I thrive off of exploring new areas. When I dream I usually imagine traveling the world to see as much of it as possible. The more I travel, the more I realize, there is sooo much out there. This past weekend we were lucky enough to explore the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. My guess is you have never heard of it. The almost 3.3 million acres of land is an expansive wilderness with extremely diverse habitats from heavy pine forests to dry desert hills and some prairie in between. But that was just the small portion we were able to view in our two days.
|Absolutely no cell service in the forest! Great! Luckily I had this map pic to navigate.|
We left late after work on Friday and arrived in a pitch black forest looking for a place to set up camp. There are many campsites within the forest but we were looking for the primitive and free kind. We found a great spot nestled among some evergreens and cliff sides. Soon our fire was ignighted and just as fast it was out as we quickly fell asleep. I could not sleep very well because it was FREEEZING and as I would doze off to sleep, my face would come out from under the blankets and the cold would wake me. We woke in the morning to our water bottles, frozen. It was in the teens that night.
|The view from the campsite…|
|All snuggled up getting the coffee ready in bed.|
|So many beautiful vistas.|
We spent the Saturday exploring the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. The dwellings were carved into the cliff sides by the Mogollon people who lived in the area over 700 years ago.
|Gila Cliff Dwellings in the distance.|
|The hike to see the dwellings is an easy one mile.|
|There are 5 dwellings. The last two you can walk through.|
What was most impressive about the Cliff Dwellings and the Ranger Station is the amount of volunteers, their knowledge, passion about the area and also offer suggestions and guide you through the entire Gila area. The dwellings are in great shape with no graffiti and I bet that has a lot to do with the volunteers that truly care about the history of the area.
|Flowers – Spring!|
Although at this point it was the middle of the day and about 60 degrees F, there was still snow remnants to be found. One volunteer mentioned it snowed just 5 days previous and was scheduled to snow the following day!
|I did not know the Gila was one of the reintroduction sites. Awesome!|
Too bad New Mexico recently pulled out of Mexican wolf reintroductions. Yes, it’s true, read the article here. You can help turn this around by contacting your local officials and urging them to support wolf reintroductions here.
Why would you want to do this? Mexican wolves number only about 50 individuals left in the wild and can use all of the help they can get. It is disheartening how scared people are of wolves. Wolves do not kill people. There has never been a confirmed and documented killing of a human by a wolf. Dogs kill more people than humans (about 20 people per year). You are at greater risk of being struck by lightning than being mauled by a wolf. Yet movies and tv establish a sense of fear in everyone’s brains. Sad. They are a necessary part of our environment and a great success story is how the gray wolf reintroduction into Yellowstone has balanced out the ecosystem. Read about the yellowstone wolves here. Want to do more to support Mexican wolves in the wild? Buy cool Mexican wolf stamps here, proceeds support wolf conservation!
This was probably my favorite part of the trip. We hiked to a HOT spring! The water was steaming and was so hot you could not keep your skin in direct contact. The picture above on the right, is where the water was coming out. People have placed rocks along the stream path and in the river to make hot spring pools. The hot spring water mixes with the freezing river water to create soaking baths!
|On the hike to the spring you have to cross the freeeezing river multiple times!|
|Recreation lake. This one was full of American coots.|
Spring is in the air! Even at high elevations. The plant on the right smelled amazing! Not sure what is was. David did also find some wild mint.
|Waking up on day 2.|
|Lichen. I loved this lichen so much I could not put it in the fire. I am Ridiculous.|
The campsite for night 2 was even more in the middle of no where. No one was even in the same area with us. We kept hoping some “friends” would join us so that if there were bears or big raccoons nearby we would have some fellow campers. No such luck. Oh and it was St. Patrick’s Day! But the campsite was beautiful, right on the creek. The night was much warmer, thank goodness. Dinner was hot dogs on a stick and luckily no animals showed up that night, or at least that we know of.
|Snow and 70 degrees!|
|The National Park Service has super cute electric vehicles!|
We left the forest on Sunday morning and headed to the town of Truth or Consequences for a huge much anticipated breakfast at “Happy Belly Deli”. Before we left town we decided to soak in local hot springs. It was awesome! We paid $10 per person to visit the springs at a nearby “resort”. The resort was made of trailers but has a quirky eccentric vibe. It used to be a hostel but is now a resort. The water is pumped up from the hot springs overlooking the Rio Grande. The resort used to be a minnow farm! They have 5 public pools from 105 to 101 degrees. Amazing. I did not want to leave.
|Hot springs… ahh.|
|One of the pools overlooking the Rio.|
The drive home was helatious due to the high winds and dust. Luckily I relaxed while the truck was pushed around.
Everyone should get out to the Gila! It is amazing.
Here are my quick lists:
1. It’s close
2. It’s enormous
3. Breathtaking vistas.
4. Easy access to sights and hiking trails.
5. HOT SPRINGS
6. Campfires, cliff dwellings, rivers, trees!
Things to know:
1. Bring cash. I did not. I really did not need the cash but it would have been great for hiking fee stations and camp fee stations and entrance fee into the cliff dwellings.
2. Make sure to fill up on gas prior to entering wilderness area. We did! But we kept saying, thank goodness we filled up!
3. Free camping! There are several camp areas that charge $10 per night but you can easily find many that are free and offer a more wilderness setting. Both nights we stayed in free camp sites but had we needed a shower, the ten dollar sites would have been worth it.
4. No cell service. It was a blessing in disguise for me. I loved unplugging but I still used my phone for all the pics!
5. Fire wood. They say to bring your own. The camp areas are very scarce with down wood so plan to pick up wood prior to the camping areas. We stopped a few times along the road to harvest some down dry wood. There was plenty of down wood. As long as it’s on the ground it is ok to take for a campfire. But beware, start collecting a lot and you need a permit.
6. The entire Gila wilderness is a pack in, pack out park. Meaning you must carry out all your trash. At first you would think there would be more trash but it seems to be working!
I hope everyone gets to explore the Gila. I have plans to go back to explore the areas we did not get to and to do some longer backpacking.
As for now I will keep dreaming of future travels.
Tomorrow at work I will be wishing I was back here: