Archive for the ‘Silver City’ category

Richard Visits the State Capitol

January 30th, 2010

I’ve lived in New Mexico for many years and have spent a great deal of time in Santa Fe.  You know – The City Different – the place that gives all of us a different perspective on New Mexico.  A travel Mecca for people around the world.  And a place that most of us who live here take for granted — as a result, we have our favorite places to visit and therefore we miss a lot.

Recently, I visited the State Capitol building for the first time.  My wife, Janine, had been invited by Governor Richardson to meet with him about Travel Guide NEW MEXICO and in-state travel in general.  Since I wasn’t on the invite list, I tagged along and started to look around the inside of the Capitol Building while Janine was in her meeting.  After a couple minutes I asked one of the guards if it was possible to take a tour and he said, “Sure, this is the people’s building … feel free to go wherever you would like and be sure and check out the great art we have here.”

Art? In the Capitol Building?  Feel free to walk around?  Unescorted?  Go wherever you want to go?  You’ve got to be kidding!  So I started off walking into the visitor’s gallery of the House of Representatives and the Senate, located on opposite sides of the building.  I sat and looked in amazement at our seat of government and in awe of the fact that I could just walk around and check things out.

The art is magnificent and you are even allowed to walk into the reception area of the Governor’s suite and check out the art there.  Wander the hallways and there is nothing short of a great art collection at every turn in every hallway.

New Mexico’s State Capitol was built in 1966 and from the air looks like a giant Zia sign.  There is no dome … the only capitol building in the country without one!  The atrium on the main floor is awe-inspiring.  Just walk in and look up and you’ll see what I mean.  Take in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors … walk up the steps or take the elevator.  It is one building that you need to see if art is your love.  Or, if you are just interested in how government works.

Martin Leger, the Advertising Manager for the New Mexico State Tourism Department, has great stories to tell of his father’s days as a state senator and I look forward to talking with him more about his Dad’s time in the “Roundhouse”, as it is called by those who work there.

If you prefer, you can arrange for a guided tour.  Call first (505/986-4589) to make arrangements for a once in a lifetime tour of a building where laws are made and art is king!  Janine and I have promised that everyone who comes to visit us will be treated to a tour of OUR State Capitol.  A building open year-round for all of us to see and enjoy!  Make sure you add it to your list of places to visit while in Santa Fe.   It’s an easy two minute walk from the Plaza … so you have no excuse for not stopping by!

Behind the Scenes with Richard: Trail of the Ancients

January 16th, 2010

Long before I moved to New Mexico I had been told stories by my grandfather and grandmother of the great cliff dwellings and Native American ruins that they found during their travels here in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s.  I just couldn’t imagine what these “houses” must have been like.  I found pictures in National Geographic and read books in the library and eventually, as technology advanced, sought information on the internet.

Bandelier, Chaco Canyon, Aztec, Salmon Ruins and Gila are all part of our early Native American Culture along the Trail of the Ancients.

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was when we sat down in a Travel Guide New Mexico television production meeting and the topic of the “Trail of the Ancients” came up.  It was interesting to learn that, perhaps, many of the cliff dwellers came from the same Native American tribes and how they split and moved in different directions.

I knew this was a trip of a lifetime and I wasn’t disappointed.

I have visited Bandelier near Los Alamos many times when relatives and friends visit and I always look forward to going back.  To me it is a very magical place in a magical location.  Often times we spot deer drinking and relaxing along the stream where early inhabitants drew their daily water supply and irrigated their fields.  If you’re up for a hike you can climb out of the canyon and peer down on the ruins or head south to take in the two waterfalls that feed into the Rio Grande.

However, I had no idea that Puye Cliffs on the Santa Clara reservation was just a few miles from Bandelier near Espanola.  And I had paid only a brief visit to Aztec and Chaco Canyon and couldn’t wait to get to the Gila Cliff Dwellings near Silver City.

At Puye Cliffs, Lucretia Williams met us in her Santa Clara native garb and gave us a first hand tour of this wonderful place.  In many cliff dwelling communities we see a main “village” under the cliff dwellings.  At Puye Cliffs the “village” is on a mesa above the cliff dwellings … something I was unaware of until Lucretia drove us (you can climb but dusk was approaching) to the top of the mesa for a spectacular view of the surrounding area.  Now this is a place where I could have lived!  You have to take a guided tour here and don’t be hesitant to do so.  Your family will learn a great deal about the early inhabitants and the Santa Clara people today.

