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

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