From Tucson to San Diego

Hi everyone,

I’m still in San Diego, or rather in Jamul (ha.ˈmu:l) in the southeastern suburbs, at the home of my friends Fabienne and Wayne. As you can see, I’m getting a lot of work done on the blog, but, I assure you, on some papers too.

The trip from Tucson to here was eventful.

 

September 30th to October 3rd

I leave Tucson early in the afternoon on September 30th, direction due west on Interstate 8.

I plan to stay at Picacho State Recreation Area in California, on the Colorado River. It’s a dirt road, however, some 18 miles long, that leads to the park from the small town of Winterhaven. I hesitate, but the website says that any low-clearence, 2 wheel-drive vehicle or RV can easily get there. I am really looking foward to spending a few days in an isolated and peaceful place near water, where I can swim and get some work done.  So I go for it. Unfortunately, I get a late start because I go shopping in Yuma. By the time I’m approaching the park it’s already dark and I can’t see the road very well any more. It’s a very sandy road and, of course, Van gets stuck.

Van, how could you do this to me? (But I know it’s my own fault.)

There’s only one thing to do, spend the night right here.  I manage to get Van over to the side of the road, to a level place where I can sleep. But wait, there is something else to do. Have a beer! I do so.

It’s only seven in the evening, but I’m exhaused, so I go to bed and read for a while. Needless to say, I don’t sleep very well.

I wake up early and as soon as it’s light I try to get Van unstuck which I manage to do quite easily. It’s a good road, in fact, just very sandy in some places. I imagine that if it hadn’t been dark, I wouldn’t have got stuck. I’m only two miles from the park now, but I don’t want to go any further, I don’t want to risk getting stuck again, especially since it’s downhill towards the beach and I might have difficulty getting back up. I’m disappointed, because I was looking forward to swimming. It’s very hot here. I turn around and head back to civilization, and to a good breakfast in a restaurant in Yuma.

But I do have a plan B. I head west again, stopping in the town of El Centro to wash Van. After that, it’s up into the coastal mountains to Laguna Mountain Recreation Area where I camp for two days.

I like it here. It’s an alpine area above 6,000 feet, so it’s cool; after the Arizona desert this is refreshing. The campground is nearly empty, though they’re expecting a lot of people for the weekend.

The campground is in Cleveland National Forest…

1_Cleveland National Forest

…in an area which, like Portal and Patagonia, is known for its varied bird population:

2_Voice of the forest_sign

 

The ritual photos of my campsite…

3_Campsite 1

…which may seem repetitive to you, but…

4_Campsite 2

…to me each campsite is unique. And when I move on I always feel a little sad.  This place has been my home for however long or short a time.

 

The Burnt Rancheria Campground (which is not burnt at all) is near this café where they have a wonderful coffee that has pine nut in it. They’re open for dinner in the evening and so I go there once for my evening meal.

5_Café & Tavern

And nearby there is also a post office, a sporting goods store and a general store with cabins to rent. Further along there are more campgrounds. We’re only little more than an hour from San Diego here, so the area is a popular mountain retreat.

 

Of course, some of the local wildlife can be dangerous:

6_Rattlesnakes

I’ve been warned about rattlesnakes throughout my travels, even in the towns. Captain, Dirk and I nearly stumbled upon one near Gila Hot Springs. So I think it might be appropriate to say a few words about them.  You can learn more about rattlesnakes here, and see some pictures here. It’s reassuring to know that these snakes rarely bite and will do so only if provoked or surprised. If treated promptly, their bite is rarely fatal. More importantly, they are predators and help keep down the populations of many birds and rodents. They are also prey themselves to hawks, weasles and king snakes.

But if you see one on your doorstep one day, I’d understand a panicky reaction.

 

We’re in an alpine forest here…

8_Alpine forest

…with, as is frequent in the coastal regions of California, a fair amount of oak and other deciduous trees…

7_Green forest

…but, once again, the desrt is never far…

9_Desert is never far_Pacific Crest...

 

Just a short walk from the campground we are on the Desert View Trail where we once again find desert vegetation:

10_Prickly pear, again

For a short time, this trail is part of the well-known Pacific Crest Trail.

 

The presence of deciduous trees here leads me to discover something I haven’t yet seen on this trip, autumn colors:

11_Discovery here...

