(updated to fix typos - if you have already read this, you can quit now.)
JANUARY, 2007: SOUTHERN ARIZONA
Here are all the photos, stored on flickr.com.
SUNDAY, January 14
We left Chico at 6AM and arrived at our Rain Valley House about 11 hrs later (Southwest from Sacramento, CA, to Phoenix, AZ). We picked up a Budget Rental car, 4WD Ford Escape. Stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch (C-), then did some grocery shopping at Trader Joe's in Tucson.
The drive at dusk through the Green Valley area was really pretty. Highway 83 south from Hwy 10 is a scenic drive. The only slowdown was at a Border Patrol station, but they didn't stop us because they are concerned with northbound traffic and we were headed south.
Our house (pictured) is down a dirt road, and it's really quite nice, out in the middle of nowhere. Quiet!!
Went to find the nearest big town, Sierra Vista - WalMart, a couple of grocery stores.
Found the Elgin winery in Elgin - bad wine except their $35/bottle Sonoita Claret (not on web site), a very dry red. We bought one of the so-so wines, Tombstone Red.
Went for a very nice walk in Madera Canyon - many pictures.
On the way to and from we had to drive through Nogales which is a frustrating experience. The exits are all on the wrong side of the road and they don't warn you ahead of time. There are big produce packing plants there for all that Mexican produce, and there are huge long hall trucks all over town. It's an ugly poor town.
There are border patrol checkpoints on the roads heading north. If you want to smuggle something send it with two old ladies in a rental car. They just waived us through.
Went for lunch in Tubac at Shelby's Bistro (very good). While we were waiting for for our table we stopped in the art gallery next door. Artist Star Liana York does beautiful sculptures. (Karin Newby Gallery, Tubac, AZ) Tubac is where we bought our red face mask - $10 from Mexico.
Cold and windy again today, beyond Jan's tolerance for unpleasantness.
We went to Patagonia for a very cool walk at the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve (Nature Conservancy). not particularly scenic, however birders "flock" to it. What do you call a group of squirrels? a convention? a
fluff?? We saw one place where a bunch of squirrels we congregating and munching nuts. There tails were all fluffed and curled up over their backs - cute.
Then we went looking for ghost towns in the Coronado Nat'l Forest. We drove over miles of dirt roads only seeing a few other vehicles. The roads are pretty well maintained and the weather is dry, so the roads were no problem. We saw no ghost towns - none. But the mountains are very interesting... red rocks with bright green lichen on them... big trees along the creeks (cottonwoods?)... cattle... and absolute quiet, no sound of wind in trees, no hum of civilization.
Tomorrow will be Tombstone - guaranteed ghost town experience.
We started the day at the Amerind Foundation. Amerind is a combination of the words 'american' and 'indian'. It is a museum to showcase the purchases and archaeological finds of a man named William S. Fulton.
Next was a visit to Cochise's Stronghold. it's a beautiful setting and very defend-able. The nature trail is full of information.
Then we stopped in Tombstone, a truly tarted up "ghost town". lunch was forgettable at the Longhorn Restaurant.
It was a long day. Good to put our feet up at the end of the day and watch an Australian Open match between S. Williams and Petrova.
It rained quite a bit last night, so I put 5 pan-bucket-bowl drip catchers on the second floor of the house before we left for the day.
Our first stop was Ft. Huachuca in Sierra Vista. The nice MP at the gate told us that there would likely be snow today and the roads into the canyons were pretty wet. We decided to try elsewhere. It was still raining.
Next stop was Ramsey Canyon, a Nature Conservancy preserve. When we arrived it was still dark and drizzly out, so we just turned around and left. it looked like it might have been pretty on a nice day.
So far 0 for 2....
Next we went to the Coronado National Memorial. By then it wasn't raining anymore. They had a short but uninformative video about Spaniards arriving in North America.
The ranger on duty said the road to the mountain pass, with its fantastic view, was only 3 miles up the road. He said the road was good and there was no snow. It was a wet dirt road most of the way. The last mile was narrow, steep, and just a little slippery with no guard rails and steep drop-offs near the edge of the road. It was white knuckle time for me even though I was driving a 4wd car.
At the top the view is indeed spectacular, even with clouds covering the top of most of the mountains. The air was crystal clear after the recent rains.
The drive down the mountain wasn't so scary, but just as slippery. I took it very slowly. I think we saw about 5 other cars/trucks on the road the whole time. Two of them were passenger cars - bet their ride up and down was interesting!
Lunch at Chili's in Sierra Vista. I thought it was awful and I'd only give it a c-. The service was disinterested, and they forgot to return my credit card to me with the bill. I didn't notice until a day later, so I canceled the card rather than drive all the way back to the restaurant. Don't bother with Chili's in Sierra Vista.
Last stop of the day was Murray Springs Clovis Site. It is the site of an archaeological discovery of bones of ice age animals and human hunting tools. The interpretive trail was short, interesting, windy and muddy.
Score for the day's outings is 2 for 4, or 2 for 5 if you count Chili's.
We are glad to be back at the Rain Valley house - aptly named.
Woke up to light layer of snow on top of the BBQ and roof. Just enough to make it cold. We went to Tucson to a women's basketball game between the University of Arizona and UCLA. The UofA facility is quite nice. It was good to see a Pac 10 game again. I must say, though, Chico State's defense is better than UofA's.
We got up early and drove back to Phoenix, where we met our plane and experienced several delays (weather, equipment, late pilots), resulting in us being almost 2 hours late getting back to Sacramento. We flew almost directly over Lake Tahoe, a beautiful site from the air.