Chaco Canyon is one of those places that you scratch your head and ask why people came here in the first place?  Many theories abound with trade from Mexico and California not to mention trade routes from the north and east as well.  From the air we were told you can still see the outline of these routes.  What we don’t understand is why Chaco was chosen.  Wood beams were cut and hauled many miles to make the ceilings of the dwellings secure and the rocks used to build the structures were carried from about five miles away.  Imagine doing all of that hundreds of years ago before horses and wagons entered the scene.  It is just mystical.  Be sure and ask the guides about the theories of Mayan and Aztec influence in the region and at Chaco in particular.  Especially as 2012 looms before us …

North of Chaco is the Aztec ruins located right in downtown Aztec.  The most notable part of Aztec is the reconstruction of the Great Kiva, which gives you a real look at the kiva as a meeting place and this is one HUGE kiva!  I was blown away by its size and can only imagine what actually took place here.  One incredible place for a family reunion!

Right next door to Aztec is the Salmon Ruins named after the family that homesteaded the area surrounding the ruins and kept them in pristine shape.  Interestingly enough these ruins were not pillaged by those searching for pottery and other ancient artifacts.

It was well into the 1970’s before the ruins (just outside of Bloomfield) were excavated and research is still ongoing there today.  The Salmon brother’s home is still intact and if you peer into the windows you can see dishes still in the kitchen.  Other buildings of the Salmon family are right next to the ruins.

Take time to talk with the volunteers and staff members inside the visitor’s center.  They’ll be happy to show you around and explain what they have found there.   Larry Baker, the superintendent, has been there since the first excavations and has many great stories to tell about the ruins and the people believed to live there.  He’ll talk your ear off with wonderful information and will make you yearn for more!  Larry is an all around great guy with a true passion for what he does. Someone who has undertaken his job as a true labor of love.

The Gila Cliff Dwellings require about a 90 minute to two hour drive through the Gila National Forest from Silver City and it is well worth every mile you drive.  The views of the forest are nothing short of eye popping.  The hike to the cliff dwellings is about a half mile along a narrow and unpaved trail.  I wondered about this before we started and then quickly began to understand that this walk is one the Ancients made daily and hiking without the benefit of concrete or asphalt gave me a real feeling of peace and serenity along the small stream lined on both sides by massive rock formations.

When you first see the dwellings you might feel a little disappointed.  Why? Well, you can see the face of the dwellings but the magic here is the 100 plus foot climb up to the dwellings and then your first look of what lies behind the stone face.  There is a whole city built back into these giant caves with hundreds of rooms with a view!  I was taken back by what we experienced.  And the great part is that you can climb into the cave to experience much of what life might have been like hundreds of years ago.  I’m adding this to my list of places to take family and friends when they come to visit.

Gila is a full day trip.  Two hours in … two hours out … and a few hours of just looking around.  You can camp there and might want to consider doing so. We talked with a few campers who said they had never seen stars at night like they saw at Gila.  I can only imagine.  Oh … there are other isolated cliff dwellings you can see and enter along the hiking routes outside of the main cliff dwelling area and near the camp grounds.  Great places for the little ones … and old ones … in your family to explore!

Staying in Silver City as part of your visit is well worth the time.  Billy the Kid … museums and a growing art community make this a great place to “camp” while exploring.  Fort Bayard is an 1850’s army post which was home to the famed African American Buffalo Soldiers and a national cemetery with graves dating back into the 1800’s.  This national treasure is still today a place where our soldiers are laid to rest.  I must ad that several of our Buffalo Soldiers who were stationed here were honored with the nation’s highest award for valor …  the Medal of Honor.

There is much more to see in Silver City … Pinas Altos and early gold mining town and home, for a short time, to the famed Judge Roy Bean.  Stop in at the “PAPO” … that would be the Pinas Altos Post Office and Ice Cream parlor as the locals call it,  for one of the biggest and most delicious banana splits that I have ever consumed!  Tell them that Richard sent you.

