Tuesday we moved from Las Cruces to Deming, NM. We are basically headed west and decided to move closer to the places we wanted to see next. Wednesday, our first day in Deming, had a crazy wind storm. Like shake the whole coach kinda wind. 45mph or more. And we are in a desert, so there was some real blowing dust, too. We almost let the weather keep us inside for the day, but when we checked the weather at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument it looked good, so we headed out anyway. We are glad we did.
The wind, distance, and winding road up to the park made this a great trip in the Mini Cooper. There are actually two ways into the park – one on the super curvy, narrow NM-15; and the other on the longer, straighter NM-35. Well, naturally, we opted for the shorter, more curvy road. It’s 41 miles from the start of this highway to the park, but this is the sign you see as you start the journey:
Yep, two hours to drive 41 miles! Now this is a road made for a Mini Cooper! Could it be done on a Harley? Absolutely, but it would’ve been a LOT more physically demanding (and therefore less fun).
It started as a barely two lane road with no center stripe and no shoulders winding through the tall pines. Amazing views around nearly every corner!
I guess someone forgot to check the “Know Before You Go” section of the national park service website!
It eventually opened up (and the road widened) to some huge vistas of the Gila mountains and river valley.
We made the trip in less than two hours (wheee!) and arrived at the trailhead to the Cliff dwellings just in time to make the once a day guided tour. The trail up to the dwellings follows along a creek for a bit, then is a steep, rough, rock staircase trek to the top. They say this is a 20-40 minute 1/2 mile walk, but we rushed a bit to make the tour.
Our tour guide, Chuck, was great. He did a great job sharing what they know (and don’t know) about this site. There’s a lot about the dwellings that keeps the archaeologists guessing (or arguing) and it was fun to be encouraged to develop our own theories about the why and how of this place. It was a great relief to see the dwellings weren’t just put there for viewing like those we had seen in Manitoba Springs, CO.
There are 6 caves, 2 of which you can enter and explore. The craftsmanship used to create the structures is impressive. The size of the buildings and doorways makes it obvious how much bigger we are today than these people were back then.