Raising Arizona

We crossed into southeastern Arizona in search of warmer weather and were immediately greeted by dark black clouds and strong cold winds.   Anyone who thinks it’s always hot in Arizona hasn’t been down here in January (at least in 2017).   The weather to the south looked more ominous so we turned north up to Roper Lake State Park.  It was quite nice but double the price ($28) of a similar campsite in New Mexico.  Notice the snow-capped mountains…


After hiking the trails around Roper Lake and eating some delicious waffles (see previous post), we drove down to Tombstone.  Whether you’re a fan of western movies or not, everyone has probably seen a film or TV show about Wyatt Earp and the shootout at the OK Corral.   Papa Bear gets pretty excited anytime we visit places with Wild West history and saloons, but really, who doesn’t…



Tombstone reached its pinnacle of riches and then faded, all within a short span of 8 years. The West’s wildest mining town owes its beginning to Ed Schieffelin, who discovered silver – ledges of it – in 1877, and the rush was on.  By 1881, the population of Tombstone had peaked at 10,000, rivaling nearby Tucson.  By 1886, the heyday was over, but not before $37M worth of silver had been taken from the mines.

But Tombstone is best remembered for one infamous gunfight.   On October 26, 1881 at about 3pm, Virgil, Morgan and Wyatt Earp along with ‘Doc’ Holliday came up against Billy and Ike Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Claiborne.   The former were the lawmen and the latter a group of outlaws calling themselves ‘The Cowboys.’   The 30-second gunfight – a result of a long-standing feud between town Marshall Virgil Earp and the Cowboys (who objected to Earp’s interference in their illegal activities) – ended with Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton killed.  Virgil and Morgan Earp were wounded and Doc Holliday was grazed.


Today if you visit Tombstone, you can witness (for an admission fee) several gunfight re-enactments on an almost hourly basis.  Based on the number of actors roaming around town, you get the sense that ‘gunfighting’ is a major local employer.  We didn’t pay to see one (it looked kinda hokey) but the Bear charmed 3 of the Cowboys along with Virgil Earp…


We then toured the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, which is Arizona’s smallest state park, and learned all about the real history of the Oct 26 gunfight and the town’s history.

We also saw Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, which in the 1880s was called the Grand Hotel. The hotel / bar was frequented by the Cowboys, including the Clantons and McLaurys.  Kate, who was a Hungarian-born prostitute / dance-hall girl and common-law wife of Doc Holliday, was a legend in her own right, living until she was 90.



From Tombstone, we met up with our friends Monica, Tom and Tiger at their beautiful home in Tucson, which is situated up on a ridge overlooking the Saguaro National Park mountains, including miles of stunning Saguaro cactus.  Saguaro only grows in southwestern Arizona (Sonoran Desert area) and northwestern Mexico.

The Saguaro can grow to be over 70 feet tall and they are truly spectacular.  Interestingly, harming a Saguaro cactus in any manner is illegal in the state of Arizona so if you thought about transplanting one of these beauties to your backyard, you’d first have to do some jail time…


Besides shopping and touring around Tucson, we all went out for a delicious, belly-busting Mexican lunch.


Tom took us over to the Pima Air & Space Museum, which features the world’s largest aircraft ‘Boneyard’ as well as over 300 aircraft on display.   The museum was terrific and we joined in on a very interesting tour of WWII planes, but there was way more things to see than you could do in a day.


After leaving Tom and Monica’s (thanks for your wonderful hospitality) we drove south and toured the artist town of Tubac before returning to the western side of Tucson and discovering a great place – Gilbert Ray Campground, which was like camping in a cacti garden.   We enjoyed more hikes through the desert as well as terrific sunsets. Here’s the window view.



The weather has finally warmed up a bit and the Arizona sun is shining.  Next stop, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument down near the Mexican border.  Adios for now amigos…


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