top of page

11/18/18 – 11/24/18 Butterfield RV Resort, Benson AZ

1/17/19 - Update to post added trip to Bisbee and additional photos throughout - Amerind, Tombstone, Cochise Stronghold, etc.

Highlights: Adventures in the furthest southwest either of us have been. Tombstone & Boothill Cemetery, Bissbee, Chochise Stronghold, Amerind Museum.

Campground: Site #60 (Pull thru) ; W/E/S; CATV (13 channels), Dish Network, Pickle Board Court!; Good cell phone coverage; Wifi. Can wash vehicle ($5) or trailer ($5) with permit. Golf Course nearby. The campground is directly behind a large Safeway grocery store and across the street from the post office. There is a visitor center in town and a few restaurants – with nothing to highlight there.

TRAINS: This campground would be well recommended except for its' proximity to two sets of railways (east/west & north/south) which seem to specialize in running at night. Twice during our week I woke up five times to the sounds of trains blowing their horns in a repeated pattern as they crossed several intersections. Other nights, we would wake up only two to three times a night. It really was quite loud and we did not get used to it in a week as the campground staff implied.

It's a Small World: Driving south to Bisbee we passed through the tiny town of St. David and an old man with a table on the side of the road. Looked like he was selling honey and pistachios (which I love). Two days later we were about to pass him again and I pulled across the empty street into his stand. I looked at this gruff looking guy with apparently one eye and a wide brimmed straw hat. I was a little skeptical and timid about buying anything from a guy on the side of the road – even one not as sketchy looking as this. But, I also thought I could be helping this guy, possibly an Apache, retired cowboy, or Mexican.

It doesn't take long when we interact and people ask where we're from (or what part of the northeast we're from). The pistachio man asked us as well. We told him “Massachusetts”. Then “central Mass” to his prodding. Then “near Worcester”. He replied, “I'm from Uxbridge.”

You've got to be kidding me. Uxbridge is a half hour ride from our home and where my brother lives.

The pistachio man said he moved to the area for his wife's health, but she passed away. Then he volunteered embarrassing family information that most of us would keep to themselves. He casually mentioned that one of their relatives was beaten to death by his son with a baseball bat. I said “Good reason to be living here.” Anyway we bought fantastic tasting bags of pistachios and pecans.

Another small world occurrence happened when we went to the Amerind Museum. The woman at the front desk asked about my shirt that had a Boothbay Maine logo on it. Turns out she is from a town near Bangor (I forgot which one). This happens more often than we would ever expect.

Amerind Museum: Fascinating museum in Dragoon AZ of native cultures from Alaska to South America. Founded by William Shirley Fulton (of Connecticut) in 1937 as an archaeological institute. No photography was allowed.

The exterior of the Amerind Museum. In a pretty setting and there is a walking path through a grove.

An interesting storyboard on the second floor dedicated to games and sport, described the feats of Louis Tewanima, a Hopi runner who won the silver medal in the 1912 Olympics as a teammate of Jim Thorpe. He also won the New York half-marathon. Tthough he is honored today as a hero and is named in a memorial race, at the time he returned some shunned him because in their culture seeking awards or notoriety is looked down upon. In fact two older men ridiculed him to the point where he and another athlete challenged the two older people to a 6 mile race. After 3 miles, Tewanima and the other athlete quit because they were so far behind!

A post script to this story is that while doing a Google search for the spelling of Tewanima I found out about Frank Mount Pleasant a Tuscarora from Buffalo, New York who competed in the long jump and triple jump in the 1904, 1908 Olympics. He later played professional football as quarterback with Jim Thorpe and was the first person to throw a spiral in a forward pass.

Chiricahua National Monument: This is one of my favorite “finds” of this trip. I hadn't heard of it before and it wasn't recommended to us. I found it by simply looking at Google Maps - as I usually do to see what is in a drive-able radius from our new campgrounds. Also, I utilized our road atlas which identified a scenic loop that would get us there and back – adding about 50 miles, but not seeing the same thing twice is worth it.

