Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Day Spent in Ghost Towns

 Saturday, April 12, 2014

Today we visited several ghost towns - completely different meanings of the phrase "ghost town", but all somehow earning that title. It's days like this when I feel like a true South-westerner. Driving down quiet hilly highways and bumpy dirt roads, hiking several miles to find an old mining town, seeing a snake and worrying about other wildlife (but comforted by the fact that someone is carrying!), and having a sarsaparilla in an old saloon. I'm so glad I've gotten to experience all these while I'm living here!

Now, for the events of the day: We met up with our friends, Mitch and Roxy, and drove to Cochise County. After picking up letterboxes on the way, we made it to the trailhead for our hike. Destination: Contention, today's first ghost town. There used to be a mining community as well as a train that ran through, now there is nothing. Literally - it was probably the most deserted trail we've ever hiked. 

We first went for a letterbox that was hidden around the area of an old Presidio - which translated basically means Spanish military fort. There were mostly just old foundations and adobe walls scattered around. The fort is dated back to the 1770's! We just walked around a little loop trail and looked at the remnants before going on our way.

The next bit of history that we walked on was where the old railroad tracks used to be, as far back as the 1800's. As I mentioned before, a train used to run from here to Tucson & other places, but when the mining community shut down and the World Wars were going on, they tore up the railroad for the iron, and pictured below is what remains.

We walked quite a ways down this rocky path, until we came upon the San Pedro River. Here we crossed, and on the other side found 2 letterboxes and our ghost town.

Finally, we reached the area where Contention used to be. There are no remains of the buildings that used to stand, but here you can find some pictures and more details on the area.

Below - Much to my delight, the square hole in the rock turned out not to be a giant snake den, but a small, cooled room. :)

Above - the sky was amazing all day! I loved these striped clouds.

After getting all letterboxes, we sat down for a picnic on the "beach" next to the small river. It was so quiet and peaceful, besides some rock throwing of course!

We finally packed up and walked back down the trail to the car. Altogether, today's hike was around 6 miles.

We drove to another nearby ghost town called Fairbanks. It's kind of a little historical village set up, and reminded me of one I used to visit back in Iowa called Usher's Ferry.

It was a quiet area but had quite a few more tourists, (probably because there wasn't a 6 mile hike to see it!) and we only went in one building.

This is the old schoolhouse, we enjoyed trying out the old desks and drawing on the chalk board. :)

Finally, our last stop and ghost town was Tombstone. Unlike the others, people still live in this town, and it is only called a ghost town because there is no longer any mining being done. It's now a Western-themed town (they really play up the movie "Tombstone"!) and you can enjoy all sorts of tourist attractions. Our first visit was to the old county courthouse.

After walking down the old Western street, we finally went for dinner at Big Nose Kate's Saloon. You can always tell what restaurants are good by how many people are there eating, and this place was packed! It was our second time visiting, and it was a great experience. 

Of course it's Curtis' first time going to a saloon as a 21 year old, and since he didn't drive he was able to enjoy a beer. :)

Oh, this was his 16 oz. burger too! :)

We finished the day with one last short hike at sunset. The sky was incredible!

And that was our weekend! :)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Celebrating Curtis

April 9, 2014 - Curtis' 21st Birthday!

Every day, I find a reason to celebrate being married to the greatest man I know. He blesses me in so many ways, and has made the past 8.5 months of marriage wonderful. The time we've had together has been filled with so much excitement, as even this blog has shown! He's given me a new love and interest in adventure and exploring the unknown. He's given me courage and ambition to be brave and try difficult things, and he pushes me to be better at everything. And because of his encouragement and unconditional love, I am becoming stronger and more confident in my abilities.

I've always known Curtis to be incredibly intelligent in many subjects, talented in lots of different areas, and extremely ambitious and hardworking at everything he does. He's achieved so much in his 21 years, he has worked very hard and deserves everything he's earned. He loves learning and growing in knowledge, especially about his faith. He's been a great leader in our home, a man of prayer and encouragement in reading the Word, and seeking out a wonderful church where we have been able to grow so much deeper in our faith together.

