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johnpa

Karchner caverns/Karens awesome adv.

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I will start,

 

Met up with the group thursday night and we headed for trails early friday morning. I was profiled at the farmhouse restaurant but i am not going to duell. spent the day seeing old ranch buildings, and beautiful country. the group of eight jeeps moved well and we made it out just after dark. I know our group took pics.

 

A big thanks to karen and jim for putting this together.

 

john

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Can't wait to see pics. Sounds like it was a great time.

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You were profiled? What he heck does that mean? ;)

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Holy Hare! What a fun trip with a lot of fun friends!! A special thanks to Jim for being such a great co-leader! And good thing that I had packed a lot of cookies to redeem myself!

 

 

We started on Thursday with a beautiful day, and got to Benson in time for lunch! We found this great little restaurant with really good food (Pleasant Surprise #1) and ended up eating all our breakfasts there as well! And then onto Kartchner Caverns!

 

 

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And that's all the pictures that I have! No cameras, purses, cell phones, etc etc allowed in these caverns! But what a great tour! We toured the Big Room with our 75 year young ranger who was so very informative! (Pleasant Surprise #2) What a great tour! I really think everyone enjoyed this, and would highly recommend this.

 

 

And then Friday came!

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We got off to a nice early start, just as planned. And since we were already along AZ90, decided to get onto the trail from here, rather than jump over to AZ80. Well it didn't take us but 10 minutes to get twisted and turned and ultimately end up on AZ80 anyways! We found the trail without any issues at all, and it was cool as it ended up being an old railroad bed!

 

 

Heres Saltman Mike and Tucson Dave at one of our infrequent stops along this trail.

 

 

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Other than a few places where the trail (old rail bed) was eroded out on its sides, and a few gates that needed opened and closed, we proceeded along quite well.

 

 

An old railroad bridge.

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Finally we see the San Pedro River...Not the best pic, but its that horizontal line of trees in the distance. Notice the depth of this little waterway...Bet there's some water that flows thru here!

 

 

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We were running late, else you know we would have stopped to explore all the old foundations that were here....

 

 

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Well we sure didn't plan on this trail taking as long as it did....And just as we get near the Presidio (the old Spanish fortress ruins), a locked gate! Thankfully we found a trail around, and then another private property gate. And another trail around, and aha, there we are!!! At the parking area for the Presidio!

 

 

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Sam checks out the kiosk...

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Unfortunately by the time we got here, it was 10 am, so we were already an hour off schedule. And we had lots more to see that day. So after a group discussion, we moved on to stop #2 for the day...Fairbank.

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Fairbank is an old historic townsite, a railroad town. The railroad brought supplies to Tombstone, and hauled the ore out of Tombstone. When Tombstone flooded, the town faltered. But then they opened the railroad to Bisbee, and the town grew once more....But ultimately the San Pedro flooded and the town faltered once more. At its peak, it had 478 residents.

 

 

Jim by the welcome kiosk...

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The original school house of the 1880s had burned but this one built in 1920 is in good shape. It is also the town's museum.

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The old mercantile, post office, and jail.

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Fairbank was our Pleasant Surprise #3 for the trip! And a THANKS to Bill for the heads up about stopping here!

Onto Tombstone we go! We are now back on schedule!

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In Tombstone, we broke up in groups and allowed time for a little of this and that...

JohnPa kinda fits right in with this group?! (AND BTW - he had been profiled as 'Not a French Toast kinda guy' earlier that day....So here he fits in better?!

 

 

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A few of us went to the old Tombstone courthouse. Built in 1882 in the shape of a Roman cross, it is now a museum and well worth the $5 entry fee for all that's in here!

 

 

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Al works on opening an old safe

 

 

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And Al, John, Dave, and Steve showed their seriousness about being in the jail part of the courthouse.

 

 

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(Note - Al got that safe opened?!)

 

 

And Pleasant Surprise #4, we were all back in our cars at our designated time! - and off we went...

 

 

Given our experience with the morning (where the trail took us longer than anticipated), we chose to bypass the long way into Empire Ranch House and drove in via the Empire Ranch House Road. Its a good dirt road, and we get there easily.

 

 

At air down, the views of the grasslands are impressive! No wonder this was such a huge cattle ranch!

 

 

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Empire Ranch was established in 1860 with 160 acres. It ultimately grew to over 1 million acres. There were TONS of movies made here in the 1940s and 50s. It is now on BLM land, and open for self guided tours. There is a non-profit foundation that works with US government to help maintain it. While there, we did find a group of US Forestry working on stabilizing the old barn. Its a cool place to check out....The ranch house expanded over the years and among its various owners, so its quite a sprawling ranch house! The most prominent family to own it was the Vail Family, who bought it in 1876 for $2000.

 

 

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Empire Ranch - Pleasant Surprise #5 for the day! But we all really want to get to the Total Wreck Mine! This mine, found in 1879, was instrumental in allowing Empire Ranch to expand from 160 acres to over 1 million acres, as they found a rich vein of silver. Vail was one of its business owners. The mine brought in over 1/2 million $ in 4 years. It is 3.30 pm already, and we have way points marking the way from Empire Ranch to the mine....so off we go!

 

 

The trail does not seem so bad, but the maps show quite a maze of trails through here, so good we had our gps' marked.

 

 

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We find ourselves running along the Cienegas River (dry for the most part) some of the way.

 

 

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Oh but then we find ourselves running the gas line...and up and down and up and down. And some of those downs were rather steep and some of those ups were rather rocky....

 

 

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Well lo and behold! Pleasant Surprise #6 - We found the Total Wreck Mine!!!

 

 

No pics tho!!! Lo and behold, its already 5 pm and we have less than an hour of daylight left! We hurry and talk of the 2 routes out, and choose the one that Jim and I have marked with way points....also chosen because the topography flattens. To go to the west appears as if we could be riding on shelf roads and mountain sides, not what any of us really wanted to do late at night...so heading north, off we go!

 

 

And we make it! It is dark and we are within a few hundred yards of interstate 10. Oh Please! Let there be a way onto the freeway here! And oh me, oh my, holy hare...there is a gate without a lock! We (ssshhhh!) slip onto the freeway, thank our lucky stars, and head into Benson for beer and marquaritas!

 

 

This was such a fun trip! -THANKS to everyone who came along!! We did decide that next time (maybe next year! Later in the spring when the evenings are a bit warmer) we will set up a base camp and get back to the Total Wreck Mine, and get round to checking out more of this remarkably cool area!!

 

 

smiles, ladybug

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Looks like it was an awesome trip and I really enjoyed the trip report! I too thank everyone who participated because we all love reading about adventure here - especially when it's in our own home state. Thanks Ladybug and Jim for planning and for leading. It was a very creative journey obviously well thought out. :cool:

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