Saturday, October 22, 2016

An Article from the Huffington Post

White, Conservative, Christian Friends — I Wish You Really Were Pro-Life 

John Pavlovitz
Pastor and Writer

You tell me that you’re voting for Donald Trump for one reason: because you’re pro-life.

Despite everything you’ve seen and know about this man (much of which you openly lament), you say that you just can’t support someone who doesn’t share your burden, and that you’re voting solely this issue.

Life, you say is the ultimate deal breaker for you.

I wish that were true.

I actually don’t believe you’re pro-life, I believe you’re anti-abortion, which is a far more selective and convenient defense of Humanity. From where I’m standing it seems as though “Life” for you, comprises a very narrow demographic — one that bears a striking resemblance to you. The unborn are easy to advocate for because you can idealize them into something palatable to you, something benign and comfortable, something in your own image.

You see, it’s not that you’re really pro-life, you’re pro-straight, white, Christian fetuses.

I can tell by how often your heavy burden for the sanctity of life evaporates upon delivery. In so many cases this compassion really has a nine-month expiration date, as if life begins at conception but ends upon leaving the birth canal. The completion of that third trimester is actually the shelf life of your passionate regard for much of the living.

From where I’m standing it seems as though ‘Life,’ for you, comprises a very narrow demographic — one that bears a striking resemblance to you.

Because if that life you say you so treasure, one day converts to Islam, you label it dangerous, you see it as a threat, you applaud suggestions of its expulsion, you deny it open worship.

If that life eventually comes out as LGBTQ, you condemn its soul, harass it in your workplace and church, try to prevent its marriage, tell it where and when it can use a public bathroom. You bully it and drive it to suicide.

If that life has brown skin and wears baggy pants and gets gunned down during a traffic stop, you not only have little grief over its loss, but readily blame it for its own execution.

If that life is strapped to a prison gurney and pumped full of drugs that will cease its lungs from expanding while its terrified mind comprehends it all, you celebrate the occasion as justice being served — after a last meal you resent having to pay for.

If that life has to endure its formative years in overcrowded, grossly underfunded public schools, you tell it to “pull itself up by its own bootstraps,” while nestled in the cloistered, privileged gated community of a Suburbia where bootstraps come with a birth certificate.

If that life has working parents who can’t make a living wage, you label it a lazy, unproductive drain on society always looking for handouts and trying to work the system to its advantage.

Because if that life, you say you so treasure, one day converts to Islam, you label it dangerous, you see it as a threat, you applaud suggestions of its expulsion, you deny it open worship.

If that life needs health care because its undeveloped heart can barely beat on its own, you’re suddenly empty of empathy and low on generosity — unless it can pull its own weight and pay the premiums.

If that life doesn’t eat enough fruits and vegetables because it lives in urban areas where such things are scarce and financially prohibitive, you ridicule its obesity and sickness as signs of cultural overindulgence and gluttony.

If that life is sexually assaulted you want to blame it for its promiscuity and immodesty, and wonder why it didn’t just keep its legs closed and why it can’t just move on and why it is so easily offended by “locker room banter.”

If that life is one day sent overseas to defend liberties here — separated from spouses, children, and parents and placed directly in harm’s way, you’re far more cavalier exposing its vulnerability and far less concerned about whether or not it is sacred.

If that life doesn’t reside in the continental U.S. or speak English and comes here fleeing oppression, poverty, and war you’ll never understand, you ask it to go back and “go through the proper channels”, instead of the barely sea-worthy makeshift raft or the stinking, stifling storage container it nearly died in trying to get here.

I wish you were pro-life, my friend — I really do.

I wish all human beings mattered as much to you as caucasian embryos do. I wish that once these diverse babies are thrust out into a violent, difficult, painful world; many enduring disadvantages, obstacles, and trials you will likely never experience — that you actually gave more of a damn about them.

I wish that once diverse babies are thrust out into a violent, difficult, painful world you actually gave more of a damn about them.

Because if you did, Life would be far bigger to you.

You would want to do more than prevent abortions.

You’d want to prevent hunger and poverty. You’d want to prevent illiteracy and child mortality and forced prostitution. You’d want to prevent racism and bigotry and homophobia. You’d want kids in the “bad neighborhood” to have great schools and teachers just like your kids have there in the “good neighborhood.” You’d want to support single parents and the terminally ill and the mentally ill by helping them carry their oversized burden.

