Part 1: Tucson, Karchner Caverns, Bisbee, AZ

20080731 - 20080803

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The Trip

The first part of our journey was to travel from San Diego to Tucson, AZ to see my family. Sadly, on the day we chose to travel, it was hot. How hot? Nearly 115 degrees in Yuma. While I do have air conditioning in my Unimog, the A/C was not really able to keep up with the heat load. It was probably good that we did not have a thermometer in the cab as that would have only added to the reasons to complain. The ambient temperature was sufficiently high that the truck was running hotter than I would have liked, but there was nothing that I could do about it. In the end, we made it to Tucson unscathed, save for some sweat stains on our clothes.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw. These shots are reduced from the full size of the digital camera to 1000 pixels wide in deference to those readers that do not have "full size" screens. Nearly all of the shots came from my new, 21 megapixel Canon 1DsMark3 digital SLR.

When we arrived at my parent's place in Tucson, it was still very hot -- about 105 degrees. Other than running hotter than normal, the Unimog did fine.

My father has been an avid gardner nearly all his life. Recently, he has been attempting to grow a championship water mellon. This sample currently weighs in at about 60 pounds and it is quite a ways from maturity. It will be interesting to see it when it is fully grown.

We spent several days in Tucson with the family. When we were done there, we headed to the southeast to visit Karchner Caverns. Karchner was discovered in the 1970s by some amateur cavers and was later turned into a state park. The photo above is a shot from the campgrounds next to the park looking to the northeast. Thunderheads had been building all day and were starting to form into impending rain.

There had been substantial rains in the area in the weeks preceding our visit. All the vegetation was lush and green. Here, the prickly pear cactus fruit matures into a vivid purple bud.

To the east of Karchner, across the valley, in the Dragoon Mountains is Cochise's Stronghold where the famous indian warrior made his camp.

Nightfall brought the threat of rain. Indeed, after dark it rained hard for several hours.

To the west of our camp at Karchner is an un-named peak in the Whetstone Mountains. These cliffs are made of hard limestone rock - the same rock that forms Karchner Caverns.

The large amount of rain caused the barrel cactus to bloom.

Several of the barrels had multiple blossoms.

We left Karchner with the intention of traveling south and camping near the Mexican border. We got to within 1 km of the border where we saw this large thunderstorm heading north from Mexico. Undaunted, we continued west along the border heading up into the Huachuca Mountains.

Montezuma Peak on the south end of the Huachuca Mountains. This shot was taken from the parking lot of the Coronado NM visitor center.

While we were in the visitor center, we learned that a huge thunderstorm several days prior had totally washed out the road in several places. Given that we were in the Unimog, we briefly considered going around the barriers but reconsidered when the ranger told us that the wash-out had collapsed the road on the side of the cliff. OK, on to "Plan B".

For us, Plan B simply eliminated traveling in the Huachuca mountains and we headed directly to the next destination which was Bisbee, AZ. Bisbee was a large mining district and the area hosted some of the most productive mines on the planet. Above is one of the headframes that transports ore and cargo from underground.

As we got near Bisbee, we came to an overlook point for a large open pit copper mine called the "Lavender Pit". After a short observation period, we headed into Old Bisbee to get some chow and find a place to stay.

We parked the Mog at the town square and found some old mining equipment on display. This is a steam powered hoist.

This is a battery powered locomotive, generally called a "battery motor". But, the real story is behind the motor -- note that "inbred Jed" is camping on the curb. His van does not have a door. Jed was just one of many sketchy characters we saw as we walked around town.

A "trolley motor" used to haul ore out of the mine. Note the stinger on top that provided the electrical connection to the trolley line above.

There was only one camping area near town and that was an RV park that was on the lip of the famous "Lavender Pit". The view was great. The place was essentially empty since it was summer, so we chose the spot right on the edge of the pit. Above, you can see the great colors in the rock as well as the dark thunder clouds in the distance. Later that night, it rained hard - again.

The dark clouds provide a nice contrast to the lighter colored rock in the foreground.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2008, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.