But beyond all this intelligence and hard work is a soft, lovable, hilarious man. He can always make me laugh, and even more than that, will laugh at all my bad jokes and silly puns. The highlight of every day is having him come home from school and getting to spend the rest of each day together. He can always bring a smile to my face and joy to my heart. He just makes me so happy! I am truly married to the man of my dreams, the one I hoped and prayed for, one that I am so excited to spend the rest of my life with.

Happy Birthday Curtis, this month of celebration isn't even halfway over yet. I am so proud to be your wife and I love you so much. I hope this is your best year yet. <3

Thanks everyone for letting me brag about my awesome husband. :)

South goes North for East comes West

This is the story of our weekend trip for the first weekend in April.  (April 4-6)

The main purpose for this weekend road trip was to attend the letterboxing event, "East comes West to Arizona"on Sunday the 6th, named in honor of our special guests from Connecticut. We along with our friends decided to make a weekend trip out of it, and here are the results!

We left Friday evening, driving North to Flagstaff. Curtis and I rode up with our friend Mitch and his brother, Austin. We met up with our friends in Flagstaff at a 50's style dinner and enjoyed shakes before retiring to our hotel for the night. (home by 10, even on vacation - yeah, we're that old married couple. ;))

Modern art in our hotel bathroom, I call it "painted over window." It was a little creepy.

We began the next morning with oatmeal and tea, then set off for our first letterboxing adventure: to the University of Northern Arizona. Here's a look of the snow capped mountains North of Flagstaff. Behind these stands Mt. Humphrey, the highest peak in all of Arizona. We hope to some day conquer it, but this was not that day! No way would I go up there with all that snow on top. :p

After this brief visit we continued on to Lowell Observatory, the place where Pluto, the former planet, was discovered. We found two letterboxes in honor of our lost planet there. Finally, we drove to the trailhead for our big hike of the day!

Hiking the Fat Man Loop Trail. Allegations to our dear friends who were allegedly "too scared" to attempt it. We hope it continues to haunt you. <3

It was a great hike - Northern Arizona turned out to be bitter cold compared to Tucson, but as long as we were walking, we were able to stay warm. However, I almost cried when it started snowing…thank God it didn't stick, or we may have gotten stuck there! ;)

A true face rock.

Mitch & Austin peak through the rocks around the narrow trail.

An overcast day, but the hike was certainly worth it, if only for the letterbox series we found! An excellent 6 box series by one of our new Connecticut friends, we enjoyed every carve very much!

Overlooking Eastern Flagstaff

The guys played the "try to throw a rock through that hole in the tree trunk" game here. 

Altogether, the trail was about 3 miles and took 3 hours. We had a late lunch in Flagstaff and rejoined with the rest of the group before heading South a bit.

The clouds - beauty after the snow left. Well, that's always what I think when snow is gone - beautiful. :)

Our next destination was Jerome, AZ. An artsy, eccentric town in the mountains. We stayed in the lovely Connor Hotel.

Our room!

We letterboxed and enjoyed walking down the street and window shopping. It was the weekend of the town's monthly "art walk" and it was packed, even close to 5 with the weather in the 40's-50's. Curtis and I typically don't like being in such crowded areas, so when we visit again we'll likely try to avoid this weekend!

We had dinner in a Mexican restaurant in Jerome that was very colorful! After a thrilling game of Carcassonne back at the hotel, we had a quiet, ghost-free night of sleep. 

The next day we were pleasantly surprised to step outside to sunny skies and temps in the 70's! What a blessing!

Above: J Mountain
Below: enjoying this great view while grabbing a couple more boxes around Jerome

After finally packing up and moving out, we headed to Cottonwood, AZ where the event was taking place. It was a mostly social with light boxing event, and we enjoyed meeting new friends and getting caught up with old. It's so fun to meet up with people who share the same hobby and exchange letterboxing adventure stories. :)

We took a short hike to grab a couple boxes!

