Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Benson, Arizona

March 22 to April 1:

We made the 230 mile drive along I-10 from Las Cruces, NM to Benson, AZ to arrive at the San Pedro RV Resort. Benson is home to several 55+ RV communities including one of the SKP Escapees Parks. San Pedro RV Resort is located a couple of miles south of Benson on the highway that goes to Tombstone. The RV park is a combination of RV sites along with mobile homes (each in their own areas of the park). The park has an indoor swimming pool with a hot tub along with several buildings where they hold activities during the winter months. By the time we had arrived at the park most of the snowbirds had left and there were not many RV'ers in the park.

Our site at San Pedro RV Resort

Office/Pool at San Pedro RV Resort

One of the first days we were there we drove over to Tucson (about 50 miles) to meet Al and Barbara Smith. They were volunteers at the Escapees Escapade that was just ending at the county fairgrounds located at the edge of town. We enjoyed a nice visit with them along with meeting several couples who had also volunteered to help at the Escapade.  Al, Barbara and us met their former pastor (in Apache Junction AZ) at an Italian restaurant located near the fairgrounds and enjoyed a nice lunch.

Another day we drove south to the towns of Tombstone and Bisbee. Tombstone was made famous by the Hollywood movies about the Wyatt Earp and his brothers during their years in the town. There are several "shows" that put on a version of the Shootout at the OK Corral. The actual gunfight lasted only a few seconds at the corral with the Earps and Doc Holiday on one side the Clantons and members of The Cowboys on the other.

Gunfight at the OK Corral

OK Corral

They have also recreated the main street in Tombstone which has a large number of tourist shops and places to eat. We stopped in the Birdcage Theater which was a combination theater, saloon, gambling parlor and brothel. Tombstone was a mining town where the mines ran 24 hours a day so the local businesses stayed open all the time.

Birdcage Theater

Birdcage Theater

Main Street in Tombstone

From Tombstone we travelled south to the town of Bisbee. Bisbee was home to one of the largest copper mines in the world during it's production which lasted from the late 19th century until it was closed in 1985. The town has now become home to a number of artists along with being a tourist attraction. The town sits in the mountains north of the Copper Queen Mine so you are either walking uphill or downhill along all of the streets. We walked around the town, went inside the Copper Queen Hotel, ate lunch at The Stock Exchange (now a restaurant/bar) and sampled the beers at The Old Bisbee Brewing Company.

Inside the Copper Queen Hotel

Front of the Copper Queen Hotel

Old Bisbee Brewing Company

Inside the Old Bisbee Brewing Company

The Stock Exchange Restaurant/Bar
Bisbee puts on a race up and down the steps in town called The 1000 Great Stair Climb in October of each year which combines the race along with music and other activities.

Hillside in Bisbee

Part of the 1000 Great Stair Climb course
After finishing our tour of the town, we drove south for a couple to miles to the overlook into the Copper Queen Mine pits. The operation of the mine was massive and the pits are amazing. I don't have any idea when or if the land will be restored from the damage caused by the mining.

One of several large pits of the Copper Queen Mine
One day we drove to the Saguaro National Park near Tuscon. The Saguaro cactus are the large cacti that look like they have arms. They can live to be 50-200 years old and reach a height of 40 feet. This area of Arizona has been set aside to protect them along with several other types of cactus.

At the Saguaro National Park Visitor Center

As they mature they add "arms"

The desert in bloom
We took one day to visit the Biosphere 2 (Biosphere 1 is the earth itself) located north of Tucson. This was a project started in the 1980's to see if humans could survive for extended periods of time inside a confined space growing their food. The original "experience" involved 8 people, 4 males and 4 females. There were 2 couples and 4 others who were not involved with anyone else in the project. They were monitored by physicians and other scientists during their two years inside the Biosphere. They were able to communicate with the outside world (family/friends). There was also mental health specialists that they met with on a regular basis to deal with the issues related to their isolation and interaction among the eight. The project was deemed a success: they all made the two years, they were able to grow their own food and no one went "crazy". However their were issues between the eight that lasts until today: the two couples both married but no longer have anything to do with each other. Today the Biosphere 2 is run by the University of Arizona as a research site to study the environment, especially the deserts in the southwestern USA.

The main structure at Biosphere 2

"Ocean" that was stocked with fish during 2 year experiment

Structures at Biosphere 2
We drove up the Mount Lemmon Scenic Drive which is between Benson and Tuscon. This is a road that takes you near the top of Mount Lemmon. The top of Mount Lemon is 9,157 feet tall but the last section of road was closed due to winter snows. There is a ski area near the top of the mountain, one of the most southern ski areas in the USA. It is a beautiful drive with a number of scenic views.

Ski area at top of Mt. Lemmon

Along the Mt. Lemmon scenic drive.

HooDoo's along Mt. Lemmon scenic drive

We also drove one day through the Texas Canyons east of Benson to the Cochise Stronghold National Monument. The Texas Canyons is located along I-10 with a large number of boulders that were deposited by glaziers many, many year ago.

Here is a picture from the internet of Texas Canyons
Heading south we drove several miles on paved roads before finally arriving at an unpaved road that took us to the Cochise Stronghold National Monument. This is located in the Dragoon Mountains and is a rugged, isolated area. We were glad to be in a Jeep and were surprised when we found the campground and saw several RV's (small travel trailers) camping there. I would not have wanted to drive any RV along the rough roads into the area. 

Here is some information about Cochise and the stronghold:

 This rugged natural fortress was, for some 15 years, the home and base of operations for the famed Chiricahua Apache Chief, Cochise.  Cochise and about 1,000 of his followers, of whom some 250 were warriors, located here. 

Born in present-day Arizona, Cochise led the Chiricahua band of the Apache tribe during a period of violent social upheaval. In 1850, the United States took control over the territory that today comprises Arizona and New Mexico.  Not hostile to the whites at first, he kept peace with the Anglo-Americans until 1861, when he became their implacable foe because of the blunder of a young U.S. Army officer, Lt. George Bascom.   In that year, Cochise and several of his relatives had gone to an encampment of soldiers in order to deny the accusation that they had abducted a child from a ranch. The boy was later proved to have been kidnapped by another band of Apaches.
During the parley, Cochise and his followers were ordered held as hostages by Bascom, but Cochise managed to escape almost immediately by cutting a hole in a tent. Bascom later ordered the other Apache hostages hanged, and the embittered Cochise joined forces with Mangas Coloradas, his father-in-law, in a guerrilla struggle against the American army and settlers. The capture and murder of Mangas Coloradas in 1863 left Cochise as the Apache war chief.   The U.S. Army captured him in 1871 and prepared to transfer the Chiricahua to a reservation hundreds of miles away, but he escaped again and renewed the resistance campaign. The following year after negotiating a new treaty with the help of Thomas Jeffords, the band was allowed  to stay in their homeland.
Cochise is reputed to have been a master strategist and leader who was never conquered in battle.  He died peacefully on the newly formed Chiricahua  reservation in 1874.  His son, Taza succeeded him as chief.   Upon his death, he was secretly buried somewhere in or near his impregnable fortress.  The exact location has never been revealed or determined.

We took a hike up into the mountains along a creek. It was rough going and we only went about 1 mile up the trail before turning around and heading back to the campground where we had parked. 

At the entrance to Cochise Stronghold - Road got very rough from here.

Area we hiked back into for a mile.

On April 1st we packed up the Duchess and headed up I-10 to Apache Junction located east of Phoenix were we will be spending the month of April.

If you would like to see more photos of our time in Benson, click here.