Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bisbee, Tombstone and Fairbanks

Fairbanks is now a ghost town, although as late as 1972 they say you could stop and get a snack and soda. Although Tombstone is famous because of the OK Corral, they say many a gun fight and even a train robbery was held here in Fairbanks, too.
Although the town was founded in 1881, I doubt these street signs are that old. Originally a stage coach stop, the town blossomed when a railroad spur was built, connecting it to Benson and the Southern Pacific Railroad. Anyone heading to Tombstone or Bisbee had to pass through Fairbanks. Here you could stop for a elegant meal at the Hotel or have a drink at one of the several saloons. There were millinary shops and people had access to all the goods available by rail.

Located on the San Pedro River, it also became a hub for the mills located up and down the river.


Currently these buildings are under rennovation.

On the other side of this slab is where the train tracks used to lie. Today there are no signs trains ever ran through this town. The town managed to stay alive, even after the trains quit running, because of the highway which was built next to the town.

I believe the school dates back to the 1890s.
Some miles southeast lies Bisbee, famous for its copper mines.
After the mines all closed around 1985, the town realized it would die unless something was done. The citizens decided to capitalize on its heritage by putting together a first class museum and by keeping the town much as it was in the early 1900s.

Built on a hillside, you can see each of these streets is at a different angle.

The is the Copper Queen Hotel which dates back to when the town was in its heyday.

Another old building.

Site of "The Glory Hole" the original entrance to the Copper Queen Mine.
During the time the mines were operating they removed 8 billion pounds of copper and 3 million ounces of gold and silver, making this the richest copper mine in Arizone. Underground mining was central until 1910 when open pit mining came along and started mining the low grade ore while the underground mines continued to mine the higher grade ores.

Looking down the old main street.

A view of the town from the Copper Queen Mine.

I decided to take the Copper Queen Mine tour.

You can see this entrance was built in 1915.

Here we go, 1500 feet into the side of the mountain. Although the mine was several levels both above and below for a total of 700 feet, we saw mainly this level from where the train could take us.

We did stop once and climbed 35 steps to the next higher level. Here is one of the drills as was used at the time the mine closed. Our guide worked at the mine for 24 years before retiring. He had some interesting stories to tell, too.

Can you see the 2 green spots, one on the upper left, and one about middle? These are both copper in the rock. This is the purpose of the mines, to get that copper out. I found an explanation of the difference between rock/ore/grade. Any rock containing metal, which is profitable after digging it out is considered ore. All other rock is waste rock. Grade is the percentage of metal per ton. High grade ore is about 8-10%, meaning there is up to 160-200 pounds of copper per ton of ore. Nowadays high tech equipment can make a profit off low grade ores, some as low as .1% or 2 pounds per ton of ore.

These bicycles were provided for the bosses, who had to make the rounds of many sites multiple times per shift.

Ore broken up on the upper levels was sent down chutes into the ore cars for removal. We did not get to see how they removed the ore from the lower levels, only that it was said to be hauled up.

The mine is in much the same condition as it was when it closed operations 25 years ago, including many of the signs required to be posted.

Where did the guys go, when they had to "go"? These 'sanitary pots' were maintained on each level. I'm not sure why they were called 'honey pots' because I'm sure they didn't smell sweet.

This shovel could scoop ore and an experienced operator could fill one of the buckets in less than a minute.

An interior frame showing when it was constructed.

The town in its heydey in the early 1900s with a population of 20,000.


But by 1908 the downtown had burnt 3 times and was rebuilt.
When the mines opened in 1877 all the copper had to be hauled over 50 miles by freight wagon to Benson where it could be loaded on the railroads. But in 1881 they saved 25 miles when the New Mexico and Santa Fe Railroad opened in Fairbanks. In 1883 the trip was made easier when a toll road opened across the Mule Mountains.
Between Bisbee and Fairbanks was Tombstone. Made famous by the shootout at the OK Corral, the town itself was a short lived boom town fueled by silver mining. The first mine was found in 1878, and then the boom was on. It brought those prospectors and all the followers for the short time silver mining existed. In the late 1880s the mines flooded and the boom ended. But by that time it had a reputation for corruption and lawlessness which attracted many of the Old West's most famous characters. The town was known for its gambling, stage shows and prostitues. There were numerous gunfights, although none as famous as the shootout at the OK Corral. From about 1889 until the 1930s it was mainly forgotten. Now it contains many an historic landmark.
Many of these buildings are original, have only been restored and turned into shops and tourist traps. You can take a stage coach ride or watch a gun fight in the street.