And remember … the Trail of the Ancients is your trail to another great family adventure in the Land of Enchantment!

Visiting Silver City, New Mexico

January 2nd, 2010
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Nestled in the foothills of the Pinos Altos Mountains at an elevation of 6,000 feet, Silver City, New Mexico borders the Continental Divide. The summer climate is cool and comfortable. You’ll enjoy crisp clean air and sunshine and their FOUR GENTLE SEASONS!

In New Mexico’s southwest corner, Silver City isn’t the kind of place people just stumble onto. Silver miners sought it out in the late 1800s, and more recently the town’s Old-West charm and high-desert location made it a magnet for outdoorsy and creative types. The historic district is home to casual restaurants that put the area’s green chiles to good use. Outside town, The Nature Conservancy runs Bear Mountain Lodge, a hacienda adjacent to birding, biking, and hiking opportunities in the Gila National Forest.

Silver City was recently selected as one of the healthiest places to live and retire.  The colorful history of Silver City, New Mexico, dates back to 1870 when silver was discovered above La Cienega (Marsh) de San Vicente. Tales from those early days tell of characters like Billy the Kid, Geronimo, Judge Roy Bean, “Dangerous” Dan Tucker, and the Hearst family. You can explore the ancient cultures and see collections of distinctive black-on-white pottery that was developed one thousand years ago by Mimbres Indians inhabiting the Silver City area.

Visit the Silver City website here.

Jack’s Tracks – Holiday Inn Express at Silver City

January 2nd, 2010
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Travelin’ Jack here – roving bull-dog reporter. My job: checking out pet friendly spots around New Mexico. Whenever I’m in Silver City, I stay at the pet-friendly Holiday Inn Express! The pet-friendly hotel features comfortable rooms, HDTV, and for the humans in your party, enjoy a complimentary full hot breakfast, have a workout in the fitness center and enjoy a relaxing soak in the Jacuzzi.

The Holiday Inn Express in Silver City is my kind of place!

Western New Mexico University Museum

January 2nd, 2010
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Housed on the campus of Western New Mexico University, The WNMU Museum houses one of the world’s most complete and comprehensive collections of Mimbres pottery, basketry, and other artifacts, in the Eisele Collection of Prehistoric Southwestern Pottery and Artifacts. The museum is open Monday to Friday from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM and on Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The museum is closed on university holidays. Admission is free and the museum is fully handicapped accessible. These museum’s stunning examples of ancient pottery reveal a glimpse of the cultural and artistic life of the area more than 800 years ago.

Check out our videos of other New Mexico museums here.

Pinos Altos, New Mexico

January 2nd, 2010
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Historic Pinos Altos (Tall Pines) is located just six miles north of Silver City on NM 15 at an elevation of 7040 feet. Nestled into the Gila National Forest, the town began in 1860 when three frustrated 49-ers, Thomas Birch, Colonel Snively and another guy named Hicks, stopped to take a drink in Bear Creek and discovered gold.

The Main Street of this charming old gold-mining town is like an old western movie set. Many of the old buildings date back to the 1800′s and Visitors can soak up the rich history with our museums and other historical sites; enjoy great food and entertainment (including melodrama theatre); enrich themselves with fine contemporary Southwestern art; try their hand at gold panning; or simply delight in the beautiful mountain views of the Gila National Forest have been restored and decorated with original memorabilia and artifacts.

Gila Rangers and the Billy the Kid Shootout Reenactment

January 2nd, 2010
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The controversy over Billy the Kid’s life and death started when he was shot and killed by Pat Garrett in July 1888. But did Billy die, did Garrett really kill him or was somebody else the victim of Garretts bullets? The legend holds that Billy, also known as William Bonney Henry McCarty and Henry Antrim, was born in New York, or was it Texas? His mother was Catherine Antrim, or was he born to her sister and raised by Antrim?

