Monday, January 12, 2015

Tucson, Tombstone and Bisbee

Click Pictures to Enlarge

Three days in the Tucson area is just not enough to see everything we wanted to see in the area. The Desert Museum, Saguaro National Park, Old Tucson, Pima Air Museum…….not to mention other local attractions such as Tombstone and a mine tour in the quaint little town of Bisbee Arizona. As our friends and family up north are huddled in front of their heaters enduring temperatures in the negative teens and twenties, Barb and I deliberated which sites to see while suffering through temps that reached over 80. Oh, the sacrifices we make in the name of adventure!

In the end, we decided on the national park, the desert museum, Tombstone and the mine tour. Decisions we would not regret.

Our first few days in the area were spent at Snyder Hills BLM area. This area is located off of Hwy 86 just south of Tucson and is a great spot for a couple days of free camping.
Snyder Hills site
Sunsets from our site

We could hear these guys around the trailer at night so we kept Daisy on a short leash!
Our previous two weeks had been filled with meeting new people on the road, our trip to Tucson involved meeting up with friends as well. Who do you suppose were spending the night in Tucson on their trip from Florida to Lake Mead? That’s right, our friends Steve and Joan! As big as the country can seem at time, it is amazing it can also seem so small, what are the chances they would be passing through when we were there? We were able to get together for dinner at Texas Roadhouse. Although it was a quick visit, it was great to see them and…..bonus….Joan gave us a bag of freshly picked pecans from Alabama!

The Saguaro National Park is only about 10 minutes from Snyder Hills. Although it may not have some of the prominent geological features found in other national parks it was still very interesting. Although much of the area has been protected since the early 1930’s it did not become a national park until 1994. Cattle grazing and human encroachment has severely diminished the Saguaro in the area, thankfully within the park boundaries they are virtually untouched.  The Saguaro, called the Monarch of the Desert, starts out its life with a seed the size of a pinhead. At the end if it’s first year the Saguaro is ¼” tall, at 15 years, 12” tall, 50 years, 7’ tall. They start growing “arms” at about 75 years old and a 25’er can be as old as 200 years old! Given this it is understandable why they need an area of protection.

A few of these "monarchs" were well 100 years old!
I see 4 varieties right next to each other 
A fallen soldier
In addition to the Saguaro, there is a huge number of other plants, animals and birds that we have not seen before. Although considered a desert, there is as much life out there as you would see in a Wisconsin forest. Truly amazing.

Barb hiding behind an Ocotillo cactus 

Pencil Cholla Cactus
Prickly Pear Cactus

Fish Hook Barrel Cactus

Teddy Bear Cholla
Our next adventure was the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. The cost was $20.00/person to get in and is a combination museum/zoo along with a botanical garden, art gallery and aquarium with lots of historical artifacts from the prehistoric era to Native American. The most interesting part for us was seeing all the different types of plants and cactus in the area. While walking the desert earlier we saw all sorts of interesting plants but had no idea what they were. Now, we at least know the names of a couple, useful information as everything here is new to us.

Headed down into a cavern

Testing out her new bat ears.

The next day we traveled an hour to Tombstone Territorial RV Park. With our Passport America discount the park was less than $19.00 for the night.  Tombstone is a typical tourist town full of shops trying to lure you in to buy their wares. We spent the day in the town of Tombstone walking the streets going in and out of each of the shops. If you are able to look beyond these and let your mind wander and look at the architecture of the buildings and imagine what this town was like back in the late 1800's it is quite interesting. The highlight of our trip there was attending a reenactment of the gunfight at the OK Corral as well as viewing the shops, wagons, pictures and articles from back then. We were hesitant to pay the $10/person to attend the reenactment thinking it was going to be a corny skit with bad acting but we had come this far so why not? What actually occurred was quite the opposite, we were entertained and educated for 30 minutes by some pretty good actors who got the crowd involved throughout. We walked away feeling the $20 was well worth it and it made our trip.

