Revisiting and exploring the area near Lake Roberts

For Valentine’s my hubby gave me a return trip to where we’d spent part of our honeymoon — Lake Roberts, NM. We planned to leave February 15th, but the forecast predicted snow and high winds. Being sensible, we postponed the trip until the following week.
The next week, the weatherman once again forecasted snow and high winds, but since we’d already made arrangements, we decided to throw good sense to the wind and risk it. Except for blowing sand, blowing snow, and icy roads, we didn’t run into too much trouble until I needed a restroom break.
Ted pulled into a gas station with a Subway restaurant and trucks parked in the lot. I tried to open my door. Nothing happened. I tried again. Nothing. “Push on it,” my hubby suggested. I did, hard. Nothing. I pushed, shoved, and finally rammed the door with my shoulder, but with no luck.
Ted jumped out, and I climbed over the driver’s seat and out his door. I felt an urgency to complete my mission, but when I rounded the front of the building, a sign read, “Business Closed.” I stared for a moment in disbelief, then bent my head against the wind and snow and shuffled back to the 4-Runner.
As Ted pulled out of the parking lot and onto the highway, our 4-Runner flashed a warning signal that a door was open, but Ted’s door was shut, and mine remained sealed tighter than a clam shell.
However, the longer we drove, the more our vehicle panicked. Soon all the overhead lights were flashing and an alarm sounded. Amidst that chaos, Ted found another place to pull in.
After again trying to muscle out my door, I climbed over the driver’s seat and hit the ground running. While I was gone, Ted walked around to the passenger’s side and found it completely iced over.
When he jerked on the handle, the door opened abruptly, and the ice slid to the ground.
We continued our journey in blissful silence, stopping that night in Taylor, AZ. The next morning, with the weather clearing, we set out for Silver City, NM.
The area where Silver City now exists was once home to the Mimbres Mogollon people from A.D. 200 to around A.D. 1140 when they migrated to more habitable regions, probably during prolonged drought. In the 1500’s, the Chiricahua Apaches moved into the valley.
Silver City and the surrounding area has always been rich in mineral deposits. The native peoples traditionally mined for copper and turquoise, but after the Civil War, Captain John Bullard and his brother discovered silver near their farm, and soon prospectors and mining companies flooded the area, excavating copper, silver, gold, and lead.
Violence ensued, not only because the Apaches defended their lands, but also because of the outlaw element, including Billy the Kid and Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch.
Fortunately, when we arrived in Silver City on our honeymoon, the town was peaceful. We’d planned to spend the night, but we also wanted to tour the Gila Cliff Dwellings 44 miles north in the Gila Wilderness.
The paved road to the dwellings is windy and steep, so the trip consumed two hours. By the time we arrived, the park had closed. The next day, New Year’s, it was also closed, so we’d missed our chance.
Undeterred, we backtracked and happened upon Lake Roberts General Store and Cabins. The Cedar cabin was available.
What could have been more romantic than a cozy cabin in the midst of a ponderosa forest next to a beautiful lake? We checked out the movie Shrek from the store, ate a simple meal, and cozied in. This year, the General Store and Cabins were closed, so Ted reserved a room at the Lake Roberts Motel next door.
After we arrived, we walked to Lake Roberts, a beautiful manmade lake, surrounded by ponderosas and afloat with ducks, coots, geese, and herons.
Since the Lake Roberts community, population 52, doesn’t boast a grocery store or restaurant, we’d filled our ice chest with food in Silver City, ate a simple meal in our room, and spent a contented evening reading and writing.
The next morning, we headed at last for the Gila Cliff Dwellings, 30 minutes away. The Mogollon natives, although an ancient Puebloan people, built homes and created pottery differently than the Ancestral Puebloans.
This group farmed and foraged in the Gila River Valley between 1276 and 1287 and built 40 rooms inside five caves in Cliff Dweller Canyon. They stayed only briefly, leaving the area by the early 1300s.
The tour of the dwellings included a beautiful, but steep mile-long loop and took about an hour to complete.
When we climbed to the caves, a ranger pointed out petroglyphs, living spaces, cooking areas, roof beams, grinding spots, and ancient corn cobs which she said packrats continued to steal.
On the return loop we slogged through mud and snow, but once we made it to the parking lot, my hubby turned to me and said, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
Twenty-one years and two months after our wedding, our trip came to symbolize our life together, including the risks, storms, natural beauty, wonder, and—most of all—love.
A few years ago, for Valentine’s, I bought Ted a plaque that says, “You are my greatest adventure.” What an amazing adventure it’s been!

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday