Art and Connie's 2008-2011 Adventures travel blog

Nice walking path leading to the Gila Cliff Dwellings

View of the cliff dwellings from the path

The dwellings offer a great shelter

Downtown Silver City

Chino Copper Mine near Silver City

Hiking Gomez Peak near Silver City

We’re wrapping up our week long stay in Silver City, or simply “Silver,” as locals call it. This small city, with a population of about 10,000, is a little bit off the beaten path and an area of contrasts. The rugged, scenic Gila National Forest is nearby with miles of trails and natural beauty. Yet, also nearby, is land scarred by two open pit mines. Silver City was founded as a mining town. Mining has always been here, starting with hard-rock mining and now continues on with the open pit mines. However, while many of the other small towns in this area faded away with the closure of the mines, Silver City still remains as the county seat and is a vibrant small town.

The glossy brochure on open pit mining calls it “nature’s color palette.” It continues to state “the vivid colors displayed by the rocks and soils seen in road-cuts, waste dumps, and particularly the dramatic open-pit mines are the result of various geologic processes”. Boy, what a spin on an open pit mine!

The old downtown has been revitalized and has at least two dozen art galleries and studios. There are a few pricey restaurants along with the usual mom-and-pop eateries serving delicious New Mexico cuisine which we sampled one afternoon. The small Western New Mexico University adds a bit of culture to the mix with monthly music and theatre on campus. It looks like the summer is filled with lots of events like a blues festival and a bike ride called Tour of the Gila.

While here, we visited the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. The monument is only 44 miles away but State Route 15 is a winding, narrow highway with many hairpin turns and takes about 1-1/2 hours to drive (we took the truck, not the rig). The ruins at the monument are similar to Mesa Verde in Colorado or the Moon House in Utah. We were lucky to be able to visit the monument because it is scheduled to be closed this week for a month to repair a bridge that was damaged by a fire this year.

We also took a tour of the nearby Fort Bayard which was originally home to the Buffalo Soldiers and played an integral part in trying to protect white settlers and miners as they moved into the area populated with Apaches. The fort is in need of some TLC and many of the buildings are slowly decaying. The woman who gave the tour lived onsite during the 1960s and was very passionate about trying to save the fort. She gave us a lot of insight into the history of the fort and peppered her tour with memories of growing up there. The society to save Fort Bayard has visions of how to save and restore this fort but the state currently has no interest in preserving it.

We enjoyed our stay here and this is an area that would be worthy of future stops if we travel through this corridor again. But now, we’ll continue on. Next stop is the Elks Club in Willcox, Arizona where we’ll park for a couple days and meet our RVing friends Bill and Cathy for a hike at Chiricahua National Monument.

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