It's a blustery weekend

Trip Start Nov 11, 2010
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Trip End Apr 03, 2011


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Where I stayed
Kartchner Cavern State Park

Flag of United States  , Arizona
Tuesday, February 22, 2011

   The weather forecast is not very nice for this weekend, but putting it into perspective, 50's is still not bad. I think an extra jacket will be in order to keep out the wind. I was glad we didn't have to drive too far because the gusts were noticeable especially on the highway going east.
   We went to the Kartchner Cavern State Park 8 miles south of Benson. It has quite a story with it. In the 70's two college students were out spelunking and discovered a cave in the Whetstone Mountains. They knew enough about caves to know they had found something significant. At some point they told the landowner but it was kept a secret for 14 years so that others would not find it and destroy it. At that point the state of AZ bought it and started developing a state park. By that time specialists knew enough about caves that care was taken to keep it a "living" cave which it still is. We took one of the tours and it is amazing what God has done with water and a mountain...the formations are beautiful. There are no cameras allowed inside so we couldn't take any pictures. I think it opened in 1999. There is also a nice visitor center with interpretive exhibits about the cave, the park and Cochise County where it is located.
   We got the last camping spot in the campground. All the sites have electricity and water at the site. We hadn't remembered that it was a 3-day weekend and that the locals would be out even though the weather was crappy.
    I remember those times when we went camping no matter what the weather. We just played more games inside when we couldn't be outside. That, of course, was when the girls were younger.When they were older and eventually when Wayne and I started going alone, we wanted good lake weather or we preferred to stay home.
   We took three hikes, the first a loop in the State Park. We realized later that it encircled the mountain where the caverns are. A couple that was coming back said they had seen 2 javelinas in the dry creek bed but we didn't see any when we passed there. We hiked the loop and the extra .5 miles up to the peak, but it was very windy so didn't even sit down and have a snack when we got there. We just hurried back down to get out of the wind!
   That same day we drove down to the Fairbank Historic Townsite which is a ghost town that was originally a railroad town with a nearby mill. It is along the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area which is about 40 miles long. We did a 4 mile loop along the river and past the old mill site and the cemetary. It was flat but very sandy so felt like we were trying to walk the beach in Mexico....it's hard walking in that loose sand! From there we drove over to Tombstone, AZ just to say we had been there. We saw the historic Main Street but it was late afternoon so shops were closing. We didn't check out any of the other Wild West attractions in town.
   The third hike was the Guindani Loop Trail that started in the State Park but went into the adjacent Coronado National Forest. It ended up being just over 5 miles with 800' elevation gain so was a good workout. The first part of the hike was in a canyon that had water in a few places so we saw some healthy looking yucca or agave plants and some trees that actually had green leaves on them. Gradually we climbed out of the canyon up to saddle that gave us a great view to the south from where we could see several mountain ranges. A display at the visitor center showed the different ranges as far away as Mexico but of course, we couldn't remember all of them. We were able to pick out the closer ones. We didn't see any other hikers on the entire trail until we met a couple with two kids just starting it when we got back. The trail was narrow in many places but still easy to follow and well marked so would think it would get used. I'll have to look at Trails.com or HikeArizona.com and see if it is on there and needs some encouraging words so others make use of it.
   We had read that Cochise County had the highest number of cattle in Arizona but we didn't see any....thought we heard cows bellaring a couple times on the last hike but couldn't see them. We did see a few stock ponds but not sure if they were being used or were from days gone by. It's possible that the drought over the past few years has thinned out the herds in the area.
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