You’d want religious freedom even for people who aren’t Christian. You’d want LGBTQ people to live and work and worship and love as they desire. You’d want people of color not to have to fear law enforcement and not to be disproportionately incarcerated. You’d want fewer guns in the hands of kids and criminals and those with mental illness. You’d want to prevent violence and workplace termination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. You’d want a living wage for all people who work hard, and healthcare for their children that won’t have to replace their daily meals.

I am a person of Life. That is what my faith calls me to be.

I don’t celebrate when a woman terminates a pregnancy (I honestly don’t know anyone who does), but my advocacy for life also goes well beyond the womb, and includes a far more diverse swath of Humanity than only those who look, speak, or worship the way I do. It includes immigrants and Muslims and Atheists and my enemies.

I wish we were partners in that wider affirmation of the living, because that would be cause of celebration and reason for hope and a visible sign of America’s greatness.

I wish we were partners in that wider affirmation of the living, because that would because of celebration and reason for hope and a visible sign of America’s greatness.

I am pro-all life because it is all sacred; not only when its heart begins beating, but as it beats and when it struggles to beat and up until it ceases to beat. I defend all life equally.

I celebrate it all fully. I protect it all passionately.

I really wish you did too.

Originally published on

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Day in Paris

Today is our first full day in France and we are still moored in Le Pecq. We signed up for an all day excursion to Paris. This morning we have a bus tour of the city and then in the afternoon we tour the Louvre. We take a bus from the ship into Paris and then explore the city with a tour guide. We will be in Paris for most of the day. We started the day with a great breakfast on the ship with Deanne and Dave. Once breakfast was done we returned to our room to get our things and then stopped by the front desk for our cards. These cards have to be collected each time we leave the ship. We each get two cards - one has our name and cabin number and the other has a letter and a number (this is the group we are in for the day). At 9:00am we were on the bus and heading into Paris.
We entered the city from the N13 and continued onto Avenue de la Grande Armee. This took us to Place Charles de Gaulle with the Charles de Gaulle Etoile and the Arc de Triomphe. We drove around the Arch and then down the Champs-Elysees.
Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel
Then we turned down Avenue Winston Churchill and drove past the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais. From here we could see the Alexander III Bridge. We turned left onto Cours la Reine and made our way to Place de la Concorde. The bus driver drove around the plaza a couple of times and then turned onto Boulevard de la Madeleine. We drove down this road and eventually the Paris Opera House appeared on our left. We drove around the Opera and then over to Place Vendome and around the plaza. From here we headed over to the Louvre. We drove in front of the Louvre and past the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. Next we headed over to the Hotel de Ville where we parked. From here we walked over to Notre Dame. We had some time to walk around the area and the Cathedral and explore. After about 45 minutes we returned to the bus and headed to a restaurant for lunch. We ate at Au Pere Fouettard in the Les Halles area of Paris. The food was just barely okay and the service was mediocre. I believe we spent about an hour in the area and then headed back to the bus.

Leaving Les Halles we headed over to the Louvre for a guided tour.
Venus de Milo
At the Louvre we separated into smaller groups and then went on our tour. This was my favorite part of the day. Seeing some of the masterpieces that you only see in pictures was humbling.
Mona Lisa
To be in the presence of such great art was an experience I will always be grateful for. We saw the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, and the Mona Lisa. Today I was able to cross off some things from my bucket list. I thoroughly enjoyed the Louvre and I want to go back and spend the whole day there.
Winged Victory
The building as well as the art was spectacular and has so much history. I even enjoyed the glass pyramid. While there we also got to see the 'Rose Line'. After the guided tour we had a little time to look at the gift shop and then it was time to board the bus and head back to the ship. But before we left Paris we made one more stop at the Eiffel Tower. On the way we drove by the Musee de l'Armee and Eglise Saint-Louis-des-Invalides. At the Eiffel Tower we were able to get out of the bus and take some pictures. Fifteen minutes later we were on the road again and on our way to the ship.
Eiffel Tower
Back on board the ship we had a little time to rest and get cleaned up for dinner. I took some time to upload pictures and do some editing. Then at 6:30pm we joined Deanne and Dave for a drink and the daily briefing in the lounge and the at 7:00pm we headed to the dining room for dinner. Tonight it was just the four of us so there was no having to make up conversation. It turned out to be an incredibly relaxing evening. After dinner I was able to finish editing pictures and get them posted on facebook. Also while we were at dinner the ship left the dock and started our travel toward Vernon. Now it is time to get some sleep - we have a busy day in Giverny and Vernon tomorrow.
Grand Palais and Alexander III Bridge

