Thursday, September 6, 2012


From Lake Caballo to the Gila National Forest
Highway 152
Day 2
September 3, 2010

After taking a shower in the Caballo State Park's public bathrooms and breakfasting  beside the Rio Grande, I swung back to  Highway 25. Just before the city of Truth and Consequences, which used to called Hot Springs but changed its name after NBC promised to air the first episode of a game from the first town that did so (and won), I made a brief stop at an RV park that advertised gas. My gas tank was half-full, so I topped it off. The RV park, aptly named Caballo Lake RV Camping was for sale. It looked decent, with cottages and all. Maybe the owner wanted to retire to somewhere warm, like Miami or Hawaii?
After filling up my gas tank, I drove out and hit left on highway 152. I had thought, mistakenly, that I would go on the 256 freeway. However the signs pointed this highway as going to Silver City and the Gila Cliffs, so off I went. What did turn out was that highway 152  would bring me through the Gila National Forest , up the mountains and down over into the high country of Southwestern New Mexico. The topography changed from flat to hilly to mountainous and rocky. The shift in scenery was dramatic. I was glad I took this route and would recommend it to anyone who wished to escape the monotony of the flat plains. The highway made several switchbacks and numerous hairpin curves. I was glad that my rented Chevy was brand-new, with presumably strong brakes. Nothing like brake failure to spoil the fun: for good. This was the New Mexico that I loved.
Highway 152  to the Gila National Forest. Traffic-less, as usual.

I didn't know it then, but the rocky landscape that greeted my way as I drove up to the forested uplands of the Gila National Forest was the result of violent volcanic activity. Around 20 million years ago, a grouping of volcanoes in a 100 mile area formed a supervolcano that  erupted continuously for thousands of years and created several calderas. The remnant of one of these calderas became the site of the Gila Cliff dwellers.  I saw the evidence all around me: in the rocky monoliths, the red rocks and the layered outcroppings made of tufa and ash. There are hot springs in the area, so there is still some volcanic activity here. Who knows if one day this area is going to erupt again? Just look at Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.
I passed by several towns along the way: Hillsboro, Kingston, Cuchillo, Monticello: very colorful , quaintnames. One or two of these towns seemed to be effectively ghost towns, with a few dozen residents in them. Shaun and Holly, a couple who I made friends later at the Gila cliff dwellings swore about the lovely bed and breakfast they stayed in at Kingston. Must check that out, sometime in the future. The towns were created due to mining  and cattle activity. Oftentimes, when passing by these sort of towns, I'd ask myself: "Who would live in this remote place?" only to catch myself thinking later: "Hmm, maybe I could stay here if...." The scenery can do that to you.
Ah, the scenery. Here they are:

When I had gone through the forested portion of this part of the Gila National Forest which is 2,710,659 acres in area (cf. wikipedia) and started to descend down to the Mimbres valley, these were the sights I saw:

I passed through the town of Mimbres on the way to the Gila Cliffs. Here I went through private land and  the Gila National Forest  at several points. It had been raining in the area in the past week, so wildflowers, mainly sunflowers, were in full bloom, carpeting the fields and meadows in a blanket of yellow.

And any high country would not be complete without a lake: Lake Roberts, in this instance. I read that there was good fishing here, especially of native rainbow trout.

I stopped so often to take photographs with my trusty Canon Rebel XS, I wondered if I would ever make it to the Gila Cliffs. I did, eventually, and thereby hangs another tale.

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