Last week I left you with the tantalizing promise of Garth Brooks and the Gila Wilderness. And, for this week at least, I’ve kept my promises!

We stuck around Las Cruces to see Garth Brooks open a five concert run at the PanAmerican Center. Most concerts I attend are intimate affairs with a couple hundred people. Garth Brooks played to a packed house of 12,500 screaming, cheering, uproarious fans.

Was I prepared for the spectacle? No. Was it an experience? Oh yes.

On Saturday, after a stop by the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market and a hike in the Organ Mountains, we bee-lined it to the middle of nowhere.

Serendipitous good luck brought us to Haywood Hot Springs. We tried to stay at a nearby State Park but the campground was full. Haywood wasn’t much to look at from the outside, but inside was a spectacular community of campers enjoying natural hot springs under a canopy of spring green trees. I didn’t want to leave the following day, but we had more wild places to find.

We decided to explore the Gila Cliff Dwellings. To reach them we prodded Hobbes along a 40 mile winding, narrow, mountain road to the town of Gila Hot Springs. Cell service was non-existent, but the scenery was gluttonously good.

The Gila Cliff Dwellings are an ancient Mogollon town built into a deep cave. The craftsmanship is similar (though noticeably different) from the Chaco-like construction we saw in the Four Corners. The Mogollon’s only inhabited these dwellings for about 50 years before moving on.

We spent the night in the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, making fast friends with a couple traveling from our home state of New Hampshire. We had a great evening sharing travel stories, dinner, and few glasses of scotch.

I woke up the next morning to a shivering Lemhi staring me in the face. Lacking cell service, I didn’t realize how cold it was going to get overnight. He gratefully hopped inside my sleeping bag with me as our breath froze in the chilly air.

Mike eventually coaxed us both out of bed (Lemhi with a bowl of dog food, me with a hot tea) and we made plans to hike into the Gila Wilderness.

The Gila Wilderness was the first designated Wilderness in the world, championed by Aldo Leopold. It reminds me a lot of Idaho: remote, rugged, and devoid of people. The day quickly warmed up as we headed out for a ten mile hike to the Middle Fork of the Gila River via Little Bear Canyon.

Our hike into Little Bear Canyon started with a long traverse of scrubby forest, followed by a descent into an ever-narrowing canyon that terminated at soaring cliffs along the Middle Fork River. It smelled like summer, and I was in heaven.

We returned to Hobbes around lunch and drove the winding mountain road out to Silver City. We quickly decided Silver City wasn’t where we wanted to spend my three days of work, so coaxed Hobbes along another (stunning) mountain road to the quirky town of Truth and Consequences.

So, here we are, in a town named after a 50’s game show. We’ve been camping along the shores of Elephant Butte Reservoir, soaking in the hot days and letting Lemhi swim whenever he feels like it. Hobbes is covered in sand and muddy dog prints. C’est la vie, no?

Next week we plan to immerse ourselves in pueblos old and new. Chaco, Acoma, maybe we’ll even get to Taos Pueblo while the weather is tolerably warm. Both Lemhi and I agree: no more freezing nights!

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  • Kyle says:

    Love these updates and the photos (the ristras are very cool)! Especially the most recent posts as you guys are in our old haunt — my wife went to grad school at NMSU. Thanks for sharing.

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