Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Going Down

On  reaching the Gila Cliff Dwellings and looking around for a bit I took a good long rest on one of the concrete benches that had been put in for people to be able to sit on without sitting or even touching the ruin walls. Sarah went on and did some more exploring and photo taking while I rested. There were only about 6 other tourist there plus a Ranger so it relatively quiet. For many long minutes I was all by my self it seemed. I was able to really appreciate what the first people to live here had - quiet, beauty, food, clothing, warmth in the winter, and coolness in the summer. But especially the beauty. When Sarah returned I knew it was time to leave. Since I had made it the half mile hike up I knew I would have to make it the half mile hike down. It was one step at a time, really one step at a time. And they were steps. Some short and narrow, some rocky, some man-made steps were defiantly made by men as they were long, and steep, not made for short-legged women or kids. At my age I was no longer able to hop around like a teenager or a mountain goat any more. I was very thankful for my wonderful sister's help and the help of my walking cane that I was so glad I had decided I would need on the hike. The Ranger we had met at the cliff dwellings came behind us as we were the last ones to leave. Guess she was making sure we made it down. I was thankful she was behind us.  

 In this photo you can see some of the other hikers that were right in front of us. Look up at the top of the pic and you can see an oblong shaped cave in the wall. It shows better in the pic below. It is larger than it looks in the photos. Many people have tried to get into that cave to see what might be in it. My mom told me of a friend that had tried back in 1944 when she first went to the cliff dwellings. The friend went down a rope trying to get in but you can see in the photo first the rock face goes back a bit and then it comes farther out so mom's friend found himself dangling in front of the cave but to far out and to short of any more rope to actually go into the cave. He said he thought he could see what maybe looked like arrows or spears in the cave. In wasn't until 1968 that rock climbers were able to get into the cave but they didn't find anything but sticks. There was no sign of ancient man getting into the cave. My thought is that this cave would have been a great place for an eagle or hawk to nest which would explain why there were sticks in the cave.

 On our way down we had one view that let us see the parking lot and the motor home where Sarah's dog, Ruby, waited for us.
 Another view showed a bit of the Gila River.
We were on the back side of where the caves are that make the cliff dwellings. I knew there had been a forest fire in the area a few years before but hadn't realized it had come so close to the little canyon with the creek in it that you hiked up on the first part of the loop to see this wonderful place. You can see burnt trees in some of the photos but some grasses and brush are starting to grow back.

We finally made it back down to our starting point where you first cross the Gila River on a bridge. The nice lady Ranger offered to take our photo and you can see how tired we were. And Yes, it was well worth it.

The Ruins

 These photos are of the actual Gila Cliff Dwellings ruins. These are the five caves the Mogollon people lived in. Sarah and I were hot after our climb up the canyon to the caves but on entering them we found it was very cool. I'm sure this was nice for the people living here as most of the year the weather would be warm if not very hot. In the winter when the snows come it might have been cold but fires would have warmed the rock caves and with lots o wood kept them warm.

What is left of some rock walls.

 Most doors and windows were T shaped.
Standing at the base  of the caves. These are all nature caves that the old people found and used to their advantage.

 The celling of the largest cave, blackened by fires, especially the fires made by people looting the caves in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Very little was left for archeologists to study.

Sarah talking to a Ranger.

It is thought that most of these big slabs of stone were down when the Mogollon people lived here.

A small room probably used for storage, maybe grains. A few very old ears of corn have been found in the caves.

The view that these people would have had looking out of the caves.

 The Mogollon used wooden ladders to get to the caves. Stone and cement steps have been made for the tourists to use except for one ladder and you don't have to use it if you don't want to, there is a way around.

I'm not going to try to tell all about the cliff dwellings and the people that lived here. It would take to much. But I you are interested there are lots of website that go into a lot more detail. Just goggle Gila Cliff Dwellings and start reading. Read more than one as their are several different stories and theories about the Mogollon people.

Going UP!

The Visitors Center is about a mile from where the climb to the Gila Cliff Dwellings actually begins. The hike is supposed to be a half mile up and another half mile down making a large loop up through a narrow canyon to the top of the cliff and then back down the back of the cliff. The first two photos are of the cliff but the dwellings are hid from this angle. They are on the back of the cliff.

Ranger Bill was nice enough to talk to us, telling us what we could expect on our hike. I still wasn't sure I wanted to go all the way up and I knew it would be quite a trip. Sarah had volunteered to go all the way and take photos. But deep in my mind I knew I wanted to do this. The cliff dwelling we something that were very special to my mom and our family as my mom had come here in 1944 before there was really any road. I knew this would be my last chance to ever do this. I am 65 and know that my mom and dad would be pleased to know that I did this in their memory.

The Gila River as seen from the first bridge you cross. This bridge was about a hundred yards long. The other bridges weren't near as long, some just a few feet as they let us criss-cross back and forth over the little creek that wound down the canyon. I am sure it was the river and the creek as well as the easy defense of this canyon home that the cliff dwellers found so favorable.

