Riding in the Wilderness -Sonoita Arizona – ATV tour visiting the Empire Ranch
Martha and I decided to do an ATV Tour out of Sonoita, Arizona. We opted to take a cross country 4 hour tour which took us through the vast Empire Ranch. It was a lot a lot of fun. Our tour guides were Apache ATV Tours and their website can be found here: http://www.apacheatvtours.com/
The Empire Ranch is located on East Empire Ranch Road, three miles east of the intersection with State Highway 83 (between mile markers 39 and 40). It is 36 miles southeast of Tucson and 31 miles north of the Mexican border. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, the nomination included only the main building of original ranch headquarters which was 160 acres in Pima County Arizona.
The Empire Ranch House and facilities circa 1900 (Source Wikipedia)
The Empire Ranch represents one of the most successful, long-lived, cattle ranching enterprises in the Southwest and has been in operation for over 140 years. The ranch is located in the ecologically rich Cienega Valley in Southeast Arizona, Ranch owners made full use of and, husbanded well, all of its natural resources – grass, water and soils – in support of their livestock business.
The landscape retains a remarkable degree of integrity both of its natural resources and its built structures and features. Those ecological and historic values were recently recognized by Congress when the landscape was designated as the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area in 2000. Now administered by the Bureau of Land Management, the Empire Ranch landscape still functions as a working cattle ranch and its headquarters are being stabilized and preserved. (source Wikipedia)
Vaquero’s mounted and ready work on the Empire Ranch (source Wikipedia)
The Empire Ranch was originally established in the 1860’s as a homestead ranch of 160 acres with a flat topped four-room adobe ranch house and adjoining adobe-walled corral. In 1876 the ranch was owned by Edward Nye Fish, a Tucson businessman, when it was acquired for $2,000 by Walter L. Vail, a native of Liverpool, Nova Scotia, and Plainfield, New Jersey, and Herbert Hislop, an Englishman. John Harvey, an Englishman from Bermuda, joined the partnership a few months later.
The economic and financial success of the Empire Ranch was dependent upon the ingenuity and determination of two ranching families – Walter L Vail and relatives and, later, Frank Boice and his descendants. Walter Vail expanded the original homestead through a series of strategic acquisitions of land parcels and water rights and effectively secured control of several hundred thousand acres to support over 40,000 head of cattle. Possession and control of these valuable lands and water sources allowed the Vail family to protect the ecological integrity of their most important natural resources – soil and grass – when other ranchers regularly overused and ultimately damaged theirs. Like other entrepreneurs of the time, they invested in other resources and land uses. The discovery of silver at the Total Wreck Mine provided additional financial support for the Vails’ cattle empire.
This lead to the growth of the ranch to an eventually the ranch grew to 115,200 acres, or 180 Sections which made the ranch 180 sq. miles. Today it still remains large by any standard at 46,000 acres owned and operated by the BLM. It is open to recreational activities of all kinds.
Ready to depart on the tour
Scenery that just won’t dissapoint
Ranch resides amidst rolling grasslands at the transition between the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. The Valley is surrounded by the Santa Rita, Huachuca, Whetstone, Mustang and Empire Mountains. The Santa Rita’s are in the background.
That ain’t a cow! Lunch break under giant, old cottonwoods More, “not cows”
Tent Rock National Monument - Pueblo Cochiti, New Mexico
These rocks are known by the Native American people of the area as Kasha-Kutawe (Cosh-a Kuta- way) Tent Rocks. They are a geologic wonder.
We are staying at Cochiti Lake in Pena Blanca, NM. Our campground rating is shown below after this blog entry.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is (Cost information in the link) located over a mile above sea level on the Pajarito Plateau about an hour’s drive north of Albuquerque. The park is littered with rock shapes known as Hoodoos. Hoodoos, otherwise known as tent rocks are unique structures. In Kasha-Katuwe’s case, they started forming more than six million years ago when volcanoes in the Jemez Mountains began to rip themselves apart in extended series of eruptions that covered the region with almost a thousand feet of ash and pumice. In time, this volcanic debris compacted and hardened, and was eventually topped with a deposit of sandstone.
Through time, the tougher sandstone cap resisted erosion, but the softer layers of volcano rock below were slowly sculpted by the whims of wind and water, resulting in the odd, amazing cones that now occupy Kasha-Katuwe. The hoodoos, some almost 100 feet in height, curve, twist and contort their ways skyward, forming pillars that are fascinating to see.