Friday, September 30, 2016

A Walking Tour of Saint Germain En Laye, France

The shuttle from the airport dropped us off at the entrance ramp for our ship. We are cruising on the Viking Kadlin. It is docked in Le Pecq, a few miles west of Paris. As we exited the shuttle we were greeted by Lionel (our cruise director for this trip) just at the beginning of the ramp to the ship. He gave us some basic information while porters took our bags on board. When he completed his talk we went to the registration desk and signed in. Our room wasn't quite ready but they had a buffet set up in the restaurant where we could wait and get a bite to eat. We met our friends, Deanne and Dave in the lobby and they sat with us while we ate (they had arrived earlier and had already eaten, but their room was ready yet as well). By the time we finished eating our room was ready so we got our key and went to the room to settle in. Deanne and Dave are next door to us and they went to their room to rest up a bit. Thomas and I unpacked and got the room arranged the way we wanted and then washed up and got ready to go on a walking tour or a small town near where the boat was docked.

At 2:00pm Deanne, Thomas and myself headed to the dock to meet the bus for the tour. Our tour guide (Florence) greeted us and got us settled on the bus. The ride to Saint Germain En Laye was only about five minutes. But we took the bus because it is a total uphill climb to the city. The bus driver dropped us off at an entrance gate for a park/garden and that is where our walking tour began. The ship provides a QuietVox system for tours. This allows our tour guide to just talk normally into a microphone and it transmits to a earbud, allowing you to be in a big group and in the back and you can still hear everything.
Chateau Saint Germain En Laye
Our walking tour involved The area of Saint Germain En Laye where there was a castle (Chateau Neuf) and still existing castle (Chateau Saint Germain En Laye) and the gardens surrounding them. Chateau Neuf had fallen into disrepair and for safety reasons had to be demolished, but there is one part of it still there. The building still standing is now a restaurant but it was the birthplace and home of King Louis XIV. From this area in the gardens we had a great view looking toward Paris and we could even see the top of the Eiffel Tower peeking over the top of a hill. She explained the history of the area - it being a castle for the King.
The Gardens of Chateau Neuf
But it didn't get used much because the eventually built Versailles and Chateau Neuf wasn't anywhere near as opulent as Versailles. The garden is surround with a walkway and a low wall where you can sit and take in the view of the Seine below. There are manicured hedges and bushes., trees lined up in neat rows and a few statues and monuments. On the opposite end of the garden from Chateau Neuf there is Chateau Saint Germain En Laye and The Church of Saint Germain En Laye. After walking around the gardens for a bit we entered the courtyard for Chateau Saint Germain En Laye. Here she pointed out some carvings and stain glass windows and told us their meanings. Then we entered the Chapel at the chateau (which is now a museum) and got a little more history.
The Church of Saint Germain En Laye
From the Chateau we crossed the road and entered The Church of Saint Germain en Laye. Here she pointed out the memorial chapel of King James II and VII, the elaborate pulpit and a couple of statues.

This brought us to the end of our tour and we had the option of taking the bus back to the ship or walking. We decided to walk as it was all downhill. It turned out to be a nice walk and only took us ten minutes. Back at the ship we went to our room and got cleaned up and changed for dinner. We had some time so we read the daily newsletter that they leave in the room so that you know what is going on for the day. We had the one for today but we were told that from now on we would get the one for the next day put in our room while we were at dinner.

