We left Tucson Sunday morning and continued eastbound on I-10. Since then we have been “wandering in the wilderness” without benefit of modern communications, thus the lack of a post for the past several days.
We had a little over 240 miles to travel after leaving Tucson. We exited I-10 at Deming, NM and traveled north for about 30 miles to City of Rocks State Park where we spent one night. City of Rocks is a uniquely interesting park, consisting of large rocks formations of various shapes. This “City of Rocks” sits in the desert and from a distance might give the viewer the suggestion of a small town. I have included some photos on a separate page.
This geological oddity was created 34.9 million years ago (but who’s counting) by a volcanic eruption that was estimated to be more than 1,000 times greater than that of Mount St. Helens (1980).
Although there was a section of the park with full hook-up sites (but quite close together), we selected Site # 16, which would allow ample room for our motorhome (40 feet long) and our car. It was also one of the most remote sites. All of the “non-electric” sites were scattered throughout the rock formations with lots of space between sites. Each site had its own unique rock formation, so that no 2 sites were alike.
The night sky was magnificent. The view was not spoiled by light-pollution, as the nearest civilization was Deming, 30 miles away. It was like standing out in the middle of nowhere (which it actually was) and looking up to clearly see millions of stars. I attempted my first star trail photo that night and although I need a great deal more practice and experience, I have included this first attempt on the photo page. I mounted my camera on a tripod and attached my remote control shutter release. I opened the aperture as wide as possible and pointed it approximately north (I had no compass). I kept the shutter open for approximately 10 minutes (should have been longer) so that the stars left a short trail of light created while the Earth turned during the time that the shutter was open. Some are quite bright while others are dim. There is also some “noise” in the photo. As I said, I have a lot of work to do before I get the process down. Note how the stars all seem to rotate around the North, or Pole, Star. I included the tops of “our” site’s rock formation in the foreground simply to give some reference as to position.
The next day, Monday, we had a relatively short drive of 66 miles further North to Gila Hot Springs, located in the Gila National Wilderness. Driving time for the 66 miles was 2 hours as much of the area is mountainous and the roads quite narrow and extremely curvy. We were required to go the “long way around”, as the shorter route contains curves too sharp to be negotiated in a 40-foot long motorhome with a car in tow. The “long way around” was bad enough and my neck and shoulder muscles were in one big knot by the time we reached the RV park. However the scenery was well worth the tension created by the drive.
On Tuesday, we drove up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (only 4 miles from the RV park). From the parking lot it was about a 30 minute hike to the cliff dwellings and the start of the Ranger-led tour. I have included some of these photos on the photo page as well. Although, not nearly as large as the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings, these dwellings were very well preserved. It included over 40 rooms built by the Mogollon people in 5 caves sometime between the years 1000 and 1130. There is archeological evidence of an even more ancient people living in these caves over 10,000 years before the Mogollon people made them home. Oddly, the Mogollon people, for some unknown reason, deserted the area after only 20 or 25 years. They simply walked off and left it. By the time the Spanish appeared in the area, the Mogollons had long disappeared and the Chiricahua Apaches had moved into the area between 1200 and 1600. The Apaches made no improvements or additions to the cliff dwellings and lived in the area until the US Calvary defeated them in the 1880’s. The survivors were sent to reservations. The great Apache Chief, Geronimo, is said to have been born near the headwaters of the Gila River.
Late Tuesday afternoon we tried out one of the many hot springs within the wilderness. It was across the highway from the RV park, on the bank of the Gila River. We were somewhat apprehensive about this as everything we had read about the hot springs mentioned that clothing was “optional!” As it turned out we had the spring to ourselves (we wore swim suits, by the way). The cost was $4 “a soak” per person, which was placed in an envelope and dropped into a locked box. The water was VERY hot (but no sulfur smell) and 30 minutes was as long as we could stand it.
The temperature dropped to 34° on both of the nights spent in the Gila wilderness. This morning Carol Ann pointed out what appeared to be smoke rising from a meadow about 30 yards from our RV. It was actually steam from a small hot spring. What was so interesting about it was the fact that birds were actually bathing in it! It was a hot water birdbath. I guess even birds enjoy an occasional hot bath.
We left Gila Hot Springs shortly after 9:00 AM (MST) this morning, headed to the Van Horn KOA in Van Horn, TX. Again, the first 60 miles or so, before reaching I-10, were quite slow. We pulled into the KOA about 7 hours and 313 miles later. While outside connecting our power, water, and sewer I met our “next door” neighbors. A team of cyclists (the pedaling kind) from England, they had begun in St. Augustine, FL about 2 ½ weeks ago with San Diego, CA (pretty sure it was San Diego) in 30 days as their goal. The team, “Brits Gone Barmy”, consists of 2 cyclists (Tom Harvey and William Taper) and 2 drivers/support members (Chris Taper, father of William, and Don Davies). They are averaging 110 – 120 miles a day, all in the name of 2 English charities in their 2,600-mile “Ride Across America”. The “chase” vehicle is a small Class C motorhome in which all 4 of them sleep and eat. You are probably asking yourself, “What the hell is BARMY?” I had to look it up myself. It is British slang, something akin to bonkers, whacky, nutty, or just plain crazy as hell. I wish them all the luck in the world.
Tomorrow we go to Concan, TX to rendezvous with other members of our Discovery Owners of America chapter who were also in Tucson at the national DOAI rally.