After successfully getting through our shakedown days, we moved into New Mexico – destination Silver City!
We lucked into one of the nicest sites in the Manzano’s RV Campground.
I worked on getting the inside set up while Randy prepped the outside – our normal routine. Then he gave the trailer a cleaning that it badly needed.
We celebrated the next stage of this adventure by opening a bottle of chocolate sipping tequila we purchased in Cabo when we were there in November 2019. If we had remembered how delicious it is, we would have opened it long ago! As I am writing days later, we haven’t quite finished the bottle but are already trying to figure out how to get more.
When looking at Things to Do in Silver City the primary mentions are of Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and some of the area ghost towns. I’m sure those are great, but we’ve seen a lot of cliff dwellings and explored random ghost town many times. We have enjoyed each and every one. Those activities required a bit of a drive and we just weren’t motivated. So….we explored a couple of hidden gems instead.
We started at Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark. Fort Bayard was established as a military outpost in 1866. In the heart of Apache land, the command was to keep the area safe for mining, farming, ranching and for those just passing through.
In addition to several cavalry and infantry regiments, the 125 US Colored Troops were stationed at Fort Bayard. These Buffalo Soldiers are memorialized on site with a statue of Corporal Clinton Greaves. He was given the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving the lives of six Navajo scouts during a battle with the Apache in 1877. (Sorry for the photo – the sun position was not helpful!) Another Buffalo Soldier Medal of Honor recipient to serve at Fort Bayard was William Cathay – only he/she was really Cathy Williams, the only known female Buffalo Soldier.
When Geronimo surrendered in 1886, most military outposts like Fort Bayard were decommissioned. The Army decided to maintain Fort Bayard as an Army Hospital, primarily treating tuberculosis patients. That decision led to a long second life for Fort Bayard.
Nurses came in 1899 and were, of course, housed separately. The nurses building built in 1908 still stands.
A new Officer’s Row for doctors and the commanding officer was built in circa 1905. These seven buildings remain.
One has been refurbished for a museum and visitor center. Tours are offered two Saturdays a month by the historic preservation society but, unfortunately, they did not correspond with our visit.
The world’s largest sanatorium complex was built between 1902 and 1912. The facility was a complete city unto itself with infrastructure, gardens, orchards, phone system and entertainment. There were three hospitals.
By 1918 there were five hospitals as WWI soldiers injured by mustard gas and Spanish Flu victims joined those with tuberculosis. The dry, high mountain air, was a good treatment environment for all of them.
In 1918 over 400 buildings existed on site, many on this central parade ground.
In 1922 the facility passed to the new Veterans Administration. The VA opened a new, state of the art hospital in 1923. The five Army hospitals were gradually phased out.
The original 1985 Army hospital, housed German Prisoners of War in 1945. They were brought in from Lordsburg POW Camp to be maintenance staff. The prisoners took the place of those drafted into service and were paid US private wages.
Over 300 buildings on Fort Bayard were demolished as part of Roosevelt’s Works Project Administration from 1937 to 1940.
Eighty buildings remain from the 1918 peak, plus eleven new ones built by the Veterans Administration.
Fifty six of the remaining buildings are previous housing units.
The Veterans Administration discontinued use of Fort Bayard facilities in 1965.
A National Cemetery is on an adjacent property.
There are people buried at the cemetery from the Indian Wars to the Army Hospital days to the Veterans Hospital days to present day. It was named a National Cemetery in 1976.
This section is for soldiers who were buried at sea, for those whose remains were never found or identified, and for those who donated their body to science.
Our second adventure near Silver City was to City of Rocks State Park.
As we approached the big pile of boulders in the flat vastness of southern New Mexico, they seemed totally out of place!
These rocks are remnants of the Kneeling Nun volcanic eruption. Rifts in the cooling ash were made larger by freezing, water and wind. Thirty five million years of weathering leaves us this City of Rocks.
There is a 3 mile hike around the circumference of the rocks or a hike through the middle. We opted for the hike through the middle.
I had tried to book our stay at City of Rocks, and will try even harder next time! The question will be do we get one of these super cool sites tucked within the rocks?
Or will we go for the more civilized sites with some amenities… I’d like to think I’d go for the one with no services in the rocks, but I know myself better than that! There is a night sky program available for those in the park at night. Next time…
Just as we’d like to have done the tour at Ford Bayard and stayed at City of Rocks, there are still those cliff dwellings and ghost towns to explore. We are glad Silver City isn’t too far from where we live. It is worth a repeat visit!