GAYS MILLS - On my recent trip to the Grand Canyon State, I was far from the canyon but still saw some amazing things. After seeing our grandson Bodhi competing in the national scooter competition in Tucson, I was able to see some sights–some old and some new to me.
Traveling south of Tucson, I stopped for a couple of hours in Tombstone, “the most authentic western town left in the United States.” Tombstone is a town that really knows how to capitalize on its history.
The winter is a busy time for the quintessential western town, out there on the high (4,550 feet) desert. The main street of the town is dirt, so it looks authentic and old timey.
Numerous locals wandered about in period costumes on the Sunday I visited and most of the men were packing side arms. The sound of occasional gunfire (blanks, no doubt) was common and did not seem out of place. I wandered in and out of several gift shops, soaked up some genuine western vibes, saw the site of the famous OK Corral, and checked Tombstone off my bucket list.
I traveled a few miles further south to visit some old friends: Blake and Theresa Coleman, formerly from Gays Mills. They live in Bisbee, Arizona now where Theresa is the city manager. Only 11 miles away from Mexico, picturesque Bisbee is a very unique and interesting town. Founded in 1880, Bisbee was a gold, silver and copper mining town until the 1970s. It has now become a tourist destination and home to a thriving artists’ community.
Blake and Theresa showed me the village of Naco, Arizona, separated from Naco, Mexico by a pre-Trump border wall. They also showed me Fort Naco, a large, abandoned army fort and one of the last such outposts built on the border during the Mexican Revolution. The structures are largely of adobe and in disrepair and the fort struck me as a possible future tourist attraction.
Blake and I visited the Kartchtner Caverns on my way back to Tucson. The caverns are now part of an Arizona State Park that opened in 1999. The caverns were discovered in 1974 by an amateur caver, who stumbled onto (or into) a sinkhole which led to the huge cave system. The caverns are very well-developed and meticulously preserved for visitors. The 2.4 miles of trails in the caverns are all handicap accessible.
On my last day in Arizona, my sister Martha from Las Vegas met me in Phoenix. She agreed to go with me to something I very vaguely remembered called the Apache Trail that my family had traversed on our way back to California from a trip to Wisconsin in the early 50s. The trail made quite an impression on me as a youngster as it was a ‘shortcut’ through some very rugged mountainous terrain. It reminded me of some of the ‘hill roads’ on the Driftless area’s two-story farms.
The Apache Trail goes from Apache Junction, a suburb of Phoenix, up through the Superstition Mountains to Roosevelt Dam, a distance of 42 miles. Travel time is suggested to be three to four hours–depending on how often you stop to ogle the fantastic scenery. The lower part of the trail, from Apache Junction to Tortilla Flats, population 6, ‘The last stage stop on the Apache Trail’ is paved and about 20 miles long. That’s as far as we got, the rest of the trail was unpaved and closed.All in all, I saw a lot of neat things on my short stay in Arizona.