A big day for Curtis: He finished his "AZRoadie Arizona Challenge" - meaning he has gotten an AZRoadie letterbox in every county in Arizona!

Not only that, but he also planted his last box in his "Arizona Counties" box series! Now all 15 Arizona counties have a box planted in them, as well as a final mystery box. Fellow letterboxers, please enjoy. :)

We planted the last box in Prescott, AZ on the way home from the event. While driving through Prescott, Curtis and Mitch fell in love with the city and have vowed to move there someday and open a Nico's joint. What an exciting future to look forward to. :)

March 2014 Adventures

A review of our March, just a little late :)

What were we doing in March when we weren't on our vacation?

Having adventures, of course!

Curtis' semester has been heavier than last, so there have been more nights at home with homework. But we've still gotten out a bit and enjoyed this gorgeous weather - the warmest winter ever on record for Tucson! It was a great year to move down here…until of course, this winter is followed by the "hottest summer ever"…not sure if I'm ready for that! Considering we already have to run the AC at night, it's going to be a long summer!

But time to stop worrying about that, and remember all the great hikes we had while it was still tolerable~

The month started with a hike in Oro Valley at sunset - and what a lovely sunset it was! I couldn't focus on the letterboxes we were getting, the sky was so beautiful.

Then these clouds started rolling in - they were a beautiful shade of blue, and with them came much needed rain - all weekend long!

I love the blue skies contrasted with the bright yellow flowers.

The next weekend, (3/8/14) we drove down to Patagonia, AZ. While driving down I-10, we came across this oversized load:

At first, we got excited thinking it was a small plane, but then realized it was a boat. Bummer!

We started near Vail, AZ, where we met up with other Tucson letterboxers and did our road cleaning duties. That's fair, right? The city of Tucson lets us hide boxes all over (whether they know it or not) and in return, we pick up trash off of a road twice a year. :)

We made a few stops on the way down to Lake Patagonia, all for letterboxes. I didn't get many pictures on this trip, but the few I do have only begin to show the beauty of this area.

Petroglyphs on a rock, somewhere near a box.

Green! :)

So funny story: This area is a big bird watchers area, as many different and unique birds frequent this area. Our main goal was letterboxing, but we hiked with hopes of seeing a cool bird or two. As we were walking down this trail, there was the lake to our left, with the typical water plants all over. At one point, Curtis stopped and pointed, saying "look! I think I see a crane! There's it's backside!"

After looking, I had to break the news: "that's not a crane. That's a cow." :)

So he mistook a cow's front for a crane's back side. Common mistake, right? Sadly, no other bird - or almost bird - sightings that day.

The next 2 weekends were our spring break trip, but we pick up again on March 29th, with a few different hikes off of the Catalina Highway and Agua Caliente.

Above: a Japanese Isolation hole thing, from back when the Japanese prisoners were building the highway. 

Curtis plays around in them. I did not, it's rattlesnake season and I am paranoid.

Curtis: "They're basically Japanese time-out chairs."

After this picture, he climbed out of this tiny hole.

Hiking Soldier trail in the Catalina Mountains.

Selfie: Me with Tucson in the background!

Our destination: Beautiful overlook, and a letterbox!

New growth on the prickly pears.

We were able to get all letterboxes off of the Catalina Highway (Yay!) and we finished with a hike on Agua Caliente trail, for another letterbox. Thankfully not too strenuous, as it was really warming up! It pays to begin hiking early in the day.

The next day, (March 30) we drove up to Phoenix to meet with Curtis' sister, Lydia, and her husband, Jeff.  We hiked 3 miles together in the beautiful South Mountain Park, the largest municipal park in the country, and found a letterbox from 2000! Afterwards, we ate at a sushi/Hawaiian restaurant, which served the BEST SUSHI EVER, no joke! We're so excited that Lydia & