Gila Mountains, NM

PART ONE OF SIX

ORIENTATION--HIGHWAYS AND VOLCANOES

The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance has this fine map on their opening page:

Gila Wilderness

We came from Truth or Consequences along State Highway 152 across a sizable mountain range.  After that we turned onto State Highway 35, and then 15 to its end at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.  Coming back we came straight down State Highway 15 to Silver City.  Every mile takes time in these mountains, there is no way to hurry.

Highway 152 is part of the Geronimo Scenic Byway.  We did not stop on this road until we had climbed to 8166 foot (2489 meters) elevation Emory Pass.  The scenery there was quite impressive, this is looking back on the highway the way we had come up to this viewpoint:

This photo allows one to see even further, a bit more to the east than the previous photo.  Both photos show the highway just starting into the mountains far below.  The Rio Grande Valley lies up against the farther mountain range:

Because time was of the essence, the Gila Cliff Dwellings national Monument has limited hours and travel in these mountains is slow, only two additional photo stops were made along the way.  The first was to look at the tops of some volcanoes.  Volcanoes were huge here, spewed out enormous amounts of "ash" that formed tuff rock as it hit the ground and cooled.  These large volcanoes were active about 34 and 25 million years ago ("about 30" the illustration below simplifies).  Some waning volcanic basaltic terrains were also created 5.5 million years ago.  Some of the larger mountain features are extinct volcanoes or deeply piled tuffaceous deposits erupted from those volcanoes:

This is the top of the Copperas Creek volcano:

And the colorful rock along its flanks are tuff deposits blown out of the volcano:

 

Walking just a little way downhill allowed this view, all of it volcanic terrain as explained on the illustration above:

A closer look at the tuff rock outcrops on the flank of the volcano we are on:

It is time we moved on to our next lookout point, on the next page.

NEXT:  Go to Second Gila Mountains in New Mexico Page

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