There’s something about being disconnected that helps you to really focus on what is right in front of you. No phone coverage, no power in our camper for a few nights, no gps to navigate us through the treacherous mountain climb and having to stop to ask a local where we might find the Mennonite bakery. Not sure my kids have actually EVER seen me use a paper map. We are so dependent on our phones to help us move through life. But this trip is about being out of our element and these moments have surely made me feel a bit uncomfortable.
These last few days have been filled with lots of things to see. We visited the White Sands Missile Range on our way out of town. They still use this base to test missiles and on site they have a great museum with tons of rockets and military items. All the boys were in awe. We had to enter a military base (which the kids and I have never been on one) and Rad being in the Navy showed us the ropes. I never think about Rad’s early years way before me and it was fun to hear stories about him in the Navy.
We had several hours of driving to get to City of Rocks, New Mexico, where we would camp for 2 nights. We were using this site as a basecamp to visit the Gila National Monument and Cliff Dwellings. The campground was a massive field of 40 foot rocks. You could choose a water and electric site (which were all full) or camp without such luxuries (boon docking) but be tucked into the mountains of rocks. The kids LOVED climbing and hiding and throwing their airplanes from way up high. We would have loved to hang out here more but the Cliff Dwellings were calling us. It took us the better part of 2 hours to drive to over 8000 feet in elevation over huge mountain ranges and steep cliff drops (with no guardrails) to get us through the park to where the cliff dwelling hike started. When we arrived at the visitor center, the ranger said, YOU MADE IT! At first we wondered if she was expecting us, and then we realized the hard task we had just completed just getting to that location. Originally we had planned to haul the trailer up there and boondock somewhere. WOW we were glad we didn’t.
The cliff dwellings at Gila National Forest were built by the Mogollon tribe. They think there were about 50-60 people that lived here. They only lived here for one generation between 1280 AD and 1300 AD and then they left and never returned. Can you imagine the work it took to build this and then having to leave this beautiful home. It was like walking on sacred ground. We felt like we were in a sanctuary of sorts with so much history all around us. The fact that we could walk in and all around them made it really special. It was well worth the effort it took to get there.
In this area, there are many hot springs where 150 degree water bubbles out of the rocks. I (meaning mostly me) wanted to experience soaking in a hot springs pool amongst the cliffs. We had to find one where people actually wore clothes and where kids were welcome (this proved challenging!). We found one close to the dwellings and after some inspection, we decided to go for it. When we arrived there were 2 pools (“hot tubs”) open. 1 pool had a lady sleeping amongst the rocks, and another had 2 younger girls in it. We opted for the one with the lady sleeping since there was more room. I am sure she loved having us! We threatened our kids that they had to enter and remain silent while in the pool. That lasted a while until Mabry decided to start swimming under water. The pool could have been hotter and I really wanted it to be relaxing but with 3 kids and constant unspoken looks to them to be quiet, it wasn’t relaxing at all. When the other girls left we went to the other pool, which was a bit hotter. Mcree and Mabry let loose and were swimming all around, which stirred all the dirt under the little pebbles and Rad and I looked at each other and agreed it felt like we were in a dirty koi pond. The relaxation quickly came to an end.
We arrived back to City of Rocks during a beautiful sunset. The skies have been unbelievable these last few mornings and nights. We agreed that while there is a lot to see and experience, often times the kids are just happy to be at the campground. There is always so much do around the camper and campground but the moments we can just sit and chat are the most special it seems.
The next day, we drove about 7 hours through beautiful landscape (Gila National Forest) and winding roads and huge mountain ranges to get to Winslow, Arizona where we would be for a few days.