12_Autumn colors...

And I’m reminded that time is passing and that I’m now in the final month of my road trip.

I camp here for two nights and regroup after the stressful experience at Picacho.  But San Diego is waiting…

Tucson

Hi everyone,

I’m still in San Diego. I’ll report on my activities here in a few days.

Reading: Mormon Country by Wallace  Stegner. Originally published in 1942, this essay is fascinating, if you’re interested in this type of thing. I am.

Article currently working on: Bivalve and barnacle larvae distribution driven by water temperature in a Mediterranean lagoon

Editing note added on October 14th: Captain has alerted me to the fact that I’d misnamed the saguaro cactus as organ pipe (which is yet another type of cactus). I’ve corrected the mistake here.

 

September 25th – 30th

Tucson is hot. Very hot, even this late in the season. In the high nineties F (36 to 38° C). And it doesn’t cool down very much at night.

I arrive around lunch time from Patagonia and find a motel. I plan to stay through the weekend as I have an appointment to get Van serviced tomorrow morning and to see a chiropractor myself on Monday. Yes, my back has been giving me trouble.

I spend the next several days visiting the area, getting my errands done, working on some papers and working on the blog. One day I drive up to Summerhaven, in the eastern mountains. It’s much cooler up there. Also, I visit some of the local restaurants. And early in the morning I ride my bike around the city center and on the university campus (which is very impressive, by the way).

I find some of the houses in Tucson to be really interesting, particularly in the northern hill area. Many of the houses in the city center look traditionally American, but with the predominating desert vegetation (of course). However, to the north of the city lie the Catalina Mountains, and below them many a posh and intriguing neighborhood. There, I have a hard time seeing the houses due to the heavy vegetation that surrounds them.

The Catalina Mountains in the late afternoon light:

Catalina Mts. 1

The mountains extend from west to east, the entire length of the city.

 

The area gives me my first photo of a saguaro cactus. I saw my first one driving into the city from the east. Apparently they’re a low altitude plant, so we don’t see them in Patagonia or Portal.

Catalina 3 + cactus

 

But the saguaro cacti are only a part of the local flora:

Cacti 1_organ pipe + vegetation

Cacti 2 + vegetation

The plant life here is, in fact, quite abundant and diverse.

 

The perfect saguaro, with a small prickly pear at its feet…

Cacti 4_perfect organ pipe

…but I recognize some other plants too.

 

Here we see an agave and my old friend the barrel cactus.

House 2 + agave + barrel + vegetation

 

And here are two barrel cacti, one of them with a red blossom on top. They have a cholla for a neighbor.

Barrel + cholla

The red blossom up close:

Barrel  + red blossom

Does it turn yellow when it fully opens?

Barrel + yellow blossom

Maybe Lois or Val can tell us?

 

Facing the east, as you can see, there are a good many houses here…

Catalina 5_many houses_east

…though sometimes they’re difficult to see:

House + cacti

 

They appear to be buried in the plant life, with only the roof visible:

Houses 3 bis...

 

Occasionally you get a good glimpse of a part of the house…

Catalina 2

…but not much more.

 

I like Tucson.

 

Patagonia, Arizona

Patagonia, Arizona, that is, in particular Patagonia State Park.

Still reading: Dominguez-Escalante Journal

 

September 24th & 25th

It’s time for me to relax and camp by myself for a day. So from Tombstone I drive to Patagonia State Park in southern Arizona, not far at all from the border at Nogales. The town of Patagonia itself is an interesting and rather pretty place with much greenery. To learn more, look here. And for pictures look here.

I arrive in the late morning and find a campsite. I have to pay for a full hookup to get the campsite I want, an isolated one near the lake, but it’s worth it:

1_Campsite 1

If you look hard, to the right, you can catch a glimpse of the lake.

 

More views of my campsite…

2_Campsite 2

…that evening…

3_Campsite 3

…and the next morning…

4_Campsite 4

 

A few views of the campground, from my campsite, as the sun comes up.

5_Campground 1_morning

 

I’m nearly alone here. The nearest neighbors are way over there…

6_Campground 2_nearest neighbors

…and in the morning light I take a picture of my silhouette:

8_Campground 4_me_shadow

I’m starting to take a real interest in photography.