The controversy of his life stems far beyond what documented history can tell us. However, a few things about Billy’s life are not controversial. He was raised in Silver City, New Mexico, by Antrim and known then as Henry McCarty. After her death, he had no role models, got involved with shady characters and began his brief life of crime. Also not disputed is that Billy the Kid attended Sixth Street Elementary School in Silver City. A cabin from the movie set of The Missing was donated by the movie’s director Ron Howard and sits at the Murray Ryan Visitor Center near the site where Billy (a.k.a. Henry) and his mother lived. So, while the stories of Billy change as quickly as time passes, one fact that will always remain is the Kid will always be known as one of the Wests most rumored and remembered outlaws.

Read more about Billy the Kid in Silver City here.

Gila Cliff Dwellings in Silver City

January 2nd, 2010
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Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument offers a glimpse of the homes and lives of the people of the Mogollon culture who lived in the Gila Wilderness from the 1280s through the early 1300s. The surroundings probably look today very much like they did when the cliff dwellings were inhabited. The monument is surrounded by the Gila National Forest and lies at the edge of the Gila Wilderness, the nation’s first designated wilderness area.

This designation means that the wilderness character of the area will not be altered by roads or other evidence of human presence. Hiking in the Gila and Aldo Leopold Wilderness areas is a popular activity in the area. There are also several popular hot springs nearby. The closest, Lightfeather, is a twenty-minute walk from the Visitor Center. The most popular is Jordan, a 6- or 8-mile hike from the Visitor Center, depending upon the trailhead used.

Read more about the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

Fort Bayard in Silver City, New Mexico

January 2nd, 2010
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In 1865, General Carlton, commander of the District of New Mexico, requested that a new fort be established in the southwest region to protect the early settlers, miners and travelers from the Apache. Fort Bayard, located in the homeland of the Apache, was established in August 1866 by Company B of the 125th U.S. Colored Infactry, under the command of Lieutenant James Kerr. He established an encampment near the mining communities of Pinos Altos and Santa Rita. In 1899 the post of Fort Bayard was transferred to the Army Medical Department.

Fort Bayard was home to Native American Indian Scouts and several Buffalo Soldiers, including William Cathay (a.k.a. Cathay Williams), who was the only known female Buffalo Soldier. Military leaders such as General George Crook and “Black Jack” Pershing spent time at Fort Bayard, as well. Among its medical leaders were Major D.D.M. Appel and Major Dr. George E. Bushnell.

Both completed outstanding research discoveries and procedures in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis. R.N. Dita Kinney, later director of the Army Nurses Corps, supervised the inclusion of female nurses in the Army Medical Department. Fort Bayard is one of the many nearby communities just outside Silver City, less than 15 minutes from downtown, south on Highway 180.

Behind the Scenes in Silver City, New Mexico

January 2nd, 2010

I truly need to start this blog with a special thank you to Lola Polley of the Convention & Visitors Bureau and her staff … Mayor James Marshall … Christine Steele of the Silver City Sun News … Lanny Olsen of the Silver City Holiday Inn Express and his staff and a host of others who made our trip so enjoyable!

It never ceases to amaze me about all of the truly wonderful and friendly people we meet during our travels.  I don’t believe I’ve been anywhere in the State that someone hasn’t come up to me to say “hello” and welcome me to their community.  Silver City is no exception.

Only once before had I been here and it was a quick drive through.  This time we spent three days getting acquainted and filming a whole new adventure for you blog readers and watchers of our weekly TV show!  Let’s get started …

Silver City is the home of Billy the Kid’s mother and it is rumored that he shot his first victim here, although that hasn’t been confirmed.  So we started our adventure with a re-enactment of a Billy the Kid Encounter.  It was a lot of fun and the folks who put on the “show” for us do this regularly right next to the Visitor’s Center where a replica of Billy’s mothers’ home is located.  These folks rehearsed and practiced for a couple days to get the scenes just right and we enjoyed every minute of providing them with their justifiable “15 minutes of fame!”

On Location in Silver City

On Location in Silver City

The city is rapidly becoming an art mecca with over 30 galleries and growing.  I was taken back by the number of great local and regional artists displayed and it is obvious that every gallery owner takes great pride in the art, jewelry and pottery they have in their stores.  The art district is right off the main drag … easy to find … and anyone can point you in the right direction.  Just fun to walk around … stop at one of the many café’s for a cup of coffee between browsing excursions.

