Tierna Unruh-Enos is publisher at The Paper.

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If you head down south about 4.5 hours from Albuquerque, nestled in the Pinos Altos Mountains along the Gila National Forest is Silver City. Once a silver mining town in the 1800s, mining is still a prominent part of life, only for copper.

The Artist’s Community

In the past decade, the Mimbres Region Arts Council has worked hard to distinguish the town as an arts hub and has done so quite successfully. Don’t know where to start? The Silver City Arts Association started the Red Dot Art Tour which takes place every year during the first weekend in Sept. Each gallery and several artists’ studios are designated with a Red Dot and, during opening weekend, the galleries are opened up to the public.

Every summer the Silver City CLAY Festival gathers artists, educators, entrepreneurs, families, youth, adventurers and lifelong learners to explore clay, mud and earth as the common ground of New Mexico’s culture and history. 

CLAY features hands-on workshops, exhibitions, tours, lectures, Gallery Night, CLAYFest Market, youth activities and more. The festival fosters an entrepreneurial spirit that engages local businesses, artists, and the global community in a unified enthusiasm for clay. This year’s festival is July 11-17, and admission is free so you’ve still got time to plan your trip south.

Stop by at the Silver City Museum at 312 W. Broadway and the Arts and Cultural District around N. Hudson St. to visit local artist studios and shops.

Cheers to Silver City!

Western New Mexico University brings in a much-needed breath of student energy in this sleepy little town of just 10,000. While coffee shops and breweries are constantly popping up around the university area and historic Downtown Bullard Ave., don’t expect a hopping bar scene because it doesn’t exist. This town is more laid back and less lively after 10pm.

While a pub tour may not be happening, if you want live music and a good drink try the local distillery Little Toad Creek Brewery and Distillery located at 200 N Bullard Downtown. On the menu is the refreshing Watermelon Jalapeño Moscow Mule, with a nice little bite. Like their drinks and beer? Little Toad now cans their flavored Moscow Mule line and their popular Pendejo Porter, available at liquor stores around the state. Little Toad has also expanded their enterprise into Las Cruces and says they hope to have their product soon in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Get Outside

The Gila National Forest comprises about 3.3 million-acres of national forest and wilderness areas. Hiking, biking and all outdoorsy activities are a big part of life on the Gila. About 30 minutes from Silver are the Gila Cliff Dwellings, a National Monument created to protect Mogollon, a southwest Ancestral Pueblo that built a network of cliff dwellings in the late 1200s above the Gila River in the Gila Wilderness. It’s a short, one-mile hike to get to the dwellings but wear some good shoes.

Speaking of outdoor activities, take the time to drive just 25 minutes northwest of Silver to spend the day on the Gila River in Gila, New Mexico. Fly fishing, camping and hot springs hopping on Turkey Creek are just a few of the magical activities you can indulge in. The Gila is the last wild river in New Mexico and is at the center of legislation led by Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján to protect 450 miles of the Gila and San Francisco Rivers as wild and scenic without damming it for agricultural uses. The campaign has riled a few feathers who would like to see Grant County stick to its mining and agricultural roots.

On your way out of town, relax your sore muscles from all those great hikes at the Faywood Hot Springs, a rustic natural geothermal resort about 25 minutes away from Silver City heading toward Las Cruces. Faywood has several outdoor public and private soaking pools. There are separate clothing-required, clothing-optional pools (for all of you ready to get naked). You can camp onsite or get your own cabin.

City of Rocks State Park

Just past the hot springs is The City of Rocks State Park. The one-mile park gets it’s name from incredible volcanic rock formations. The “city” is a geologic formation made up of large, sculptured rock columns, or pinnacles, rising as high as 40 feet and separated by paths or lanes resembling city streets. These rocks were formed about 34.9 million years ago when a very large volcano erupted. It’s a great place to let your kids run wild and burn off some energy.

Bottom line, while this reporter may be a little biased, (I did grow up around all of this fabulousness), Silver City and its surrounding areas have expanded its arts community and become a hub of outdoor activity that makes it a great place to escape.