 

Here’s a view from my campsite, towards the east, taken that evening…

10_View_evening 1_east

…and towards the west, taken the next morning:

11_View_morning_west

Again, you get a glimpse of the lake down below.  I promise you I’m taking you there soon.

 

But first here’s a view of the evening sky, to the west…

12_Sky_evening 2_west

Desert sunsets are terrific…

…as are the sunrises:

13_Sky_morning_east

 

Now, at last, down to the lake, and to my new swimming hole:

14_Lake 1_to shore & swimming hole

 

Swimming is allowed at most points on the lake.

15_Lake 2_evening_west

 

The view across the lake in the morning…

19_Lake 6_morning across

…and here’s my swimming hole again. I swim a lot while I’m here.

20_Lake 7_bank

 

Patagonia Park is rich in wildlife and is of particular interest to bird watchers. The trail you see here in the background is a nature trail leading to the far eastern end of the lake and is designed for birding. The cactus we see here is called a barrel cactus or a fish hook cactus. I’ve seen one before, at Dirk’s place. In this picture it looks as though another plant is growing out of the top…

26_Plants_barrel cactus 1

…but this picture gives you a better idea…

27_Plants_barrel cactus 2

…and this picture, taken at Dirk’s place, shows some of the spines that look like fish hooks, hence the name fish hook cactus:

28_Plants_barrel-fishhook

 

If you follow the birdwatcher’s trail for a ways, you see a lot of plants typical in the region:

25_Plants_ with a tree

IMG_2287

When I first arrive here, I take a long hike along the birdwatching trail and then through the rest of the campground area.  I don’t take any pictures, though, as the sun is directly over head.

Closer to my campsite, and in the morning, I find a lot of  interesting photo opportunities, such as this cholla…

30_Plants_cholla and tree 2

…and these berries…

32_Plants_red berries 1 33_Plants_redberries 2

…though I have no idea what they’re called…

34_Plants_orange berries

 

I find a few flowers too…

22_Flowers 1_white

…and some wild morning glories:

23_Flowers 2_morning glory 1 24_Flowers 2_morning glory 2

There are a lot of morning glories in the area and I take a lot of photos, but most of my photos don’t look very good. I experiment with the zoom a lot and I have a lot to learn.

I’m happy at this campsite and at this campground, and I figure it’s worthwhile to pay for a full hookup even though I can’t really use it with Van. When the sun goes down I can plug in the computer and work through the evening without fear of running down the battery too much, right? I’ll get all caught up with the blog, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong! As soon as I try to turn on the computer hordes of inects descend upon both me and the screen.  And I do mean hordes.  By eight o’clock in the evening I give up and go to bed. The sun goes down early here, which is a good thing in this heat, but eight o’clock is early to go to bed. I don’t mind going to bed so early, but I do mind waking up so early, like 4 a.m. I can read in Van, but in this environment, even there, my light attracts a lot of bugs.

Otherwise, I’d like to stay here for another day or two. But Van has an appoimtent to be serviced, so I must be on my way after just one day.  The next stop is Tucson.

Douglas, Bisbee and Tombstone

Hi everyone,

I’m in San Diego now, trying to catch up on this blog, and I have a lot to report.

 

September 23rd & 24th, 2014

Reading: I finished Travels With Charlie long ago and am now reading The Dominguez-Escalante Journal: Their Expedition Through Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico in 1776.

 

I left Portal after breakfast at the Portal Café with Dirk and some of his friends and then headed for the town of Douglas, on the Mexican border.

Douglas is an interesting experience.  Here, at the south end of G Avenue, the town’s main street, we see something that many of us have heard of, the “fence”:

1-International Street

If you zoom in you can see the name of the street, “International”. It’s one thing to have heard of this fence or to simply know of its existence, but it’s something else to actually see it.

 

The view to the left…

2_left

…straight ahead…

3_straight ahead

…and to the right…

4_right

…with one of the now familiar (to me) Border Patrol vehicles.

I don’t want to make light of serious situation, nor to say anything demeaning or cynical. Illegal immigration is a serious problem, with vast consequences, but I can’t help remembering what a certain well-known person said in a now-famous speech, “…tear down this wall.”

 

Douglas is a town that makes you understand the cliché “sun-baked”.

