Thursday, July 28, 2011

The other Arizona

This past weekend Dawn had an all-day class in Flagstaff, so I (Steven) took the opportunity to go hiking in the area.

The Flagstaff area is a very different from the rest of Arizona, for starters its elevation is nearly 7,000 feet; therefore the temperature is at least 20 degrees less than that of the Phoenix area. With these lower temperatures, the area is very green with lots of trees.

After dropping Dawn off for her class, I went up to the Arizona Snowbowl. The Snowbowl is the main ski resort located on US Forestry Service land. The main parking lot also serves as the parking lot for the trailhead of Mount Humphreys.  The mountain is part of the San Francisco Peaks and is an extinct volcano.  The peak is also the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet and the trail to the top traverses an alpine tundra.

The trailhead was just at just over 9,000 feet of elevation and when I started out on the hike, it was 58 degrees. The area was very green as you will see in the pictures below and some of the fauna was very beautiful.

The hike to the top was strenuous at the high altitude once I cleared the tree line. One of the things that makes this mountain so interesting is that there are a number of false peaks on the way to the top, you keep thinking you are about to the top and then you find out that you are not there yet. At the top, they have piled rocks up to form protective wind barriers because it is very windy and cold at the top.  From the top I was able to see two wildfires, including the Bolt Fire that is 100% contained but still burning south of Flagstaff.

When I got back to the trailhead in the late afternoon, it was still only 74 degrees. This is the other Arizona.

This was the highest peak I have ever climbed. Back in 1988 I had climb Baldy Peak in New Mexico that tops off at 12, 352 feet. So now that I have climbed the highest peak in Arizona, I need to start looking to some of the peaks in California, Utah, and Colorado.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Trip to Tombstone and Bisbee

With the girls visiting the grandparents back east, we have once again taken advantage of the situation to visit Tombstone and Bisbee in southeastern Arizona. Tombstone is about a three hour drive and because of the elevation difference is a little bit cooler than the Valley (high temps were in the lower 90s).

Someone describe Tombstone as a renaissance fair for cowboys. Our experience was not quite like that because July is their slow month, but we can see how that is true during the busier times. Allen Street has been closed off to motor vehicular traffic, so strolling from the historic Bird Cage Theatre to the OK Corral is very easy to do. While most of the buildings have burned down at least once since 1880, the "Town that was too tough to die" has rebuilt and has replicated the historic look very well.

Of course we went to a reenactment of the shootout at the OK Corral. What was interesting to see was that opinions on what this was about is varied. The Earps were new in town with a federal commission as US Marshalls from the union state Kansas who were there as business men to make a fortune on the Tombstone mines - they wanted Arizona statehood to be fast-tracked. The Clantons were southerns whose father fought in the Civil War, they and many of the local ranchers wanted to keep AZ free from "Washington control". After the shootout, the sheriff tried to arrest and charge the Earps with murder was the politics kept the situation unresolved until the Earps left town.

We also visited the Historama that has a video on the history of Tombstone narrated by Vincent Price and visited the famous Boothill Graveyard. The Boothill Graveyard is known for some of the "poetry" on the tombstones of some of the people buried there.

Then we travelled down the road to Bisbee which is a major mining town. In the late 1800s, Bisbee was the largest town between the Mississippi River and San Francisco. While mining is no longer the main industry in Bisbee, it is the "old hippies" that have taken over and made the town a great center for artists.

We were staying at the Bisbee Inn/Hotel La More in the historic district. Like many of the older hotels, it is haunted and supposedly, the room we were in was haunted by a cat. We never did see evidence of the ghost cat, but we did find a cat toy in a drawer and left it out just in case. Also, the first night in the hotel, we were the only two people in the hotel that night. Since July is often the quiet time due to the heat (still 10 degrees lower than the Valley) and the hotel owner lives down the street and leaves at 9pm, we had the place to ourselves. There are supposed to be several ghosts in the hotel, but we never saw evidence of any of them.

The old Copper Queen Mine that produced a lot of copper of the years is now open as a tourist attraction, so we took a tour into the mine. You ride a train into about 1,500 feet under the mountain and there are a number of displays on how miners carried out the job over the years. This mine is naturally vented and a constant 47 degrees year round. There is also a tour of one of the pit copper mines, but we will save that tour for another visit.

We also visited the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum which is a Smithsonian Institution affiliate. The museum documents the history of the mining town. The museum also houses many beautiful mineral samples of quartz, copper, and azurite from Bisbee that were on display in the Smithsonian, but are now back in Bisbee on permanent loan.

We also discovered the Old Bisbee Brewing Company located on the street below from our hotel. The owner and brewmaster went through the town archives and found the recipe for creating a beer that had not been brewed in over 120 years, Copper City Ale. This is supposed to be the beer that Wyatt Earp began drinking while in Tombstone and called his favorite.

Finally, while on the way home we paid a visit to two great southern Arizona wineries. Sonoita Vineyards and the Village of Elgin Winery. The Sonoita Vineyards has several great wines, including one where they place a hibiscus flower in the wine and then as you finish the wine, you eat the flower. The Village of Elgin Winery is known for two of their labels: Tombstone and Funky Monkey.

Of course, Steven took a lot of pictures and below are some of his better pictures from the trip: