Giddy up, cowboys!! (Or SW Arizona....!)

Trip Start Jul 04, 2012
Trip End Jun 04, 2013

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Where I stayed
Butterfield RV Resort

Flag of United States  , Arizona
Monday, January 21, 2013

The wild west never really died.  It just became a tourist destination and the best place to stay is in the Benson area just east of Tuscon.  There is no better place to do some star gazing than the clear, dark skies of Arizona.  After a little research, Carolyn found the Butterfield R.V. Resort in Benson, Arizona.  Not only did it have the usual amenities (pool,spa,etc.) but it also had an observatory with a 16" Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector telescope and offered astronomy shows. Great viewing of Jupiter, Betleguese, Ridal, M42 (in Orion) and the moon!  The boys also spent time in the woodshop building man toys!

Flew out to visit the Pima Air and Space Museum our first day, to check out the largest non-government funded aviation museum in North America.  Saw everything from the NASA Guppy to the SR 70 Blackbird, along with a rock from the moon.

Our next stop, the Kartchner Caverns. The caves offer some of the best preserved cave viewing in the world.  The caves are host to some of the best preserved examples of giant stalagmites and stalactites, soda straws, draperies, fried eggs and other wonders. The one hour guided tour was truly amazing.  We were all in awe !!!  (Sorry no photos - not allowed to take pictures - check it out on the web if you're curious).

Next it was off to one of most famous and notorious wild west towns, Tombstone!  At the height of the silver mining boom Tombstone boasted a population of over 10,000 and over 100 saloons and some of the toughest characters in the west -  Doc Holliday, the Erp brothers, the Clatons brothers, Sheriff Slaughter.  The most famous shootout in history took place at the O.K. Corral, and the longest continuous poker game in history at the Bird Cage Saloon lasted over 8 years and it was said that over 8 million dollars changed hands !!!  We had a great time wandering the streets and practicing our quick draws. We also made  a quick stop in Bisbee the  home of one of the oldest copper mines in the state. A funky little town with a wonderful mining museum and great architecture.

A day trip to west of Tucson had us visiting Mission San Xavier del Bac, a Franciscan mission built in 1785 and still an active church, and learning at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum.  Watched raptors fly, bobcats prowl and saw stinging/biting things up close!

We then decided to head north of Tucson to Catalina State Park for a couple of days.  Located in Oracle, Biosphere 2 was opened in 1990.  It was engineered to create a better understanding of how natural environments create habitable conditions for human sustainability.  Containing 5 of Earth's biomes, you may remember the Human Missions that occurred between 1991-1994.  The large ecological experiment facility run by U of AZ is now looking forward to alternate technology and systems.  Could you stay in an enclosed facility for 2 years without ever going outside?!

Next we backtracked east and stayed in Willcox, AZ.  Checked out Fort Bowie, home of the Battle of the Apache's Pass (the Southwest's history is shaped by the wars against the Apache peoples who were fierce warriors) and hiked a bit through the Chiricahua National Monument.  It is special due to its stunning rock pinnacles and convergence of 4 ecosystems - Rocky Mountains, Mexico's Sierra Madre, Chihuahuan Desert and Sonoran Desert.  Think Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine meeting pinyon pine meeting cactus, yucca and agave!  We actually hiked through the snow and it smelled like home with the pine trees.........

Travelled north a bit to Roper Lake State Park to canoe (haha!), to celebrate Rene's 27th birthday and to visit an important watershed area of the SW - the Gila Wilderness Riparian Area.  Got to see coatimundis and actual running water!

Our plan at this time is to stay in the southern regions of the Southwest, we are continuing east into New avoid the cold and snow...........stay posted to see if our "strategic" thinking works out!

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