It was time to leave El Mirage and we were looking for a location for an overnight stop enroute to Fort Bliss near El Paso. There was not a convenient Walmart whose parking lot we could use, but as we checked out local campgrounds we discovered Kartchner Caverns and decided we should spend a few days instead of just an overnight.
We arrived on January 5th, early enough to ride our bikes to the visitor center to check out the area. Our friends, the Astroths, had told us that we should visit Tombstone, the “Town Too Tough to Die,” while in the area, and we put that first on our agenda.
Cochise County is a high desert and we thought we would be in warm temperatures traveling through the south in the winter, but it was pretty cold when the sun went down. We woke up to a brisk morning, and after some exercise and breakfast were on our way to Tombstone. On our way we stopped in the town of Fairbank, a deserted town that existed during the 1880’s as a transportation hub. The buildings and the museum were interesting; the qualifications to be a teacher on the frontier were especially interesting.
The first stop in Tombstone was the town cemetery, better known as “Boot Hill.” As we walked through the headstones we could remember some of those buried there, such as Billy Clayton and the McLaury brothers, shot by the Earp Brothers at the OK Corral. The number of people that died violent deaths as opposed to natural causes was impressive.
There are two Tombstones, the modern one with citizens that do normal work, go to school and church and live normal lives. The other is the “Town Too Tough to Die.” The old main street with wooden sidewalks and horse hitching rails are intact, although the buildings now serve different purposes. There are stagecoach rides, gunfight re-enactments, and museums all over town. It was a very interesting place to visit.
The next day we went on a tour of Kartchner Cavern. This is probably the most unique cavern we have ever visited. The story behind the caverns is almost as interesting as the caverns. It was discovered by two cavers who kept it a secret for six years before telling even the Kartchner family who owned the land. All of them realized they had something special so they sold the property to the State of Arizona. It was developed into a state park that provides a marvelous experience. We like to share our pictures, but cameras are not allowed in the caverns. We recommend this to anyone traveling to this part of the country as a “must do” on your trip.
That afternoon we hiked into the Coronado National Forest on the Guindani Trail. We followed a wash up a valley (you had to keep a smart look out for trail markers or cairns to stay on the right trail) to the summit and returned on the outer slope. The views were just outstanding!
The next morning we were on our way to El Paso, TX.