There were a few things planned for this afternoon and evening. First we had to participate in a safety drill which was awkward and confusing. I have to say that if there was an emergency I think a lot of people wouldn't make it. Some people showed up to the wrong muster station and others took a long as 20 minutes to show up. Finally after 25 minutes we were dismissed.
Cocktail Hour - Tom Collins
We took our life jackets back to the room and then went to the lounge for a cocktail hour an orientation to the ship and cruise. We got to meet some of the staff and visit with other guests. By the time that was completed it was time for dinner. So we all made our way to the restaurant (which has open seating) and Deanne, Dave, Thomas and I sat at a table for six. There wasn't a table for four available. Not long after we sat down a couple showed up and asked if they could join us. There were introductions and we met Martha and Matt. They live in Tyler, TX but are originally from Shreveport. LA so we hit it off immediately. We had a great time visiting with them and dinner turned out to be a blast. And the food was amazing. We had choices for each course and they cruise has free wine, beer and soda during lunch and dinner. Our table had a few different starters and desserts but we all had the same main course - Coq au Vin. Everybody enjoyed their meal immensely. After dinner and some great conversation we all called it a night. After all the traveling we were all too tired to do anything else. Tomorrow we have a full day in Paris so I guess it is time to get some sleep.

Paris & the Heart of Normandy

Last year Thomas and I were contacted by some friends to join them on a Viking River Cruise from Paris to Normandy along the Seine River. We jumped at the chance - we have been wanting to take a river cruise for a while now. So this morning we left Santa Fe for our Paris & the Heart of Normandy adventure.
Map of the River Cruise
Our flight from Albuquerque was at 12:10pm so we didn't have to get up early and rush. But as usual for both of us we were up at 6:30am. Which worked out well. It gave us a chance to bring the dogs bowls and food over to Bruce, empty the garbage cans, close the blinds and turn off the air conditioning. It was 7:45 when we decided to leave for the Albuquerque International Sunport. That was a good time for us to head out since it meant we wouldn't hit morning work traffic as we drove through Albuquerque. We arrived at Airport Parking where we left the car and took the shuttle to the airport. When we got to the Delta counter there was no one there so we used the kiosk and checked ourselves in, but there was no one to take our bags (not at the counter and not outside at the drop-off). So we found a place to sit and wait for someone. We only had to wait about five minutes when a gentleman showed up and checked in our bags. Then we made our way over to security. The line was short and the TSA agents were friendly and cordial. In only a few minutes we had passed through security and gotten our shoes back on and we were ready for our trip to begin. We had about two and a half hours to wait for our flight so we just sat and read. Before we knew it they were calling us to board our flight.

We are flying Delta all the way to Paris and the first leg of our trip took us from Albuquerque to Salt Lake City. The boarding process was surprisingly fast and efficient. We were on a smaller plane than usual - only four seats across (two on each side of the aisle). the flight was mostly good except for a man and woman behind us who talked incessantly and at a volume better used when talking to someone across a crowded room. Also, the guy, who worked or has a hobby in alternative medicine, kept opening different scents that he was explaining to the woman he used in aromatherapy. Unfortunately in that closed space the scents sent my allergies into orbit. I ended up having to take one of my prescription allergy pills to counteract it. Other than that we just read for the duration of the flight. We arrived in Salt Lake City in under an hour and a half.

We were in row 8 so we were out of the plane quickly and made a beeline for the restrooms. After that we needed to get something for lunch. We landed at the 'B' gate area and we needed to make our way to the 'D' gate area for our next flight. So we started walking keeping our eyes peeled for somewhere to eat. We ended up at our gate and hadn't found anything we wanted. So we decided to go to a place just that we passed just before getting to our gate. We had burgers and fries at a place called smashburger. Pretty good for airport food. Once we were done eating we found a place to sit and relax for the next three hours until our flight to Paris (which is 10 1/2 hours). We read, played on the computer and relaxed. Time passed quickly and before we knew it we were boarding our flight for Paris.

