10 April 2007

Return from the Wilderness

The intrepid Road Warriors have returned from the Great Exploration of the Gila 2007. No new maps were created, but many pictures were taken and new memories stored. It is an amazing piece of nature tucked safely in the corner of our state, with over 3 million acres of national forest, it is remote and sparsely populated. (Those looking for an ideal getaway-it is a perfect location).
The drive down did not take long, and we had ample opportunity to look around Silver City, have an early dinner, and still drive the long and winding road (emphasis on winding) through the forest with plenty of daylight. It is not something I would like to do during the night or during inclement weather as there are limited guard rails, and some very deep drop offs-- oh yes, and a few wackos who don't seem to recognize centerlines. We found the lodge, without much difficulty, shortly after I had commented it would be fun to camp on that river. We met Dean, the proprietor, who showed us our room and explained the rather loose house rules-essentially none. After a bit of unpacking, we had wee dram of whiskey and took an exploratory walk to the river, where there was a very impressive suspension bridge, and several folks just camped along the river. We spotted a tree full of very large blackbirds (more on that later), and headed back to try out the Hot Springs. After a quick read of reading and retired until approximately 1 a.m. when some late arrivals pulled up, headlights glaring and quietly came upstairs and into a room. We were all very polite. And they moved off to their room, my what a homey place.

We were fortunate to find a place (only a few miles from the Gila Cliff dwellings), which at one time was an old schoolhouse, carefully transplanted to the area. It was rustic and homey with a communal atmosphere and two very nice, hot springs-one very hot, and one perfectly tepid. Those hot springs, by the way, changed my very resolute dislike of things which are boiling and sulfur smelling. We were fortunate to have time in the late evening to soak-after the children went to bed (two adorable twin four year olds.)
I moved to the east, mountains to enjoy the dark skies and millions of stars, but I'll tell you- smack dab in the middle of that forest- there were a gazillion stars suspended in an inky black sky. It was a slight chill in the air, which made the warm water all the more womblike.

After a nice communal breakfast, courtesy of Dean the owner, we were off to the cliff dwellings. [I would like to add a footnote here: at a later date, I will explore the trepidation/mortification about the prospect of hiking up to the cliff dwellings-but that's a whole other story.] There was a nice exhibit and video about the Mogollon people, their appearance and disappearance from the area. I learned the real story toward the end of the hike- not pretty and not publicized. The area is not large and is nestled in a small gorge, which would be difficult to locate... not so much for us because we had park rangers everywhere-including Ranger Bling, that too, is another story. We explored the caves, took pictures of everything including a couple of small pictographs. The trip down was almost as difficult, because my legs now had the weebles-bad and I required some serious support. So I begged off a quick stop at South scorpion, to see yet another cave, Road Warrior Mandy took my camera instead.
We stopped at a small general store to get something to drink and some cheese and drove down to Lake Roberts for a little picnic and exploration. It reminded me of Wisconsin, with ducks and boats and tall trees. It was a lovely spot. We explored the area around there looking for a shortcut road, I had seen on the map, to take back Sunday, but we were discouraged by a forest ranger who said that the road attacked oil pans-- strange creatures in these woods.
We took the beautiful route back to the lodge in time to sit on the front porch, knit, have a glass of wine and visit with the other guests. A long soak in the hot spring and this little cowgirl slept like a baby. Oh, I forgot to mention our roommate- "Momo" a very assertive black and white kitty, who made herself at home.
Sunday morning,we hoped to get an early start in order to take Highway 180 around the west side of the mountains. Most of our inquiries were met with assurances that this was a beautiful route. We might have left a little sooner except that Dean made pancakes! Very good pancakes. After our farewells tonew friends, we took the winding road back down to Silver city, gassed up the car and took a very lovely road west and north past the San Francisco mountains and the west side of the Mogollon.

We stopped part way up, near Alma to see "the catwalk." This is another site that was opened for tourists. It was, at one time, used for mining. There are indeed a series of catwalks suspended from the narrow cliff walls meandering into a beautiful canyon. It was a perfect spring day, and there are many people picnicking for Easter.
I trekked about half a mile in to where the catwalk stopped, and then encouraged Road Warrior Mandy to continue the journey. I was still a little too weebly and felt safer, heading back terra firma. (My safe feelings lasted only until some thoughtful young man pushed his friend at me, near the edge of the canyon. An accident was averted, as evidenced by the fact that I'm writing this blog. But it ended a perfectly gorgeous hike, and I returned to the car with a combination of fear and rage.)
We continued our journey through some magnificent country, and I would be surprised if we saw more than 25 cars the rest of the afternoon. In fact, a couple of small towns that we passed through, almost appeared deserted-no cars, nothing open. The magic of a road trip is that all this idyllic little spots is only a few hours away. It felt like I was gone for a much longer time. For me it was an Easter blessing.


~MAGILL~ said...

2 adventurers seeking Golden experiences - Sounds like a great adventure close to home

The world we live in is sooo wonder-full when we slow down and look - thanks

Moi: said...

You go, you adventuresses! Bring us back tales of freakish bird imperatives and reluctantly won-over canines and stacked pancake induced tardiness!

Cool pics, too!

Wicked Thistle said...


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