I didn't take one photo out of the window as we drove south of I-10 on US-191. I kept saying to Sandy that a photo would not do this justice - the mountains so far away and the vastness of it wouldn't be revealed on an 8X10 print - never mind on a phone or laptop - which is how people look at the blog.

Rt 191 goes down the middle of a 40 mile wide utterly flat desert grassland (called Sulphur Springs Valley), between the Dragoon Mountains to the West and the Chiricahua mountains to the east. Every angle to which you crane your neck is beautiful, serene, and massive in scope. Both mountain ranges (basically running north to south) were formed by faults lifting up (mountains) and others sliding down (valleys). Over time the mountain tops have eroded filing in the valleys.

Sulphur Springs Valley

The Dragoon Mountains and Cochise Stronghold are in the distance as well as Sulphur Springs Valley.

A cool visual of the formation of these mountain/valleys. The mountains run north to south.

Harris Mountain - named for a family killed by Apaches while in wagon train in 1873.

All the mountain ranges in this part of Arizona and Mexico are called sky islands because they seem to rise up like islands from a sea (being the plains).

A travelogue side note. We made a scenic loop out of getting to the park and leaving using US-191, east to AZ181, into the park and a return to I-10 on AZ 186. Going east on AZ181, the road takes a 90 degree turn to head north. If you go straight instead, using Google Maps you might be able to locate the grave of Johnny Ringo. He lies in a marked grave on private property, where the owner has a sign welcoming visitors while setting some common courtesy rules. Apparently Ringo was found leaning up against a tree with a bullet hole in his temple. Ruled suicide, it has been speculated that he may have been shot by Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, or two other people. Ringo was suspected in the murder of Morgan Earp and had a confrontation with Doc Holliday in Tombstone (something that indicates to me he was pretty tough if he survived).

The park has a visitor center and an eight mile long scenic drive. The drive climbs up from 5,400 ft at the visitor center to 6870 at the end at Massai Point. The last third of the road is very narrow with rocks overhanging the climbing lane and a steel barrier agains a sheer drop in places on the downhill lane.

The beauty of this park is mainly in the rock formations (with distant views another nice feature). I would compare this very favorably to Bryce Canyon believe it or not. The only difference is that the hoodoos at Bryce have spectacular coloring.

The spires and columns at Chiricahua were created when a massive volcano exploded 27 million years ago. The Turkey Creek Volcano was estimated to be 1,000 times larger than the Mount Saint Helens eruption. Superheated ash spread out over1,200 square miles at 100 MPH. The explosion left a caldera 12 miles wide and 5,000 feet deep – though time has obscured signs of the volcano.

The resulting superheated ash particles melted together – some at different levels of heat – creating rhyolite. Cooling and uplifting caused cracks within this rock, which still allows for water and ice to enlarge the cracks. The ash layers erode away at different rates – where ash that was cooler when formed didn't cement together as strongly as the hotter ash.

This photo fascinates me. It shows how erosion created the spires from the original land height.

Just like the hoodoos at Bryce and fins at Arches National Parks, the erosion continued until stand-alone spires and columns decorate the landscape. Chiricahua actually seems to have many more balancing rocks per area than any of the other parks we visited.

We hiked almost of the Massai Nature trail, but found this not so much worth the effort of the ups and down and poor footing since the views weren't much better than simply being in the parking lot – which were pretty spectacular anyway.

Instead we opted for the Echo Canyon trail. This goes downhill from the parking area (which was full) over, past, between, and finally into the columns. We did not go all the way to the canyon floor due to the steep steps that that the ranger told us approached the bottom. We went as far as the switchbacks and “Wall Street” - a narrow crack between columns with huge fallen boulders sealing the tops.

The highlight for me was walking inside the Grotto, a labyrinth between columns whose water-rounded sides create tunnels below truck sized column tops that have fallen and wedged haphazardly, creating a crude roof. Beautiful and fascinating. I REALLY loved this hike.

Another highlight was seeing a trail sign that pointed out “Cochise Head.” I am really fascinated by Cochise since childhood – knowing nothing about him. The sign pointed out a rock outcrop on a ridge that was supposed to look like a face looking up to the sky. I could see it immediately and found it very accurate compared to most rock analogies. They even point out that there is 100 foot tall Douglas Fir acting as an eyelash – which I could also see.

