Trail of the Mountain Spirits (Feb 17 2014)

DSC02204.JPGI am feeling like a dog. All I can focus on is the here and now. I’ve let go, big time. I haven’t bathed in days. My hair needs washing, real bad. I need to get online and check messages – I hope nothing terrible has happened to my family. My hygiene leaves too much to be desired. I am getting too used to primitive campsites with nothing. But somehow, it feels good to let go and I am more relaxed now than ever before.

Last night was spent at the Cherry Creek Campground on SR15. It’s a Forest Service campsite but it’s still closed for the winter. We simply parked in front of the closed gate. The toilets were locked for the season and there was no accessible water, but that didn’t keep locals from coming here to picnic, build campfires, go off into the woods to make out. A big group of teenagers supervised by an adult woman came and made a fire but they all left after a while and and once again, we were all alone.

DSC02218.JPGMornings are still hellishly cold but maybe I’m more used to it. There’s only enough water for coffee, so after a couple of cups, we continue towards the Cliff Dwellings. This part of the road is called the Trail of the Mountain Spirits – the road is very windy and in some places, very narrow, but you get a grand view of layers of mountain ranges, ponderosa pines, fabulous wind-carved cliffs.

DSC02214.JPGIt’s only 44 miles from Silver City to the Gila Cliff Dwellings but everything we read kept telling us that it takes 2 hours. TWO HOURS? To go 44 miles?

Well, it didn’t really take the entire 2 hours, but it was pretty darn close to that!

After Gila Hot Springs, more a group of RV park-cabins-tourist stuff than a town, we arrive at Gila Cliff Dwellings.

DSC02219.JPGThe actual Cliff Dwellings are well hidden from the road. You take a trail along a creek, climb a bit, and then, when you turn back…suddenly they’re there, behind you, up high on a cliff.

DSC02227.JPGDSC02258.JPGThe dwellings were supposedly built by the Mogollon people. They must have been pretty smart to have selected such a nice spot along the branches of the Gila River offering water and fish, caves for shelter, forests for building material and fuel. And the dwellings look like they might have been quite comfortable. No one knows why the dwellings were abandoned, but it must have been a real bitch to haul up water from the river to their homes so I imagine that might have had something to do with it.

There could have been a coup d’etat, a revolt of sorts by the women who were probably the ones to do the water hauling. Tired of having to drag water up to the cliffs several times a day, they might have given the men an ultimatum: We will leave, with or without you.

There are hot springs along the Middle Fork of the Gila, a short way from the Visitor’s Center. We walk along the river, crossing it a couple of times and nearly miss the hot spring – it’s only when we turn around that we see steam rising from one part of the river.

DSC02267.JPGThe spring is a tortuous 150 degrees! Good thing there are pools that let the cold river water in to bring the temps down. While you soak, you can gaze up at the most gorgeous cliffs, shaped into warm orange drapery folds. And until a father with six boys appear, we have the whole place to ourselves.

DSC02272.JPGFeeling refreshed from the hot spring dip, we are ready to move on but after yesterday’s long drive, decide to stay in the area for another night. There’s a primitive campsite just south of the town of Gila Hot Springs. It’s right by the river, which means access to WATER! I can wash rice! And dishes! Yay!

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Author: ontheroadwithsprockets

I've been traveling since I was born -- the first big trip was before I was two, across the Pacific, from my native Japan to Los Angeles on a cargo ship. There have been many journeys since then, through many continents and cultures.

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