Gila Cliff Dwellings (It's educational!)

Trip Start Feb 22, 2006
Trip End May 2006

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Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Thursday, March 2, 2006

Not 24 hours after my death march from the Chisos mountains, I found myself hiking into the mountains again. This time, however, I didn't have a 30 pound pack, the trail was considerably shorter, and I wasn't spending the night.
I got up and left Las Cruces, New Mexico around 11:30 and headed up to Gila National Forest (Wilderness area). The drive in, while scenic, was crazy-- winding, swerving roads, without any guard rails...enough to make me a little sick, even though I was driving! I finally got to the ranger station, picked up some postcards and then drove to the Cliff Dwellings.
According to the brochure, people have lived in those caves since 100 AD. And this is one of the few places in the country where they still let you walk inside the caves. There were about 8 different caves, one separate one specifically used for a kitchen (you could see the smoke marks on the ceiling) and the rest were in one big opening. They said that about 10-15 families lived there in the 1200's and then they just up and left and no one really knows why. It's a mystery!
Anyway, there were three pictographs on the walls-- a stick man, a snake and a monkey. How cool is that? At first I was a little skeptical but they were too artistic to be fake, at least I think so.
So, after I took like a gazillion pics, I headed down the mountain. Two rangers were hanging out at the bottom of the trail, so I chatted to them about mountain lions-- and they made me feel so much better about it. Darn you, Ranger Bob!!!!
After I finally got out of the Gila Forest, I got on 180 headed to Arizona. Boy, I was kinda retarded because I didn't fill up on gas and just about ran out. By that point, it was dark and rainy. 180 isn't like I-10, there aren't exits with McDonald's and Holiday Inns and Chevrons every mile. It's all through the mountains and I was so lucky to find an open gas station that I didn't even care that gas was so expensive and I had to buy the supreme kind.
I made it to Eagar, Arizona. Without any magical traveler's coupons, I ended up staying at Best Western for $70(!), in a smoking room...
Tomorrow, I'm hitting 40 up to Flagstaff!
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