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20140103_121928.jpgSo we pointed the truck over toward Emory Pass.  After a short while we are leaving the desert and entering the forest.  A great transition and an exciting road to go for sure.

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This trail has every type of curve sigh ever made and when they say 20MPG, you better take then seriously.  At least that is the way of going in a one ton extended cab dually, not the same as in the ol’ BMW 325 for sure.

Some real neat sites along the way too…

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View album HERE then click any picture for slide show.

This is a beautiful piece of the country for sure and in these parts, if you get tired of the lay of the land, all you need to do is head for the hills, it will change for you and provide a great show along the way.  We drove through snowy mountains and creeks were running from snow melt from the sunny slopes.  Yep, really neat country.

Our planned destination was the Gila Cliff Dwellings, about a 2 1/2 hour drive from our camp at Riverbend.  We left early around 8:00AM and got back home about 8:45PM but it was worth it.  Did I say the road is curvy?  Well it sure is, if you could go a straight line here to there, 59 miles, but the shortest route with a ROAD is 110 miles and most all is on the twisties at a blistering 20 MPH avg speed.  It was worth the trip…

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View album HERE then click any picture for slide show.

There are six caves that make up the national monument.  One of these is a huge room with over 40 various dwellings built inside the openings.  One of the six has evidence of it’s use being a work room, the work would have been processing food and cooking.  There were 32 species of plants used for food and 24 of those were wild.  Staples included corn, beans and squash along with the wild items such as grapes, berries, acorns and pinion nuts.  It is estimated the dwellings were built around 1100 AD and inhabited until approximately 1400.  That was a time before horses were introduced to north America by the Spanish and approximately 400 years before Columbus!  There were thousands of these types of villages throughout what is now Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.  The general consensus is that a drought ultimately caused these people to move on.  Before they began building this type of structure they would have built pit houses.  The archeological evidence indicates they had lived in the area since approximately 530 AD, so in total these people were here a very long time.  Brochures from the forest service indicate that about 80% of the dwellings we saw and walked through were the original work of the native people.  The first archeological recording of the Gila Cliff Dwellings was in 1884 and at that time vandals had already looted and damaged site.  For a much deeper review of information on Gila National Monument click here.

It is amazing that there were so many people in this vast geographical area for such a long period of time and at one point, they simply moved on.  It is believed that these people were the assessorial Hopi and ultimately settled on the Hopi Mesas in northeast Arizona.

So before we knew it the time had crept to 4:00PM the park was closing.  Shadows were getting long and we headed out.  One of the points of interest we were planning to see if time permitted was Gila Hot Springs.  The town is a short distance from the Cliff Dwellings and looks like it is a hoping place during the summer.  There are also hunting guides and campgrounds adding to the diversity of attractions in the area.  There is a very rustic settlement that includes a campground and yes, hot springs.  We were told the natural flowing water is approximately 104 degrees.  Nice on these cold winter days.  Here are some pictures from a Google search of Gila Hot Springs.

We saw a really unique rig in the campground.

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This is a go anywhere camper, set up for boondocking in any remote location.  It had the look of being from Germany and I suspect it was shipped over in a container like some others we have met.  Ya gotta love it.