Friday, May 18, 2012

Silver City NM to Benson AZ

Friday, May 18, 2012

Time seems to fly by when you are traveling!  We have been on the road 2 weeks tomorrow – it is really good each night I have to check what day it is to do this blog – otherwise one day is pretty much like the next except of course we are in different places doing different things. Does not make much sense but it is weird to lose touch with time.

We started the day with a short visit to the Western New Mexico University Museum. They have the most extensive collection of Mimbres pottery in the world. They did have a nice collection but would allow no photographs.  I am going to include a photo here of a plate from another location. It is very unique and attractive. Most of their pots were recovered from graves – when they buried a pot with someone they poked a hole in the bottom to let out the spirits…so nearly all the pots has such holes.

Example of Mimbres Pottery Designs

The drive from Silver City back to I 10 was nothing outstanding. We did cross the continental divide at 6355 ft along the way. We had crossed it somewhere on our drive on NM 15 but here we were again. This was a very desolate country – desert with just a few plants and bare mountains off in the distance.  When we reached Lordsburg Jane learned how to find a post office on the GPS so we could mail Daniel’s post card from New Mexico.   We found the Ghost Town of Shakespeare but it did not look like it was worth the money – we have seen better ghost towns along many highways we have traveled.  We headed west on I 10 and before long we were in Arizona.  

There was a strong wind and signs warned of dust storms. There were flashing lights when the visibility was obscured. We only saw the lights flashing once but did be sure our windows were closed and drove carefully.  You would see a cyclone like spiral of dust and it just traveled across the landscape sometimes towards you and sometimes not. 

We were watching for the exit to Fort Bowie National Monument. This fort was built after the Butterfield Stage days as a protection for the area from Indians. There were many battles with the Apaches in this area.  Before the Fort was built near Apache Pass and Apache Springs the Butterfield Stage passed this way.  Apache Pass was the one good route through these mountains and with water here too it was a perfect location for travelers.  

Approaching Apache Pass
We found our road and turned south passing by orchards of walnut or pecan trees and huge vineyards. They must be using irrigation as it is VERY dry.  The road was paved for about 20 miles and then turned to a well graded dirt road. We knew there was a trailhead and a hike required to the Fort. Turned out it was 1.5 miles to the fort – not all climbing but it would have been in full sun and the altitude was 5,327 ft.  

 We stopped at the trailhead and talked with some folks who were just getting back – they said it was not too bad.  Another man was waiting for his wife to come down from the Fort.  He had driven her up on the park access road and she was walking down. Three miles in this heat did not seem like the wise thing for us to attempt.

We ate lunch and retraced our way back down the road a way and saw the access road that was marked poorly as the handicap access only…well for today I was going to be handicapped!  We drove about 5 miles up another dirt road past a religious commune of some sort and into the park service garages and staff homes area.  A trail (I suppose the handicap access) was about 500 feet uphill and included 8-10 steep concrete steps.  Much better than the 3 mile hike up and down from the trailhead but if someone were severely handicapped they could certainly not make it up that trail and stairs.

It was hot and the wind was blowing fiercely – maybe 30 mph – I had on my sun hat and had to hold it on as the chin strap did no good…. There was a nice visitor center and quite a few remains of Fort Bowie.  We had a good visit with the ranger on duty as well as several other hikers and a couple who came in on horseback.  By talking with them we discovered where the Butterfield Trail crossed over the current dirt road.  Jane got our passport stamp  probably the most difficult one we have ever obtained!

After a nice visit at this most unusual spot we headed back to the Sprinter and retraced our route to the trailhead. By following this route on to where it joins another AZ road we would pass right by where the Butterfield crossed….and we found it – clearly marked and got some great photos.  We have passed by many places we were fairly certain were close to the actual trail but this part was clearly marked for quite a way by 4x4 marking posts. It was tough just walking this route let along riding it on a stage…
Actual Butterfield Trail at Apache Pass
 We continued on about 15 miles to a paved road and then drove north to Willcox.  Connecting back to I I0 we found it was one hour earlier than we thought – we had passed into another time zone.  Later we found AZ is on California time in the summer and NM time in the winter.. does not make much sense to me but hey when in AZ do as they do!

We continued west until we came to Benson and decided to stay for the night. Ben had been fighting the wind (25mph we found out) most of the day and was tired.  We saw a sign for a KOA and started towards it when we saw the Butterfield RV Resort – well we had to try it.  Really nice park one of the ones the “snow birds” stay in during the winter.  It has a pool, hot tub, workout room, library, observatory, WIFI, cable TV, nice bathrooms and a huge laundry room.  All for less than we have been paying for the recent KOA’s – we stayed and enjoyed some of the amenities. 

 There was a nice Safeway Grocery a block away so we caught up on the shopping and bought some fried chicken and salads from the deli for supper.  Since this is not THE season there are few people here.
In the late afternoon the temperature was 95 but with the wind blowing it did not seem so warm. Ben sat in the sun for a while and said he felt like he had a wind massage!  It is now 8:30 and with the sun down the temperature is down to 80 and will probably be 70 for sleeping.  So far it has not been uncomfortable at all – we have promised ourselves we will stay in a motel if it is too warm for sleeping in Southern California. 

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