Saturday was our last day in Bisbee, but instead of spending it in town we decided to venture out for some exploration of the surrounding area. Our destination was the Coronado National Memorial, a little known mountainous area smack dab on the border of Arizona and Mexico. I stumbled across this hidden gem while searching for nearby hiking trails. We are constantly surprised how many of these nationally designated areas we have never heard of before.
After a quick stop at the visitor center and a nice chat with the friendly park ranger, we decided to tackle the 6.4 mile round trip Joe’s Canyon Trail. We’ve been trying to step up our physical activity a bit lately, and since this hike began with a 1000 foot elevation gain in the first mile it seemed like just the challenge we needed. So off we went at a rapid pace up the canyon, weaving back and forth up the switchbacks until we reached the top. I didn’t take any pictures on the way up because we were concentrating on speed, not photography. But when we reached the top of the canyon and emerged out of the trees into a series of wide open, grass covered rolling hills, I couldn’t resist pausing for some pictures.
From here we had a fantastic view of Mexico. The U.S / Mexico border is right at the bottom of the hill which means that nearly everything you see in the photo below is in Mexico.
After a bit of gazing we followed the trail along the ridge top, stopping at a rocky out cropping to eat lunch with an international view before continuing on to Coronado Peak.
Coronado Peak is named after the Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, who led an exhibition from Mexico to modern day Arizona and New Mexico way back in the early 1540s. The Coronado National Monument commemorates his history of exploration, which true to most adventures of the day started out as a quest for gold and ended up as a tragedy for the majority of natives he and his men encountered. After several years of searching for seven mythical cities of gold, and managing to get lost numerous times, he ended up back home injured and defeated with no gold. Of course, my version is highly simplified, but you get the idea. If you want to read a more detailed account the park service has a somewhat whitewashed version, or you could read Coronado’s Wikipidia page. The location of the national memorial was chosen for its scenic qualities and proximity to the area Coronado was believed to have traveled through. Whether this guy really deserves a memorial is up for debate, but there is no doubt that this is a gorgeous area of mountains and valleys that many animals and several species of rare birds call home. And for that reason I am glad its designation as a national area will ensure that it preserved and protected.
Sunday we packed up and left Bisbee with firm intentions of a return visit someday. Check out was noon, and as always we wanted to leave well before that but didn’t end up pulling out until eleven. Not sure how that always happens. I guess it could have something to do with the extra time we spent lounging in bed and then lingering over a leisurely breakfast. I mean, if you can’t do that on Sunday then when can you? It really didn’t matter when we left because our destination was only an hour away. Along the way we made a brief stop in Tombstone.
If you’ve been to Tombstone then you know all about the tacky souvenir shops lining main street, the horse and stage coach tours that take you up the street and back down for only $10/person, and the high prevalence of people in period costume hawking tickets to a “real live” shoot out. If you haven’t been, well now you know. I am not saying that it was a bad experience. We genuinely enjoyed walking around for an hour. But we had no desire to pay for a tour, a shoot out, a walk through the courthouse, or a glimpse at the cemetery. It seems a tiny bit shameful that this town which actually has a pretty interesting history is now 100% a tourist trap. Oh well, we only stopped because it was on our way and they had free RV parking. Now we can check that one off the list.
From Tombstone we drove another half hour to what we thought would be our home for the week – Kartchner Caverns State Park. Except when we pulled in the first thing we saw was a not so welcoming “campground full” sign. Oops. The lady at the gate generously offered us up an overnight spot in the parking lot for a mere $15 (this always irks me, I mean how is the space we take up in the parking lot worth $15). She mentioned that there were four open spaces for the next day, but we would have to call and reserve them because they would surely be gone in a few hours. Luckily we were able to spend some time in the parking lot without paying so we could figure out our next move. First I tried calling the reservation number, but since I had only the tiniest AT&T signal that didn’t work. Tim was able to get the finicky Verizon signal to work long enough to look at the online reservations. Sure enough there were spots for tomorrow night, but not a single one was open for the whole week, which meant that if we stayed we would end up moving spots everyday. No thank you.
It was at this point that we became somewhat testy with each other. Tim was annoyed with me because as the chief planner and organizer I had completely dropped the ball by not only neglecting to making a reservation, but also not even bothering to call that morning to see if they had any open spaces. I in turn was annoyed with him because I knew it was my fault, and did I really need him to point out the fact that I had royally messed up? I think not. Honestly I have no idea why I didn’t make a reservation. I guess in my mind this was a small park in the middle of nowhere that would surely have plenty of available spaces on a Sunday. Obviously I was wrong on all counts. Thankfully, we’ve been at this long enough to quickly get over our mini spat and join forces to make a plan. In the end we decided to drive east another hour and half to a BLM area that I had bookmarked many weeks ago for a potential stay. We arrived at Indian Bread Rocks picnic area around 4:30 to find a peaceful, quiet setting among the rocks on the edge of the Dos Cabezas Mountains.
I’m still a tiny bit disappointed in myself since I really wanted to tour the caverns at the state park, but as I look around today at the serene setting with not another RV in sight I think this might just be the perfect place to spend the week. We haven’t yet gotten out for much exploring, but with all these cool rocks to scramble around on, miles of back roads for biking, and the Fort Bowie Historical Site only a short distance away, I’m sure we will have plenty to keep up busy this week.