Tuesday, January 29, 2008

EPISODE NUMBER THIRTY-TWO- SILVER CITY , NEW MEXICO


MONDAY, JANUARY 21, 2008 - DEMING

Because Doris has been so kind in driving me everywhere, I invited her for the breakfast buffet at the Holiday Inn, but by the time we got there at 10:00 the buffet was closed. So we headed to Denny’s where we both enjoyed a senior’s meal. Doris had a waffle and sausage and hash browns and I had an omelet, hash browns and a muffin. Even a senior’s meal is huge, and I took some of the omelet back for Ripley.

GIVING IN TO TEMPTATION

Debbie and Edwin are the two newest assistants to work here at LoW Hi Ranch. She helps Marcia in the office and he is one of the maintenance workers. I was admiring some of the turquoise jewelry that Debbie was wearing, and she mentioned that she had some for sale. At my request, she brought out her valise and both Marcia and I were dazzled by the array of bracelets, earrings and rings. There were two rings in particular that I admired and was able to buy them both for $35. Compared to many I have looked at in gift stores and at the Pow Wow, that was very reasonable, and I couldn’t resist.


Yes, that is turquoise on the left and a zuni design on the right


One of the newer campers is a birder, and he told me that he had seen two burrowing owls in the large gravel pit across the road from LoW Hi Ranch. I would very much like to have seen these elusive birds, but have not been so fortunate.

One of the female campers who arrived two days ago has had an unfortunate accident. She was parked in the Wal Mart lot when a semi truck backed into her and smashed the front end, as well as the overhang portion of her motorhome. The driver had only worked for the trucking company for three weeks, and I gather was not very experienced. I doubt if he will be keeping his job after the insurance claim is settled, as it would appear that the camper is a write-off. How unfortunate for the owner. She probably won’t get enough of a settlement to buy a new camper, as hers was used and it may well end up in a huge legal hassle.

Ripley at our campsite



Monday is potluck night, and I had bought a pumpkin pie as part of my contribution. I had frozen left over red beans and rice from last week’s potluck, and heated that up as well. As usual, we all ate very well with the various contributions from the campers. Unfortunately, Bob drinks excessively and got a little rowdy during dinner.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 22, 2008

I decided to delay my departure today in order to go down to Palomas, Mexico one last time. Doris and I drove down together and met up with the rest of the group of seventeen at the Pink Store, after visiting the local dollar store. I ordered a non-Mexican hamburger because the previous one that I had ordered was delicious, being mostly beef. Unfortunately, this time it was not as good, and I should have stuck with a Mexican dish.

MANZANO’S RV PARK, SILVER CITY

We arrived back at the Ranch around 1:00 and I was ready to leave by 2:00. I said goodbye to Doris until next week, and headed off for Silver City, 52 miles north of Deming. On our trip to the Pow Wow last weekend, I had scouted out a few RV parks, and chose to stay at Manzano’s RV Park, on the south end of Silver City. It is on a dead-end road, quiet and well maintained by the owners Virginia and Lico Manzano. Each site is nicely separated from the rest in this small park, with plantings, picnic table and a stone wall.


Bird feeders and water are placed around to attract the local bird population, and the scenery includes the surrounding mountains. At one end of the five-acre park is a field with low scrubby trees












and a circular type of ground cover that I have not seen before.











Beyond that is a rodeo arena (currently not being used at this time of the year).










The park offers free wi-fi service, but for some reason, I am unable to get on to the internet, even though I can connect to their service. I even tried going into the clubhouse where the antenna is, but it simply won’t work, and that is very frustrating.

As a consequence, I drove Philippa down to the Visitor Center in Silver City, on the northwest side, and used their wi fi service to connect.

Today is a lovely sunny day with a high in the mid-50’s.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 23, 2008

My RV is not quite level in the site I chose, so I tried to use some boards to make it more comfortable. I shall see how it works tonight, and I was sleeping on a slope last night and woke up with a headache.

The shower has a bathtub! How wonderful to be able to soak in a tub for a change.

It seems that I have no service on my cell phone in Silver City. That’s very inconvenient and one of the downsides of using a pay-as-you-go service.

