Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dancing in Southeast Arizona

     We've been back at the Roost for almost a month.  Once we vacuumed all the dust and dirt from the haboobs (huge dust storms), this past summer, we were able to settle in and enjoy being back to our winter home.  Gary's back to playing in his pool league and my quilt class started up again last week.  It looks like we'll have some fun projects to work on and it looks like we have good speakers lined up for our guild meetings.
     We decided to take our Class C and go on a mini-trip to explore a few places we haven't seen in southeastern Arizona.   Benson, AZ was our first stop for two nights.  We toured the Throne Room in Kartchner Caverns.  This is a "living cave" that was just discovered in 1974 and opened to the public on a very limited basis in the 1990's.  To enter you go through 2 sets of metal doors to minimize air flow into the cave and a misting process to limit the dust and lint brought in.  The cavern  maintains a 70 degree temperature and has extremely high humidity.
     One of the sights we saw was the tallest, most massive column in an AZ cave, Kubla Khan, at over 58 feet tall.  Soda straws are plentiful with the longest being over 20 feet.  Since these grow at a rate approximating 1/100th of an inch a year, it's really an impressive sight.  Gary and I both were lucky enough to have drops of water fall on us while we were in the cave.   These are called "cave kisses."
     No photographs are permitted in the cave.  This picture of a postcard is the best I could do, but it's really accurate.  They are really working to keep the cave protected and limit the impact.  Because it's been protected from the start, the formations are intact without the damage you see in other caves.  We hope to go back again to tour the other section of the cave.  The Big Room is closed to tours in the spring and summer, when the cave bats come in to roost, give birth to their young, and raise them til they're old enough to migrate further south for the winter.   They estimate as many as 1,000 bats return each year and the young range from 400 this year to as many as 1,400.

     The next day we drove to Bisbee, AZ, about 90 miles southeast of Tucson.  This is an old mining town, founded in 1880 and in the early 1900's was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco.   We took the Queen Mine tour, which we highly recommend if you're in the area.  We donned hard hats, coats, slickers, lanterns, and rode the same rail cars 1500 feet into the mine as the miners.  It was a cool 47 degrees where the miners worked.  We learned where and how they ate, most of the time skipping meals, as this was an opportunity to earn extra money by producing more product.  We even saw the sanitary car, pictured below.  This was introduced in 1916 and used until the mine closed in 1975.  This particular tunnel was also used for mine rescue training before being leased to the City of Bisbee for tours.  Following that we drove around the town, walked through some of the shops, and had lunch in the city park located in Brewery Gulch. 
          We drove through Tombstone on our way to and from Bisbee.  We had visited Tombstone in 2002, but there's always more to see and this time we were able to tour the local newspaper museum.  The paper is called the Epitaph, because, "No Tombstone is complete without its Epitaph."  There you can read original news from the 1880's, including reports of the 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Tombstone burning, and Geronimo's surrender.  We also went through the very small Wyatt Earp  home.  It consisted of only two small rooms and didn't include a kitchen nor a bathroom.  Historians believe they ate at brother Virgil's house and of course would have had the traditional outhouse.  The house has been restored and is an art gallery today.

      We drove on to the town of Wilcox, AZ. where we stayed at their very nice 28 site Elks Lodge campground.  While there we enjoyed touring the Marty Robbins and Rex Allen museums.  Of course while walking through those museums, their songs were playing in the background, making it hard to leave.  One of the fun exhibits was these pair of golfing boots worn by Rex Allen.
      While Gary doesn't plan on ordering a pair, he did find time to play the Wilcox golf course and was pleased to shoot a 74 on their par 72 course.  (note his score was one UNDER his age!)

     The last place we planned on visiting was Chiricahua National Monument.  Unfortunately the third largest fire in Arizona history burned much of this area last summer.  The visitor center and campground were open and the road up to the campground.  Closed was the eight mile scenic drive beyond that.  The guardrails had melted and the wooden posts burned in the fire.  They were working on replacing them, but the narrow roads didn't allow for traffic along with the heavy equipment needed to do the work.  This gives us a good reason to return to see this "Wonderland of Rocks" up close.

        As usual, we were looking for geocaches as we went and found 27 on this trip to bring our total to 1,952.  The last few caches took us to the town of Cochise, AZ.  The Cochise Hotel was built in 1882 and on the Overland Stage route.  If not for the caches, we would not have detoured to find this gem.

      After five fun filled days, we headed back to the Roost.  It was a great diversion and leaves no doubt there is much more out there for us to discover and learn about.

      We expect to remain in Arizona until next Spring, including our annual trip to Quartzsite and the fun-filled SKP rallies we enjoy attending there.  Our address for the next several months will be the same as the past:  3241 S.  Montgomery Road,  Casa Grande, AZ 82193.  If you find yourself traveling to Phoenix or Tucson, please give us a call.  We're centrally located and can meet you in either location. 
     Hugs, Katy, Gary, Rusty and Spicy  all Dancing on Down the Road..............................