johnny March 29th, 2009
It’s actually been so long ago that when Jenn mentioned she was uploading the pictures from Gila National Forest, I had no idea what she was talking about! Obviously, this post is way overdue. About six weeks overdue actually.
The Gila Cliff Dwellings weren’t really on our way; in fact, I think you could say they aren’t on the way to anywhere, but we took a little detour to see them anyway. By little detour, I mean it was about fifty miles off our route. Did I mention that the last twenty-five or thirty miles were on some pretty hairy mountain roads? That leg alone took around two hours. The signs advised no vehicles over thirty feet! The grades were fairly steep; the turns were sharp and many.
However, it was a very pleasant ride as we weren’t in a hurry to get there and were planning on staying over in one of the many campsites along the way. And there were quite a few campsites. Dispersed camping and a number of actual campgrounds lined the route. Many, if not all, of the forestry campgrounds were free, but memory is a bit hazy. It was nice to see a bit of snow on the ground still, when temperatures were pushing eighty in the desert we’d been driving through just a bit earlier.
The cliff dwellings were quite interesting. They are built inside of natural sandstone caves and have walls built inside of them that are still standing today, despite time, weather and treasure hunters. We were lucky enough to show up just as the interpretive presentation began and had a guided tour through the dwellings. As usual, our America the Beautiful pass covered the cost of the tour, but it was a fairly small price in any event. Don’t quote me, but I think it was in the range of $5 per person. It’s a bit awe inspiring to realize that people have been using the same area for thousands of years and by the way, that’s their house right over there!
If you’re going anyway, by all means check out the displays at the visitor center as well as the nature display at the base of the cliff dwellings. Both are well worth a look. In addition, there are a few other dwellings in the area that are on a smaller scale. Ask the local volunteers and they’ll be glad to point you in the right direction.