Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Setting as Inspiration

Setting as Inspiration

I love the Southwest and its history. When my delightful hubby wanted to visit New Mexico in August, I was pumped. Then he mentioned Roswell, graveyards, and alien space museums, not exactly my style. However, I saw my opportunity to visit a place I had waited patiently to see for thirty-seven years. After a tad bit of persuasion, refusing to visit Roswell unless we also visited Gila National Monument Cliff Dwellings, my drag-your-feet hubby reluctantly agreed. Not wanting me to be disappointed, he warned that the guidebooks considered the ancient Mogollon cliff dwellings at Gila less than spectacular.

In my humble opinion the guidebooks lie. Gila National Monument sits in a remote part of the Gila National Forest. The forty-four mile, narrow, winding, and sometimes one lane rode from Silver City offered very spectacular mountain and valley vistas. Deer, a wild turkey hen and her chicks, a herd of wild boar, and ground squirrels ventured within inches of the car during the drive. What a treat.

By the time we reached the monument, my downright impressed hubby was hooked and merrily snapped picture after picture with his fancy camera. The dwellings themselves were every bit as interesting and intricate as those found in Mesa Verde. But, wouldn’t you know, after a mile hike to the five cliff dwelling caves high in the cliff face, his snazzy camera ran out of batteries at the first cave.

All was not lost, however. The guide who led us through the ruins told a fascinating tale. Wild herds of cattle used the old Mogollon site as winter cover. In the 1880s, a rancher searching for his strays discovered the site, and the earliest national park restorers at Gila dug out two feet of cow dung that covered the artifacts in the first cave. Park officials still run wild cattle out of the caves after severe storms. Those wild cows must be part mountain goat. Even though I didn’t get the pictures I wanted, that wonderful little tidbit of information is sure to come in handy in my New Mexican rancher’s romantic tale.

For more information on Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (U.S. National Park Service) at http://www.nps.gov.gicl/. Check out the view.

Margaret Breashears