Because some of the roads that I wish to travel around Silver City are not suitable for an RV, I decided to rent a car. There were three choices here, two being car dealers and the third being Enterprise. Although the latter was more expensive than the others, Enterprise offered unlimited mileage and thus is probably going to be cheaper in the end. However, by the time the various New Mexico taxes are added on, the rental fee for a week came to $305 – considerably more than what was quoted in Las Cruces. But what choice do I have? I came to Silver City to explore the region, and a car makes more sense than using Philippa. For one thing, she only gets 10 miles to the gallon, whereas the Dodge Caliber that I rented gets 30 miles to the gallon. Harry, the single employee of Enterprise, came to pick me up at the RV park and drove me to the office to do the paperwork. I should comment here that, a few weeks ago, I had contacted my auto insurance company back in Toronto to arrange to have liability coverage so that I don’t have to pay that when I rent a car here in the United States. That saves me a few hundred dollars.

My rental car


SILVER CITY – Elevation 5900’

My little grey car is really cute. It is a hatchback with storage space in the back (although I don’t really need this feature). I drove into Silver City to the historic district to explore Bullard Street. Marcia had told me that the co-op was the place to check out posters for upcoming concerts and other events in the area. There doesn’t appear to be much going on during the time period that I will be here, except for one concert by Nancy Voss on Friday evening. She apparently sings blues, country and folk and that sounds interesting.









Food Co-op & Street guitarist

I also wandered into the square which features a lovely fountain and an iron sculpture of four Mexican musicians.

























On one side of the square is a quaint large store called the Marketplace, featuring many second-hand items, incense and Mexican imported pottery, sculptures, rugs and furniture. I picked up a few pieces – a bowl (to replace Ripley’s food bowl which broke yesterday), an old western cigarette tin (to put my expanding collection of jewelry), and a flowered baseball cap (to wear in the sun). There was some interesting vintage clothing, some used books and other things that caught my eye, but I am trying to budget my remaining amount of money and resisted the temptation.

Silver City is a historic mining town, having started life as a tent city in 1870 after John Bullard opened a silver mine. There followed a huge influx of miners and merchants to provide services and goods. The tents were soon followed by buildings made of local brick. The city founders passed an ordinance listing requirements for masonry construction of all new buildings within the city limits, and thus many Victorian homes, adobe structures and commercial buildings have survived to this day.

When the railroad was constructed in 1883, Silver City became a thriving commercial hub, followed by a huge building boom. It also attracted outlaws such as William Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid, who apparently grew up in the city, and who also escaped from the local jail after killing a Chinese man.

RIPLEY’S HEALTH

It was time to get back to pick up Ripley and take her to Dr. Welmuth for her rattlesnake vaccination. He is Marcia’s vet and she recommended him. He also examined Ripley for general health, as I was concerned that she had a cold, but her lungs were clear and her temperature normal. So now, when Ripley pokes her nose down holes, I will feel more confident that she will be protected if she does encounter a rattlesnake. It is still too cold for them to be prevalent, but as we move further west and as the weather improves, it is possible that she will come across a snake or two. The vaccine protects primarily against diamondback rattlers, but has a lesser affect on the bite of the other rattlers found here. Since I will be moving on, she will need to receive a booster shot in Arizona in three weeks.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 24, 2008

MOVING

I was still having trouble in getting level at my site, and moved to the adjacent site. I think this one will be much better for me. And I am protected from any winds by the trees on the southerly side. The view from my dining room window shows a lovely stone wall on the other side of my site, more trees and the mountains in the distance.

MY GENERATOR

Because my generator dies after about an hour, I cannot boondock in this cold weather. I wanted to have it checked out and a volunteer at the Visitor Center had recommended Hilltop Motors. Chet had a look underneath and found that the fuel filter was old and corroded. He changed that and the spark plug, but said that he thinks that the generator is flooding and that he doesn’t have the expertise to work on it. I appreciated his honesty, and he only charged $40 for the work that he did do. In his waiting room area he has displayed some of his ironwork pieces that are for sale, as well as sand paintings done by local native artists. The sand paintings were $50 and I was sorely tempted to buy one, as they were all beautiful.

