March 14, 2015

Good-bye Texas, Hello New Mexico and Arizona

After more than two months in Texas, we finally left the Lone Star State on February 17, 2015.  We had planned to visit Guadalupe Mountains National Park after our stop in Van Horn, but the weather was not cooperating, so we decided to save the park for another time.  The interstate was the only reasonable way to travel, so we braved the traffic, including the craziness that is El Paso.  Luckily, I had read about a more agreeable loop around the city, which turned out to be a very smart detour. 

Texas Was Great, But It Was Nice to Cross into New Mexico

Our destination for the night was Las Cruces.  Tim was happy to be back in New Mexico and to have easy access to green chilies, one of his favorite foods.  Getting his chili fix was a top priority.

We had a mission while in Las Cruces.  For longer than I care to admit, our electric sofa had been making a grinding noise while being lowered to its position as a bed.  For those who are not familiar with our RV, we have a sofa at the rear of the RV that converts to a king-size bed.  When the sofa/bed would not revert to the sofa position, we knew that we finally had to deal with it.

Luckily, we found a mobile RV technician in Las Cruces who was able to fit us into his schedule.  We were envisioning having to replace the motor and/or gear box and were preparing ourselves for a costly and time-consuming repair.  Larry from Larry’s RV and Marine Service arrived right on time the next morning and determined that it was an easy fix.  Who would have guessed that a bit of grease would solve the problem.  Wow!  That was a huge relief.  Larry was so professional and so good at figuring things out.  We would highly recommend him.

We took advantage of our stop in a large city to visit Walgreen’s and Walmart.  It had been more than a month since we had been to one of the “big” stores, and there were a few things that we needed.  Errands complete, we were ready for an adventure. 

We left Las Cruces and drove into the mountains toward Silver City, New Mexico.  It was nice to get off the interstate and onto a more peaceful state highway.  We had picked Silver City because it was supposed to be an interesting small town and a good base to visit Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.  It turned out to be a great choice.

We checked into Rose Valley RV Ranch, a great campground with a Western theme.  The campground’s location in Silver City was perfect, and we were amazed that a private campground had so much character, as well as so much space and privacy between sites.  Although we would have enjoyed hanging around the campground, we had other plans.

We drove to Gila Cliff Dwellings the next day on the Trail of the Mountain Spirits National Scenic Byway.  This winding, mountain road passes through the Gila National Forest and offers wonderful views of the surrounding wilderness.  The Gila National Forest actually includes the first designated wilderness area set aside by Congress in 1924.

Winding Our Way through the Gila National Forest

Panoramic Views from the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway

Crossing the Gila River

The road ends at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, a park that provides a glimpse into the homes and lives of the ancient Puebloan people who lived in the Mogollon area more than 700 years ago.  These people built a village within five of the natural caves of Cliff Dweller Canyon, and these cliff dwellings can be visited today.

As we hiked up the path to the cliff houses, we caught our first sight of the natural caves, which are located high above the canyon bottom.  Tim and I were fortunate to join a tour led by a wonderful volunteer, who helped us think like an archeologist (Tim didn’t let on that he is an archeologist!).  Why did the ancestral people come to this area, and why did they construct their dwellings in the caves?  Why did they leave after only a few decades?  There are many theories, and it was thought-provoking to ponder the possibilities.  Walking among the ruins and contemplating the culture that flourished there was so inspirational.

Our First Sighting of the Caves in Cliff  Dweller Canyon

What a Location for a Home
Cliff Dwellings Were Built into the Caves

How Amazing It Was to Walk in the Footsteps of the Ancestral People 

We also spent some time at the visitor center where we met the park’s superintendent.  We were amazed to find out that Gila has only two paid staff.  That’s nuts!  How can a park function that way?  One answer is with volunteers.  It seems as if volunteers virtually run the place, and they seem to be a very dedicated bunch of folks.  We were impressed.

The next day we left Silver City and headed back to the interstate on our way to Arizona.  What a dramatic view as we drove down from the higher elevation of Silver City and encountered the wide expanse of desert before us.  You may be wondering why we were moving at such a rapid pace, when our stated preference has been to spend up to a week at each destination.  The answer is an easy one.  We had registered in January to attend an event in Phoenix and had only a short time frame to get there. We had not figured on working at Fort Davis for two weeks when we originally planned our timetable and route.

Good-bye New Mexico, Hello Arizona

Tim and I stopped for the evening in Willcox, Arizona.  Although our campground was bare-bones, its saving grace was pie.  Yes, pie.  The owner bakes pies, and we placed our order for rhubarb, one of my favorites.  We also found Girl Scouts in town selling cookies, only the second cookie opportunity we had found this season.  We were certainly fixed for sweets.

There's Always Room for Pie

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