Our first glimpse of Silver City looked like a field of stars in the valley below us, a welcome sight after the winding mountain roads through Gila Forest with only our headlights and the occasional, distant lightning for illumination. The rainy drive had been a little stressful but uneventful, except for the beautiful fox who ran into the road which we barely missed. We drove through town and found the Walmart, our new home away from home, and the parking lot was not very bright but filled with many RVs, both good signs.
On Tuesday morning we got to see Silver City in daylight, and drove to the historic downtown. Fun fact: the downtown is centered around Bullard street, not Main Street, because last century in the town’s frontier boomtown days, mining and ranching created enough erosion that when the summer rains came flash floods washed Main Street away. Now “The Big Ditch” runs behind (and below) the shops and galleries on Bullard and serves as a park. This is the kind of quirky, old west mountain town vibe Silver City gives off. Unfortunately it was cold and raining so we didn’t get to experience much.
After a coffee shop planning session, where we noticed the small town Cheers, everybody knows your name cast of regulars come through, we got set up at the local KOA. It was our first time going to one and it was nice enough, a campsite with WiFi and hot showers for twenty bucks is definitely worth it some times. Then we were off to The City of Rocks, a huge outcropping of volcanic stones. We watched the edutainment VHS circa 1991 at the visitors’ center and the rain picked up. We decided to stay dry and just take the perimeter road around the place. Kate jumped out for a photo op and startled something, maybe a bobcat, trying to stay dry like we were.
Back in town we decided we’d had enough adventure and did a pizza and a movie date. It is funny how simple luxuries can feel so decadent, and eating Dominoes in the car while streaming District 9 on a phone felt like the high life. We bundled up and spent our coldest night yet in the tent, listening to the rain turn to sleet. I woke up in the middle of the night wondering why the tent’s sides looked like they were sagging inwards, and figured out it was because they were doing just that under the weight of snow. I periodically shook the snow off, though the weight and the wind pulled a stake out and the side that was our headboard kept bulging in.
When the sun came up and we braved the cold world outside I expected we’d been through a small blizzard, but there was maybe half an inch of snow on the ground. That was enough to stop us from going to the Gila Cliff Dwellings as planned though, so we found another wonderful coffee shop and made friends with some fellow travelers from Texas. I took a picture of the bathroom decked out in eastern wisdom in homage to Jesse’s Banos Around the World.
Even though the weather kept us from getting the full experience we really liked Silver City, a town with a lot of charm and character, and one that still felt like a place people actually live in. With a population barely twice its elevation, it is also a gateway town for the Continental Divide Trail. I daydreamed about attempting another thru hike, or maybe opening a hiker hostel, but not today. I turned to Kate and asked “how often do you get to say “It’s cold here, let’s just go to Tucson’?” And off we went. What a life.
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