Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona

Not far from Tombstone, Bisbee and Fort Huachuca Arizona is the sleepy little town of Tucson….. or should I say not far from Tucson are the sleepy little towns of Tombstone, Bisbee and Fot Huachuca?  In any case visitors to Tucson can reach Bisbee in about 90 mins and might like a day trip to the mining town turned art mecca!  I just happened to be going West so I visited the small towns first and then Tucson.  During my visit I made a stop in the Saguaro National Park a short distance West of Interstate 10, this time of year the weather is near perfection!

Above and below, Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona.

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Bisbee, Arizona 2012

Copper put Bisbee, Arizona on the map at the turn of the 20th Century.  At that time, the rapid growth of the US electric grid and the nationwide phone network caused the demand for copper to skyrocket!  Bisbee had much of the copper the US so desperately needed and workers from all over the country came to seek employment in the mines.  At one time, the population of Bisbee reached a height of 20,000, significantly larger than the current population of about 5,000.  Today Bisbee is an eclectic mix of people, many of whom call the town home because of the enjoyable climate and laid-back lifestyle!  If you are in South East Arizona, a visit to Bissbee should be on everyone’s itinerary!    

Above, a view of the store-fronts of old Bisbee.

Below, the Art influence once again shows itself in Bisbee, Arizona.

Above and below, the “Copper Queen” Hotel shows the wealth the town had due to the massive copper mine.

Above and below a few of the many historic trailers found in Bisbee, Arizona.

Below, Bertha sits overlooking the Lavender Mine in Bisbee, Arizona.

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South East Arizona 2012.

I departed Silver City early on Sunday morning and headed South toward Lordsburg, New Mexico, along the way I crossed the Continental Divide once again.  I don’t know why, but whenever I cross the “Divide” I always think back to the pioneers and what it must have been like to cross the South West in horse and buggy 150 years ago.  The hardships they faced and the resolve they showed in order to have a better life for themselves and their families is truly remarkable.  I know there are two sides to the remarkable story of how the West was won, one side seen from the perspective of the Settlers and the other perspective is from the Indians!

Above, an example of the “hardships” pioneers faced in the South Western United States over 100 years ago.

Above, the scenery changed drastically shortly after I crossed the New Mexico – Arizona State Line!

Above, the famous Western Town of Tombstone, Arizona.  It’s amazing how a 30 second gunfight at the OK Corral put this dusty little mining town on the map for the last 130 years!

Below, the Famous Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone, Arizona.

Above, some of the Old West sights from Tombstone, Arizona.

Below, the Cochise County Courthouse in Tombstone, Arizona, now a museum.

Above, the entrance to the OKCorral in Tombstone, Arizona.  I did’t enter the courtyard where the gunfight took place.  I decided after reading the details at the Museum that I had enough information!

Below, a young cowboy pauses to let me take his picture on the street.  He like many of the “cowboy-actors” are not originally from Tombstone but came there because of their love of the old west.

Below, Big Nose Kate’s Saloon in Tombstone, Arizona.

After a few hours in Tombstone, I had enough of 6 shooters and cowboys and decided to go visit Bisbee, Arizona a much different town!  Bisbee landed on the map after the discovery of one of the richest copper mines in history.  After the mines closed in the early 1970s the town started to become a mecca for artists!

Above and below, the Lavender Mine in Bisbee, Arizona.  Known as the “Queen of Copper Mines” in its day because of how profitable it was!

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Silver City, New Mexico 2012, part 2.

Below are a few more photographs of Silver City, New Mexico.

Above, the “Silver City RV Park” where I decided to spend the first night in Silver City.

Below, signs of a possible stealthy boon-docker in downtown Silver City, New Mexico.  A buddy of mine Dave had a similar van in the 1990s and made countless trips to the desert southwest in it!

Above, the view of Silver City from Boston Hill.

Above and below, signs of how Silver City got its name….. Silver Mining!  These Pit Mines are probably from the 1880s?  It’s amazing to see the rocks stacked next to the pits, probably placed there by the original mines and never touched again!

Above, the 1880s home that now is the Silver City Museum.  The home was built in 1881 and was the residence to a wealthy gentleman and his family until he lost his mining fortune in 1889 and moved to Long Beach California in 1892!  