Downtown Douglas, looking north…

6_downtown Douglas looking north

…and looking south, with Van in the foreground…

7_downtown Douglas south

 

In the middle there is the Hotel Gadsden that Dirk told me about:

5_the Gadsden Hotel

The name Gadsden is a reference to James Gadsden (US ambassador to Mexico) of the “Gadsden Purchase” (also known as the “Venta de la Mesilla”), the purchase by the US from Mexico of a vast territory south of the Gila River and west of the Rio Grande in 1854. You can read more about it here.

Inside, the Gadsden lobby looks like this…

9_inside Gadsden_lobby

…and this…

10_inside Gadsden_lobby bis

…and there is also this stained glass window:

11_inside Gadsden_stained glass

 

Above all, there is this painting:

8_inside the Gadsden_Portal Canyon

Dirk has told me about it.  Do you recognize where it is?

There are a lot more pictures of the Hotel Gadsden interior here.

 

I then headed northwest to Bisbee, a most interesting town near an enormous copper mine.  Dirk has told me a lot about Bisbee and I think I’ll have to go back one day.  I did take a few pictures, though. Here’s a shot of downtown Bisbee:

12_downtown Bisbee-1

The town appears to be nearly only this street…

13_Bisbee-2

…with houses piled up on top of each other…

14_Bisbee-3

…and many colorful restaurants and gift shops

16_Bisbee-4

 

And then I moved on, to the iconic town of Tombstone with its many legends.

Here’s the main street of Tombstone in the evening light…

17_downtown Tombstone evening

…and the following morning…

18_downtown, morning light

…with some well-known references…

19_and some well known references

…and the definite touristic side…

20_with its touristy side

…well-known and touristic…

21_well known and touristy

…well-designed for this day and age, a brewery…

22_in this day and age

…and a winery…

23_but nevertheless of interest

…showing the old and the new…

24_showing the old and the new

…and a significant mixture:

25_with its iconic mix_pharmacy

 

Of course, there is the famous Tombstone courthouse…

26_courthouse, of course,

…in the evening…

27_courthouse, evening...

…and in the morning…

28_courthouse, morning

…right next door to the idyllic Rose Cottage, a private residence:

30_right next door, Rose Garden

 

Another well-known reference, undoubtedly to Wyatt Earp, a town sheriff in the heyday of Tombstone:

31_Wyatt's Hotel

I looked around town for other references to historic characters. I found Doc Holladay, but no others.

 

Some Tombstone shops post poignant messages that are likely as valid now as they were then:

32_here and there, some poignant messages

Learn more about Tombstone here.

Portal, Arizona

September 20th to 23rd

The community of Portal, where my friend Dirk lives a good part of the year, is located in the extreme southeast of Arizona. It’s a small place, but it’s big on scenery. This is Portal Road, that leads from Highway 80 to the Chiricauhua Montains…

1_road to Chiricauhua Mts and Portal from Hiway 80

…where we find the mouth of Cave Creek Canyon:

2b_bis

 

I’ve mentioned that Cave Creek Canyon, Portal and its surrounding areas have been very hard hit by the recent heavy rains in the southwest. This is one of the National Forest Service buildings in the Portal area, just a short way up the canyon:

3_NFS building near Portal

 

And this is the view today just across the road, where the rains created a raging torrent a few days ago:

4_view of Cave Creek from road

 

A nearby road is closed…

4b_nearby road is out

…and doesn’t look like it’ll be open again soon, to the great concern of the community:

4c_and not likely to soon be repaired

 

Upstream and down, the same devastation…

4c_upstream 4d_and  down, the same devastation

…under continually menacing skies:

4e_under ever menacing skies

 

A ranger allows us to drive up to Sunny Flat Campground. I say “allows” because this road, too, will soon be closed to traffic…

5_Sunny Flat campground up canyon; will save the...

At first glance, things don’t look too bad. Notice the heavy vegetation below the rock formations, the tall trees in particular:

6_notice the heavy vegetation... 7_birding...

The vegetation here, and the shelter of the canyon, make this area one of the most attractive bird watching areas in the world. Indeed, “birding” brings people here from everywhere. Scientists too, come here to study the riparian habitat of this very unique canyon.