30 shots were fired in 30 seconds
Wyatt standing over Billy Clanton while the McLaury brothers lie nearby

Doc Holliday and one of the McLaury brothers

Spoiler Alert!.........The Earp Brothers survived
Leaving Tombstone we headed back towards our campsite and stopped at a the ghost town of Fairbank where we walked among some of the old buildings and cemetery. Here is so much history in this area that it is hard not to get caught up in it and imagine what life must have been like in the 1880's. The town was the railroad hub for Tombstone and surrounding towns but slowly died over the next few decades.
Most of the grave sites were broken crosses and piles of rocks


Mati Nelson......a relative?
Feb 25, 1899
On our last day in the area we headed to Bisbee to visit the Queen Mine. We took the rig with us as it was on our way to the next stop. We called ahead to make sure there was parking that would accommodate us and were told it would not be a problem. They lied. We pulled into the lot and it became quickly apparent that not only could we not park there, we could not even turn around! Luckily we were able to sneak into an RV park adjacent to the mine and get it turned around and found a sketchy spot to park the rig. The rig parked, and tensions high, Barb and I headed into the Queen Mine building. We paid our $13.00 and headed in for the tour. The Queen Mine, one of the greatest copper camps the world has ever known. In almost 100 years of continuous production before the Bisbee mines closed in 1975, the local mines produced metals valued at $6.1 billion (at 1975 price) one of the largest production valuations of all the mining districts in the world. This staggering amount of wealth came from the estimated production of 8,032,352,000 lbs of copper, 2,871,786 ounces of gold, 77,162,986 ounces of silver, 304,627,600 lbs of lead and 371,945,900 lbs of zinc.

Donned with hardhat, rain suit and flashlights we headed to the mouth of the mine where a motorized mine car and trolley carts awaited us to take us into the mine.

The bicycle type thing below was how the mine boss traveled throughout the mine checking on his workers. Legend goes that the workers would steal the bike and hide it from the mine boss so he had to walk if he wanted to check on them! The cart behind the bike was the typical cart used to take the ore out of the mine. The shoots above the cart was one of the methods they used to fill the carts. In the early days the young strong men of the mine would be assigned to move these carts which would weigh 3/4 of a ton. Later, they used mules which could move 4 carts at a time. The mules were later replaced by the motorized carts.

Another method used to filled the carts were these loaders.
Several types of drills were used throughout the mines history, starting with pointed steel rods hammered into the rock wall to a depth of 7 feet. Miners would get an average of two holds drilled each day. Hand drilling was replaced by drilled driven by water and air, the latest drill would take on 7-10 minutes to drill 7 feet into the rock. Once 25 holes were drilled each hole was filled with several sticks of dynamite and detonated to get to the ore.

And no mine is complete without the crapper cart!
Next up, we add two new states to our travels....New Mexico and Texas!

Thanks for stopping by......Go Packers!


  1. We knew that mine tour would be good! Glad you got to see it.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! We read your post about Tombstone as well, very funny!

    2. Armchair traveller here..Thanks to Jim and Barb for the tour of the mine..I am sure Scott and Detra enjoyed the too. Cheers!

    3. It was really quite interesting. There was one attendee who had to be walked out for fear of being in the mine shaft. I am sure Scott and Detra will make it back there at some point. Stay warm up there!

  2. Looks like you guys are having a blast! We still have to get to Bisbee.
    Safe travels!

    1. We did not get into the town itself, only the mine. We were not quite parked legally so we thought we better not push our luck!

  3. What a great coincidence that you got to meet up with Steve and Joan as they were traveling west! Good timing!

    There sure is a lot to see and do in the Tucson area, not to mention all the hiking that consumes days. We were there for at least six weeks two winters ago and still didn't see and do everything. We are headed back in a few weeks. Great saguaro and other cacti photos!!

    1. We did not even get on one hike while in the area! We would have no reservations about staying at Snyder Hills again, it was a decent place with lots of other friendly boondockers.

  4. The desert sunset photos are beautiful, as are the cactus. Thanks for the post!

    1. Thank you, so much to learn about photography, they are a work in progress. Barb took the sunset pictures, she read up on sunset photos and it really made a difference!

  5. We loved that area and are heading back in April. Thanks for the headsup on Snyders. We'll consider that one! I'm enjoying reading your posts of where we're headed in reverse! Still hope to see you at Palmetto Island

    1. We are still on schedule to be there on the 20th, lets hope the weather cooperates! If you need the coordinates to Snyder Hills let us know.