Southern New Mexico Van Trip

We headed to southern New Mexico in April to join our friends to help with a 3to1 Marriage Conference. The conference was in Elephant Butte at Church at the Butte in New Mexico. It was a great three day event celebrating marriage and seeing God at work.

3to1 Staff Couples
3to1 Staff Couples – Atens, Dixes, Wakefields

On the way to Elephant Butte, we stopped by the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. Three sites compose the national monument in north central New Mexico. They highlight the interaction between Spanish and Pueblo peoples in the 1600s.

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument in New Mexico
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument in New Mexico

After the conference, we headed west to eventually see the Gila Cliff Dwellings north of Silver City, NM. On the way we visited Hatch (think green chilis) and enjoyed some nice mountain routes and views.

Shopping in Hatch NM
Shopping in Hatch, New Mexico

We planned to drive as close to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument as we could in the evening, and then we would tour the dwellings the next morning. Numerous National Forest Service campgrounds are available, so we chose to camp at Forks Campground, about 5 miles south of the Gila Cliff Dwellings and right along the Gila River. This is a primitive campground, but with the self-contained WanderVan, we were in our element. There were only about 4 other campers in the area, and we were able to space out from each other easily.

Roberts Lake on the way to Forks Campground
Roberts Lake on the way to Forks Campground
Forks Campground along the Gila River
Forks Campground along the Gila River

The next morning we drove into the national monument area. The main visitor center was closed, but the ranger station at the trail to the cliff dwellings was open. We listened to the orientation talk and then were able to hike up to the dwellings by ourselves. The dwellings are about 700 years old and housed around 40 people at the peak usage. The ranger indicated that the dwellings were only used for about 30 years before the group moved on.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, New Mexico
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, New Mexico

After visiting the dwellings were looked at our options to return east. We had originally planned to head north through Datil, Magdalena, and see the Very Large Array (VLA). However, this would take longer than anticipated, so we opted for a southern route. We drove south through Silver City, then turned east at Deming, NM and travelled through Las Cruces and Alamogordo before arriving at Cloudcroft, NM. The climb from Alamogordo to Cloudcroft is quite steep, gaining 4,000 feet in just 16 miles, but the WanderVan made it easily. Just west of Cloudcroft, we stopped to see the Mexican Trestle Bridge, a railroad bridge that was used over 100 years ago. Our campsite for the night was another National Forest area, but this time dispersed camping up a forest road. We drove about a mile in on the gravel and dirt road to park the WanderVan at about 9,000 feet elevation for the night.

Mexican trestle railroad bridge near Cloudcroft, NM
Mexican trestle railroad bridge near Cloudcroft, NM
Dispersed camping in the National Forest north of Cloudcroft
Dispersed camping in the National Forest north of Cloudcroft
Our view out the WanderVan slider
Our view out the WanderVan slider

Our trip was enjoyable. We drove about 1,900 miles and averaged just over 17 miles per gallon in the WanderVan. Happy Trails…

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