 

But let’s leave the devastation for further investigation tomorrow. Here’s the sunset from Dirk’s house:

9_sunset from Dirk's 10_sunset bis

 

The eastern sky this evening is nice too:

11_eastern sky in evening over vegetable garden

 

The same eastern sky the next morning:

12_eastern sky morning from Dirk's

 

Here’s the house Dirk is building. The morning light hasn’t quite reached it yet:

13_Dirk's house under construction and other house

 

A short distance way we see the house of Dirk’s neighbor. This house, though situated at some distance from the creek, was nevertheless flooded.

15_neighbor's house, flooded

 

The western sky this morning:

17_and rises further 18_mysterious canyon mouth

I have to admit that Cave Creek Canyon is starting to exert a certain power over me.

 

This morning we decide to go for a hike to assess the damage. We park only a short way up the canyon…

20_we drive up the canyon for a hike...

 

…the view across the road is not encouraging:

21_view across the road

 

Dirk sets out on the trail:

22_Dirk sets out along the trail

We’re on the Cave Creek Nature Trail, that will take us up the canyon along the creek to Sunny Flat Campground and further:

In some places the trail and its surroundings seem to be untouched…

23_in some places the trail is untouched

23b_untouched trail

…and we see the normal vegetation…

24_an we see the normal vegetation

…like this cholla and this prickly pear…

25_this cholla

26_prickly pear

…these flowers…

26c_flowers2 26d_flowers3

…a prickly poppy…

26e_sacred datura

…and this wild morning glory. I told you I’d find one, didn’t I?

26f_told you I'd find a wild morning glory

 

But suddenly the flood damage becomes apparent…

27_then suddenly, the flood damage is there

…the creek has cut new channels…

28_the creek has cut new channels

…we see just how high the water level rose…

29b_water level

…and the extent of the damage across the canyon floor.

30_and now wide across the canyon floor

 

The grass has been flattened…

31_everywhere the grass has been...

…like this yucca…

31b_as has this yucca

The trail, too, became a channel in some places…

32_the trail itself became a channel

…much debris has been deposited…

35_and much debris deposited

…and this bench was under water…

36_this bench along the trail was under water

 

Above Sunny Flat Campground the rock formations remain serene…

38_ rock formations above are superb 38b_another rock formation

 

We follow the road back down the canyon towards Portal…

39_the road is covered with sand and silt

…silt and sand have been deposited all across the canyon floor.

40_as is the forest floor

This road has been partially washed out…

42_part of the road has been washed out

…and isn’t likely to be repaired soon.

43_and won't soon be repaired

 

Dirk wades through a still-flooded part of the road:

44_Dirk walks through a still-flooded part of the road

 

In some places the road is now part of the creek:

44b_in some place the water over the road is still deep

 

This camprgound was completely flooded…

45_one of the many campgrounds...

…and nearby a new spring has appeared…

46_nearby a new spring has appeared

…which continues to pour water onto the grounds.

47_and pours water into the campground

 

Later, back in Portal and on a lighter note, these javelinas, or peccaries, roam the village.

49_back in Portal...javalinas

They’re a wild new world pig and not related to swine. I say “on a lighter note”, but in fact javelinas can be real pests.

50_javalina bis

You can learn more about them here.

The people of Portal are understandably concerned about how and when the infrastructure on which they all depend will be repaired. They’re also concerned about the canyon itself. As one of Dirk’s friends said to us, “This canyon is why we’re here.”

Mother Nature will likely find a way to take care of the canyon, though it will take time.

As I said ealier, Cave Creek Canyon is starting to exert a certain power over me. Here’s the canyon sky at the end of the day:

48_canyon sky at the end of the day

 

And in the evening of the following day…

55_evening sky

56_canyon sky evening, in fact...

 

The eastern sky at the same moment…

55b_evening sky

 

Early the next morning at Dirk’s house…

59_cars, house, trailer & mountain morning light

…both east…

58_eastern sky morning

…and west…

57b_western...bis

The Cave Creek Canyon area is, as they say, a hidden gem, or, one of the unknown ends of the earth.

Silver City…en fête

September 12th & 13th

Friday evening Pickamania begins. You can read more about it here and here.

It starts of with an Irish folk music group from Tucson called the Out of Kilters:

1_Pickamania kicks off with...