Cochise Head. If you look close you can see a sliver of a line that is a 100' tall spruce for an eyelash!

Cochise Stronghold: This park and campground is in the canyon on the east side of the Dragoon Mountains where Chiricahua chief Cochise used as refuge during the Apache Wars. After he died, a few of his followers buried him in a secret location in this area.

Tom Jeffords is fascinating too. He came alone into Cochise's camp gaining the chiefs' lifelong respect and friendship.

The road from the "you are here" sign to the campground/trailheads was rough.

The gravel road going in was rough and we didn't have much time to hike very far, but I still really loved looking at the canyon walls thinking that I was looking at the same rocks and scenery that this powerful historical figure did. Post script: I have since bought, and am currently reading a book about him.

Trailhead sign.

Saguaro National Forest: Rincon Mountain District (Loma Verde Loop Trail):This National Forest has a west and east (of Tuscon) sections, We went to the more accessible and hike-able Rincon Mountain District on the southeast edge of Tuscon. The park is aptly named as saguaro cacti loom up all around as you approach it. We stopped at the visitor center for maps and guidance. From there we went on the Cactus Forest Loop Drive to the Loma Verde Trailhead.

Fun facts.

There was far too few parking options on the drive. Most of the pull-outs only have room for two cars. The trailhead parking wasn't any better being full and we had to back the truck up into a nearby wash to park. There are an endless option of interconnecting trails in the area, but We chose the 3.8 mile Loma Verde Loop. This was a nice almost flat trail, with one short spur up steps to a nice overlook of the valley and the Rincon Mountains.

Tombstone: The town has closed off a side street that is full of stores and a couple saloons. It is a mix of old west charm and tourist glitz. Still a fun couple hours. We went to Big Nose Kate's Saloon which had half decent food, and a great country singer. There was a family from Alabama near us that joined in with some rebel yells and a little dancing' in the aisle with the waitress. Very fun and colorful place.

Drumming up interest in the "shootout" reenactment in the enclosed OK Coral ($).

Quaint wooden sidewalks, burger and beer joints, and souvenir shops - this is Tombstone in a nutshell.

Big Nose Kate's

Big Nose Kate's

Boothill Cemetery: The highlight of Tombstone for me was visiting Boothill Cemetery. After paying a couple dollars, we were given a list of all the known souls buried with a short blurb on how they met their demise. These were quite interesting and showcased the harshness of the times. Most were killed from guns following arguments. Several teamsters were killed by Indians, and two were run over by their own wagons. A couple more fell in mine shafts, and two women committed suicide by poison.

He was right, We was Wrong, But we strung him up and now he's gone.

The view from Boothill.

Bisbee AZ: Bisbee is a former gold mine town that is slowly transitioning into a tourist destination. It is only 23 miles past Tombstone and under ten miles from the Mexican border. The center of town has an appropriately named Main Street that has seen some updates in the form of new tenants selling everything from hats to gelato. As we drove in from AZ 80, the look of desolation and a few scruffy characters on the street had us wondering why it was recommended to us. But once we walked around we became more comfortable. There is also a mining museum on Main Street and a privately owned tour Queen Mine Tour, where you ride in mining cars. We regrettably did not go into the former and did not have interest in the later.

Downtown Bisbee

The "Grand Hotel"

Next to the Law Office. I wonder if they are one and the same man?

A photo and outfit of the Bisbee cheerleaders from 1953,4 in this vintage shop.

And next door you can get a gelato!

The highlight for us in Bisbee was Santiago's Mexican restaurant. This place received very high praise on Yelp and we agree. We would rank this as one of the best (if not THE best) overall Mexican restaurant we've been to – with places in Santa Fe (3); Page, UT; Colorado Springs; and El Charo in Crawfordville Indiana all real close. The waitress here was absolutely the best of the bunch and the drinks could also be considered the best – unusual and tasty options.

Santiago - GREAT Mexican fare.

The bar side of Santiago.

On to Catalina State Park (Tuscon) ....

You Might Also Like: