Friday, November 9, 2012

We are in the Land of Enchantment, but unfortunately this is also the land of sad internet connections.  Even with our trusty Wi-Fi Ranger we’re not pulling in anything and have had to resort to the Sprint Hotspot and that’s a whopping one bar and slow, slow, slow.

So I am at the office using the DSL connection and it is blazing fast compared to what we've been dealing with.

We decided to play tourist yesterday  and drive up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  We put a couple hundred miles on the car and wove our way along the Trail of the Mountain Spirits Scenic Byway. 

Now we have another notch in our belts for the 275 best drives in the US.  The road is so full of hairpin turns and up and downs that the sign warned to allow about two hours for the trip and the book cautioned against doing it with an RV or trailer.

And I can see why - I wouldn't be out here in the dark either!
It was a beautiful fall day and the drive was simply gorgeous as we went through tall pines and watched the yellow leaves of the oak and aspen drifting along the road.

They don’t believe in guard rails here and there were many times we came around a corner or over a hill and it was not immediately apparent where the road went. 

Sometimes, as the photo  below shows, it appeared you were going to just drift off into the clouds.

Our first stop was the Visitor Center where we watched a brief film and got more info. 

It appears to go to the right, but could just as easily turn to the left abruptly.  It kept Left Brain on his toes!

We were both hungry by now as it was noon and I asked if there was any restaurant nearby.  Nope. 

 But they did have some granola bars that I eagerly paid $4 apiece for and it helped to give us a bit of an energy burst to continue on.

We checked in with the ranger and started over this bridge on our one mile hike uphill that was the equivalent of climbing 18 stories.

The trail wound around and around over several other bridges as we ascended.  The walk was delightful except for that huffing and puffing sound…oh wait… that was me.
There’s little known about the tribe that inhabited these caves.  They have determined that they were only used for about twenty years, or one generation in that day and age. 

Here is  one of the first glimpses of the caves as we walked up and up and up.

The caves were retrofitted with about forty rooms built inside of them and had many windows and openings. 

They were situated facing the south so that the sun came in during the winter for warmth and the overhanging edges of the cave shielded them from the sun in the summer.


I loved the view of the mountain ridge and valley below from the cave opening.  There were some of the caves that were not used as they were not reachable.  They used ladders to reach some of the areas and it was nice of the park system to have replicas for us to try out along the path.


I made Left Brain go down first to make sure they were sturdy.  That and to provide a soft landing in case if fell.  He volunteered to hold the camera for me, but I knew that would just lead to an unwanted “butt” shot as I came down the ladder.

Here’s another shot to show the ladder that we came down on. 

 I do not like heights and normally go no higher than the second step of the step ladder, but I felt compelled to do it for the adventure.

Okay, that was enough of a warning for me!

It was much nicer going down the hill after leaving the cliff dwellings. 

The trail was just a dirt path zigzagging along the side of the mountain. 


Here’s a view of the first bridge we crossed from higher up along the trail.

Our plans for the next couple of days are to visit the local museum and take in the new James Bond movie on Saturday as the temperature is expected to drop to the 40’s.  Good time to take in movies and do laundry and prepare to depart again on Monday.  One week in this area is plenty for me.  It’s a nice little town, but the next location in Benson AZ has more things I want to see…and hopefully better internet! 

Long Live the Queen of the Cliff Dwellers

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what gorgeous photos! Twenty years ago, even fifteen, I would have tried that ladder. But not now. The caves do look very interesting though. I wonder what it would have been like to live in them? Enjoy the tour, hugs, Edna B.