 

Captain learns some Irish folk dancing…

2_Captain learns Irish folk dancing

…while Star calls out the steps…

2b_while Star calls out...

 

The next day at the farmer’s market…

3_The next day at the farmer's market...

…the Loose Blues play music for us while we shop…

4...the Loose Blues play while we...

 

A little later, after a lunch of tacos in the park, we listen to another very good group called the Littlest Bird:

5_A little later The Littlest Birds...

 

And then another group comes on, the Higher Ground…

7_Higher Ground 2

6_...followed by Higher Ground... 8_Higher Ground 3

…really very, very good.

 

In the meantime Captain and I…

9_While...

…have a beer in the nearby beer garden:

12_...have a beer...

You’ll notice that I’m wearing my jacket. It is a little cool today as tropical storm Odile moves into the area for several days of rain. I’ve mentioned these rains in some of my previous posts. They will have serious consequences for the little community of Portal, Arizona where Dirk is now and where I’m soon to be going.

Pickamania continues the rest of the day and tomorrow. Unfortunately I don’t see a whole lot of it. I have work to do on my computer. And tomorrow I’m off for Gila Hot Springs again, already reported in a previous post. The rain will drive me out of Gila, though, and send me back to Faywood, also recounted in a previous post. Sorry for the confusing chronology.

Gila River Hot Springs

September 10th & 11th, 2014

This morning Captain and I load up Van and head north into the Gila Mountains to camp overnight…

2_Gila forest...

…at Gila Hot Springs Ranch:

3_Gila Hot Springs Ranch

The Gila Hot Springs Ranch is located on one of the upper forks of the Gila River, where the water flows year round. Unfortunately, I seem to have neglected to take a photo of the river itself. The ranch is located below these rock formations:

4_below this rock formation

5_rock formation_different angle

In addition to its semi-developped hot springs and campground (a wonderful place to soak and camp), GHSR is a real working ranch of some importance, with horses, goats and probably other animals too.

6_is a working ranch 6b_of some importance

Horses go by from time to time:

6c_horses go by

Located on this meadow, …

7_near this meadow

…Gila is a veritable village, with some nearby houses…

8_is a veritable village 8b_house

…including this one, with a small secondary dwelling, which is for sale:

8c_this house is for sale 8d_including this small guest house

Gila is a place with a spirit, and humor…

9_a village with a spirit 9b_and a certain humor

…that we see espcially when we drive out:

10_especially on driving out

As said in the previous post about the cliff dwellings, we meet up with our friend Dirk. We find a campsite just next to his:

11_we find a camp site

Dirk has been here since the previous day and his camp is already set up…

12_next to Dirk's who's already here

…and he’s very well equipped for camping:

13_Dirk is well equipped, glimpse of river...

If you look hard, on the left side of the picture, you can catch a glimpse of the Gila River.

Of course, the best thing about a hot springs resort is the soaking pools…

14_...but the best part is the springs

…which, at Gila, are relatively natural…

15_...which are quite natural...

… for such a semi-developed facility…

16_...for a developed resort

…and are clean and well maintained…

17_...with water which is very hot...

Set under the many cottonwood trees that grow along the river, Gila is a wonderful place.  We talk and soak and get caught up. Dirk makes a terrific fish curry for dinner, and we soak and talk and drink beer and wine and tequila (all in moderation, of course).

The grounds at Gila are lovely and many flowers grow here. Some are wild, like these wild sunflowers that I first saw at Pott’s Ranch hot springs in Nevada…

19_...both wild...

…and these too whose name I don’t know (but I’m glad to see that the Occupy Movement has come this far)

21_...glad to see the occupy movement...

…and some not so wild…

18_Many flowers grow on the grounds... 18b_...bis...

22_...and not so wild... 23_...in fact the proprietor told me...

In fact, the proprietor confirms that these morning glories are domestic. Wild morning glories can be found, though, in these desert regions.  I’ll try to take some pictures.

The following day, after a leisurely morning of soaking and talking and an early lunch of mushroom omelettes, we get ready to leave.

Captain washes the dishes:

25_Captain cleaning up

Dirk packs up his truck:

24_Dirk packs his truck

Dirk is leaving for the small community of Portal in southeastern Arizona where he has some land and is building a house.  We’ll meet up with him again there.