GOING TO THE MOVIES

As mentioned previously, there is no movie theatre in Deming, so I decided to take in a movie while in Silver City. It boasts one theatre housed in a warehouse type of building called “Great West Theater” (American spelling). I had a choice of seeing Cloverfield or No Country For Old Men. No contest. I saw the latter film. The acting is great, and the movie was filmed in New Mexico, so you will get a good idea of the type of country that I have been experiencing for the past month or so. But, it is very violent and I have to admit that I had a bad dream that night about people being murdered. As I left the movie theatre, I noticed that a third film had been added to the attractions -- "Alien vs Predator". I think I'll pass.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 25, 2008

GILA NATIONAL FOREST

My destination today is the Gila (pronounced Hee-la) Cliff Dwellings, some 44 miles north east of Silver City, and on the other side of the Continental Divide.












It may not sound very far, but it took me 2 ½ hours to get there because of the twisting, winding road. Highway 15 wanders through part of 3.3 million acres, with elevations ranging from 4,000’ to 10,895’. There are 1,800 miles of trails through this magnificent area and is a haven for hikers, bikers, horseback riders, photographers and climbers. I was awestruck by the beauty that I encountered as I drove along. It is no wonder that many western movies are filmed in New Mexico. I could easily picture a band of Apache warriors coming over the next hill, or outlaws making their camp in one of the valleys.






















If the weather had been warmer, I would have enjoyed camping out at one of the 20 primitive campgrounds, and indeed I did encounter one intrepid couple in a tent at one of these sites!











































Adolph Bandelier is attributed to preserving this vast expanse of wilderness for future generations, sketching and writing about the area to convince the federal government of the day to protect it in perpetuity. He was the first person to report the cliff dwellings in 1884. Even then the area had been the victim of looting (walls torn down, pots and tools stolen and roofs burned).













I was also entranced by the fact that my favourite western artist Bev Doolittle had captured the essence of a territory such as Gila National Forest in her paintings. The snow patterns in the shadows and the rocks truly were just as she had painted, although she always incorporates the spirits of native Indians and animals. I used to own six of her paintings, but sold four to finance my trip.









It was easy to see how she got her inspiration, and indeed at one spot where I stopped to take a photo, I startled a buck and two does who were in no hurry to rush away, simply stopping further uphill to watch me before meandering off.










I would very much have liked to spend more time here amongst the gnarled pine trees, viewing more of the wildlife, but I did see squirrels, hawks and small birds. And I was surprised to see that agaves survive at this elevation. The brochure mentions sightings of mule deer, elk, antelope, black bear, mountain lion, wolves, bighorn sheep and Mexican grey wolves. My spirit feeds off nature, and I felt invigorated in this area. However, my destination today was further on.

Ripley enjoyed standing with her front feet on the middle console of the car, looking at the scenery as we drove along. I was struck by the fact that she was paying great attention to her surroundings, moving her head back and forth.

GILA CLIFF DWELLINGS NATIONAL MONUMENT

At the end of Highway 15 is a Visitor Center, and the volunteer in the gift shop encouraged me to rush over to the starting point to meet up with the guide. So I quickly returned to my car and drove past the Lower and Upper Scorpion campgrounds to the parking area, where I paid the $3.00 fee and left Ripley, and started the arduous 200-foot climb from the canyon floor up to the starting point. I was very glad to be doing this trail in January and not July! The Gila River flows through the canyon which itself had been formed 28 million years ago, when two volcanoes erupted and produce pumice and ash. Later, lava oozed and hardened into the dark rock found in the lower parts of the canyon, and over time the caves were formed through erosion from water seeping through the rock. I finally made it and found a few others also waiting to start the guided tour, which is only offered at noon each day. Neil is a retired engineer who volunteers as a guide and in return gets free accommodation. What a great job for a retiree!

To quote from the brochure, “Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument preserves a prehistoric Mogollon (Mo-go-yon) Indian village set within a series of caves in the mountains of southwestern New Mexico. The 42 room pueblo was inhabited in the late 1200’s by a group of farmers and potters……Walls of the dwellings were constructed of stone from the formation in which the caves were formed. The timbers in the dwellings are the originals.…. Probably not more than 40 to 60 people lived in the Cliff Dwellings at any one time. The dwellings were only used for about one generation. The people continued farming on the mesa tops and long the river raising squash, corn, beans and other crops. They supplemented their crops with animals that they hunted or snared, and with wild plant foods gathered from the surrounding area…… The Monument offers a glimpse of the homes and lives of Native Americans who lived here from the late 1270s through the early 1300s. The surroundings probably look today very much like they did when the cliff dwellings were inhabited.” No one really knows why these people left the cliff dwellings, but it is thought that they simply moved on and intermingled with other Mogollon peoples.
























