Friday, October 28, 2011

We're in Arizona! (Ft. Huachuca, AZ)

We moved from Alamogordo, NM to Fort Huachuca, AZ on Monday.  The longer then average (for us) drive went very well.  We didn't do much on Monday and Tuesday.  Checked out the military facility, met our 5 mile daily goal and chilled. The campground is very nice.  The sites are a good size, paved, VERY quiet with a nice view of the mountains. We're paying $130 for 8 nights. Occasionally you hear troops early in the morning and maybe an aircraft or two but generally speaking it's a very peaceful setting.

Wednesday we made our way  to Tombstone, AZ.

The little town is doing all it can do to retain the old outlaw charm.  They have "townsfolk" roaming the street in period dress.

Periodically they stage scenes that relate to the infamous "shoot out at the OK Corral."  Eventually the characters guide the outdoor, casually assembled crowd into the Corral for the final shoot out. That requires a ticket and we chose to not to participate. We did go to the locally acclaimed Big Nose Kate Saloon.  You could easily be stepping back into the 1880's.  They had very nice live music and we chowed on their over stuffed Reuben sandwich.

Love it!  It's very easy to just mosey around town and enjoy the old western experience.

After Tombstone we drove about 20 miles to Bisbee, AZ. All we did there was walk around town. It originally was a mining town driven primarily by copper. Now it's a modest, artsy, quirky town built into the side of a mountain.... or maybe it's a canyon. 

One of the "quirks" is numerous sets of STEEP steps going from one level to the next. Any way, we just had a great time walking around town. 

From there we drove home and capped our walking goal.

Thursday was a great hiking day at the Coronado National Memorial. 

This was the area of a massive wildfire this past summer.  It began June 12 and burned until the end of the month.  I may have been a bit skeptical about what we would experience there but I was pleasantly surprised.  Certainly the entire area revealed remnants of the fire.  But because of the arid desert terrain it didn't appear to be so gross.  Plus, it was impressive how quickly the plants were bouncing back.  The grasses had already returned. Even the completely charred trees and cactus had significant new growth at their base.  Ultimately, Mother Nature takes care of herself!

We started our day at the Coronado Cave.  The cave is 600 feet long and up to 20 feet tall.  It was created like millions of years ago by seas covering the desert washing through the limestone rock.  That's my best geological description!  Anyway we hiked the half mile to the cave entrance. 

Trail to cave entrance
It was quickly apparent that Debbie was not going to enter the cave.  You must climb down into the cave with some uncertain  footing and rapidly vanishing light.

So I entered the cave while Debbie fretted!

The cave was darn interesting.  I slowly worked my way back into the cave but I really don't know how much of it I saw.  I carried two flashlights but even the combination didn't provide the light needed to explore the cave.  The substandard light left me with minimal depth perception and I lacked the confidence to venture all the way to the back of the cave.  Additionally, I could hear Debbie calling out to me for reassurance that I hadn't plummeted to my death! Regardless, it was a unique little adventure.  I'd do it again with better lighting. 

We hiked the half mile back out and then got started on the Joe's Canyon Trail.  It turned out to be 3.5 miles each way with 1650 feet of elevation gain, 1000 feet of which was in the first mile!    We love the desert, mountain terrain!!!  The hike included tremendous views,

sometimes tricky footing,


and provided a terrific workout. 

Our day included about 8.4 miles of hiking.

Sometime during the day we (that means Debbie) got to thinking that maybe we had entered a new time zone. After getting home we checked the map and concluded that the problem is that AZ doesn't participate in DST.  Consequently, our clocks, watches etc have been off by an hour for the past four days.  We're mighty amused that we've been out of step by an hour with the rest of the world  and it didn't matter.  Oh we do love this lifestyle!!!!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More of New Mexico (Alamogordo, NM)

Monday, October 17, we moved on to Alamogordo, NM.  We're staying at the Boot Hill RV Park.

The  price is $125 a week plus electric.  The campground may appear to be no more than a gravel parking lot but it is extremely well maintained, the sites are huge and the owners are delightful!

Tuesday we made our way to the premier attraction of the area.  That would be the White Sands National Monument.  It is the world's largest gypsum dune field covering 275 square miles.  Most other dune fields are made of granulated sand.  White Sands "sand" is closer to talcum powder.  Very soft and not as easily warmed by the sun.  Very unique and gorgeous!!!  If you didn't know the difference you would have thought it was snow!!!!!  We did a 5 mile hike through the dunes plus 2 more miles of hiking on two different nature trails.  A great day!

