Travelogue – Silver City, New Mexico

My DH and I took a long weekend trip to the southern part of New Mexico for a little mini vacation. We had been to the Silver City area a decade ago when we were riding endurance with our horses, but never actually went TO Silver City since we always camped at the race and were out in the landscape all day for our rides. This time, we took advantage of being able to go to tourist-y things without hauling a trailer with horses, and also took advantage of the trip to meet up with friends for dinner Saturday night.

Silver City is a small, artsy town that has become a favorite retirement spot – and probably 70% of the people walking around were firmly retirement age and up. The town originally sprang into being because of the mining industry (no surprise there, given the town name), but it was also the home of Billy the Kid for a while when still living with his mother and stepfather, who was a local blacksmith. The town has lots of historic buildings from the late 19th century. We visited the local historical society which houses several small exhibits, including one on the changing mining industry over the last century, as well as a very nice one that shows off vantage points of the town from the third-story cupola, with signage and photos of the view from each of the windows showing what the town looked like in the 1880s.

We spent Saturday mostly walking around town and visited a small botanical garden with lots of plants native to the area. It was still a little early in the growing season for things like the butterfly garden, but some of the other plants were either starting to bloom or are mostly evergreen in this climate. The prickly pear (far left) can be harvested and I actually had prickly pear iced tea for lunch that day (which tastes a bit like hibiscus but more herb-y). The yucca plant (center) has strands of fiber that can be harvested from the edges of the leaves and woven or combined to fashion rope or thread. The cholla cactus (far right) is also called “jumping cactus”. The yellow flower/seed pods you see detatch very easily and are covered with long hairs that will latch on to pretty much anything and take a ride. We had to be careful when we rode in this area as they’ll stick into the horses’ legs or undercarriage pretty easily and are very irritating as you might guess!

The following day, we took a long and winding road north out of Silver City and spent the day at the Gila Cliff Dwellings national monument. After a quick stop at the visitor’s center, which has a great exhibit about the native peoples who lived in this area, and the natural resources that they used for day-to-day life, we headed out to take the mile-long loop up to the dwellings themselves. Built into sandstone cliffs with rooms built from the local rock, this area housed the Mogollan people for several centuries before they left the area in the early 1300s. Unlike many similar cliff dwelling sites, these aren’t roped off and you can actually walk through the spaces, see the building techniques, as well as some art that remains on the walls.

We also opted to stop at one of the campgrounds on the way back where there is another small lodging as well as more art/glyphs, and while I didn’t get a photo of it, that area also has the rocks where the Mogollans “harvested” the red paint they used to create the pictographs you see on the left.

A really fun trip and a reminder we need to do more of these long weekend outings. Our state has so many amazing locations filled with interesting history and amazing landscapes!

7 thoughts on “Travelogue – Silver City, New Mexico

  1. What an engaging trip! I Love all the history you share, just enough to make me want to leave home and go hunting for history treasures! The landscape is so vastly different out west then in the east.

  2. My in laws lived in Silver City until 1988. My father in law worked at the Tyrone mine until he retired in the 80s. It was just a tiny town when they lived there and downtown was only about 3 blocks long. I loved going there. The air was so fresh and clean. The altitude took me a day to get used to though. Gorgeous country.

  3. Sounds like a great trip! I would love to see some of the cliff dwelling sites, but I don’t live close enough for a quick weekend trip. I’ll need to plan something a touch longer when I eventually get out there.

    My parents at one point had a prickly pear cactus in their back pasture. We tried the fruit once, before they took the cactus out. I used to want to ride endurance, too. But I was never in good enough horse-riding shape to be in the saddle that many hours at one stretch.

    1. FYI, we live about 10 minutes from Bandelier and Tsakawi, so if you decide on a longer trip for cliff dwellings, we can give you the local tour.

      Endurance does take a lot of time. Part of the reason we gave it up. The 25-milers are do-able with a moderately conditioned horse/rider, but the 50 milers really take lots of miles in preparation. When we were riding seriously, I rode probably 4-5 days a week. Not necessarily a ton of miles, but kind of like for marathon training, some short fast days, some long slow ones and occasional just fun stuff with friends so it didn’t become boring for the horses.

      1. Cool, thanks! 🙂

        I can imagine that endurance riding is a lot like marathon training in several ways. When I rode (semi) regularly I always had to laugh at people who thought that horseback riding was pure fun and no work. Even just pleasure riding takes so much more work than people generally think.

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