We also found some great restaurants right on main street and had a great lunch (one of the only ones where we actually had time to sit and chat) at Diane’s, the owner of which also owns the pastry shop across the street so make sure you save room for pie and a great assortment of other deserts!

About a half hour south is City of Rocks State Park.   Now we’re talking some great big rocks out in the middle of no where just sitting there by themselves waiting to be explored.  Lots of camping facilities and RV hookups are available to make this a great overnight stay or weekend get away.  As I said in our TV piece, this is a great place to bring the kids … turn them loose … and encourage them to wear themselves out playing “hide and seek!”  The park is another one of those eye-openers that you just don’t expect to see and when you make the circular drive around the entire City of Rocks complex you can’t help but stop … look … and wonder about all of the different formations and how the heck they got there!  Of course, the park’s visitor’s center will explain all of that.  Photographer/Director Chuck and I had a great time climbing and exploring ourselves and watching many families doing the same thing!  Let me know if you get lost while climbing around … just curious!

Prepare yourself for an incredible drive to the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  It’s about 40 miles but will easily take you 90 minutes to get there and if you want to truly enjoy the scenery figure on about 2-hours.  It is a great drive through the Gila National Forest and don’t be surprised at all the wildlife you’ll see along the way, particularly if you start early in the morning to arrive at the Cliff Dwellings when it opens at 9am.

It’s about a half-mile from the parking lot to the Cliff Dwellings along an unpaved path that winds along a small creek that once was a river.   The river is still there … next to the parking lot.  And then once you reach the cliffs it’s over 100 vertical feet to the dwellings themselves.  From down below the view is breathtaking but nothing like you’ll see once you our inside the dwellings.  I did say … inside.  This is a great park because you can actually walk through and around several of the dwellings built into the natural rock caves.  They go forever and give you a wonderful perspective of what life might have been like.

The view from inside, by the way, is just as spectacular as the view from down below.  It’s almost as if the people who lived there shared one enormous picture window to the rest of their world.

In the campgrounds nearby you can hike other trails that will take you to smaller dwellings easily accessible along the paths and once again you can explore some of them inside and out.  A great hands on adventure for you and the kids!  And someplace you’ll want to visit more than once … isolated … serene … peaceful with vistas for miles once inside and during the drive to and from Silver City!

Fort Bayard is just a couple miles outside of town and was home to the famed African American Buffalo Soldiers from the mid-1800’s.  Several of these brave soldiers received the nation’s highest medal for valor, The Medal of Honor.  Today the Fort is home to New Mexico’s State Hospital but for many years it was home to those suffering from Tuberculosis.  The officers quarters, the old theatre and other facilities are there and, with a guide, are open to the public.  They do re-enactments here, too, so check with the Visitors Center for more information and dates.  A real “hidden treasure” here is the National Cemetery where our brave soldiers are still being buried amidst wonderful surroundings and incredible history.

Dr. John Counts, president of Western New Mexico University invited us to visit with him and see the WNMU Museum, which houses that world’s largest comprehensive and complete collection of Mimbres pottery and artifacts going back over 800 years!  Dr. Cynthia Bettison is the director of the museum and I doubt you’ll ever meet anyone anymore passionate about her job than Dr. Bettison.  We spent several hours with her and learned so much about this incredible collection of pottery.  We were given a sneak peak into the area where pottery pieces are put back together, analyzed and categorized.  Fascinating to say the least!  We’ve promised Dr. Bettison that we’ll be back to this great state treasure that is open year round (closed during normal university holidays) to the public.  I would recommend you call first for hours … but do add this to your Silver City list of places to see.  And if Dr. Bettison is around be sure and corner her and ask a few questions.  My guess is that once you ask one, she’ll be off and running with you on a tour you won’t forget!

You have to take an hour or so to visit the “PAPO” … that would be the Pinos Altos Post Office, which just happens to house a great ice cream parlor, too.  PA, as it is called by the locals, is on the road to the Gila Cliff Dwellings and once was home to famed barrister, Judge Roy Bean.  Geronimo and several other notables visited PA during its gold mining heydays.  And the ice cream parlor?  The hands down best (and biggest!) banana split I’ve ever had.   Wish I’d had time to finish it … make sure you do while you’re enjoying Silver City!

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