Looks just like snow!

"Snow" removal!

Aaaah! How sweet!

Fun with shadows

There are two distinctive crops in this area.  They are pecans and pistachios.  So on Wednesday we went to a local pistachio grove (Eagle Ranch Heart of the Desert) and took a tour.  These folks plant the trees, harvest, process, package and ship all things pistachios.  The tour was fun and informative.

Pistachio Groves
How'd you like to have this job?  These women picked out the "bad" nuts by hand!
This is where the nuts are roasted, salted and flavored
Cold storage


Tour attire!!
Thursday we went to Cloudcroft, NM.  It's up in the mountains about 20 miles from Alamogordo.  It's a cute little town with magnificent hiking.  We did 10 miles of hiking on 3 different trails with trail heads only a few miles apart. The first was the Osha Trail.  Three miles of great terrain, views and beautiful Fall colors. 

Next, the Climbing Cloud Rail Trail which for us was 3 miles of trails following the former route of railroad tracks.  This also includes numerous remnants of tracks and trestles.  If you 're a train enthusiast this is a gold mine.

Lastly we did 4 miles of the Rim Trail.  This trail covers about 15 miles so we just went out and back 2 miles each way to make miles and enjoy the scenery.  All of our trails included beautiful scenic views. We repeatedly speak of how much we would miss if we didn't hike and we're thankful every day for our good health that allows us to do so.  By some standards our hiking is tame but it sure gets us into some gorgeous places!

View of White Sands from Rim Trail 
Friday we went to the Inn of the Mountain Gods Casino in Ruidoso, NM.  This area includes lots of Indian Reservation land, ski slopes and more pretty scenery.  The casino sucked us in and we netted $12.  Of course we then ate at the buffet, spent our winnings and felt guilty about pigging out.  Afterwards we drove to the Monjeau Lookout.  The route there included 5 miles of steep rocky road but the destination was well worth the effort. The elevation is 9600 feet with spectacular views and a fire lookout tower built in the 1940's by our beloved CCC.

After we got back to the camper Debbie did her walking DVD.  I decided to do some aerobic walking with a little running on my own.  I left the camper about 6:15pm. Sunset was scheduled for 6:23.  Debbie asked if I was taking a flashlight.  Naw, don't need one.  My plan was to go out 3 miles and back.  I went out 3 miles and turned around.  But holy moly it was dark!  I mean not a shred of moonlight, star light, nothing!  So, because I'm such a smart guy, on the way back I take a wrong turn.  It's so dark I don't realize I've taken the wrong road for about a mile.  Eventually I decide that I need to backtrack to find my way home.  Did I mention it was PITCH BLACK!  I didn't have a light, a cell phone, a piece of ID, nothing.  I'm a little worried.  I don't want the Friday night drunks to run me over or coyotes to drag me off into the desert.  Plus I'm figuring Debbie may be somewhere between worried and really mad. Consequently, I worked mighty hard to get home as quickly as I could.  The result was a 5 mile return trip, total of 8 miles and a great workout.  Humble pie is tasty.  Next time I'll go a little better prepared. 

Saturday we had a wonderful outing with a couple we met while we were at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque.  They also were in a Montana, camped right beside us and they live here in Alamogordo.  So we got together for a nice 2.5 mile hike to of all things in the desert, a waterfall!  Mighty pretty! We then had a delicious lunch at a Mexican restaurant.  So Barb and Ken if you're listening, it was sure great spending time with you!!!

Sunday we chilled.  Debbie spent much of her day researching our upcoming trip to Cozumel, Mexico (timeshare).  Later she did her walking DVD and I again did my aerobic walk, BEFORE THE SUN WENT DOWN.  I also walked across the road to take a picture of the "Worlds Largest Pistachio"  for our South Dakota friends Lee and Belinda who we know love these unique roadside attractions.  Hope you're out there!  Miss you!

Before I close, I also wanted to mention that I recently had the great pleasure of talking to a high school friend that I hadn't spoken to for at least 35 years. So Tom if you're listening, it was great to talk to you after all these years!

Yesterday we drove 340 miles (far more than we normally do in a day)  to Fort Huachuca, AZ.  I think we'll like it here.