Southeast Arizona, September 4-9, 2003

Montezuma Peak Check out the photo album!

Our friend who we previously visited in Phoenix had moved to Sierra Vista, southeast of Tucson and not too far from the Mexican border. We decided to take another trip out to visit and see that part of the state. It would also be my son's first trip to somewhere "exotic."

We arrived in Tucson to 100 degree heat, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the temperature drop as we gained altitude toward Sierra Vista. Recent rains had also created a lot of green in the desert.

We started our first full day by heading down to Coronado National Monument, adjacent to the Mexican border. It's a small and mountainous park with some good scenery and trails. We drove up a winding dirt road to Montezuma Pass. We parked at the top of the pass and hiked up to the top of Coronado Peak. Great views all along of the Huachuca Mountains, the border, and lots of green (for the desert anyway).

The next day we took a ride in our friend's SUV up a bumpier dirt road to Miller Canyon. Along the way we passed forestry crews who were clearing out a lot of dead wood, presumably to limit fire damage. At the top of the road is Beatty's Orchard, a great place to stop and watch hummingbirds attracted to the feeders there. All we have in the east is the Ruby-throated hummingbird; out west there are several species, a few of which we saw at the orchard. Almost as good as Costa Rica. Our friends are avid birders, and picked this part of Arizona in part because of the abundance of interesting birds.

While my son took a nap, I snuck back down to Coronado and got a pass to hike up to the Coronado Cave. It was an hour before closing time, and I passed a few people hiking down the trail. By the time I arrived at the cave, I had it all to myself. I checked my flashlight (and the backup) and entered. Kind of spooky going into a cave by yourself, but this cave is fairly tame and doesn't really have any spaces to get lost in. Still, it was tricky to climb down the rocks into the darkness. Eventually the footing smoothed out. It was impressively dark and quiet inside, the floor coated by a layer of fine dust, some of which hung in the still air. When I reached the back of the cave, I turned off the flashlight and let the gloom completely surround me. Fortunately the flashlight worked when I turned it back on, and I started to make my way out. Along the way I made a few attempts to photograph the inside of the cave. I got lucky and a couple of the stalactite and stalagmite images came out OK.

We visited the mining town of Bisbee on the following day. On the road into the city you pass a huge open pit copper mine known as the Lavender Pit. At the bottom was an area of very dark color, which I took for mine tailing or something; it was hard to tell. According to the Wikipedia, it is a pool of acidic water. Yikes...they were really concerned with the environment back in the 50s!

Bisbee is sort of built into the side of a mountain, and there are lots of old buildings, many of which are now populated by art galleries and tourist shops. We spent our time walking the streets and browsing the stores. I guess the main attraction is a tour the Queen Mine, but I didn't think that our 6-month-old would appreciate the 47°F temperatures and the length of the tour. So we had lunch in Bisbee and then headed back up to Sierra Vista.

On our last full day we decided to see Tombstone. We stopped at the Boot Hill cemetery to look at the graves of the famous cowboys and outlaws. It was really hot that day so we didn't stay long. In Tombstone proper, we browsed a few tourist shops and listened to a guy give his spiel at the Birdcage theater. I was intrigued by the green strip along the San Pedro River, so we made a stop at the San Pedro House. We walked around some of the trails and saw the big cottonwood trees. It was midday and pretty hot, so after a stop at the gift shop, we headed back to our friend's house.

That evening we drove back to Tucson to make it easier to catch our flight the next day. Along the highway from Sierra Vista, I was surprised to see the U.S. Border Patrol setting up a temporary checkpoint, complete with a transportable guard tower. I expected them to be closer to the border. Tucson was still hot like we left it. At the airport the next morning, I had some of my high-speed film checked by hand. Only after I boarded the plane did I realize that I forgot to pick up the film on the other end. After a round trip sprint through the terminal, I was back on the plane, feeling like an idiot. But I had recovered my film and you can see some of the results in the gallery.

Last Updated: December 8, 2004