They started boarding at 4:30pm and we took off at 5:15pm. We ended up reading from the time we got into our seats until the Captain turned off the seat belt sign when we reached cruising altitude. Then we watched movies - I watched Lincoln and Thomas watched The Jungle Book. During that time they came around with drinks and pretzels and then an hour later we had dinner. I had ravioli and Thomas had chicken. With that we had a salad, cheese & crackers, bread, shrimp cocktail and a brownie. When the movies finished Thomas tried to sleep and I went back to reading. Thomas had a hard time relaxing - he felt antsy and fidgeted for a while, took a stroll around the cabin and tried reading. Eventually he was able to fall asleep for a while. Sometime after 10:00pm (Santa Fe time) they brought us a ham sandwich and cookies. I kept reading (my book is really good - I am reading The Monuments Men) and Thomas watched another movie. Then about two hours before we landed (which was 9:00am  Paris time) we got some breakfast. It seemed that all we did was eat on this flight. I have to admit that I eventually became restless. Being on a plane for ten hours is trying. But with a lot of self control we endured. We landed a little bit early (by that we had wheels on the ground) but it took us almost 30 minutes to taxi to the gate.
Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport
It seemed to take forever. Finally we arrived at the gate and made it into the terminal. I think we landed at Terminal 2 Gate B or C but I am not sure. Anyway, we started following signs for baggage claim. We walked and then walked some more and eventually arrived at a train. We took this train from Gate B or C to K. We walked a short distance and then had to go through customs. This was so quick and easy. When we arrived at customs there were two people in front of us. When it was our turn the woman looked at our passports, stamped them and sent us on our way. From this point we found a Baggage Claim board and located the baggage claim we needed to get to for our flight number. So we walked some more. Finally we arrived at Baggage Claim 31. We had to wait about 15 minutes for our bags. I was wearing my FitBit and from the gate we landed at to the baggage claim was .68 miles. I do believe that this is the largest airport we have ever visited. Once we had our bags we exited the terminal and found the Viking River Cruises kiosk and checked in. The man there greeted us and then walked us to a waiting area. He told us he needed four more people and then we could get on the shuttle for the ship. Thankfully we only had to wait ten minutes and we were off. The drive from the airport to the ship dock took us 50 minutes. I tell you I am glad we made it to the ship - it has been a long journey but now we can relax and enjoy our cruise.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Scenic Byways and Ghost Towns

Well, we are headed home today but first, we wanted to do some letterboxing and drive the Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway and the Lake Valley Backcoutnry Scenic Byway. You can read about the letterboxing at Lake Valley and Chloride Letterboxing. We left Silver City via US 180 and then turned onto NM 152 at Santa Clara. It wasn't long before we reached the intersection with NM 35. This is where the southern route of the Geronimo Trail ends (but for us today it was our beginning). Very near this intersection is a New Mexico Scenic Byway sign but it doesn't tell you which Scenic Byway. All along NM 15 from NM 35 to Hillsboro there weren't any signs stating that we were on a Scenic Byway much less the Geronimo Trail. We reached the intersection with NM 27 in Hillsboro and turned south here to drive the Lake Valley Backcountry Scenic Byway, stop and visit the ghost town of Lake Valley and plant a letterbox.
At the beginning of NM 27 there were two signs - a New Mexico Scenic Byway sign and a Backcountry Scenic Byway sign. But again it didn't state that we were on the Lake Valley Backcountry Scenic Byway. The Lake Valley Byway starts near I 25 and Caballo Lake and traverses NM 152 and then down NM 27 to Nutt, NM. Along the part of NM 27 is the ghost town of Lake Valley and it is about 16 miles south of Hillsboro. Between Hillsboro and Lake Valley we only saw one Backcountry Scenic Byway sign and again it didn't say which byway. There may be more signs between Lake Valley and Nutt but we didn't drive that part of the byway.v

Anyway, we turned onto Lake Valley School Road. We ended up reaching a gate that blocked entrance into Lake Valley. It was about 9:00am and we saw this sign on the gate . . .

Just when we had decided to turn around and leave, a man in a golf cart showed up and opened the gate.
Lake Valley Home
So we went in and drove to the School House which is now a museum and information center. Here we got a walking tour brochure and talked with the man about the history of Lake Valley. As we asked questions and he answered them we looked around the museum. Then we headed out to do the walking tour. You follow a trail around the town and get information about each building. We started to walk but decided it was too hot. So we got back in the car and just drove around the town and took pictures. Lake Valley was a mining town and it had a famous mine called the Bridal Chamber.

