It’s October and fall is in the air. Fall might just be our favorite season. The temperatures are cooling down, nature is in its full color mode, and college football has started again. Each year we always try to go someplace cool. A location with daytime highs in the low 70s and night times in the 40s. Sweatshirt and shorts is the perfect combination for us! Our favorite place is Breckenridge and we had plans to go again this year. But after a fun, full August of traveling and a September of work-related trips, we just were not motivated to go on another lengthy roadtrip. We started thinking, we live in Arizona, the temperatures are getting nice, and there is so much to see and do. So this fall we did a local trip down to the Sierra Vista area and explored south central Arizona on our Fall 2019 Arizona Staycation.
We based out of Fort Huachuca, an Army post near Sierra Vista with a nice RV park. It is centrally located for the places we wanted to visit and we had heard good things about it from our other RV friends. It proved to be a good choice. Sierra Vista and the surrounding area is about 2000 feet higher in elevation than we are in Tucson. Just that small amount was enough to keep the temperatures in our target range. Shorts during the day, sweatshirts in the evening, and sleeping with open windows!
Every morning we got up and walked around the post. Each day we were greeted with the sound of reveille and groups of running and exercising soldiers doing their morning PT. Fort Huachuca’s history goes back to the 1880’s as a frontier post. It is now a very modern and very active Army post albeit with a lot of history behind it. The old parade grounds and housing are still used to this day and there is a National Cemetery dating back to the origin of the fort.
Our first foray was out to some of the local wineries. Southern Arizona has its own “wine country” in the Sonoita area. We picked a couple wineries to visit which have wines we wanted to try as well as great atmosphere and scenery. Our first stop was to one of the first wineries in the area, Sonoita Vineyards. We each tried five different wines. All were good and we found one we liked enough to bring a bottle home with us. The winery is on a hill overlooking the rolling grasslands and several mountain ranges. It has a nice large tasting room and tables and chairs where we sat outside to enjoy the scenery. Our other stop was to Wilhelm Family Vineyards. Despite the German name, their specialties are Spanish wines, sangrias and ports. It was the latter two that garnered our interest in checking it out. While Craig prefers dryer red wines, Jennifer is partial to the sweeter wines, so this seemed like a great place. Their tasting room is nestled in the corner of their vineyard with terrific views of the surrounding mountains and vineyard. The ports really were great and we enjoyed the sangrias. So much so we brought home a couple bottles of each.
Next up was a trip back in history to Tombstone and Bisbee. We had been to both places over 20 years ago, but this time we had some specific things we wanted to do. Craig’s Great-Grandfather is buried in the Tombstone Cemetery. The story goes that he died in Mexico and his family wanted him buried in the U.S., so they snuck his body across the border on a buck wagon and buried him in Tombstone. The original marker is long gone but was replaced back in the 70s. We even found the replacement marker using old photographs.
Bisbee is an old mining town that is now an eclectic village with lots of quaint shops and restaurants. All built on the hillside that overlooks the giant hole in the ground that is the old copper mine. We had a good lunch at Cafe Cornucopia, and walked through the town. Fun shops, lots of hills and lots of history.
Sierra Visit is along the San Pedro River Valley which is known for its birding. It is the most significant migratory route remaining in the Southwest with nearly 400 species of birds. We took two hikes in the area. The first was east of Sierra Vista by the San Pedro House, along the river. It sure did not look like Arizona. There were giant cottonwood and Arizona sycamore trees lining the river and tall grasses with running water. We did not see many birds but had a lovely hike.
The other hike was at Ramsey Canyon, south of Sierra Vista. We hiked the Hamburg trail which runs along Ramsey Creek for about 2.5 miles up about 1500 ft into the canyon. This was an amazing hike. The leaves were just starting to turn a little, the temps were cool and the sun was out. The highlight of the trip was seeing a group of coatimundis. We also saw a couple mule deer and lots of hummingbirds. They were two really great hikes and it was wonderful to be out in the gorgeous southern Arizona weather.
During our travels we frequently travel along Interstate 10 from Tucson to Lordsburg. Between Benson and Wilcox is an area of large giant boulders and rocks called Texas Canyon. As you drive through, there are signs to the Amerind Museum, a private foundation museum dedicated to Native Americans. Just like the sign near Van Horn to Fort Davis, every time Jennifer passes the sign, she says she wants to go there. So, this time we did. It was really fascinating. The museum was founded by William Fulton and run by the Amerind Foundation to promote knowledge and understanding of the Native Peoples of the Americas through research, education, and conservation. They do not allow photography inside, so I am posting a couple of pictures from their website.
Our final foray was to Kartchner Caverns State Park, a giant cave with over 2.4 miles of passages. It was discovered by two University of Arizona students back in the mid-70s and kept a secret until the 90s when it was turned over to the state and made into a state park. It opened back in 2003. Considered a “living” cave because it is still growing, the caverns are carved out of limestone and filled with spectacular speleothems which have been growing for 50,000 years or longer and are still growing. Entry into the caverns is by guided tour only and very strictly controlled. After a safety and rules presentation from the ranger, you take a tram from the visitor center to the cavern entrance. Then, you go through multiple airlocks on the way into the cavern and back out again. There is even a misting “shower” you walk through to help clean off any dust on your clothing. The temperature in the cave averages around 70 degrees F but the humidity averages around 99 percent, so it feels much warmer. To help protect and preserve the cavern, they do not allow photography. They even have a disinfectant to wipe down any place a visitor touches to help protect against mold growth. Again, I am posting some photos from their website.
All in all, it was a great Arizona Staycation. Very relaxing as well, as our day trips were only about half a day long. I think we are finally past the up at dawn and home at dusk kind of trips that have been the Harm tradition in the past. Looks like we will have a lot more AZ Staycations in our future!