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Silver City New Mexico 2012

My final stop in SouthWest Texas was El Paso.  I spent the night on Fort Bliss Army Base.  I arrived after dark and didn’t really know my way around so I boon-docked for the night behind an old Theater Building to seek shelter from the 50 mph wind gusts sweeping across the base!  After a great night’s rest, I visited the base commissary to stock up on a few food items and I was off…. direction West…. destination, Silver City, New Mexico!  It was an easy 160 mile drive from El Paso to Silver City.  I arrived at about 4:00 PM and decided I would spend the night in an RV Park so I could top off my water, empty my tanks and do some laundry.  I chose the “Silver City RV Park” because of its proximity to the Historic Silver City Downtown area, only about a 5 mins walk!  Bill, the RV Park Host, was very friendly and gave me some great information on the town and also a list of resources for the Work-Camp RVer!  Even though I stayed the first night in an RV Park, it looks like the town would be an easy, safe place to boon-dock and I saw a few campers doing just that!  After settling Big Bertha into her designated RV spot for the night, I went into town for a bite to eat and to walk around!  The first impression I had was, “this town has an eclectic mix of folks.”  It’s easy to see the mix of students, miners, holistic healthcare givers and lots of other folks at any number of the local coffee establishments!  On the Silver City town website they refer to their town as “the way Santa Fe was before all the “trustifarians” arrived.”  Probably a great way to describe the town.  Silver City became famous in the 1870s with the discover of, of course, silver in the hills surrounding the town.  The fame was short lived and by the late 1880s some of the wealthiest had lost their fortunes when 2 of the local banks collapsed!  Evidently, after the mining bust the town reinvented itself as a destination for travelers seeking better health.  That reinvention is still evident today as many holistic health businesses are located all around the downtown area.  Below are a few photographs of the morning walk around town and up into the hills to the south and west of the downtown area called Boston Hill.  There is a wonderful labyrinth of walking trails weaving their way around centuries old pit mines dotting the hillside!  To find a great starting point for a hike into the hills around Silver City, go to the trial-head on the south side of the County Courthouse Building.

Above, one of the many murals on century old buildings in Silver City, New Mexico.

Below, The welcome sign to Historic Downtown Silver City, New Mexico.

Above, one of the many store-fronts dating back to the 1880s.

Below, the City Hall Clock, in Silver City, New Mexico.

Above and below, more 1880s architecture in Silver City, New Mexico!

Below, another colorful mural on a store-front in Silver City, New Mexico.

Above and below, a reminder that the infamous “Billy The Kid” aka William Bonney, called Silver City home in the mid-1870s when he lived in a cabin similar to this recreation built on the site of the original dwelling.  As many of you know, Billy went on to become a central figure in the Lincoln County Wars of 1878 to 1881 in Lincoln County, New Mexico.

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Alpine, Fort Davis, Marfa and Van Horn….. South West Texas 2012

I departed Big Bend National Park knowing that I will definitely be back for another visit!  There is so much to see and scenery as beautiful as this never gets old!  What a spectacular Park, a job well done to the National Park Service!
I headed north along Hwy 18 for about 120 miles to the wind swept, dusty little town of Alpine, home to Sul Ross College and this weekend, the Cowboy Poetry Gathering!  Sul Ross is a great little college with a fantastic Museum, the Museum of Big Bend.  I suppose it would have made more sense to see the Museum before seeing the Park but I had no idea the museum existed?  So a word of advice to future first time visitors to Big Bend, I recommend you go through Alpine, Texas first to visit the Museum of Big Bend at Sul Ross College.  The Museum is really well done and worth a few hour visit for sure!

After a morning in Alpine, I continued my journey north to Fort Davis.  The town gets its namesake from the 1850s Army Fort.  Like Fort Stockton, Fort Davis was instrumental in providing security for supply routes westward and travelers in the mid to late 1800s.  The US Parks Service is responsible for Fort Davis and has spent a lot of money refurbishing the Fort and it shows!  The Fort is extremely well maintained, complete with volunteers dressed as former soldiers and family members ready to answer questions about what life was like at the Fort.  I would plan on 2 to 3 hours to see the Park properly!  It is definitely worth a visit!
To the south and west of Fort Davis is the quirky, artist haven of Marfa.  I am sure some of my readers have heard of the Marfa lights?  Those desert lights that appear from nowhere…..  I stopped for a few hours to take pictures and walk around.
After Marfa I headed for Interstate 10 so I can continue my journey westward to San Diego.  Along the way I stopped in Van Horn for fuel and chicken enchiladas at Chuys.  Evidently Chuys was a favorite stop for NFL Football Coach John Madden who didn’t fly, so during the football season he logged many miles criss-crossing the US.  The enchiladas were great!

