Monday, January 13, 2014

A Little Bit of God's Country

God's Country extends from just south of Casa Grande, Arizona to the Mexican border and east to the New Mexico boundary. It contains such wonders as Tucson, San Xavier Mission, Tumacacori, Tubac. Nogales and numerous others. This post will take in several places not touched on by me before.

The first of these is Kartchener Caverns State Park located near Benson. Kartchener Caverns is a living limestone cave discovered by two spelunkers in 1974 who were investigating a crack in the ground on a hillside. They worked with a local rancher, the Kartchener family on whose land the cave was found, to turn it over to the State of Arizona if the State would agree to make a State park out of it and do everything necessary to preserve it. This was agreed on finally and the State developed it into a State park, while preserving the caverns. In order to protect the cave, the entrance is through an airlock, which helps preserve the moisture in the cave. Access is limited and cameras, bags, etc not allowed in. The cave is much like a living organism; stalactites and stalagmites are still growing. The first photo below is of the airlock entrance with a people mover train outside. The second is of the Big Room in the cave. It is the only photo I could find that was not copyright protected. They have started doing a few tours for photographers(personal use only), limited to 15, for $175 per head. A little steep for my blood. Oh, well. It is a great place to visit-I highly recommend it.

Tombstone is about 50 miles or so southeast of Kartchener Caverns. Tombstone is anything but a ghost town even if it is the town made famous by Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and the OK Corral. It is somewhat touristed up but fun nevertheless. The first photograph shows some of the old buildings. The second one is of the Courthouse. Tombstone was the first county seat of Cochise County. After the big mines got going in Bisbee it was moved to Bisbee, where it is today.

The next two shots are of Allen Street, which back in the day was the main street. In the first one you will note the OK Corral on the left. The site of the gunfight was in a vacant lot next to the livery stable named the OK Corral. Back when I was a college student and working some in Tombstone it was still a vacant lot with a small sign that said it was the site of the famous gunfight. Now it is enclosed with a high fence, and bleachers are installed so one can watch re-enactments of the gunfight. For a price, of course.

One of my favorite places in Tombstone is Boot Hill Cemetery. It is pretty much the way I remember it. The grave markers shown below are my favorites, including the McLaury-Clanton burials from the OK Corral gunfight.

This next photo is taken from Boot Hill looking northeast. The rocky mountain in the left center of the picture is Sheep's Head Mountain. I had a friend who had a nice ranch there; it ran into the mountains. The other side of the mountain gets you to Pearce and the Sulphur Springs Valley and the Chiracahua country.

Bisbee is located about 40 miles southeast of Tombstone and is/was a mining town. A huge copper mine was located there, both an open pit called the Lavender Pit and an underground mine called the Copper Queen.Both were owned and operated by the Phelps Dodge mining Co. In the 1960's or early 70's the mine shut and Bisbee threatened to become a ghost town. Hippies discovered it and moved in in droves. Now it's sort of an artists' colony. Fun place.

Below is a photo of the Lavender Pit. You can stop active mining, but there's not a hell of a lot you can do with this size hole in the ground.

Below is the Copper Queen Hotel. Good food, good place to stay. It was built by Phelps Dodge in 1898-1902 to provide a place for the big shots from the East to stay. It's rumored to be haunted.

Below is a typical miner's house. Bisbee is built in a canyon in the Mule Mountains; many of these houses do not have streets that you can drive on to get to them. I owned one in the late 70's that my wife wanted to use as a studio.

The last time I was at the Copper Queen the front desk clerk recognized me and reminded me that she had been our receptionist at the Cochise County Health Department when I was the Director. The County condemned the old high school as unsafe and gave it to the Health Department for use as our offices. The first photo below is of the main entrance to the high school; the second one shows the entrance to my office. My actual office was a class room with only my desk in the middle of the room with an electrical outlet and a phone.

I think the manhole cover shown below is handsome and reminds me of some of the things I was responsible for as Health Department Director.

The three photos below are of a car in a parking lot in Bisbee decked out as a campaign advertisement for Hillary Clinton for 2016. What the stuff on top is or what relevance it has to Hillary I haven't the slightest idea.

Heading due west from Bisbee about 40 miles you come to the western end of the Huachuca mountains, barely on the American side of the US-Mexico border. At the southern tip of the mountains is Coronado National Monument. It is thought that Coronado, the Spanish explorer came this way in about 1540. There is a road that leads to the top of a pass, with good views to the southeast towards Douglas and Mexico, the first photo below,  and a good view to the northwest towards Baboquivari Mountain and my old cattle ranching area, the second photo below.

No trip to God's Country is complete without a stop at Molina's Midway, the best Mexican restaurant in the Southwest. They are located in Tucson on N. Belvedere , one half block north of Speedway. One does not go to Tucson on Mondays; Molina's is closed on Monday. There is a rumor going around that the OWH camped in their parking lot for three days and then claimed they had been camping in the Chiracahuas all that time. May not be true, but it would be one good idea!