"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Bisbee, Birds & the Blessed Virgin Mary

Benson, Arizona
Kartchner Caverns State Park

It was our last weekend together before splitting up, so we took Steve & Diane and John & Tina to Bisbee to explore.  We really wanted to go on the Queen Mine Tour but with it being President's Day Weekend, things were booked up before we thought about it.  We've been on the tour before and I highly recommend it.  It's a different type of mine tour and you get to ride on a train-like thing to get to the bottom.  So on to the cute, quirky town of Bisbee.
In front of the Visitor's Center were these huge flies on the outside of the building.  They are a reminder of a fly control contest from 1912.  Besides giant flies, Bisbee is known for it's copper mining past.  It has also become a very popular artsy town.
This vintage three-story building was built in 1919.  It was formerly a church and restored in 2012 and now houses a radio station and movie theater
John and Tina copying the painted movie stars.  Even Moose, the dog, played along.
Most of the staircases found in Bisbee today actually started as dirt paths traversed by mules to carry supplies to the houses perched on the dramatic inclines. Over time the hoof-worn paths were replaced with wooden stairs resembling ladders, which were in turn replaced with concrete stairs.  I finally talked my brother and Diane into climbing the stairs!
Each year Bisbee hosts a race called the Bisbee 1000, a 5K that includes 1034 stairs spread over nine different staircases.
After mining stopped in 1975, Bisbee became a popular place for artists and hippies. Every house along the stairs has very interesting yard art.  Many have truck doors for gates.

Some of you know I used to own an olive oil store with my sister back in California, so I always enjoy visiting them when I see one.  The owner of Bisbee Olive Oil, Rob, spent a lot of time talking with us of stories of celebrities that have visited Bisbee and his store.  We tasted some wonderful oils and balsamics which brought back great memories.

There is so many cool gates and art painted everywhere!
All that stair climbing made us thirsty.  So we stopped in at the Old Bisbee Brewing Company.
The beer and the popcorn was pretty good.
Steve, Me and John

 Nearby Bisbee is the very strange and deserted town of Lowell.  Somehow we missed this last time we were here.  Tina spotted it and so we investigated.
From the internet: Visiting Erie Street is like walking into a 1950s post-apocalyptic landscape. From all that is immediately apparent, it could have been abandoned in a hurry and forgotten for half a century.  Erie Street is most of what is left of Lowell, Arizona, a mining town incorporated into Bisbee in the early 1900s. Much of the town’s residential area was demolished to widen an open pit copper mine. Losing most of its residents caused the commercial district to struggle, and many businesses failed as a result.  It is currently kept up by volunteers.

Interesting window shopping.

Notice the logo?

After all the fun in Bisbee I was excited to go back to Whitewater Draw as the Sandhill Cranes are right at the peak of their migration.  How lucky are we?!  Last time the weather had really heated up and the cranes left just before we got there.  Over 30,000 Sandhill cranes winter here.  Some from come as far away as Siberia.
They also allow boondocking for a few days.  There is room for maybe 6 RVs of any size.  There is a bathroom and garbage cans. We stayed here a couple of years ago and it was a great spot for wildlife and other things to do in the area.
So incredible and we loved watching them.  Some people will wait here for hours to see them all take flight just before the sun goes down.  It was cold and quite windy.  We just stayed for an hour and ate some lunch.
There was a nesting owl in the pavilion.
The others had to head off so Steve and I stopped at a couple more places we wanted to see on the way back.  Whenever I see a patch of green on my map I zoom in to see if there is something interesting there.  In this case I found the Coronado National Memorial just north of the border of Mexico.  Since we saw the turnoff on the way to Whitewater we decided to check it out on the way back.
We didn't make it back until just after 4pm and that is when they close so we didn't really get to do anything. We had no idea what this memorial was all about.  According to the website:
The arrival of the entrada into "Tierra Nueva" in 1540, led by commander and captain general Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, set about a dramatic cultural and biological exchange. The armed expedition consisted of over 300 Europeans, over 1000 Aztec/Mexica allies, a handful of Franciscan priests, and scores of servants and slaves. Their arrival in northwest Mexico and the American Southwest irrevocably changed the lives and cultures of the indigenous peoples of the region, some who had lived here for centuries.
We learned there is a cave there you can explore.  Next time.  From the website: The cave may have been used by humans as a shelter and hideout by middle archaic people (up to 8000 years ago) and more recently by the Chiricahua Apache and other Apache peoples, Mexican and European miners, and settlers (however, no archaeological evidence remains in the cave today). The cave is now one of the few open, undeveloped caves in southern Arizona. Coronado Cave is a large cavern 600 feet long and in most places about 70 feet wide.
On our drive out there are some pull overs.  You can see the wall dividing the US and Mexico from here in the distance.
That dark line in the middle is the wall.
One other thing that caught our attention on the way to Whitewater was this huge cross and statue of Mary on the hillside.  After checking on the map and a little googling I found it was called Our Lady of the Sierra's.
A short drive up the hill and you arrive.  There is a tiny chapel that overlooks the valley, a huge cross and a path taking you further up the hill to the stations of the cross.  Gerald and Pat Chouinard built this shrine on their property.  Their is a large statue of an angel at the top.  A 2011 fire nearly burned it to the ground but it has been rebuilt.
Inside the chapel.
The cross is 75 feet tall.
The Virgin Mary is 35 feet tall.

The sun was setting and the moon was rising so it was time to get back to camp.
This wraps up our week visit back to Benson.  We had a great time and loved, loved all the green.  There is still more we want to see and hike in the future.  Next up is our yearly stop at Lost Dutchman in Apache Junction.


  1. Looks like a nice finish to your visit at Tucson. We enjoyed a visit to Bisbee a couple years ago. You should have tried the chili at the brewery. So many things and places to see.

    1. Next time we'll try the chili. We enjoyed all the dirt roads and old towns last time that we didn't get to show my brother this time.

  2. We visited many of those same sights in Bisbee, Whitewater and Lowell. Bummer you could not do the mine tour, you will have to check it out next time.

    1. We've done the mine tour before, just couldn't this time. We liked seeing Jonny Ringo's grave and would like to visit the Chiricahua's next time.

  3. Great pictures of your adventures. I'm hoping that Quartzsite will be full of wild flowers when we get there at the end of the month.

    1. Not so sure how many you'll see in Quartzsite, but other places have much more greenery. Maybe there will be some in the washes and along the roads.


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