Above, the Museum of Big Bend at Sul Ross College in Alpine, Texas.  A wonderful little Museum!

Below, one of the many displays at the Museum of Big Bend at Sul Ross College.  I have said it before in earlier posts and i will probably say it again, I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to travel thousands of miles in a covered wagon.  I have Bertha, a modern Truck Camper, and think I am on an adventure…. ?

Below, Main Street in Alpine, Texas.

Above and below, Historic Fort Davis in Fort Davis, Texas.

Above, a recreation of the Enlisted-mens Barracks at Fort Davis.  The US PArks Service has paid great attention to detail in all the recreations!  Many of the items were actually from the soldiers and families that served at the Fort in the 1800s.

Below, a view of the Commissary and a covered wagon at Fort Davis.

Above and below, Officer’s Housing at Fort Davis.

Above, after visiting the Park I headed back to Bertha, to find more small RV travelers.  Small RVs are a great way to see the US!

Above, a car in Marfa, Texas…. remember I said quirky….

Below, the Courthouse in Downtown Marfa, Texas.

Above, Chuy’s Restaurant in Van Horn, Texas, a favorite stop for former NFL Football Coach John Madden…. John knows his food, this place served delicious eats!

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Big Bend National Park in South West Texas.

About as far South and as far West as one can go in the state of Texas is Big Bend National Park.  The Park’s Southern boundary consists of 118 miles of the Rio Grande River, which of course, is the US Mexican border.  Big Bend is an absolutely “must visit” National Park at least once in a lifetime.  My buddy Dave recommended I visit the Park and boy what a great recommendation that turned out to be!  Thanks Dave!  The Park is a magnificent mix of sceneries, from desert rock formations and mountain peaks of up to about 7000 feet to the majestic Rio Grande River cutting its way through rocks hundreds of feet deep on either side.  Upon arrival, I stopped at Panther Junction, the Park’s main Ranger Station, and got an overnight permit to stay at the “K-Bar 1” remote camping spot.  The camping spot is just off the main road leading to Rio Grande Village, where I planned to spend about 4 hours paddling my kayak the next day.  A word of advice, if you think you want a remote camping spot at Big Bend, I recommend you stop at Panther Junction Ranger Station as early as possible and reserve a spot.  Camping spots can fill up quickly and since the Panther Junction Ranger Station is centrally located it will save you a trip back to the Station later in the day.  If you don’t stay at the Park overnight you can always stop by the Ranger Station on the way out and turn-in your camping site for issue to another camper.  Most camping areas have only about half a dozen spots and there is plenty of space between you and the next campsite.  The best thing about the Park is its remoteness, and that means almost no light pollution, allowing for great star gazing.  On my second day of visiting the Park I must admit, Kayaking the Rio Grande was an awesome adventure I hadn’t really planned for until I got to the Park.  I left Bertha parked at the picnic area in Rio Grande Village and set off in my kayak going up stream for about 3 miles.  Along the way I passed the Hot Springs and of course when I headed back downstream back toward Rio Grande Village, I stopped for a soak in 105 degree waters.  I was surprised how narrow and shallow the river is in sections.  The drought over the last year has left the river lower than normal but still deep enough in plenty of areas for a few hour paddle.  Just be prepared to drag your Kayak over some low spots!  Below are a few pictures of my 2 day visit to Big Bend National Park!

Above, Bertha faces North West at the K-Bar 1 Camp Site in Big Bend National Park.

Below, looking up-steram on the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park in my Innova Kayak.

Above, a quick stop along the US side of the Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park… or was it the Mexican side?  Gee,  I don’t remember,  did I stray into Mexico… oh no… did I?  Oh well it’s the Rio Grande for sure!

Above, another picture of the Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park.