We hiked the Cave Loop and it was beautiful. There are two walking trails at the monument. One is called the "Cave Loop" and the other one is an out and back trail that is called the "Slot Canyon" hike. The latter has a vertical rise of just over 600'
Some of the views are "other worldly"
I hope you enjoyed our tour of the Tent Rocks. Please, if you'd like to comment please use the link at the bottom of the page. We were staying at Cochiti Lake in Pena Blanca, NM. Our campground rating follows.
Cochiti Lake - C.O.E. Campground - 4/5 WIFI - No
ATT - Yes, 2-3 bars and very slow
VERIZON - Yes, 4-5 bars and stable
OTA TV - Non-existent
SERVICES - 20/30/50 Amp plus improved boondocking sites
DISCOUNTS - Yes, All Access and Golden Access Pass rates for us $10 nightly with water available (across the road) and 50 AMP electric
REVIEW - Pro's - The first (lowest loop) is boondocking and has water available. The next two loops have water and power. These loops almost brand new with nice bath house. Each site in the second two loops have it's own casita and picnic table and power and water in those loops is at every site is at every campsite along with power. with level and mostly level sites.
Pick your site carefully to insure your rig will fit. We were on site 15 in the Juniper Loop. This area has not been renovated, the toilet/shower is not working but we drove to the other shower houses to shower each day so big deal.
Con's - Dog waste pick up stations don't have bags (there is a place for them) just a waste receptacle. Check in is a mystery, no attendants at the check in office with signs saying "Off Duty." The same applies to the visitors center, nobody home. How do you deal with it? Register online, pay online and come in and go to your site. The site placards are updated daily so if you have registered you will have a tag on your site with your name on it.
Wind Gust Ripped our Patio Awning Off (Part 2)
Read Part 1 - Click Here
November 9th 2018
Some of our readers may know about our RV patio awning getting ripped off by wind. Now that we are in the Benson/Tucson area we will be getting estimates for repairs. Getting one blown off while in motion is sort of nerve racking and dangerous at best.
And then there is the whole what to do about removal after it happens. I can tell you it's a bit like playing Jenga. If you get it wrong you gotta problem and if you screw up you could damage the coach or RV while removing the wrecked parts.
Since we were in disbelief of what had just happened Martha googled what to do when your awning does this while I dug out the tools, rain coat and my 10' step ladder. She ended up looking at Exploring the Local Life's blog for advice since this happened to them. We pondered the problem for a bit before we decided to rip down the remaining awning and awning arms.
The bottom line is that if the awning hardware was substantially bent or ripped through it's pivot points and mounting hardware you are screwed. You might as well just take it down. My first thought was that I could maybe save the awning roller. But on close inspection I could see that it was damaged too. Since there was no dumpster nearby I did something I would never do otherwise. I left all the debris in a ditch along the highway.
Estimating Insurance Replacement and Labor Costs
December 4th 2018
Today's task is to get an estimate started for replacement. I didn't think I would miss having the awning but when you want to grill something in the rain, well, it's indispensable. Tucson where the repair guy's shop (Ricks RV Repar) is located is about an hour away. This requires me to break camp and then re-establish it later in the day. It'll be a pain in the arse but necessary.
So, I went to the repair shop in Tucson (Ricks RV Repair) and we discussed my options for a new awning. It'll depend on how much the old custom awnings replacement will cost. It is/was an electric awning with a wind sensor. What I really want to replace it with is something on the order of the type awning Entegra uses. Our side walls are very tall and the old awning came almost straight out from the coach. In this configuration there wasn't much shading because the awning was 12' off the ground. Entegra uses one that looks like this:
This configuration will provide the shade we want but I worry it won't take much wind. Not making a decision yet so I have a bit of time. Getting your RV awing ripped off while you are driving really sucks. But it could have been much worse.
December 10 2018
We seem to be making some progress on putting together an estimate. Rick from "Ricks RV Service" called me this morning with some concerns regarding being able to get information on the awning that came with the RV. He will be contacting Newmar for information on the old awning by using the original build sheet for the coach. So, we wait again.
December 12 2018
Ricks RV Service sent the claim to State Farm and copy to me. The total for replacement and labor is $3,469.00 for the awning hardware, awning fabric and labor. I am going to talk with Rick and find out if we can work within this budget and replace the one awning with two. I would like the power awning on our kitchen slide which is next to the entrance door and a manual awning on the space between the kitchen and bedroom slide with this one set down lower on the RV so we can reach it to put the awning out. I guess I will determine what we can do after State Farm reviews the estimate.
LIFE'S A BEACH - PENSACOLA, FLORIDA
Sunset at the Naval Air Station
We're at the BEACH!
