Monday, November 13, 2017

Silver City, New Mexico

November 3 - 7, 2017:

The ride today starts on I-25 south for about 75 miles with big wide open mountain vistas in all direction but that was the boring part.  At exit 63 we turn off onto route 152 passing through the quaint small town of Hillsboro, NM and then start climbing into the Mimbres Mountains, also known as the "Black Range" peaking at Emory Pass at 8,228 feet elevation.  I’ve been up much steeper and higher roads before, but none with so many narrow 15 MPH hairpin turns and 1,000 foot drops (no guardrails) off the road for about 45 miles.  We have done this ride before in the Jeep, but in the RV it was a handful.  About 10 miles from Silver City the sight of the Santa Rita Mine comes into view which is another mind boggling sight.  I would rate this road as one of the most beautiful drives in the US.

Heading for the Black Range

Lots of narrow twisting roads

We arrive at the Rose Valley RV Ranch in early afternoon and get set up in a campsite with a nice view.  We stayed at this campground on our last visit to Silver City and really liked it.   It’s convenient to everything, has nice shower and laundry facilities, working WiFi and roomy campsites.

View behind the campsite

Rose Valley has all the trappings of an old ranch

Old farm and ranch relics tastefully decorate the ground

Silver City is a favorite stop for us, we have done about everything here, but its nice, once in a while, to be somewhere familiar, where you know the way around.  It’s a quirky, artsy town for the most part  where the people are friendly, laid back and loving life. 

Downtown Silver City view

My favorite building downtown

Many interesting buildings to be appreciated 

Great roof lines

Love the colors

And the southwest murals

The Palace Hotel is a beauty

We do dinner at the Jalisco Cafe, a local favorite, which is clean, tastefully decorated with good food and service.

The place for Mexican
I catch an interesting musician, Robert Kuhn, at "Little Toad Creek Brewing" in Silver City.  I checked his web site, which was well done and read his bio which I thought to be a little overly creative.  It’s difficult to believe that a 20 something year old can be so world traveled and done so many things.  As he performed, I sort of started to believe the hype as he sang several songs in fluent Spanish, then switched to a beautiful done Reggae song, several thoughtful originals and had a great stage presence.
Unfortunately I will miss a favorite blues duo act of mine, Joe and Vicky Price, who I saw in Colorado Springs last year and is performing here a few days after we leave.  The "LittleToad Creek Brewery" is the only real brewery in Silver City and does draw good musicians on weekends and has a roomful of merchandise for sale, but I wouldn’t give it rave reviews.  They have decent food but don’t walk past and look into the open kitchen door on the side street, if you do you probably won’t want to eat there. 

We go for a hike up to the top of Signal Mountain which is a fire lookout in the Gila National Forest.  It is located at milepost 14 on route 15 north which is another crazy twisty scenic road into the mountains similar to route 152.  We really didn’t know anything about this trail except that it was 2 1/2 miles in length.  It’s probably just as well as it probably would have discouraged Twinkles from doing it.  It was a beautiful trail with great views, but an uphill climb for almost its entire length with an elevation gain of 1,800 feet.  I thought that Twinkles was done as I left her sitting on a sunny rock to continue on to the top.  It turned out to only another 1/4 mile climb to the top where I rested for a while.  As I was about to start back down she came into view, with that big smile of hers.  She just couldn’t stand to let me get one up on her, a very stubborn woman ! 

The view near the continental Divide on the way to the Signal Mountain trailhead

Twinkles taking a break on the trail

Trail view into the hazy distance

Another view later when the sky improved

We made it to the top

From the top of the fire lookout

I missed going to my usual Sunday afternoon music session at the “Yankee Street Coffee”  due to our Signal Hill hike, but they have changed the name to “Tranquil Buzz” and I’m not sure if they still have the music.  Typical of these places, they don’t have signs, or a decent website to promote anything they do.

We do another 4 mile hike on Monday on the Dragonfly Trail in the "Fort Bayard Nature Refuge".  This is a beautiful hike through rolling Juniper and Pinion grassland that lead to a creek where many petroglyphs are found in the rocks, including a few Dragonflies from which the trail gets its name.  The Alligator Juniper Trees are especially beautiful, healthy and large here.