The Bird Cage was one of the more prominent attraction in the 1880s. Now a museum, I did not have time the day I visited, so I decided this would be something to come back to.
Truthfully, I was disappointed in Tombstone. I knew it would be 'touristy', but I had no idea. I've been to places like Deadwood, and Dodge City, but never have I been to something like Tombstone. Every place you go into wants to sell you a ticket if you want to see it. And they aren't cheap either. Most tickets were $10 or more. Figure several of those and it adds up quick. Even the shootout at the OK Corral is now held privately and you have to pay to see the gunfight. Several places boast gunfights, but they all charge. I even saw a sign at one of the stores for a self-guided tour for only $1. At least in Deadwood the gunfights are free.

I did think this scene was cute. (He was soliciting business for a gunfight down the street for only $4)

The old courthouse is now a state park. I got to Tombstone on my way back from Bisbee and decided I didn't have time to do more than stroll down the main street. This is another site to come back to.

I did see these guys jamming on the porch, so I stopped for a few minutes to listen.

If you want to see the site itself you have to pay. I declined.

Fort Huachuca and Kartchner Caverns

Last year I visited 9 caves of various sorts, but I missed Kartchner Caverns. But I was going to be in the area and decided from all I had heard, the visit would be worth it. Found in 1974 by 2 amateur cavers, they kept it secret for 4 years. Then they let the owners of the land, the Kartchner's, know about the cavern. But it continued to be kept secret until 1988 when the state of Arizona purchased it from the Kartchner's to be developed as a state park. The reason for secrecy was so it would not be contaminated and destroyed. After the state purchased the property they spent 4 years studying the cave before developing it for viewing by the public. It was another 7 years, or not until 1999, before it actually opened to the public.
No cameras or photos are allowed on the tour. They are concerned about the potential for the 300-600 people per day, and all the flash photography causing damage. They do have the most strict rules of any cave I have been in. A rather small cave system compared to many, it is only 2 1/2 acres of cave system. 2/3 have been developed. There are 2 caves for viewing, but one cave, The Big Room, is also the nursery of a local bat population, so it is closed from April-October. The other cave, The Throne Room/Rotunda, is open all year. Controlling the number of visitors it is best to have reservations. Many times the tours are booked weeks in advance. When both tours are operating they can take up to 600 people through the caves per day.
I toured both caves and personally I didn't think they were the best I've been it, but they were pretty. My first tour guide was not very good and even though he has been giving these tours since 2002, he didn't answer the questions well and barely told us anything about the caves. But on the second cave tour of the Throne Room/Rotunda, the guide was excellent. If you can only choose one cave tour, choose the Throne Room/Rotunda, and not just because I had a good guide. There was more variety and formations than the other cave.

Before my reservations for the caverns, I visited Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, just south of Kartchner Caverns.
This building was completed in 1892, but the fort was established as a temporary camp in 1877. The U.S. Army brought in the first troops in 1849 to protect the pioneers and settlers heading to California for the gold rush. Over the next 30 years many small forts were established because of the problems with some of the native tribles.

All 4 of the Buffalo Soldier regiments spent time at the fort over the years.

Indian Scouts were used by the army in the mid 1800s, but were not offically recognized until 1866. Since they tracked enemy bands and others by reading the lay of the land and other signs, some consider the Indian Scouts some of the first military intelligence.
In 1916 troops from the fort marched against Pancho Villa in the Mexican/American War.
General Pershing, George Patton, William Donovan, George Marshall and Omar Bradley. What did all these men have in common? They were all important military commander who early in their careers, prior to 1917, served here on the border.
In later years Fort Huachuca became known for its importance in the military intelligence community. In 1954, after being shut down for 7 months following the Korean War, it opened the Army Electronic Proving Ground. The U.S. Army Signal Command took its headquarters at Fort Huachuca in 1967 and today most military intelligence training is conducted here.
I personally found the Military Intelligence Museum as interesting as that about the fort itself.
This machine is the Enigma, an electro mechanical cipher used by the Nazi's, who thought it's code to be unbreakable. But early in WWII the British broke the code, keeping this information secret. The intelligence learned by decrypting Engima messages was known as ULTRA.
Other cold war tradecraft were:

This fake tree would hold a video camera and transmitter.

The false bottom of this thermos was used to transport microfilm and tapes. Funny, but it looks just like one that I have.

Ground Radar Surveillance like above was first used in Korea. Devices like this can detect a person 3 miles away and vehicles up to 6 miles away.
A few other interesting tidbits about military intelligence: Signit (signal intelligence) played a part when telegraph and telephone messages intercepted in 1915 and 1916 led to the march against Pancho Villa; and early aerial reconissance was used along the borders during the Mexican/American war, 1913-1916; the first official military intelligence unit was established in 1917.

A tribute to the U.S. Cavalry and the Indian Scout.

I visited the RV park on the fort and found this little guy following me around. I guess he was expecting some food, but he graciously hung around until I could get my camera out of the car and take his picture.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Chiricahua National Monument

A group of us headed south to the Chiricahua National Monument for a ranger led talk on "Buffalo Soldiers". In 1885 the 10th Cavalry established an encampment. It consisted of a troop of black soldiers who were originally from Pennsylvania. They served in the Civil War, then spent time in Texas and New Mexico before being sent to Arizona. "Buffalo Soldiers" were the name the Indians gave to the Negro's because of their black skin being like the color of the buffalo. They did not leave much behind. There were few permanent buildings. They did build a structure to hold the flag which was flown in the center of the encampment. The men scrawled their names and dates on the stones while they were there.
Near the location of the encampment, following the surrender of Geronimo, was the cabin built by Swedish immigrants Neil and Emma Erickson in 1888. Although the original cabin was three small rooms, it was later expanded two more times to what is seen above. The ranch was centered around cattle which Emma managed while Neil found work in the area around Douglas, AZ. Neil continued to work away from the family while Emma tended the ranch until he took the job as the first ranger for the Chiricahua Forest Reserve about 1903. His home here at Faraway Ranch was also his headquarters until his retirement some years later.
They say the name of Faraway Ranch came about because it was so dog gone far away from everything!
During the addition of the fireplace to the home Neil used blocks from the Buffalo Soldiers encampment.
In 1917 the Erickson's daughters started a second business at the ranch, entertaining guests. Thus began the Faraway Ranch Guest Resort. The guests could take walks, watch birds or ride horses through the 'Wonderland of Rocks'. Eventually the eldest daughter, Lillian, and her husband, Ed Riggs, took over the ranch and Lillian ran it until 1972.

During its heydey it even sported a pool.

The Erickson's. Neil and Emma are seated with Lillian standing on the left. Next to her are her brother and sister. Following the death of Lillian in 1977 the park service purchased the property to be preserved as part of the Chiricahua National Monument.

This Grey Breasted Jay watched us eat lunch hoping we would drop some crumbs.

Following lunch several of us hiked the 5 mile round trip to Natural Bridge.
In 1924 Chiricahua National Monument was established to protect the isolated mountain range containing the pinnacle rock formations which are the heart of its unique beauty. In 1934 the CCC took on the job of improving the roads and creating trails. Known as "Sky Island", the origins of the rocks are said to be from the volcanic eruptions of the Turkey Creek Volcano some 27 million years ago.
A visitor on our path.

I was expecting to walk out on a natural bridge formation in the rocks, but that wasn't the case.

Looking where the sign pointed, across the ravine we could see the natural bridge. Even though I didn't get to walk out on the natural bridge, the hike was beautiful. The Chiricahua's aren't just mountains. We hiked through desert terrain, pine and juniper forests, alongside Bonita Creek, and through wonderful rock formations and along the tops of ridges.
The next day another group returned for the "heart of the rocks" hike. Riding a park shuttle bus to the top of Bonita Canyon, 9 of us hiked 7 miles back down to the visitor center. One person took the shorter hike of only 4 miles.

At a little over 6000 feet it was a little cool.

The Apache's called these pinnacles 'standing up rocks'. It's not hard to understand why.

Everywhere you looked you saw a landscape of pinnacles.

Yet we started our hike in the trees.

One of the first named formations we came to was Mushroom Rock.

In some places there was still the remains of snow.

Standing atop a rock formation with the snow capped mountains in the background.

Someone said this looked like piles of pancakes.

We finally made it up to the top so we could walk through the pinnacles.

This is called 'The Old Maid'. I don't know why it couldn't be called 'The Old Man'.

Camel's Head.

Cochise.

Punch and Judy.
Usually I don't see the resemblance when rock formations are named, but I had no problem recognizing all of the formations I saw on the hike. There were many more, but I couldn't put them all in.

I especially like 'Duck on a Rock'.

At the bottom of the trail it was like walking through an oasis.
I know I have lots of places in the U.S. yet to visit, but I was really impressed with the Chiricahua Mountains.