We haven't blogged in a while, so I told Chuck that I'd write one this time. It's been a fairly quiet few weeks, as we've slowed down (yay!) and are doing a lot of just living, instead of playing tourist. After Hurricane Michael disrupted our plans to stay at Pensacola Beach, we spent 2 1/2 weeks at Navy campgrounds in Pensacola, drove 30 miles ands spent a couple days in Alabama, drove 90 miles for a couple days in Biloxi, moving another 35 miles to the beach at Waveland, Mississippi and then are headed for another few days on the beach in Mississippi and Texas before Thanksgiving. A month and a half by the beach isn't too bad!
Work, work, work
I am amazed at how full life can be when you aren't working full time. I have been working quite a bit lately, as I've been fortunate to have several freelance jobs come in. It's kind of nice to turn away work because you're too busy...although I definitely am not working 40 hour a week. I like putting in a couple of hours a day, but it does cut into my Facebook time. I have also been working on Chuck's family tree. I had a breakthrough where I identified a whole branch of Ketchums that are DNA matches to Chuck, and now I have to figure out exactly how they are related...and they've now added a chromosome browser to MyHeritage's DNA section, so I can try and map gene segments to family branches. Of course, Chuck has thousands of DNA matches, so this is a long-term project. It's getting me familiar with the technology, though.
Disk Golf for low-cost fun
Anyway, besides work and genealogy, we have enjoyed a bit of disk golf time. Our campground at the Blue Angel Recreation Area in Pensacola had three 18-hole golf courses and the weather was nice while we were there, so we played every day! And Chuck also took time to wax The Beast, so we are nice and shiny again. We also have played in a city park in Pensacola and a city park in Biloxi. It's a great way to get out and get some fresh air and some steps in.
Getting some exercise
I went and invested in a new Fitbit for myself, and am working on getting those steps in! One thing about living in an RV is if you don't go outside, you don't get much exercise. It's a whole 20 steps from the very front to the very back! When it rains or the heat is too much, I end up walking in place or turning on the music and dancing....which looks foolish (I can't seem to get away from the full length mirror), but hey, it's exercise.
Our tourist activities
Other things we've done: go to a wedding on the beach, mead tasting, finding Thai restaurants, meeting online friends in person, climb a lighthouse, watch the Blue Angels practice, walk on the beach, visit the Flora-Bama, snap a few sunset pictures, and relax!
Late afternoon sky at Blue Angel Recreation Area
Trying a Mead Flight at Swan Neck Wine and Meadery
NAS Light house
At the Famous Flora-Bama
Beach at the Naval Station (no swimming allowed)
Oak Grove Campground on the NAS Pesacola, the roof was chock-full of acorns after 10 days there!
Getting Your Cowboy On - Tombstone Arizona
Viewing Businesses along Allen Street - Tombstone, Arizona 1879
Like most children of the 50's, I grew up with westerns. I watched every black and white television series like The Lone Ranger, Sky King, and Gunsmoke. And we lived for movies like Fort Apache, High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Winchester 73, anything with John Wayne in it and, well you get the picture.
When I learned how close Benson, Arizona was to Tombstone I knew we had to visit. As you might suspect, it is now a tourist trap. But the history is true, the shoot out at the ok corral was real. But there is so much more history to this town. Is Tombstone a tourist trap? Yes. Is it worth going to? If you are fan of western lore and western movies, by all means.
Viewing Allen Street - Tombstone Today
In 1877 a man by the name of Ed Schieffelin was staying at a place called Camp Huachuca, Arizona and during his stay, he decided to join a military expedition to scout for Chiricahua Apache Native American strongholds.
Ed would leave the expeditions encampments to look for rocks within the wilderness despite the fact that fellow soldiers at his camp warned him not to. The soldiers told him that he wouldn’t find stones out in the wilderness and would only eventually find his own tombstone. Fortunately, for Ed, he did not find his tombstone, but he did find something. He discovered a large exposed vein of silver in the place he eventually named Tombstone, an name which he of course took from his military friends.
Tough Nut Silver Mine
Word of the silver find soon spread and the town of Tombstone grew. If you are a fan of the wild west you have no doubt heard of Tombstone. The area around Tombstone became well known for its silver mines. And more people came to the town. Some were settlers, storekeepers and miners. But others were looking for easy money. These were gamblers and thieves who drank too much alcohol and settled their disagreements with their guns.
