View from the top
We woke to the sound of rain yesterday, and had been listening to thunderstorms thru the night, but by the time we were ready to start our tour of the Gila, the sun came out and it was beautiful. We drove north into the Gila National Forest to see the Cliff Dwellings. Along the way the scenery was stunning, with many beautiful vistas, as above. Ah, but the trip up, that was trying – lots of switchbacks and u-turns along horrible drop-offs! Those of you who know me know that I was freaking out, I kept my eyes closed some of the time to keep from throwing up – I just cannot get over my fear of heights! Our rented vehicle tooks the turns very well and got us up the mountain without incident – thanks to Dana’s fearless driving. So I white knuckled it, Andy had his headphones on and ignored the whole thing.
Gila Cliff Dwellings
These were the home of the Mogollon Indians who lived here for only one generation during the 1200 – 1300 period. Stopped at the visitor center first where they had 3 hummingbird feeders with about 100 birds buzzing and fighting and feeding – truly wonderful and something that was on my must-see list for this trip.
I took about 50 photos and so did Dana, when get home we will sort them out and post a gallery. Believe me, it was amazing and I could have stayed and watched them all day.
We proceeded up another twisty road to the actual monument. The hike up to the cliffs was tough, started out on the vally floor beside a small stream, then up, up, up, stairs carved into the rock.
180 ft up switchback stairs. 5/8 of a mile (up only). I did not think Andy could make it so we planned to stop and the lower overlook and send Dana ahead to take photos and go thru the monument on his own. When we got up and I saw it was only steps, I coaxed Andy up to the top – we made it! Now here’s the sad part – the trail from the steps over to the cliff dwelling caves was narrow and slanted with no hand rails – one slip and you’re rolling down to the bottom of the canyon. Andy did not want to go, but I was going to get him across holding his hands but just as we got ready to step onto the trail a big wind blew up and my vertigo kicked in – I could not force myself forward one more step, I was too afraid. So we congratulated ourselves on at least having made it to the top and seeing the caves from close by.
So we went went back down the trail we came up, I think it was just as hard going down. It was a loop trail so Dana went down the other way, he said it was a steeper trail on that side, so it’s a good thing we went back down the original trail. He did not know we had made it all the way, he thought we were headed back down when he left us at the overlook, so he got down before we did. It was a rough trek but well worth it to see this unique sight. AND, we saw a lizard on the way up, bonus!
We continued back down the twisty road, but continued out of the Gila by a different twisty road, that wasn’t as twisty as the first. It took us into a valley with horse and cattle ranches. Really beautiful and different from all the landscape we had been through, we even drove by a big lake.
To remind us of the value of all the beautiful national forest service land (and all other protected lands), the last sight was the Santa Rita Copper Mine. This is a HUGE, multipit pit mine operation. This is just one pit…
I just have to add, Andy has been a real trooper this whole trip, and the capper was the trip up the mountain. On the way back to the cabin, we stopped and got him a Pizza Hut cheese pizza, he was in heaven. We came back to the cabin to eat dinner and wait for dark. The skies were beautiful, dark skies, so many stars! Dana had a fun time with his telescope, you can read about it on his blog.
I want to do a separate post on flowers, fauna and birds, and more on the cabin, which we are having trouble leaving each day because it is so nice! So more later….