Here are some more links about Lake Valley . . .
Lake Valley Historic Townsite and Backcountry Byway
Lake Valley New Mexico
Lake Valley - Silver Mining Heydays
Tales of Lake Valley

While we were taking our tour Thomas noticed a structure (which looked like an informational sign) out along the highway.
View from Lake Valley
So after our short tour of the town we got back on NM 27 and headed to the sign to check it out. It turned out to be an informational sign about the Lake Valley Backcountry Scenic Byway. So we stopped and took pictures and read about the byway. From this sign you can see the Lake Valley school house and the town. From Lake Valley back to Hillsboro we saw two Backcountry Scenic Byway sign and none that said Lake Valley. But we did see a sign for the Geronimo Trail (which we weren't on that byway, maybe it was just to let us know we were getting ready to meet up with it). After a few minutes from that sign we arrived at the stop sign at NM 152 and I noticed a nice informational sign about the Geronimo Trail (just like the Lake Valley one). So we stopped, read about the trail and took some pictures. After visiting the Geronimo Trail sign we then continued along NM 152 to I 25. Between Hillsboro and I 25 we encountered two Lake Valley signs but no Geronimo signs. I know I mentioned these signs a lot but for some reason it bothered me that the Scenic Byways weren't marked that well. If you start your drive somewhere in the middle you don't have a clue that you are on a scenic drive. The drive this morning from Silver City to Lake Valley and to I 25 was incredible. There was just so much beautiful scenery and wonderful places to stop and explore.

We got on to I 25 and drove to Truth or Consequences so that we could stop at the Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway Visitor Center.
Pioneer Store Museum, Chloride, NM
I didn't check the hours of the center and when we arrived the place was closed. Today being Sunday, it didn't open until noon and we were there at 10:00am. It wasn't a big deal, I just wanted to get some brochures and informtion. So we left T or C and got back on I 25. We drove for a while and then took Exit 83 which brought us to NM 181/52. This is the northern route of the Geronimo Trail.
Monte Cristo Gift Shop & Gallery, Chloride, NM
Not far from I 25 181 & 52 split and we continued our drive on 52 headed for Cuchillo, Winston and Chloride. From NM 52 there is a turn for NM 142 which takes you to Monticello. We opted to skip going there because of time so we just continued on NM 52. Again we were on the Geronimo Trail and the views were incredible and the drive relaxing and wonderful. We passed through Cuchillo and then Winston. In Winston we turned onto Republic Rd. (which at some point becomes County Road CO06. Then we turned onto Wall St. which brought us to Chloride. In Chloride we visited the Monte Cristo Saloon and Dance Hall / Gift Shop and Gallery; the Pioneer Store Museum; the Grafton Cabin and the Hanging Tree. At the Gallery and the Musuem we talked to a mother and daughter (Mrs. Edmund and Linda Turner). We found out that there are 11 people living in Chloride and all the buildings are privately owned. We had a great visit and enjoyed the museum immensely.
The Hanging Tree, Chloride, NM
Here are more links about Chloride . . .
Chloride New Mexico
Chloride, New Mexico: Ghost Town Pioneer Store Museum
Chloride - Center of the Apache Mining District
Chloride, New Mexico
A Resurrection: Chloride, New Mexico

Chloride is off the beaten path but the drive and the town are worth the visit. Make sure to visit the Pioneer Store Museum (you will learn so much about the town). There is no charge to visit the museum but please consider making a donation. They have worked extremely hard to conserve the history and charm of the town.
View Leaving Chloride
We left Chloride and retraced our drive to I 25 so that we could make our way home. The drive back home was uneventful. We didn't make any stops, I think we were just ready to be home after a busy weekend. We had so much fun, learned a lot about the area around Silver City, got to drive on some amazing scenic byways, visit a couple of ghost towns and see places we hadn't visited before. I am hoping we can do this on a regular basis to see other parts of New Mexico.
Sacred Datura
Silver City – Hillsboro – Lake Valley – Hillsboro – Truth or Consequences – Chloride – Santa Fe 
396 miles | 7 hours 26 minutes