Below, after my trip on the river, I followed the trail from the picnic area toward the Hot Springs to get a good view of the Rio Grande from above!  In this picture I am looking up stream from the Rio Grande Village Area, this time I am sure I’m in the USA!  USA on the right, Mexico on the left!

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Historic Fort Stockton

How did Fort Stockton come to be……?  After the gold-rush of 1849, many Americans from the East moved West to seek their fortune.  As settlers moved West the need to provide security for them also grew. In the 1850s the US Army established Camp Stockton in order to provide security for many growing towns in South West Texas.  The Army pursued Indians and Outlaws in South West Texas all the way to the Mexican Border.  During the Civil War, the Camp was abandoned and then re-established as Fort Stockton in 1867 until it closed in 1886 when the Army determined the threat posed by the Indians and Outlaws had diminished.  The majority of soldiers at Fort Stockton were Buffalo Soldiers (black soldiers), given the name by Indians because the soldier’s hair, they believed, resembled the hair on the shoulders and heads of buffalos.  The Buffalo Soldiers were led by white officers and proved to be excellent military men!  Life at Fort Stockton was tough, it was common for soldiers to spend weeks at a time on foot or horseback in the pursuit of Indians and Outlaws.  When back at the Fort, there was little to do in the dusty little town.  Today the Historic Fort Stockton is maintained by the city as a tourist attraction.  The visitors center is very well maintained and provides an authentic glimpse into what life was like for the soldiers and officers of 19th century Fort Stockton.  

Above, the Historic Fort Stockton in South West Texas.

Below, the Enlisted barracks built around 1867 at Fort Stockton.

Above, the Enlisted Soldiers barracks at Fort Stockton.

Below, on the parade grounds of Historic Fort Stockton, a 1860s wagon is on display.  This one was used in 2 John Wayne movies!

Above, the Historic Fort Stockton jail.  Frontier military justice was harsh!

Below, one of the 2 cells in the Historic Fort Stockton jail.

Above, the Episcopal Church adjacent to the Fort parade grounds is believed to be the first one West of the Pecos River!

Below, the Historic Pecos County Courthouse in the town of Fort Stockton.

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Fort Stockton Texas, 2012

Clear, sunny skies led me West from San Antonio along Interstate 10 for about 370 miles to the town of Fort Stockton today.  I went a little further than I wanted to but there was not a lot of interesting things to see along the route so I kept going!  I drove just above a snail’s pace at about 60 mph.  The “official” speed limit along most of Interstate 10 West of San Antonio is 80 mph so as you can imagine, I didn’t pass anyone!  As a mater of fact, a few cowboys on horseback passed me just west of the Pecos River! I like driving that way… slow and steady!  I arrived in Fort Stockton at about 5:30 this evening, and as luck would have it the Visitor’s Center closed at 5:00.  The parking lot at the Center looks safe and well illuminated so… since nobody is there to tell me I cannot overnight, I guess this will be home for the night.  I will work with the concept that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission and if a friendly police office stops to tell me to “move along” I will play stupid!  In good at that!  In the morning I will visit the old Fort and the Historic Pecos County Courthouse and then head due south to Big Bend State Park on the Rio Grande!  I have never been to the park but hear it’s definitely worth a visit.  Oh… and not to make my friends and family in Kentucky, Michigan or Ohio angry…. but did I mention it’s 70 and sunny here in southwest Texas?  I noticed it was supposed to drop into the mid-30s and rain tonight in Kentucky….yikes!

Below are a few pictures from the Fort Stockton Visitors Center.

Above, Bertha takes a break from driving and relaxes in front of the Fort Stockton Visitor’s Center.

Below, the Fort Stockton, Texas Visitor’s Center.

Below, 2 Cowboys stand watch over the Fort Stockton Visitor’s Center.

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Gruene, Texas 2012

In the Town of New Braunfels is the wonderful little tourist attraction on the Guadalupe River known as “Gruene,” a 19th Century town founded by German Immigrants. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon or evening shopping and dining.  There are plenty of shops and restaurants to keep you busy for at least a few hours!  On my way westward from the San Antonio area I stopped to take a few happy snappies!

Below, a few pictures of the little tourist attraction know as “Gruene” in New Braunfels, Texas.

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