Big Nose Kate
By the end of 1881, the town of Tombstone had a population of more than 5,000. It also had five local newspapers, at least two theaters, a courthouse, hotels and many local drinking places. And a gunfight had already taken place that would forever include Tombstone among the famous stories told about the American Wild West.
One of those famous stories was about gunfight that took place on October 26, 1881 between the town's top lawman, or marshal, and his deputies on one side and an outlaw group called the Cowboys on the other at the now famous O.K. Corral. On the day of the famous fight, those men were gathered near the OK Corral, an enclosed area used to keep horses and other animals. They were armed, in violation of a town ban against carrying guns. They were also drinking alcohol and threatening to kill the Earp brothers.
Morgan and Louisa Houston Earp
Doc Holiday, Wyatt Earp, Virgil Earp and Morgan Earp (not positive this is real)
Virgil Earp decided that it was his duty to disarm them. His two brothers and a friend, the gunfighter Doc Holiday, went along to help. The four walked down the street toward the corral. Virgil Earp told the cowboys to surrender their weapons. Billy Claiborne ran away. And the fight began.
Historians say 32 shots were fired in the space of about 23 seconds. No one really knows who fired first. But Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton died of gunshot wounds. Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were wounded but survived. Only Ike Clanton and Wyatt Earp were not hurt in the gun battle.
Wyatt Earp's Wife Josephine aka: Sadie Jo
Looking At Tombstone Today
Today, Allen Street in Tombstone is the "main drag." The sidewalks are boardwalks and the street is dirt, and everything (except the merchandise and the prices) feels like you're back in the old west. There is a "theme park" where you can see a comedy gunfight and of course, the OK Corral, where you can see a re-enactment of the famous event. The courthouse is now a state park, and the gallows where the guilty were hung are still in the yard behind the courthouse. You can tour the town in a Humvee, a trolley or a horse-drawn wagon. There are several museums, only one of which is free. Expect to spend $5 to $15 per person on anything you do.
Catch a Stage?
Come with us as we go to see the thing. Do you believe in extraterrestrials?
If you have driven I-10 through New Mexico and Arizona you had to be asleep not to have seen sign after sign advertising "The Thing." For three hundred miles bill boards tease and entice you with things like "See the Mystery of the Desert" or "What is it?"
Well, I'm happy to say I have the word "Sucker" written on my forehead. We paid our money and willfully, dare I say happily went into "The Thing Museum" and had a ball viewing all the exhibits. Do you believe in alien life? Are you at least open minded about it? I'm not talking about folks that are crossing our borders, instead I am talking about the extraterrestrial kind of alien.
Once inside the museum, the signage extols "What if....the conspiracies, cover-ups, and concealment's are true? What if.....the conspiracy theories are based on the truth." How could you not want to go and see what they offer?
Entertainment or Truth?
The creators of the "museum" were very careful to frame every claim with a "what if," but their hypothetical situations were both funny and fascinating.
Dinosaurs Were Once Ruled by Aliens From Another Planet? Say Whaaaat?
Must Be True. I Mean, Someone Built a Museum About It After all
Yes folks, what if there were aliens here from another planet that used mind control to control the dinosaurs? And then the dinosaurs figured out that they were being controlled and turned on their masters? So the aliens sent an asteroid to make the dinosaurs extinct.
Is Human History a Lie?
And what if there were "good" aliens and "bad" aliens …. and the "bad" aliens controlled the likes of Hitler while the "good" aliens are responsible for all of the technological advances that have helped society? They have pictures where you can see an Alien in the background where WWII treaties were signed. If it's in a picture, it must be true, right? Throw in a few bits of "old stuff" and "stuff we found in the desert"....don't forget the dinosaur bones with suspicious marking.
Who Controls Your Mind?
And at the end..."The Thing".....perhaps an alien from prehistoric time. Who knows? But how fun to speculate.
This exhibit reminded us of a bad B movie or a junior high creative writing project. It was too much fun to turn away, but certainly nothing to take seriously. Definitely worth our investment of $8 and change for the tour. After the tour, make sure you shop at their gift shop. In addition to "Thing" tee shirts, there are some pretty cool blankets and moccasins, jewelry and sculptures. Yep, this is where our cheap date got expensive.
Where to find the thing? Take Exit 322 off I-10 in Arizona. From there, you can't miss it.
Exploring Saguaro National Park was a unique experience. No where else in the world does Saguaro grow in "forests. Even with ever increasing pressure for housing around the park the Saguaro thrive in this other worldly place. If you visit Tucson by all means take the drive to the National Park and see the Saguaro. Join us as we visit the Giant Saguaro Cactus Forest (click below).