people that settled here from approximately 1270 to 1300 AD. They built masonry structures in deep natural caves near the confluence of the 3 branches of the Gila River. Reportedly, these people wandered into this area during a stressful period of a 25 year drought. Evidence suggests that these people traded items with tribes as far away as Mexico, and the Anasazi to the north before vacating these caves and vanishing into, perhaps, the culture of other tribes. Later, Apache Indians camped here at different times during their 300 year attempt to rid their homelands of Spanish and American settlers. It was not until the late 1800's that Geronimo gave up this struggle for his people. Thankfully, Teddy Roosevelt declared these dwellings a national monument in 1907, so we now have the opportunity to learn about the remarkable people who long ago preceded our visit. As we sat in the quiet of these caves high above the creek, looking out at the canyon walls, we felt peaceful and connected to this special place.
On Tuesday, the 7am temperature was 39 degrees with a 20mph wind blowing out of the west that could be an annoying cross wind on our route south. We piled bags in the motel lobby and walked outside to be greeted by a cold drizzle. The wind and climb over the Continental Divide were doable. The rain was not what we wanted to deal with on our route that required a lot of climbing. So - we packed it back in to wait for clearer skies tomorrow.