I decide that I’ll come back to Gila on my own in the coming days.  See the previous posts about that.

Right now, though, Captain and I are on our way back to Silver City, where the music festival Pickamania is about to begin.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

September 10th, 2014

I’ve promised you a more detailed visit of cliff dwellings.  About two hours north of Silver City, in the Gila Mountains, lies the Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument. Captain and I drove up there in Van to camp over night with Dirk, another friend from our days at Sonoma State University in California. We meet up at Gila River Hot Springs where we set up camp and then drive a short way to the cliff dwellings.

Captain and Dirk head up the trail towards the dwellings:

1_Captain and Dirk head up...

We’re very careful as we walk. At the trailhead they tell us that many black-tailed rattlesnakes have been sighted lately.

 

It’s a pleasant trail through a green forest along side a creek:

2_the trail...

 

Our destination…

3_...towards the cliff dwellings

…and in a close up.

4_...cliff dwellings zoom

 

After a short walk we arrive at the dwellings. The caves are in fact a series of alcoves carved by the action of water on the stone.

5_We approach the dwellings

 

In some cases only the barest foundations remain…

6_In some of the alcoves... 7_only the most foundations remain

…whereas in others the structures are quite intact…

8_...but in others... 9_the structures are quite intact...

…though sometimes reinforced for safety and equipped for accessibility…

11_...and equipped for accessability...

 

The view from within:

12_accessability2

13_from inside an alcove

 

Information panels help us to understand both the dwellings…

16...and the reconstruction...

…and the numerous pictographs found here:

15_...as to the mural paintings...

 

Some of the wall paintings… The one on the right isn’t very clear, but it’s a hand.  We’ll see this again later:

16b_a wall painting 16c_another wall painting_hand

 

An inscription from more recent times:

16d_inscription from a much later period

 

One of the big mysteries in these cliff dwellings is the exact use of the different structures. The smaller rooms were likely used for food storage.

17_one big mystery is the use of...

 

Smoke traces on the ceiling are evidence that these caves were occupied for thousands of years:

18_signs show inhabitation going way back...

 

But the remaining wooden beams in the houses are from trees felled between 1276 and 1287. The inhabitants of these cliff dwellings were only here for about thirty years.

There is much speculation as to why the inhabitants of these impressive structures stayed for such a short time:

19_but these dwellings were only...  22_there is speculation that it was an outpost

23_of more southerly tribes for...  24_agricultural purposes...

20_inhabited about 30 years...  21_about 700 years ago...

Some have advanced the theory that this was an agricultural outpost for a more southerly tribe and that when drought made it no longer viable the people move elsewhere.

 

The view across the canyon from the dwellings:

25_across the canyon from the dwellings

 

Down canyon:

26_down canyon

 

Up canyon:

27_up canyon

 

Later in the afternoon Captain shows us some other pictographs at another site on the way back to camp:

30_...some pictographs at another site...

30b_pictograph, where we also find a diamondback

We also stumble upon a rattlesnake here, but a diamondback and not a black-tailed.  We have surprised it and it begins to coil, but we back off and luckily the snake decides to move on. They don’t like us any more than we like them.

 

And we locate this depression in the rock, likely used for grinding corn:

31_...where we find this...

 

At yet another site Captain shows us this little-known structure:

32_...near this little known dwelling...

 

Dirk inspects the workmanship:

33_Dirk inspects the workmanship 34_workmanship2

 

At a last stop Captain shows us more pictographs…

35_at yet another site we find... 36_more pictographs

Here the hand is much clearer.

 

I had to crawl on my hands and knees to get these:

39_...these bis

40_...these ter

 

It’s late now and we head back to our camp at the hot springs.

City of Rocks and Faywood Hot Springs

September 9th

One afternoon during my stay in Silver City, Captain and I drove out to the City of Rocks State Park and also visited the nearby Faywood Hot Springs.

From a distance City of Rocks looks like this:

1_City of Rocks

 

An island of rocks surrounded by desert:

2_City...closer up

 

This partial view gives a better impression of what City of Rocks is all about:

September_8-9_trip_down_180_and_day1_in_Silver_City 114

There is also a campground and a picnic area.

