Our base of operations for the next few days was the Red Barn Campground ($16.66/night) Benson, Arizona. It’s close to Tuscon and several sites that we had on our bucket list. After setting up we went over to the Holy Trinity Monastery in St. David.
The Monastery was founded in 1974 on 132 acres by the Olivetan Benedictine Order. It is a place of spiritual retreat and a bird sanctuary. It contains Our Lady of Guadeloupe Church, lovely grounds, training facilities, cloisters and and meditation gardens. The Monastery was ordered closed by the Abbot General in February 2017 and is now being run by volunteers of the order. It’s a beautiful, meditative place.
On March 8th we left early for Saguaro National Park, 92,000 acres of mountains and Sonoran Desert wilderness. The desert is home to the giant Saguaro Cactus that can live 250 years. These cactus grow as a straight cylinder until they are 75 years old and start getting branches. Early inhabitants of the area were the Hohokam, Sobaipuri, Tohono O’odham and Apache tribes. While I really enjoyed the landscape and those fabulous cacti, my favorite area was the Signal Hill Trail which took us up to the petroglyphs. Dozens of them from 200-1450 AD. I didn’t want to leave.
Next up was the San Xavier Mission, nine miles from Tuscon on the
Tohono O’odham (Desert People) Reservation. It was founded in 1692 with the current Mission being built on the site 1783-1797. It is also known for centuries as The White Dove in the Desert. It is the oldest intact European architecture in Arizona. The statues and murals are original in this Spanish Colonial/Baroque designed mission. Tohono O’odham tribe members set up branch booths on the ground and sell fry bread cooked right on sight. It’s worth taking some time and exploring this area.
The next day we went to Historic Tombstone. There is a gunfight at the OK Corral on the hour and plenty of places to spend your tourists dollars. We had a good time there but it reminded me of the tourists traps in Cherokee, NC from times past. One interesting tidbit: the shootout wasn’t in the OK Corral, it was actually on a vacant lot on Fremont Street. Another place to check out is Big Nose Kate’s Saloon. Mary Katherine Horony-Cummings, aka Big Nose Kate, was a prostitute and common law wife of Doc Holliday.
We headed to Bisbee on the afternoon of the 9th. Bisbee is an old mining town, which was saved by the hippies after the mines played out. It is an eclectic and artsy place that I thoroughly enjoyed. While we were there they were having the “Return of the Turkey Vulture Festival.” What a hoot, complete with parade and street closings for music and dance. We planned to explore for a couple of hours and stayed all afternoon into early evening.
On March 10th we left early for Chiricahua National Monument, which is the result of volcanic activity 27 million years ago. It covers 17 square miles and has 17 miles of trails. This is a beautiful place full of balancing rocks, hoodoos, and Faraway ranch. Go and take a trail or two and see this beautiful geology. Amazing place.
The last place we visited was the University of Arizona Museum of Archaeology. It’s a very nice museum of prehistoric to current Native American artifacts and history.
This was a fun, history, learning and awe of nature jammed packed few days. Loved, loved, loved this area. Off to the next caper. Stay tuned!