Gila Cliff Dwellings National Park, N.M.

After leaving City of Rocks, we mosied on down the road to the WalMart in Silver City. It was too late to go to the Gila Cliff Dwellings yet that day, so we spent the night in the parking lot, and the next morning took the van to the dwellings. Since the crazy, beautiful drive was an event in itself, the pics will be another post – so, here we are… There is a fairly large parking lot in a small valley where the walk to the dwellings begins. There is a self-pay station for the park fees, a ranger there to give you some info on the walk, and bathrooms (there are none on the trail). There was also this cute little mobile refreshment wagon (this pic is for you Sharon, Eli thinks that you need to replace the KOA’s ‘egg’ with one of these!LOL!)…

The first part of the 1 mile walk takes you over a bridge…

which overlooks this pretty little stream (or crick as we would call it at home)…

the walk is very flat at first…
and has all sorts of stuff to look at on the way…
we were warned that the climb may not be suitable for little ones as you have to climb a 3 story ladder to get to the dwellings. I don’t know where I read that, but there was no ladder – just this short section of steps (maybe it is the equivalent of 3 stories?)…
and the path was certainly appropriate for kids 3 and up. Along the way are several benches. Peanut walked the mile herself, and did great – the only time that she was tired was when she came to these little benches, where she would suddenly become exhausted and ‘need a west’
This is one of my favorite parks! I’m not sure why, maybe it reminds me a bit of Montana (which is still our fav place), maybe it’s because it seems a bit remote (it is), maybe it was the walk through the woods (on top it smelled heavenly)…
you walk up the a draw a bit and then switch-back up the side of the mountain – this is looking farther up the little side valley…
along the mountain is a path that is simply fairly flat rock slabs, the natural side of the mountain. Walking along, you soon come to walls built in the openings of the caves…
this is inside one of the caves…
There are volunteers that lead guided tours through one of the caves, and talk about the others. It was pretty interesting; these dwellings were built between 1276 and 1287 (dated through dendrochronology, or tree rings)…
I can see how people would want to live here – the view is beautiful!!!
When you get to the end of the last cave, you have 2 options to get out – you can backtrack to the entrance and go back down the set of stairs, or you can climb down this hand-hewn ladder…
even the little girls went down the ladder, with a little guarding from Daddy :)

Bethy was the only one that chickened out – but since she had Molly in the ergo on her back, she didn’t get ribbed too badly! (Hannah did go with her…)
the way down the mountain is another path along the side (it is a one-way loop without backtracking)…
that was the only part where we made the little girls hold a ‘big’ hand. The path isn’t a hard walk, and it is very pretty. This is the view across to the other side…
The pines reminded us of home, and the smell of the pines made us a bit homesick…
When we finished our walk up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings, we drove back down to the visitor’s center, where the kids finished up their Jr. Ranger booklets. There were 3 different levels – preschool, which Peanut and Emma did, the regular J.R. books for ages 6-12, and a Sr. Ranger booklet for ages above 12, which Eli did. The Sr. Ranger booklet was a bit harder than the regular booklet, and when we went back, the ranger and volunteer were quite impressed that they had a Sr. Ranger – it sounds like they don’t get them very often. The kids all got very nice certificates (which I hate to admit they never save – what would we do with them???), and the kids received badges – except for Eli, who got the coolest patch!

Now, while we prefer patches if we have the choice, we are happy for badges too! But, everyone was a bit jealous of Eli’s snazzy patch, so we will have to return in a couple of years for some more Senior Ranger work :)

When we got in the van to leave, and Jake checked out Eli’s patch (he had opted not to do a booklet here), he, half-jokingly, said,”I’m such an idiot!” (tho for the record, we think using ‘idiot’ is poor taste and it’s not usually allowed in our house). Peanut, who’s car seat is right next to Jake’s spot, pursed her little lips, cocked her head to the side, gave him a matter-of-fact look, and said, “Why Yes, you are!” (you probably have to know Peanut, but we were all laughing too hard to chastise either of them.)

Visiting the Gila Cliff Dwellings was a much nicer outing than I had even hoped for. We really enjoyed the destination (though the drive is another story, at least for me!), and it got us to talking about our fav haunts back home. We will be home in about a month, and are now hoping to stop on our way in and camp for a few days at our most favorite spot – that is if the roads are open; it is an official snowmobiling trail during the winter!

I do love to plan, I just don’t like having to stick to a schedule! 😉

Lilla Rose

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  1. Dana,
    How do you organize all the patches and badges? Do they each have a vest, or wrap or jacket, or is it in Ziploc bags? 😉
    I am thinking of how to do this efficiently, and thought you would have a suggestion.

  2. Hi Steph!
    We actually do use both – the jacket and ziploc bags! LOL!
    The little boys have jackets that we sew the patches onto, but the current year’s patches are put in the back zipper pocket so they don’t get lost. I will sew them on when we get ‘home’ since I don’t haul a sewing machine with us. The boys usually pin their badges on their vests until we get home, but they leave the previous year’s plastic badges in storage in ziploc bags :) labled with their names – the plastic badges break pretty easy, plus they don’t have room for all of them on their vests.
    Eli doesn’t have a vest, and he keeps saying,’ what am I going to do with all of these???’ – LOL! I don’t know what he is going to do with them! :)

    One thing that I would like to do is to have a great big fabric map of the US that fits on the inside of the ramp – we could pin a set of badges on the map in the locales of where we got them. We are pretty sure we are not bringing the bikes next year, so using the ramp would be fine, but I don’t know where I will find a 4’x7′ cloth map, and I do know that I will never get around to making one! :) :) :)

  3. Dana, Thanks for letting me know. I LOVE the map idea. I wonder if Joann’s Fabrics would have one? Or Hancock’s??

  4. I’m glad you are all having fun, but I’m even more glad that you will be home soon!! Anytime Sophie sees a picture of any kids she thinks they are her cousins, and gets mad if I tell her that they aren’t! She will be glad to see her real cousins soon!!

  5. Hi again Steph! – the largest fabric map that I have found is about 3×4, and I would really like something BIGGER :)

    Hey there Sis!!! We are thinking of coming home through CO and WY, so we would prob. stop and see you on the way – your HOA won’t care if we park in front of your house right? ROFL! :)
    Give the kiddos hugs and kisses, and we’ll be seeing you soon!

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