22 March 2006 Wednesday

Big Smile [:D] Cooked a good breakfast of chorizo and eggs (Soy-rizo, actually)  It was nice to have a good breakfast.  When we’re in a hurry to catch a tour or start a hike early, we just have some oatmeal or dry cereal.  We left the National Forest and saw on the map a feature called “Paramore Crater” that should be near our location.  We went to look for it, but never saw anything.  At a roadside park we stopped a forest service truck and asked about the crater.  He said that it’s there, but we couldn’t get to it.  It’s surrounded by private land and the owner has closed public access.  This seems to happen quite a bit around here.  We can see on the map where there should be public land, but the access has been denied by the landowners (maybe due to that sign about smuggling and illegal immigration?)  He also mentioned a town called Bisbee that we might be interested in.  It’s an old mining town that died when the mine closed.  Then the “counter-culture” (his words) bought up the land cheap and it’s now an artist community.  It looks like it’s on the way, so we may stop for a minute.

We stopped at a historical marker about the location of Geronimo’s surrender.  It seems we’ve inadvertently been on Geronimo‘s trail for quite a bit of this trip.  We’ve been running into him everywhere!  In Florida, he was held at Ft Pickens, however, when we were there, Ft Pickens was closed due to hurricane damage.  In the town of Truth or Consequences, NM, he was mentioned in the museum as a local resistance fighter.  In the Gila Wilderness, NM, a memorial for Geronimo’s birthplace was at the Visitor’s Center “near the headwaters of the Gila River”.  And now we found his place of surrender, ending the Indian warfare in the United States.  The plaque reads: “Near here Geronimo, Last Apache Chieftain and Nachite, with their followers, surrendered, on Sept. 6th, 1886 to General Nelson A. Miles, U. S. Army Lieutenant Chas. B. Gatewood with Kieta and Martine Apache scouts risked their lives to enter the camp of the hostiles to present terms of surrender offered to them by General Miles.  After two days, Gatewood received the consent to Geronimo and Nachite to surrender.  The Surrender of Geronimo in Skeleton Canyon on that historic day forever ended Indian Warfare in the United States.  This Memorial erected A.D. 1934 by the city of Douglas, with Federal C. W. A. Funds.”

We stopped briefly at Coronado National Memorial to find out what Coronado really did for the area.  It seems that Coronado went to find the cities “made from gold and dripping with jewels” that were reported.  What he found were adobe mud huts.  His exploration was a failure, but what Coronado left was an open passage.  What entered that passage were strong Spanish traditions and the Roman Catholic religion that merged with the traditions of the native peoples of Mexico and America’s Southwest.  Andrew tried on the “chain mail” armor in the Visitor’s Center and said it weighed a ton.  And to think, the “Conquistadors” wore this and then armor on top through the hot, dry desert!

We called Kartchner Caverns and got tickets for Thursday morning. Otherwise, the only openings they have are more than a week away, so we really have a time constraint today.  We crossed the border from Douglas, AZ into Agua Prieta (Dark Water), Mexico and found a very easy trip into a small Mexican town.  We walked around for a bit and it looked like we would run out of town in about 8 or 10 blocks.  We walked into a small shop and bought a little trinket and asked about a restaurant for lunch.  We wanted authentic food, so we asked her where SHE goes for lunch.  She suggested Doña Maria a few blocks over and that’s where we went.  We were the only Anglos there.  Thankfully, the owner/waiter spoke a little English because our Spanish is really bad.  I got a plate full of shredded beef tostadas that were great.  Andrew wanted something really authentic, so he got the “comida corrida”, the daily special.  Everyone in there was having it, but he said he’s never had an American order it.  What Andrew got had sides of rice and beans, and a plate full of pork skins, boiled with cucumbers and topped with salsa verde (green sauce).  Andrew is so picky about the amount of fat on a steak or chicken is eating a plate full of pork fat!  I’ll expecting him to be quite ill later.  Each plate was $3.00.   We also went into a liquor store and found a small bottle of tequila, because everyone who goes to Mexico needs to buy a bottle of Tequila.  We found this border crossing very different from other border crossings we’ve had.  In El Paso, TX/Juarez, Mexico we found a big ugly city with desperate people trying to sell anything or begging for money.  In Big Bend, TX we crossed into Santa Elena and Boquillas del Carmen and found tiny towns of a few hundred people. Boquillas didn’t even have electricity (it was kind of strange seeing an adobe-mud building with a small solar panel outside).  

Further north, we did stop by the town so Bisbee, AZ that was suggested by the Forest Service worker.  We didn’t stay long.  The “Scenic View” for the town was overlooking the copper strip mine that had gone out of business.  Hopefully, you’ve never seen a strip mine… hopefully, you never will.  This one was a 3/4 mile by 1 1/2 mile gaping hole in the earth that had every bit of life stripped away.  The ground was various colors of exposed rock and mud, a few pools of water had an oily look to the surface.  There were no birds.  There were very few plants in the upper regions of the opening.  I found it very depressing.  The town of Bisbee struck us as tourist trap, a few restaurants and bars, a few street performers.  Not what we were looking for.  We left quickly.

In Sierra Vista, AZ we stopped at the Forest Service office to ask about camping near Kartchner Caverns.  We found out that in Sierra Vista we’re only about an hour away and there’s no free camping closer.  The ranger gave us a map for a mountain biking trail and showed us where some undeveloped (free) camping areas there.

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