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high desert. small house.

Day 8, Part 2 – Gila National Forest & Dirt roads

After our coffee break, we decided to check out two major landmarks prior to continuing our property search.  The first point of interest was the Bayard mines, to the east of Silver City.

Mining Rights and ‘Dirty’ Areas

Apparently, the Bayard mine has received permission from the government to contaminate the ground water within 9 square mile radius of the mine.  It sounds crazy that they’ve received official permission to do something so unsavory, so we decided to go check out the area.  I’m not sure what we were expecting to see but if felt like a reasonable adventure.

Bayard Mine - an active mine east of Silver City, New Mexico

Bayard Mine – an active mine east of Silver City, New Mexico

The machinery at the base of the mine provides some good prospective on how large it is.

The machinery at the base of the mine provides some good prospective on how large it is.

The site of the mine dominated the horizon as we approached Bayard.  It was neat to drive around the area and we now have a solid feel for what 3 miles around the origin of contamination means.  The most outer limits of Silver City are at least 4 miles from the edge of Bayard, and the local aquifers run from north to south (downhill), so it seems that citizens here are clear of the mine….that particular mine at least. 5 miles north of Silver City, there is a former EPA ‘Superfund’ Site, a cleaned up area where a relatively small wild west era smelter processed ore and was once a source of serious pollution.  As new residents coming into the area, we would be wary of the Bayard nonsense to the east as well as well usage directly south of the cleaned up site to the north.  Based on what we’ve seen so far, land to the west and land bordering Silver on the south has the most potential.

Gila National Forest

We drove 10 minutes north of Silver City to enter the Gila National Forest at one of the main entrances.  The forest is huge (like the size of a small state) and you can approach it from any number of roads.  We entered a park area with parking and picnic tables around 3:00pm in the afternoon.  I think we passed 2 cars in the main parking area.  The road turned to dirt but it was was nicely maintained.  We continued up the one-lane dirt road for about 20 minutes and noticed that although the area looked like we were in the middle of nowhere, there were still normal street signs.

Plant life along the trail in the Gila National Forest

Plant life along the trail in the Gila National Forest

We pulled onto the shoulder at the intersection of Little Walnut Rd and Wagon Wheel.  We had passed a sign for ‘school bus stop ahead’ and could now see signs of a small rural community.  I guess people can live in the national forest.

We weren’t really sure if we’d get in trouble for parking there so we decided to keep our hike short – 10 minutes into the woods and turn around.  It was a really nice hike/walk.  Easy terrain with a clear path.  Lots of nice trees and plants.  We saw birds and some bones, but no major wildlife.  At one point, the dogs picked up some serious seed burrs that clung to their hair.  While they didn’t seem to mind too much, we didn’t want them to bite out and spit the burrs all over the floor like jacks and cause us to step on them (at least those of us who walk around barefoot).  We spent several minutes untangling them.

Walk in the Gila National Forest - there was a clear path with diverse terrain.

Walk in the Gila National Forest – there was a clear path with diverse terrain.

One of the nice views from within the forest.

One of the nice views from within the forest.  Sydney is in the front, of course.

The dogs enjoyed their hike - when the forest is this big and the people are so sparse, you can let your dogs run free without concern.

The dogs enjoyed their hike – when the forest is this big and the people are so sparse, you can let your dogs run free without concern.

More North Swan Rd & Fred’s Failure

On the way back from our hike, we finished driving around N Swan Rd and its many tributaries.  Many plots of land were advertised and there were some real gems.  We even found 2 pieces of land that were being sold without a realtor – a sign that we could negotiate aggressively.

We grabbed a salad and bunless burger from McDonald’s and went back to the hotel to eat and feed the dogs.  As we were about to leave, we decided that it might be nice to let Fred join in on some of the adventures.  He had been left in the hotel room for the past few days because we figured some physical stability would do him good – he could eat and sleep without battling the motion of the car.

Prior to this trip, we purchased a neat bird backpack that allows you to easily take your parrot with you.  His travel cage is fine for the car but it’s too big and heavy to cart around on a hike.  The bird backpack can be worn like a messenger bag, a fanny pack or on your shoulder (the place the bird would likely be if not in a bag).

Fred did a good job riding in his carrier back in Manchester.

Fred did a good job riding in his carrier back in Manchester.

I spent several days getting Fred used to the bag before we left Manchester.  I even trained him to walk into it willingly and not spazz out while I was zipping it closed.  I anticipated some struggle getting him into it in this new environment and prepared us by having snacks and things to bite at the ready.  After several failed attempts to get him in (he would grab the side and haul himself out), we finally got him in and zipped.

We grabbed our stuff and jumped in the car, totally thrilled that Fred would be able to sit up front with us and get out at property sites to explore the land.  Because Fred had previously started biting the interior of the backpack, I had added a toy and ladder to the inside, effectively blocking access to the places he had previously attacked

In spite of the radiant enthusiasm pouring out of us, Fred failed to be a good bird.  He alternated biting approved items (the edible ladder and toy made of coffee filters) with biting the zipper seams, the one weakness of the bag.  The sides are made of stainless steel mesh and are mostly damage-proof.  The seams, however, can be chewed, which would render the backpack useless.

We tried several distractions to keep him from being a jerk, but he wouldn’t stop.  Unfortunately, that meant he had to go back to his travel cage, to be left alone in the hotel room.  Way to go bird…

Scary dirt roads

The Fred fiasco caused us to lose some daylight so when we set out again, it was nearly dark.  We had 3-4 locations we wanted to see, so we headed off to find them.  As the navigator, I was doing my best to use google maps to find the addresses shown on the realtor websites.  Unfortunately, many of the exact address were unknown and we only had the street name to go on.

Twice, we drove to the end of the pavement, only to find it continued over a much-too-steep, dirt road with ruts deeper than our wheel wells. What?  How can this $xx piece of land be down this fjord?

Even though the scary roads and darkness prevented us from seeing the properties, we did get a good sense of what the areas were like – in terms of neighbors, sense of the environment, accessibility, proximity to the landfill, etc.

Several times along the harrowing adventures of the evening, I congratulated and thanked Brian for his adventurous spirit and knowledge.  He knows our car and is comfortable pushing it to the limit.  He also has no problem stomping around in the middle of the night, through bristly bushes and potential monster colonies.

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