Neil

Neil was very knowledgeable and was able to answer every question, adding a sense of realism to the caves. He mentioned that macaw feathers and other artifacts had been found in the caves, indicating that these people had traded with people from Central America.










Cave 2, said to have 20 rooms in all



One special treat that I had not anticipated was the permission to enter and explore Cave Three, which is thought to have had ceremonial significance. To enter, we climbed a ladder (all of these caves had to be entered in this manner), and inside we encountered a large open space. Neil mentioned that a native flutist had tested the acoustics and found them to be the best he had ever encountered, giving credence to the theory that ceremonies were conducted in this cave.









Inside Cave 3

Nearby were smaller rooms, only one of which had evidence of having had a roof at one time.










This room is thought to have been the area where sacred rites were carried on. The eroded rock lip around the cave’s opening was formed to block out the summer sun and to keep in the warmth of winter fires.








Entrance to Birthing Chamber in Cave 3

In adjacent rooms, on the walls, Neil pointed out some pictographs on the walls, as well as corncobs that continue to sprout up in the floors of the caves.




















Climbing down from Cave 3

As we stood outside the caves while Neil described them, I was struck by the presence of wasps – the first insects I have seen since I arrived in New Mexico. I guess the warmth generated by the sun on the stones has allowed the insects to be present in the middle of winter.

There are six caves in all, some with as many as twenty rooms that go back into the caves, but only Cave Three is open for exploration. Our tour lasted for about 45 minutes, and I then made my way down (much easier than going up!) past interesting stones, and picked up two for my growing collection.

It is tragic that much of the artifacts of ancient cultures in New Mexico have been looted. Greedy people in previous years have destroyed much of the archeological record that could have told us so much. Hand tools such as picks, and bulldozers were used to remove pottery, tools and other materials. Skeletons were destroyed in the process. Many of these artifacts ended up in private homes of the people living in the neighbourhood, without regard to provenance, which is so important to archeologists who put together the historical record on ancient peoples. Later, when I visited local museums, card after card attached to artifacts states “provenance unknown”.

PICTOGRAPHS

After leaving my comments at the parking area, I drove back to the Lower Scorpion Campgrounds and the numerous pictographs that can be found here. I was surprised that they are not protected from vandals, and indeed there was some graffiti on the rocks. I managed to photograph a number of them, but unfortunately have no information on their significance or meaning.


















VISITOR CENTER

For those Canadians who are wondering about my spelling changes, I use the American spelling when referring to a place name and the Canadian spelling when I am referring to something (as in the case of this heading).

The Visitor Center offered an array of tasteful, tempting gifts as well as a small collection of the typical Mimbres pottery found locally. There is also a video describing the culture as much as is known, and the exploration of the cliff dwellings by archeologists, which was very informative.

Again I succumbed and bought not only some postcards but a replica plate with a typical Mimbres turtle design, and a stylized crane magnet.

We passed beautiful Lake Roberts and didn’t realize at the time that this area has the ruins of an ancient pueblo.

By this time it was early afternoon, and I decided to return via Highway 35, a circuitous route that took me into the Mimbres Valley, (once the homeland and traditional territory of the Apache and Ancient Pueblo Indians). There are many ranches throughout this area, and I came across Breathe Inn, a restaurant and inn featuring rooms next to a mountain. The view from the restaurant window overlooked a bird sanctuary established by the owners, and I was able to watch Stellar’s jay and dark eyed juncos at the feeder there, while I ate my delicious steak sandwich. Naturally I saved some for Ripley!








Stellar's Jay










Rufous backed Robin??

As I approached the small village of Mimbres, I encountered cattle blocking the highway and had to wait until they meandered by before I could continue. Ripley found these creatures quite fascinating!








We passed through San Lorenzo, an old Spanish settlement before heading west through mountains and the open pit copper mines found in this area. There is a viewing area at a huge pit which is part of the Phelps Dodge Mining Company. Copper has been mined from prehistoric times and is still being operated (it is said to be the oldest continually operated copper mine in the U.S.).











I took a total of 92 photographs today! It will be hard to whittle down the ones to put on my blog.

We arrived back at the RV park around 5:00. I had planned to go to the concert by Nancy Voss starting at 7:30. Unfortunately, my nap went on longer than I had anticipated and I didn’t wake up until 8:00 p.m. The price of getting old!

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