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Ruins and an Alligator

Today our plans included some ancient ruins and a big tree. We were up early this morning because we had plans to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Yesterday on our drive on NM 35 we saw a sign that said it could take up to two hours to reach the park. We had also been told by some friends that the drive takes at least an hour and a half. We started our drive in Silver City and took NM 15 (we didn't see a sign on this road). There is incredible scenery along this drive and there is beauty around every curve (and there are quite a few curves).
View from NM 15
The road winds its way through mountain terrain and is narrow in some areas. You get fantastic views of the valleys below, you pass through pine forests and there are impressive rock formations as you make your way north. New Mexico highway 15 is also part of the Trail of the Mountain Spirits National Scenic Byway. As we drove I asked Thomas to pull over and stop so I could take pictures. We also made two stops along the way to find letterboxes and you can read about that part of the trip at Boxing NM 15, Trial of the Mountain Spirits and Big Tree Trail. There is a scenic overlook with a short trail and interpretive signs at Copperas Vista (Senator Clinton P. Anderson Scenic Overlook). We stopped here long enough to read all the signs and take some pictures. Then we continued along the road and made another stop at a pullout with an interpretive sign for Alum Mountain. This spot also has some fantastic views. From this point we weren't too far from the Cliff Dwellings so we didn't make any stops until we reached the Visitor Center.

At the Visitor Center we got information from a woman working there, I collected my National Park Passport Cancellation Stamps and bought a couple of post cards, a patch and a small book about the Cliff Dwellings. Then Thomas and I watched the 15 minute video about the Mogollon Culture and looked at the exhibit of artifacts. Before we left the Visitor Center to head to the trail I asked the woman about their Senior Ranger program. She handed me a photocopied booklet and told me that when I finished it I could give it to any Ranger to get my patch. The trail to get to the Cliff Dwellings is not at the Visitor Center. You have to drive about two miles from the Visitor Center to the trailhead. There is also a small museum at this area.
Gila Cliff Dwellings
When we got to the trailhead we were handed a map and given a short orientation and then we could head out to the dwellings. The trail starts after you cross over a bridge. As we reached the end of the bridge a javelina ran across the trail and down a hill. Then we saw movement off to our left and saw three more javelinas. The trail starts out easy and you cross a few bridges over a creek and then the trail follows along the left side of the creek. This part of the trail is level and easy as you walk along the creek on your right and the cliff wall on your left. Eventually you reach some steps that take you up to the cliff dwellings. Once you reach the top of the steps the dwellings are just a short distance ahead. There are Rangers there that can guide you and answer questions. We had a great guide. Her name was Kess and she was volunteering as part of her college credit. She took us through the dwellings and answered all the questions we had. When we finished walking through the dwellings we headed down the trail back to the trailhead and museum. While on the trail and at the dwellings I filled out some of the Senior Ranger booklet and when I got back to the trailhead I finished it. When that was done Thomas and I walked through the small museum. Before we left the park we returned to the Visitor Center so I could turn in my booklet and get my patch.

After that we drove back down NM 15 to Silver City. In Silver City we went to the historic downtown area and walked around and the got something to eat. Now that we ate and were rested it was time to continue with our day.

Our next stop was past Fort Bayard at the Fort Bayard Administrative Site Trailhead. The goal for this trip was to see the Fort Bayard Big Juniper Tree.
Big Alligator Juniper Tree
This tree is the second largest alligator Juniper Tree. Its diameter is 70.2 in, circumference is 18 feet 4 inches, crown spread is 62 feet, and height is 63 feet. We took the Big Tree Trail and walked between two and two and a half miles to get to the tree. The trail is relatively easy. Along the trail we walked through a gate and crossed over the Wood Haul Trail and passed the intersection for the Sawmill Wagon Trail. During our walk we went through stands of oak and maple trees and saw beautiful meadows full of wildflowers. Actually there were wildflowers all along the trail. We finally reached the Big Tree and it is pretty impressive and worth the hike. We spent a little time hanging out at a picnic table next to the tree. After about 30 minutes we made our way back to the car. I guess we walked around five miles and it was a great way to spend the afternoon.

We returned to Silver City and decided we had earned the right to get ice cream. So we made a quick stop at Dairy Queen and got blizzards to take back to the hotel. Now that we have taken showers we are relaxing and discussing our day. We had a fantastic time at the Gila Cliff Dwellings and enjoyed the Big Tree.

