The last few days of this year’s trip were memorable for several reasons. First, we discovered a new area to add to our list of Favorite Places. It happened this way. After a lovely visit with Aud and Trish in Tucson, we headed east in I-10 Except for a stop in San Angelo, we were not looking forward to the loooonnnng trip home. As we scanned our maps for an overnight stop, we saw that Silver City, NM, was almost a perfect day’s drive away.
We had never been to Silver City, but had heard a lot about it from Neta Pope, a friend we met earlier this year in Santa Fe. Neta lives in Silver City, and has co-authored a fascinating book about the history of Fort Bayard, which is located just outside of town. The fort was established in 1866 by Company B of the 25th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment, also known as the “Buffalo Soldiers.” It was used as an outpost until 1899, and later served as an army tuberculosis hospital and veterans’ care facility.
We decided a few days in Silver City to break up our trip were in order, and we were soon parked at Manzano’s RV Park on the western edge of town. The park is a unique, family-owned facility. There are none of the long rows of RV spaces with hardly enough space to walk between them. Manzano’s is laid out to take advantage of the views and the native trees which screen each RV sight. Here are a couple of photos taken from our site. You can see that we had a great place to watch the sunset.
We wound up spending an entire week in Silver City. The city itself is situated just on the edge of the Gila National Forest, and has a thriving downtown with interesting restaurants,
a terrific farmer's market where John really loaded us up on veggies,
and beautiful murals painted on the sides of many of the downtown buildings.
Part of the interesting history of Silver City is the “Big Ditch.” In 1895, much of the downtown was destroyed by a devastating flash flood. When the water receded, the main street was gone, and in its place was a ditch some 35 feet deep. A subsequent flood washed away any remaining soil, right down to bedrock. Bridges crossing the ditch, which is adjacent to the new main street, give visitors a view into the abyss.
We took day trips to several points of interest nearby. One of these is The Catwalk National Historic Trail some 60 miles up the road near the small town of Glenwood. The original catwalk was built into the sides of Whitewater Canyon. It held water pipes that served the mines farther up the canyon. Floods damaged or destroyed the original structure, but a new catwalk allows visitors to walk along the canyon walls, some 20-30 feet above the stream. In places, the canyon is only 20 feet wide. Unfortunately, almost half of the catwalk upstream was heavily damaged by floods in 2013, and has not yet been rebuilt. We walked as far as we could, and hope repairs are made by the time we visit again.
Since the catwalk itself is made of expanded metal, you can see what is beneath you. We had taken the dogs with us, and when the distance between us and the stream bed approached 20 feet, Kota was noticeably concerned. The Border Collies took it all in stride, but Kota hung back and hugged the canyon wall. At the end of the catwalk, we took off their leashes and let them explore the stream. When we started back, we left them off leash, and Kota was not in the least afraid of walking “on air” along the catwalk.
Another day trip was to the Santa Rita Copper Mine, also known as the Chino Mine. The open pit mine is impossible to miss if you are in town. The entire mountain to the east is terraced, revealing the layers of rock that have been mined. It is famous as the third oldest open pit copper mine in the world, and we enjoyed looking down from the view point and watching the enormous dump trucks and other machinery working below. If you don’t have a feel for just how big these giant machines are, just look at me standing in front of one of their tires. It towers above me, and there is a good 2-3 feet of tire buried in the ground!
It's hard to realize those tires are propelling the giant trucks which look like ants crawling along the roads down in the pit.
The pallet of colors exposed by the mining was beautiful, and we enjoyed our day.
One of the most special aspects of the Silver City area is the abundance of hiking trails. We took one such trail, the San Francisco Hot Springs Trail, on our way back from The Catwalk. The trail was rough, with a quantity of volcanic rocks along the trail. It wound through a mesquite thicket, then down into a dry arroyo. We were told there were hot springs some 2 miles down the trail and we had hoped to see them. It was getting late, however, and there was no sign of water so we backtracked and headed home.
Our favorite, though, was Dragonfly Trail.
The trailhead was only a couple of miles from our RV park, and the trail was a lovely four-mile loop. There were beautiful, grassy meadows with occasional cedars and yucca.
The trail dropped steeply into the stream bed, which was lined with tall cottonwoods and had intermittent pools where the dogs could cool off.
It was along this stream that we saw the one and only snake of our entire trip...even though we spent a lot of time in rattlesnake country. This one, though, was a lovely little grass snake that seemed to think it was invisible.
The best part, though, were the petroglyphs along the stream. We found two dragonfly petroglyphs which give the trail its name...
...plus several other figures and symbols scratched into the rocks by the native people who inhabited this area several hundred years ago.
It’s a magical place, and one we look forward to seeing again.