 The first actual view of the cliff dwelling was obscured some by the twigs of the trees. The trees are thick in this canyon due to the creek, which helped with food and firewood for the cliff dwellers. It is thought that the Mogollon Culture people moved here in about the late 1200's. There were about 40 rooms in the five caves that were made by nature long before any humans lived in them. The Mogollon people used the rocks they found to make the walls. The top of the caves are black from their fires and the fires made by the many looters that discovered the cares in the late 1800's and took most of the pots and other things left by the Mogollon. (pronounced Mug-eee- own, not at all as it is spelled. There is the ghost town of Mogollon, also in Grant County, and the Mogollon Rim Country in Arizona.)(We had been to the town of Mogollon as teens and thought about going but knew the motor home would not make it up the narrow dirt road that goes to the ghost town, where several people still live. My nephew had tired last spring and didn't make it in his car. Mogollon was a mining town.)

These collared lizards were everywhere and quite friendly. You can see the dark ring around his neck that gives them their name.

 Much of the way up is nice walking on a narrow trail but then it becomes steep steps like the ones I am climbing here. Sarah and I took turns with my camera, both of us taking lots of photos.

First good view of the cliff dwelling but still a ways to go.

This is what the other side of the canyon from the cliff dwellers looks like.

 This little squirrel entertained us while we took a break in our hike.
I actually think we are going to make it. Now that I've made it up I'll have to hike back down. Makes me wonder what the rangers do when someone can't make the hike back down. There were several volunteer rangers along the trail in in the cliff dwellings to make sure that everyone was safe, and not doing any damage or picking up rocks. They were full of wonderful information about the dwellings.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Gila National Forest

Leaving Silver City we headed into the Gila National Forest. (pronounced 'hee-laa') Gila is an Indian word. I'm not sure what it means. The Spanish spelled it with the G as they do several of the Spanish words even though it is pronounced with an H. It was late and the road was worse than we ever remembered. Very narrow and twisting like a snake. Sarah had driven the motor home before but never on a road like this. Plus we didn't remember it being so far from Silver to the Cliff Dwellings. We saw a sign in Silver saying that the Dwellings closed at 4 pm so we decided to drive as far as we could and find a place to park for the night. Of course we knew we couldn't get to far off the paved road on one of the dirt trails like we used to do when we had little jeeps and scouts instead of a big motor home. But setting up camp when you have a motor home is sure easier than when you have to set up a tent, start a fire, and cook over the fire. A microwave and a bathroom in a motor home is nice when you get to be our age, but I sure do remember all the fun we used to have camping with a tent.

Don't know what this plant is but it's fall color was beautiful.

 We were able to get just of the road and far enough back that the motor home was hiden by trees from the paved road which is what we wanted. For those that know the area we were at the head of Meadow Creek Road. We did a lot of tent camping and picnics by going in several miles father on this road when we were in our teens and early 20's. It was one of our favorite places.

A deer track that we found near where we were parked the next morning. Wish the deer had still been in the track when we found it.

 With morning we headed on into the Gila Forest.

The road got worse and worse, twisting, turning, and in many places barely wide enough for a car coming the other direction to pass. Sarah dropped the motor home down into low and we crawled up and down those mountains. I know there are bigger motor homes that go on this road all the time but I wouldn't want to drive one or ride in one.

This was an area where you could pull off and look across the Gila Forest and the Gila Wilderness. It showed miles and miles of acreage. The thought of being in all that wilderness and maybe being lost could really be frightening. Speaking of being lost - my dad got lost once when he was deer hunting way down the road where we spent the night. It wasn't just that he was lost - it was 3 days before mine and Lee's wedding and he, and the rest of my family were supposed to be on their way to California. He was only lost one night and found his way back to his truck. My mom was pretty worried as were my sisters. They did make it to the wedding on time, which was a good thing as they had my wedding dress that my mom had made. Of course I didn't know dad had been lost until they got to CA.

 This tree was at the overlook. It is one of the biggest juniper trees I have ever seen. It was bigger than it looks in the photo.

Ruby wants to know why she can't get out here but she had been out a lot earlier.

This view was at Forks Pinic Area. It is where the two forks of the Gila River come together. These are the same kind of rock formations that the cliff dwelling are made in. Just no natural holes. Sarah and I fell in love with this place. We were able to walk Ruby here so she could stay in the motor home while we went up to the cliff dwellings.

 Our first views of the Gila River.
In this area there is another pull off called GrapeVine Panic Area. We wanted to go into it but were afraid to take the motor home into it. It looked real narrow. There used to be a huge, huge wild grapevine right close to the Gila River. There was a big old anchor chain around the vine to help protect it. We all got to see it in October of 1971. Lee and I had been married the year before and were visiting my parents on our way from California to West Virginia to visit his parents before going to Chicago where we would spend 4 months while Lee went to a Navy school before going to Hawaii. I had a little 110 camera and took a photo of Lee sitting on the extra big chain in front of the big grapevine. it is a great pic and I still have it somewhere. The next year there was a heck of a flood down the Gila River and the grapevine was washed out and disappeared. The trunk of the grapevine had to have been more than 4 feet around. It was the biggest vine any one ever knew about. That chain was lost, too. That flood did more damage than anyone could ever remember hearing about in the Gila area.

 We finally reached the Gila Cliff Dwelling Visitors Center and stopped for a few minutes. We took each others pics at the memorial to Geronimo. He always said he was born at the headwaters of the Gila River and that is about where we were. To the Apache where you are born is always special.

 Visitors center.

Pots, and arrow heads found in or near the cliff dwellings.

 More views of the Gila River. No, it isn't a very big river, especially compared to the big rivers of the east and it is usually smaller in the fall after a long hot summer than it is in the spring when the snows melt off. And yes there can be lots of snow in the Gila in the winter.

Now that's a big rock