Silver City – Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument – Silver City – Fort Bayard Administrative Site – Silver City
113 miles | 3 hours 52 minutes

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Town of Stone, a Scenic Byway and an Old Mine

We are in Silver City and it is our first day in the Gila Wilderness. We woke up sometime around 7:30am and we got our things together and put them in the car. Then we went back into the hotel for a quick breakfast. Around 8:45am we left the hotel and set out for the day. Our plan was to go to the Visitor Center and then head out to Reserve, Alma, Mogollon and Glenwood for some sightseeing and letterboxing.
At the Visitor Center we talked with the woman working there (who was extremely nice and knowledgeable) about things in the area and we picked up a map and some brochures. When we were getting ready to leave we mentioned we were heading up to the Catwalk and the woman said "No, you aren't!". When we asked why, she told us that they had some bad rains last night and there was too much debris on and around the Catwalk that they closed it for the weekend. This is the second time we made plans to visit the Catwalk and the second time we were deterred. The first time happened years ago and I will forego that long and embarrassing story for now. So with this news we made changes for the day. We decided to start our day at City of Rocks State Park. This is a place we have been wanting to visit but never made the time. Now was the time. There was also a letterbox there which just added to the trip. You can read about our letterboxing adventures at Stones, a Pig, a Byway and a Burro. We arrived at the park and went directly to the Visitor Center and talked with the volunteer there. She gave us a map and some information about the park and also gave us a handout so that we could look for some petroglyphs. You can park at the Visitor Center and walk all around the park or you can drive the loop road and stop at different spots to do some exploring. We chose the latter. We took the loop counterclockwise and immediately encountered one of the more well known rocks - 'Toilet Rock'. I took a few pictures and then we moved along. A short distance ahead we stopped at the Botanical Garden. We took a short walk along a trail that starts here and then returned to the car. We continued our drive along the loop and made some stops along the way to look at the formations and to look for the petroglyphs. We only found two of the petroglyphs, the others we had trouble following the directions. There are picnic tables scattered throughout the rocks and trails that you can walk. The formations are incredible and we enjoyed walking around them. One of the other things we noticed was an abundance of wildflowers. I couldn't believe how many wildflowers we saw at this time of year. We spent about two hours here and thoroughly enjoyed our visit. Now it was time to continue on with our day.

City of Rocks is off of NM 61 on City of Rocks Road. We had come from the west to get to the park and when we left we headed east on NM 61 to the junction with NM 152. We turned left on NM 152 and only drove a short distance before turning right onto NM 35. At this time we were on the Trail of the Mountain Spirits National Scenic Byway. About a quarter of a mile along NM 35 we saw a restaurant and decided to get a late lunch as it was a little after 2:00pm. We ate at La Tienda del Sol. This place is a restaurant, store and gas station. It is located between San Lorenzo and Mimbres and it is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere. We both had burgers. They were delicious and the service was wonderful. Once we had our fill we began our drive on NM 35. We had two goals - plant a letterbox and find a letterbox. The drive is along a narrow, two lane, blacktop and curvy road. The scenery is beautiful and the drive relaxing and we had the good fortune of having no traffic. There are few places where you can pull off and look at the views. There are also side roads that you can explore. We also noticed trail heads up and down the road. When we got to mile marker 16 we encountered a nice Trail of the Mountain Spirits Welcome Sign and I planted my letterbox near this sign.

We continued our drive, turned into a picnic area and ended up at Lake Roberts where we took a short walk along the lake before returning to the car. After our walk we looked for another letterbox before continuing our drive. We finished the drive on NM 35 to NM 15 and on to Silver City.
Tyrone Mine Reclamation
We continued south of Silver City on NM 90 and passed the town of Tyrone. We were headed for a letterbox. We turned onto Tyrone Thompson Road and immediately on the left was an overlook. We stopped here and and read a little about the copper mining in the area and the reclamation process. From the overlook you were looking at an area that had been reclaimed so it was quite an education. After this we went in search of the letterbox and then headed back to Silver City. Since we had a late lunch we weren't really hungry for dinner but we felt we needed to eat something or we would probably wake up in the middle of the night with cravings. We stopped and shared a sandwich, which was just enough to hold us until morning. We then returned to the hotel and took showers. We are now relaxing and we plan on getting a good night's sleep for our adventure tomorrow.

Silver City – City of Rocks State Park – Mimbres – Lake Roberts – Silver City – Burro Mountain Road – Silver City
145 miles | 3 hours 46 minutes