 

We wander about the many passages…

3_We wandered about

…to be found among this haphazard “city” of rocks.

4_...among these rocks...

 

Here’s Captain walking along one of the “streets”:

5_Here's Captain on one of the main streets

 

Here we are in the very center of the city:

6_from the center of CoR

 

Captain tries to decide which way to go:

7_Captain trying to decide which way...

 

Maybe this way?

8_...maybe this way...

 

A view of the desert from the city center:

9_...view onto the desert

 

 

Here’s another part of town:

10_...another part of town

 

Some of the local vegetation, yuccas, with their blossoms (somewhat faded here) which are the New Mexico state flower:

14_yuccas...

 

After that we went to the nearby Faywood Hot Springs resort which…

15_then we went to...

…on a hot day in the desert may seem a bit strange…

16_Faywood hot springs...

…but it’s really a very nice place and I’d like to give the owners some help and encouragement.

 

I confess that I took these next few pictures a few days later when, on my own, I went back to Faywood on a rainy day and camped over night. The skies are now grey and the canopy has been drawn back:

17_these next few pictures...

18_...I took at Faywood a few days later...

 

I was driven out of the Gila Mountains by some of the remnants of tropical storm Odile…

19b_Gila Mountains as I drive back

…which brought a lot of rain, several days running, to Arizona and New Mexico.  I’m not complaining. These states need the water and I won’t begrudge them whatever rainfall they get. More about Odile in the next few posts.

 

So I camped at Faywood…

21_under equally gray skies

…under grey skies…

20_I camped at Faywood for a night...

21b_grey skies bis

…and had the campground to myself.

During the night it rained heavily. I was awake very early and had a long soak as the rain came down.  I even went back to my campsite and took a shower in the rain. Luckily neither the air nor the rain were cold.

In Silver City

September 8th to 13th

I’ve arrived in Silver City, home of my friend Richard, aka Captain. You’ll have to wait until the next post to see a photo of him. I’ve known Captain since our student days. In fact, he’s part of this crowd here…

Sebastopol-my college classmates

…that you met in Sebastopol a few weeks ago.

 

Captain lives here:

1_Captain's house

 

The back yard…

2_Captain's back yard

Among the many plants there is a prickly pear…

7_Prickly pear, but... 8_...this one has flowered...

…that has flowered.

 

Silver City is a pleasant town. These are some shots of the main street, Bullard:

9_Silver City is a pleasant town 10_here's Bullard Street, the main street

The town has a lot of period buildings:

11_that has a lot of period buildings

 

For example, this bank, and the now-closed Buffalo Bar next door:

12_like this bank

And some nicely restored buildings too, in both Anglo-Victorian and Hispanic styles:

14_Nice building...

15_...another nice building...

16_This downtown building's been nicely rendered

 

The restored Murray Hotel…

18_Restored Murray Hotel

…with its art deco interior:

17_...and its interior

 

There are some interesting and colorful side streets…

13_and colorful side streets

…where we find some murals representing different periods in the history of New Mexico:

25_Silver also has these murals representing...

…the historic Mimbres peoples…

26_...the historic Mimbres peoples...

…the Apaches…

27_...the Apache...

…the Spanish and Mexicans…

28_...the Spanish and Mexican period

…the Anglos…

29_the Anglos

…and the makings of modern New Mexico…

30_...and modern New Mexico

 

Silver City has a good farmer’s market…

19_Silver has a nice farmer's market...

…with some colorful…

20_...with some colorful...

…and plentiful stands…

21_...and plentiful stands...

22_...stands 2...

23_...stands 3

24_stands 4

 

Further along we find more murals, representing both history…

31_This other mural...artistic town...

…and more recent phenomena, such this one on the site of a former automobile dealership:

32_...and yet another mural...automobiles...

 

We find these tiles made by local school children…

33_...Tiles made by local children

…and this sculpture in front of the local library…

34_...Sculpture in front of library

 

One last feature of Silver City is this log cabin…

35_One last feature of Silver...

…a replica of the cabin where Billy the Kid is said to have lived…

37...the home of Billy the kid 38...the Kid

39...though not the original... 40_...is still a reasonable model of...

It was built as a movie set and then later presented to the city by film director Ron Howard.

See more photos of Silver City here. And see the town’s official website here.