Category Archives: Arizona

Historic mining town of Bisbee, Arizona

DSCN1081The historic mining town of Bisbee is located in the SE corner of Arizona, just south of Tombstone and barely north of the Mexican border. It was founded in 1880 and has a long history of underground mining for various minerals.  In almost 100 years of continuous production before the Bisbee mines closed in 1975, the local mines produced metals valued at $6.1 billion (at 1975 price) one of the largest production valuations of all the mining districts in the world. This staggering amount of wealth came from the estimated production of 8,032,352,000 lbs of copper, 2,871,786 ounces of gold, 77,162,986 ounces of silver, 304,627,600 lbs of lead and 371,945,900 lbs of zinc!

After a brief stop in Tombstone we landed in Bisbee in the early afternoon and found a quiet camp spot at the Queen Mine RV Park, which is located on the edge of town just next to the Queen Mine. It also backs right on to the local open pit mine, which is HUGE and really enables you to see the various strands and layers of the sediment.

open pit mine bisbeeThe mine tour is run by former Phelps Dodge mine employees and they do a great job of getting you geared up and organized to go under ground – complete with rain coat, helmet, belt and light. We were then loaded onto a series of trolley cars that are pulled by an actual mine cart. Lots of safety conversations about not reaching out to touch the walls or leaning over to pick up your helmet if it falls off (so you don’t whack your head on the mine beams as they go by).

The mine tour takes you down over 1500 feet into the mine and you learn a lot about former mining techniques, life as a miner and the tools and technologies that were used over the last 100 years.

The tour is only an hour in length and goes by fairly quickly however there is a small museum that you can visit before or after and it is very informative.

It is also an easy walk into Old Bisbee to wander through the shops, check out the various artists and grab some food – of which there are a surprising number of choices (and variety). Well worth the stop if you are in the area!

Kitt’s Peak Observatory – bringing the sky to life!

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Kitt Peak National Observatory is the home of the largest array of optical and radio telescopes in the world, located at the south west of Tuscon, and sits just shy of 7,000 feet (2,133 meters). Needless to say, the views from the top are stunning and feel like they go forever!

We arrived a few hours before sunset and were able to check out 2 of the publicly accessible telescopes before starting our night observation program.

It was pretty amazing to learn about the internal complexity of how various telescopes work and how they are designed differently for different purposes. For example the Solar Telescope goes well below ground to help cool off the solar rays that it collects, which is completely different from a celestial telescope.

The night observation program is a 4 hour introduction to astronomy and provides a well rounded awareness of star-gazing and how observatories work. We got to watch sunset from the mountain top and learn about what makes the various colours that you see. We then learned how to work with star charts to get an orientation to the sky. We had a partial moon so it wasn’t perfect darkness but it was definitely interesting to look for star clusters from the top of the peak. The guides were fabulous and used laser pointers to help you find them if you couldn’t work it out on your own. We then experienced searching for more complex stars using binoculars and could definitely see the difference it made. Topping the evening off was getting to use the research class telescope to see distant galaxies and planets. We all thought the best part was an up close view of the craters of the moon!

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We had been learning about early astronomers and the big bang in homeschool the month before so it was a great opportunity to connect all the dots. Definitely worth the visit!

Organ Pipe National Monument

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Organ Pipe National Monument was our first stop heading east from the California coast. It is a few hours south east of Yuma, Arizona and about 10 minutes drive from the Mexican border. We rolled in after dark and were thrilled to discover this great big Organ Pipe Cactus right at our campsite. It was also great to be able to see the night sky and the stars again!

DSCN0999 The view the next morning was equally impressive. Big blue skies that seemed to go on forever.

DSCN0991We met a ranger shortly after pulling in and he mentioned that they had a packrat problem that they were working on – they were out on a trapping mission that night. I remember how fun the packrats were as a kid when we left out shiny things for them but having the risk of them eating at the important parts of the truck or trailer turned this from humourful to concerning. Neither Tim nor I had a great night’s sleep as we were up with any sound!

We headed out on a short morning hike before things got too hot and had lots of fun refreshing our memory on all the different versions of cactus – organ pipe, saguaro, ocotillo, chula and barrel cacti. Every vista was just beautiful…This also helped with Hunter and Tim’s ranger badges.

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We would definitely recommend this park – great campground, beautiful scenery, and good hiking!

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Weekend in Sedona – let the energy flow!

hiking sedonaWe really enjoyed our very short visit in Sedona back in November so decided to catch it again on our way westward last week. We stayed at the Distant Drums RV Resort in Camp Verde and drove up to Oak Creek / Sedona on Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday we had a bit of a late start and didn’t get riding until around noon. We opted for the Bell Rock trail system in Oak Creek, which is a combination of green and blue trails. Trailhead’s are small and filled with tourist cars so we ended up parking in the main lot next to Bike & Beans – free and lots of space.

After a fun afternoon of biking in Oak Creek, we headed north into Sedona to grab some groceries and go for dinner at Picazzo’s – an organic restaurant where at least 50% of the menu options were gluten free. It was a wonderful treat for me and the boys were gracious enough to come along!

Sunday we woke up early and headed up to the Bell Rock Parkway trailhead to get a parking spot. We ventured out for a scramble/hike and made it to the top of one of the pinnacles, which was full of some stretching our comfort zone moments (more for me than the boys…).

We spent the afternoon at the Sedona Skateboard Park – it is a fabulous facility – really well made and maintained. Lots of friendly kids of all ages out. Hunter had fun with both his BMX trick bike and his skateboard while Tim and I sat in our lawn chairs and enjoyed the sunny afternoon!

I am so glad that we headed back for the weekend. The scenery is magical, to say the least. Big blue skies in the background of red red rocks as far as you can see. Takes your breath away!

Adventures in Tucson, Arizona

hunter bmx park 3We stayed in Tucson for 10 days and it was full of fun and adventure. Yet another stop where we experienced so much more than what you can find on paper…

The first part of our adventure was choosing to stay at the Voyager RV Park. It is a massive (4000 people) adult only community that is geared towards active retirees. We were wooed by the amazing number of facilities and activities and they swore that Hunter was welcomed. Having stayed with Tim’s parents in Florida at an “RV Park”, we were in for quite the surprise here – everyone was incredibly friendly and very very active, physically and socially. I did water aerobics in the pool in the morning (a good level for my side that is still in rehab), the boys spent some time with the wood carving club, Hunter and I played water volleyball most afternoons and we played tennis in the afternoon or evening each night.

We explored the local National Park – Saguaro National Park and learned a great deal about desert plants and animals.

We stopped on the way back home at Ben’s Bikes, learned about the local trails and got invited to check out the BMX track that night – another first for Hunter and so much fun!

We explored the Pima Air and Space Museum and the boneyard – airplanes as far as the eye can see…

All around – a great stop. Tucson seems like a little big city – lots of amenities but still easy to get around in and a very human feel to everything. It also helps that the weather was fabulous!!! Sunny and warm each day.