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Photo of the Day: San Felipe de Neri

San Felipe de Neri Parish, Old Town, Albuquerque, NM

San Felipe de Neri Parish, Albuquerque, NM

The Map is not the Terrain

Four Corners Marker

The Four Corners Marker, where Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico meet

There isn’t anything special here, at least as far as the eye can see. There are no natural boundaries or landmarks. No buildings or structures of note. Even the surrounding scenery is unremarkable. Only a small plaque identifies the significance of this particular point.

As with many silly things in American life, this one started with an act of Congress. Read More…

Photo of the Day: Gargoyle

Silver City, NM Gargoyle

Gargoyle looming over historic Silver City, NM

On the Catwalk

Catwalk National Scenic Trail, NM

We knew we weren’t in Central America any longer the moment we first set foot on the rock-solid hanging walkway of the Catwalk National Scenic Trail in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest. As much as the suspension bridges reminded us of those we had traversed in Guatemala’s Reserva Natural Atitlan, the absence of any obvious structural deterioration assured us we were firmly in the safety obsessed U.S. of A.

The “catwalk” itself follows the route of a water pipeline that was built in the 1800s to serve the local mining industry. Considered an engineering feat of its day, the pipeline required constant repair. Workers who walked along the elevated pipe dubbed it the catwalk, a name that has stuck to this day.

Catwalk National Scenic Trail Bridge

The original pipeline is gone, along with the mining industry. In its place the Civilian Conservation Corps built this hiking trail through Whitewater Canyon. With its steel girder walkway clinging to the steep granite canyon walls that once hid Geronimo and later Butch Cassidy, the mile-long trail is one of the most unique we’ve encountered.

Like the Gila Cliff Dwellings, the Catwalk trail is in a remote part of Southwestern New Mexico. We found quaint Silver City to be a good base for exploring both attractions.

Editorial Note: The Catwalk Recreation area closed on May 26,2012,  due to the Whitewater-Baldy Fire that is currently menacing the Gila Forest. The Catwalk is expected to remain closed “for some time” but, with any luck, will escape damage and reopen soon.

Gila Cliff Dwellings: Cave living at its finest

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

If Bandelier National Monument introduced us to New Mexico apartment living circa 1300, Gila Cliff Dwellings showed us the McMansions of the era. Compared to the cramped cubbyholes of Bandelier, the Gila residences are huge – more than large enough to accommodate groups of people standing upright. In all, the ancient Mogollon people constructed 46 stone masonry rooms in five large caves.

The site’s remote location, deep in the Gila wilderness and a two hour drive from the nearest town, Silver City, has helped prevent the theft and vandalism that has plagued similar historic sites. The deep cave structures, and dry climate, have also protected the Cliff Dwellings; preserving, for example, wood beams that were originally cut in 1275.

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Touring the Gila Cliff Dwellings requires a fairly easy one mile round trip hike, with a modest 200 foot elevation gain. Expect to spend about an hour exploring the area. We have it on good authority that the longish drive to reach Gila is enhanced with a high performance rental car.

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