The start of the Dragonfly Trail

Its a beautiful  grassland filled with yucca, pinion, cholla, Juniper and various grasses

How could I forget the beautiful colors of the Cottonwood Trees

Such a blue sky and a beautiful day

The dragonfly petroglyph that the trail is named for

Another good adventure is a ride north on route 180 to 152 to the Santa Rita Mine area.  Apaches, Spaniard and Mexicans have all obtained copper from this site. The Chino Copper Company started a mine here in 1909 which is now the third oldest active open pit mine in the world.  There appears to be renewed activity here since our last visit, in fact in every direction there seems to be an expansion of mining.  
I took a side road past an old shut down mine site and a road sign that said “Historic townsite of Fierro”.  Fierro is totally in ruins, mostly demolished now, truly a Ghost Town, although some people still live in the surrounding hills.  Ironically, a large, maintained cemetery exists that is still active indicative of a sizable town.  Active mines are practically surrounding the old village and I wonder if they will eventually engulf it.  One day the only thing left may be the cemetery with a historic sign in remembrance of the town.   Back on route 152 there was a sign telling of the legendary mountain peak they call the Kneeling Nun” which is now also surrounded by the mines, I wonder if it will be spared ? 

The Silver City area is filled with mines, careful where you walk

The Santa Rita or Chino Mine is huge

A marker to the brave women who took the striking 
mine workers places on the picket line which
inspired the documentary film "Salt of the Earth"


I see these old fence posts everywhere in the west and 
always wonder how old they are.  I like to touch them and
think about the lives of the people who cut these posts

and built these fences so long ago

This appeared to be the only building still standing in Fierro

This one is slowly falling apart

Saint Anthony's Church Shrine remains active

In spite of mining activity just behind the church grounds

The Fierro Cemetery appears well maintained

Many old graves and probably ghosts

The "Kneeling Nun" remains but if you read the following link you will understand 
why it remains today

We pend some time at the "Jumping Cactus" coffee shop which I will say is small but the nicest one in town with beautiful wooden tables and art work.

Good coffee Shop in Silver City

As always, I make a stop at the nearby Diane’s Bakery which always has great bread and yummy cookies, muffins, pies, pastries and much more.  We then visit the "Silver City Museum" which we haven’t done for a couple of years.  It’s in a beautiful building once owned by Henry Bower Ailman an early mine owner turned prosperous mercantile store owner and businessman.  The house was used as the Silver City fire station prior to becoming the museum.

The Silver City Museum

A sign describing the flooding that resulted in the "Big Ditch"

The flood of 1895 wiped out much of Main Street

I also took a ride to the town of Tyrone, NM site of the huge Tyrone Mine.  The original townsite eventually was swallowed up by the mine and was relocated a few miles away.  It's now a really boring looking development tract of homes.  The only thing I found of interest was a recycling dumpster !

The Tyrone Mine

One of the nicest dumpsters I've ever seen ?

Continue to watch our friends on:

Next stop is another favorite, Bisbee, Arizona;
Twinkles and Slick

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Socorro, New Mexico

November 1 - 2, 2017:

A short hop today of about 80 miles to Socorro, New Mexico mostly on I-25 south. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful drive with mountain views on one side and the Rio Grande valley on the other.  We arrive at Casey’s RV Park about noon, get set up and then take a ride to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge outside of San Antonio, New Mexico.  The Sandhill Cranes, the Snow Geese and many varieties of ducks are now arriving.  We drove around the Tour Loop road and with the blue sky and the golden foliage of the Cottonwood Trees it was beautiful.  Many areas of the road are presently closed for grass cutting in preparation of the arrival of the Sandhill Cranes.  We saw a good number of snow geese, sandhill Cranes and ducks although the migration period is ongoing.  The world renown Festival of the Cranes takes place in about two weeks so the arrival of adittional flocks of Cranes are anticipated daily.

Taken from a rest area off !-25

Sandhill Cranes are amazing long distance flyers 

The terrain at the wildlife refuge is well maintained for the birds arrival

They come by the thousands here

They are huge birds when you see them up close

The Snow Geese are also long distance flyers 

In the evening I go to the Socorro Plaza to the "Capital Bar" which is a wonderfully restored Saloon originally built in 1896.  At one time it was owned by Amos Green, the justice of the peace, who held court in the bar and jailed the guilty in a back room.  The present owner has done a great job and there was a lively crowd on hand, of course it also was the final game of the World Series.

The Socorro Square is a must see place when in this area with its beautiful pathway with tiled historical signs and a great wheel of history monument.  You also don’t want to miss the Socorro County Courthouse, the old Garcia Opera House and the San Miguel de Socorro Church in the vicinity.

Socorro is a very old town that claims to have been established in 1598 when Juan de Ornate led a group of Spanish settlers across the "Jornada de Muerto" (Desert terrain) that ends just south of Socorro.  As they emerged from the desert a pueblo of Pima Indians gave them food and water.   The Spainards named the the place "Pueblo Socorro" meaning "help" of "aid".  The Spaniards established a mission to convert the friendly Indians, but then with the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 the Spaniards were evicted.  The Spaniards did not return to resettle the area again until 1815.  Socorro seems to have become an official town in 1816 with a Spanish Land Grant.  Shortly afterwards in 1821 when Mexico won independence it then became Mexican territory.  Then with the Mexican- American War it became US territory 1846.  A very complex history indeed ?,_New_Mexico

The Capital Bar

The Socorro Plaza is a beauty 

Elfego Baca who at age 19 held over 50 angry cattlemen at bay
while trapped in a cabin for several days.  He went on to become
Sheriff of Socorro County, a District Attorney, Mayor of Socorro
and a US Marshall

The Juan Nepomuceno Baca house, parts of which may
date back to 1816

The circle of history monument

There is much more to see in Socorro than the old historic square.

A field of hot peppers

We do a hike on the Socorro Valley Bosque Trail at 
the Socorro Nature Center

The beautiful San Mission Church which recently celebrated 400 years, but I'm not 
exactly buying that claim.  It seems that this is a newer structure built on the same site that
incorporated a portion of the original mission adobe walls.

The historic Garcia Opera House

You also can’t miss the town of San Antonio and must stop in either the Owl Tavern or the Buckhorn Tavern (or both) for a green chili cheeseburger.  They are almost across the street from one another and have both been featured in many publications.   The Buckhorn won a Food Network - Chef Bobby Flay throwback competition in 2009 for the best green chili cheeseburger.  San Antonio in past years was a much more prominent town with a railroad station and Harvey House restaurant.  Except for the two “world famous ”burger joints” there isn’t much else going on in San Antonio these days.

Buckhorn Tavern

The Owl Bar & Cafe a few hundred feet away offers much competition

We take a ride on route 60 about 20 miles away to the town Magdalena in the Magdalena Mountains.  On the way there we stopped at the “The Box” which is primarily a rock climbing site in a canyon with sheer rock walls.

A nice view from above "The Box"

Twinkles doing a little rock scrambling

View down inside "The Box"

Magdalena is a few miles downhill from the former Kelly Mine and townsite of Kelly. The Kelly Mine  was a very productive lead, zinc and smithsonite mine that operated from 1883 to 1947.  At its peak, approximately 3,000 people lived in the town of Kelly.  After the mine closed in 1947 everyone left Kelly, it became a ghost town and nothing is left of it today.  Anything good was torn down and moved downhill to Magdalena where it was recycled.  The only structures remaining at the mine are the steel head-frame, a chimney and a nearby small church. 

Mine remains along the road 

One stone wall is all that remains of this building and an
old safe without doors in the basement

The Mine steel head frame designed by Eiffel and what appears to be a chimney.  The open mine shaft with barbed wire fencing around it is said to drop straight down 1,000 feet

A better view of the mine head frame, we had a good time walking around the site looking 
for good rocks and old glass.  We found little, its been picked clean.

The church appears more recent and still in use

The town of Magdalena has several interesting old buildings including the old Santa Fe Train depot, now used as a library and museum with many old Santa Fe Rail travel ads.  It was the "Trails End" for the railroad spur built for the mine.  Magdalena is in a remote location, a real dark sky location that has a "Enchanted Skies Star Party" in the fall.  It also hosts a "Old Timers Reunion & Rodeo each year.  This is a quirky town with its share of artistic types, art galleries and mineral shops.  The towns name derived from early Spanish soldiers who saw the profile of a woman on the west face of the current Maddalena Peak.  A priest reminded them of a similar peak in Spain called "La Sierra de Maria Magdalena",_New_Mexico

I loved this entrance sign on the highway

The Saloon looked pretty inviting

The Magdalena Depot with some repair in progress

The Library interior is cozy, it extends to the rear into
what was the freight house

I don't believe I've ever seen this Santa Fe Ad before

The old bank turned general store appears to be under renovation

We now continue south to another favorite New Mexico town, Silver City, Mew Mexico,

Twinkles and Slick