Located in the heart of the GIla (HEE-lah) Wilderness, this completely renovated and modernized vacation cabin provides comfortable accommodations for quiet relaxation -- or for hiking, fishing, horseback riding, river rafting, reading, writing -- or just sitting around in the natural mineral-rich hot water of the nearby campground's hot pools.
Situated along the headwaters of the Gila River, this cabin provides guests with a good quality queen-sized bed, a comfortable sofa that converts into a queen-sized sofa-bed if needed, a fully equipped kitchen, a clean modern bathroom with fresh towels and wash cloths, and a quiet place to relax and enjoy the peace and tranquility of this lovely remote mountain valley. The pictures provided were taken in early spring, and do not do justice to the lush colors of summertime and fall foilage.
The sunken eat-in kitchen is two steps below the rest of the cabin and surrounded by high windows that enable maximum sunlight and visibility while cooking, eating or cleaning-up afterward.
There is a dishwasher, microwave oven, a large crock pot/roaster, a toaster and a coffee maker in the kitchen in addition to the usual full-size stove and large refrigerator with a top-level freezer. A full complement of pots, pans and cooking accessories is available -- even a deep lobster pot for making stews and soups. The cabin has all of the cookware, utensils, cups, glasses, dishes and appliances you'll need to make your stay comfortable and convenient.
There is a queen-sized bed in the bedroom with a recently purchased high quality mattress. The queen-sized sofa bed in the living room has a thick comfortable mattress. Bed linens and plenty of blankets are provided for both beds; the bed will be made up and ready to sleep in when you arrive; the sofa bed can be made up if needed.
Two propane powered catalytic heaters keep the premises warm on cold days and nights. An air conditioner/heat pump can also be used to cool or warm things for personal comfort as the weather requires.
There is a landline telephone with an answering machine and a wireless extension phone. An Internet router provides good WiFi coverage all around the cabin, inside and out. No cell phone service is available in the area. However, guests who have cell phones that are capable of placing calls over WiFi can use them for making calls outside the Westfork valley. Otherwise, you will need to bring a prepaid calling card to make outgoing long distance calls when using the phone line provided.
There is a large washer & dryer unit in the bathroom that guests are free to use as needed. Detergent and bleach are provided.
The spectacular rock formations on either side of the valley will repeatedly arrest your attention as the varying angle of the sun over the course of the day changes their appearance constantly, re-rendering them in new colors with changing shadows all through the day.
Sightings of deer, foxes, ringtail cats and birds of every size and description, including several varieties of humming birds, are common in season. The playful kids (baby goats) in the goat pen nearby are a delightful diversion in early spring when they are bouncy newborns. Horses grazing on the fields in the distance below the cabin remind of a bygone era when most of America was farmland & pastures.
A gentle breeze blowing overhead is not uncommon and causes the ponderosa pine tree next to the cabin to whisper a comforting hum. That breeze is often all that is needed to keep the cabin comfortable on warm day as there are many windows on all sides of the building, and the high-altitude dry air is seldom too hot to be uncomfortable. But when it is, the air conditioner will quickly make things more comfortable.
This eight (8) acre property abuts the Gila National Forest boundary on one side, which is also the boundary of the Gila Wilderness Area to the west. A small irrigation ditch runs through the eastern side of the property, and is used to water the pastures below.
Created in 1924 by an act of Congress, the Gila Wilderness was the first primitive area in the United States so designated in order to prevent it from being overrun by residential and commercial real estate developers.
This cabin was originally built in the 1950's when some of the few patented ranch lands in the area were subdivided and bought up by avid fishermen, elk & deer hunters and other enthusiastic naturalists.
Its remote location required visitors in those early days to travel for several hours over an unimproved rut-road for last half of the 40 miles from the nearest town. Without a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, getting into or out of this deep valley was virtually impossible -- unless you travelled by horseback, as the first settlers did in the 19th century.
The natural hot springs here were a huge draw and a small community of residents settled nearby after WWII. They were not the first residents to live here though. The Anasazi Native American people claimed this area as home over one-thousand years before the Euro-Americans arrived with their cattle and sheep. Abundant evidence of these ancient inhabitants' presence is still visible throughout the area, including the Apaches who did not stop their raids on the early settlers until Geronimo surrendered in 1855.
Today, travelers can drive up to Gila Hot Springs from Silver City via a modern all-weather highway aptly named "The Trail of the Mountain Spirits" (NM-Highway 15). It is a engineering marvel as it winds its way back and forth, up and over the Mogollon (mug-ee-OWN) Rim from the Mimbres Valley and Silver City. Those familiar with the road can make the trip to town safely now in about 1 hour and 15 minutes; a big improvement from the long slow 3-5 hour rides of the pre-highway era.
Now, hundreds of visitors a year can traverse this scenic byway to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, located only about three miles beyond the small settlement at Gila Hot Springs in which this cabin is located.
The Cliff Dwellings are situated in a well sheltered canyon, high above the river bed. Their stone masonry walls were built into naturally occurring caves created in the rock strata over the eons by the heating and cooling forces of erosion. Visitors to the Gila Cliff Dwellings marvel at how these creative ancient people made a home for themselves in the side of a rock wall and somehow survived in otherwise forbidding circumstances.
Many visitor to the Gila Cliff Dwellings linger afterward to enjoy the natural hot springs that bubble-up throughout the area. A campground less than 1/3 of a mile away from this cabin provides day passes for walk-ins to enjoy soaking in three well-maintained hot pools. Other undeveloped hot springs in the nearby wilderness area are popular with backpackers and others who can hike the arduous trails that lead to them.
Horses, pack animals and other needed equipment can be rented from local providers with enough advance notice, and guided horseback rides with knowledgeable guides can be arranged for those who wish to travel deeper into the wilderness than their feet can carry them. Hunters frequently depart from this area during hunting season, as do ambitious backpackers and hikers, many of whom are following the "CDT," the Continental Divide Trail that winds from Mexico to Canada, and passes near Gila Hot Springs. The owner has hosted such hikers in the past and was dubbed by one, a "trail angel."
Many have called this lovely Westfork Valley home down through the centuries. The Gila Cliff Dwellings Visitor's Center provides a thorough description of the fascinating geology, flora and fauna in the area, and tells the story of the ancient culture that created the Gila Cliff Dwellings. The trail up to the Cliff Dwellings is near the trailhead for several other entryways into the vast Gila Wilderness Area beyond. National Park Service employees and volunteers are eager to visit with and share their knowledge of the area with visitors.
The author (and owner of this cabin) has walked, hiked and ridden horseback over many of these trails during the course of his lifetime, and has never tired of doing so. Once you spend some time in the Gila Wilderness, you will never think about New Mexico in quite the same way again.
Come see for yourself why they call NM-15 the "Trail of the Mountain Spirits." Its a trip back in time that you will never forget.
If you would like more information about the area, or about renting this cabin, feel free to give me a call.
Nelson R. Murphy