Sometimes when an outdoors adventure goes sideways, the world gives you ice cream

It was our last sunny Saturday in the Lower 48 during the middle of winter. My husband and I boarded a flight from Alaska on Dec. 30 and landed in New Mexico for an entire month.

Looking back at it, we agreed next time we’d probably go with the masses and pick somewhere warmer. But our full month in beautiful and quirky Silver City, four hours south of Albuquerque and seated at the foot of the massive Gila wilderness, was stellar.

Silver City itself, early in January, was quite sleepy. I visited downtown once, twice, five times and found the library, distillery/brewery, and co-op market. There were many galleries and a very cute ice cream shop I had my eye on, but somehow whenever I visited neither were open.

Still, we were busy and happy. Every weekend we were there, we took mini-adventures in the region.

For our last weekend before returning to Alaska we wanted to get in one final big outdoor experience. We chose a hike.

Little did we know.

If you’ve driven the 40 miles between Silver City and the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, an amazing and worthwhile destination, you know why the drive takes two hours. Route 15 starts out fairly straightforward, until it starts weaving, climbing and side-hilling through mountainous national forest.

My husband drove it, and at points I quietly asked him to slow down. I didn’t like contemplating what was — not — over the guardrail. The views were vast and spectacular, a sea of sunlit mountains and forests, punctuated with occasional cliffs and hoodoos. The road was quite high.

For our final hike, we didn’t take the full two-hour drive. We settled on what my husband would call “an objective” 40 minutes away.

When we left Silver City, it was a

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