Historic Silver City New Mexico, established in 1870, advertises itself as the “Gateway to 3.3 million acres of solitude.” Read on to relive the past with Patricia as she shares to us her recent visit to this Silver Mining Town.
Relive the Past in Silver City New Mexico
Just out of town I was able to explore the Gila Forest and Wilderness and travel on the Trail on the Mountain Spirits National Scenic Byway. These excursions also provided some excellent bird-watching.
This small high-desert mining town with a population of only 10,000 once thrived on its silver bounty but now produces copper. Western New Mexico University provides art and culture such as artist lectures and music performances for the public.
Nearby surroundings afford other adventures, including the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument built by Mogollon Indians 700 years ago; the Fort Bayard National Historic Site, home of black Buffalo Soldiers; and several old mine tours.
My sister and I flew in from Phoenix, a flight of an hour and a half. Our tour of the city the next day began at the Antique Mall, located in the old part off the city on Bullard Street. This large establishment contained jewelry, pottery and other art. We purchased some turquoise rings and had fun examining the thousands of items for sale. Bullard Street was named after John Bullard, one of the city founders. He discovered silver in 1870 and was killed by Apache Indians one year later at the age of 24.
To get ourselves oriented on what was important to see we headed to the Murray Ryan Visitor Center, which had interesting displays that included a big round ball of copper. A box of sand was surrounded by hanging wooden blocks displaying desert animal tracks and scat. We also examined a variety of brochures, books and a booklet titled “Historic Silver City, Scenic Tours,” which proved to be quite useful.
From there we headed to the Silver City Museum, which was located in what was described as the 1881 Mansard/Italian H.B. Ailman House. The house was three stories with more exhibits up a very steep flight of stairs.
I learned that Billy the Kid spent some early school years in Silver City, that the area was — or had been — rich in copper, silver and gold, and that early Indians mined turquoise.
In the afternoon we went exploring in the Gila Forest on the Trail of the Mountain Spirits. The road leads to the famous Gila Cliff Dwellings, the first wilderness area set aside in the United States in 1924 by Congress. President Theodore Roosevelt once hiked here and worked hard to save the area for future generations.
We drove past juniper, scrub oak, pines and rubber rabbitbrush, which draws in different species of butterflies in different seasons. The seasonal berries on the juniper trees attract birds and bears. The birds we saw included an assortment of woodpeckers, flycatchers and jays. In spring this is an incredible breeding area for neotropical birds from Mexico and Central America.
Small cactus plants included many from the agave species, yucca and others. Beside the road were big stacked boulders, old lava washed down and sculpted by the weather.
We were delighted to hear the mountain chickadee and Juncos. Some of the trees in the area had burned and been infected by beetles and other insects. These conditions bring the acorn woodpeckers, which store food for the winter in tall pines.
We passed the Bear Mountain Lodge, which also provides cabins for visitors. Arriving at Cherry Creek, we saw cottonwoods, birch and walnut trees. Our driving tour had taken more than two hours and ended with dinner at the Wrangler Bar and Grill back in Silver City, where an excellent meal ended our fun adventure.
WHEN YOU GO
- We flew to Silver City from Phoenix on Boutique Air.
- We stayed at Econo Lodge, which provided surprisingly comfortable accommodation at a reasonable price.
- Holiday Inn Express is another good choice for a visit to Silver City.
- For breakfast: Drifter Pancake House, 711 Silver Heights Blvd. (no website)
- Silver Cafe for Mexican food: 514 Bullard St. (no website)
- Wrangler’s Bar and Grill, 2005 Highway 180 E (no website)
Patricia Arrigoni is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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