Tuesday, December 16, 2008

...A Rock And A Hard Place

A two hour drive from our base camp in Silver City carried us through the mountain wilderness on the Trail of the Mountain Spirits to Gila Hot Springs to see the Cliff Dwellings. The Mogollon (mug-gee-own) people lived in these natural cliff caves for only around 20 years near the end of the 1200's. There is much more NOT known about them than known about them, and there is a distinct lack of interpretive narration on site, and the guides will be the first to tell you that. The dwellings were sacked and ransacked long before they were scientifically explored so no proper recordings of the artifacts has ever really been made. We were rather horrified to learn that there is a totally un-explored dwelling in the area that has some 200 rooms just littered with artifacts that no one has yet to study. The park is way too short of funds to undertake the study and no one has written a grant to undertake the project. But the fact that there is much unknown only serves to make one more inquisitive, and wonder how and why these dwellings were used, and why the inhabitants moved on after such a short period of living here.

There is some hiking involved in this exploration. A winding path takes you 180 feet vertically to the first of seven caves. After that, they are pretty much on the same plane. Some of the paths between caves are narrow and without railing. A walking stick comes in real handy! Inside you will see divider walls and functional rock structures of all types that were used such as the ring of rocks that supported the large round earthen pottery they made and used. Some of the rooms are identifiable as kitchen and living areas while others seem to be more ceremonial in nature. A few have not yielded any clues as to their use.

The cold blowing air of this day sent a chill wind through the caves. A fire, like the ones of old that have blackened the ceilings of the caves would have been a welcome addition to the exploration. But only the secrets blowing through on the wind were left to shed some light on the people and the times. There has not been the crackle of a warming fire here in a long time.

On the way back we passed the Santa Rita Copper mine operation. Huge scale mining going on here. Quite impressive. A few shots of that near the end of the slide show to round out the pictures of the trip up and back.

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