American Locations 28 – Gila Wilderness Area

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

Gila Wilderness Area, New Mexico

Upon leaving City of Rocks State Park, we drove southwest on Rte. 61 back out to Hwy. 180. We continued northwest to Silver City. This is the gateway to the Gila Wilderness Area. We set up in a private campground in town. I don’t mind roughing it, but it’s always refreshing to get electric and water hook-ups.

On the first day we drove northwest out of town on Hwy 180. We were quickly in the mountains.

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It was yet another scenic drive.

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At Alma, we turned east on Rte. 159 and continued to Catwalk Canyon. This was a short fun hike. We started out walking along and over a stream coming down out of the mountains.

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The trail soon grew steep as we entered the canyon.

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The trail led onto a steel catwalk.

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Originally, silver had been mined far up the canyon, and the canyon was so steep and narrow a pipe had been bolted to the side of the canyon to sluice the mineral out. To maintain the pipe a catwalk had also been installed. When the mines closed the pipe was removed but the catwalk was left intact.


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At the end stairs lead down from the catwalk to the creek so you can hike further up the canyon, but we didn’t.

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We drove back out to Hwy. 180 and continued north to a bad decision. We had learned of Mogollon, a ghost town way up in the mountains. When we first turned off the highway I enjoyed the drive. It was a good two-lane blacktop road. As we climbed higher and higher into the mountains the road was kickback after kickback as it quickly gained elevation. The views were great and the drive was fun.

But after about five miles the road deteriorated. It narrowed to nearly a single lane, and the pavement was bucking and crumbling, and it began tilting, as if about to slide down the mountain. And I was driving a twenty-three foot motor home. As I said, a bad decision. But I was determined, so we continued slowly for another two miles. We had come seven miles, and the ghost town was supposed to be nine miles from the highway. So it wasn’t that much farther.

Then we drove around a bend and came to a ‘road closed’ sign. Luckily, the road had been closed at one of the few places I had room to back up and turn around. So with my wife out guiding me so that I didn’t drive off the road and go crashing down the side of the mountain, I got turned around. We discussed parking the motor home and hiking the final two miles, but there was no place to leave it. So we carefully creeped back down the broken-up road until we reached good pavement, where we could proceed at a normal pace. Back out to Hwy. 180, we drove southeast back to our campground in Silver City.


The next location is Gila Wilderness Area 2




American Locations 27 – City of Rocks 2

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico

We spent two days hiking over and under around and through these rocks.

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 There were some formations more interesting than others.

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This looked like a throne. With a queen holding her scepter seated on it.

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This rock looked it had been placed and poorly balanced, but it hadn’t been.

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No matter whichever way we went, it seemed we always ended up at the observatory. The part of the shed visible in this photo houses a telescope used for night sky viewings. Out here in the middle of nowhere the dark sky was fabulous. But the park rangers only did this on the weekends, so we missed it.

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Here are two good sunset shots.

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We thoroughly enjoyed City of Rocks. We spent hours wandering around here.

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The next location is the Gila Wilderness Area, New Mexico



American Locations 26 – City of Rocks

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico

Leaving Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, we drove north on Hwy 54 back into Alamogordo, then turned southwest on Hwy 70. We drove past White Sands National Monument and continued to Las Cruces, where we got on Interstate 10. Heading west, we were not far out of the city when we were stopped for our second border check. This was different from before, as it was done on an interstate. The two westbound lanes were reduced to one, then we were brought to a complete stop in the right lane. Luckily there wasn’t much traffic. As before, first dogs sniffed around while we were stopped, then we drove slowly through some large scanning devices, then we stopped again for an agent to ask a few questions. It was done quickly and politely and we were soon on our way. It just surprised me this was done on an interstate.

We continued west on I-10 until exiting at Deming. We drove northwest on Hwy 180 to Rte. 61, upon which we drove northeast to a cut-off for City of Rocks State Park. We passed a hot springs with a campground, but continued on to the park. We selected a site to ourselves, which wasn’t difficult since they weren’t busy.

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There were no hook-ups, but at the visitor center we could take a shower and also re-fill our fresh water tank. It held 30 gallons, and we had a gasoline generator built into the motor home, so being without hook-ups was no problem. As soon as we parked our rig we went exploring. City of Rocks is a crazy jumble of large rocks piled in a heap in the middle of flat desert. Of course they hadn’t been piled, or moved at all, it was a trick of erosion.

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The campsites are right up in the rocks.


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The sites had names. This one was Crab. I suppose that is what the rock formation is supposed to resemble.


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I don’t believe I’d want to camp at this site. There is a large rock ready to topple over onto a tent if it was pitched here.

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It was a lot of fun wandering among them and climbing all over them. No trails were marked, you just picked you own paths.

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The next location is City of Rocks 2


American Locations 25 – Oliver Lee Memorial

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, New Mexico 

It was late afternoon by the time we left White Sands, so we didn’t want to drive far. We headed northeast on Hwy 70 back into Alamogordo, then turned south on Hwy 54. From there it was a short drive to Oliver Lee Memorial State Park. The campgrounds is a good distance back from the highway, at the base of the mountains.

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The campground was nearly deserted, so we had our choice of sites. We picked one with a good view.

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After driving and hiking in the sand all day, we were tired. After dinner I relaxed in my lawn chair and enjoyed the sunset.

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The next morning, refreshed, we took some short hikes. The first was to see their cactus garden.

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A trail leading deep into Dog Canyon begins here. I saw several young people with backpacks and bedrolls embarking on it, so it must lead far into the wilderness.

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My wife and I took a short loop trail instead, which follows a nearly-dry creek bed. There had been several farms here that used the water from the creek, so it must run stronger at a different season. These are ruins of one of the farms overlook the dry creek.

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We didn’t linger very long into the day here. We were unknowingly destined for what would be one of the most fun places on the entire trip.


The next location is City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico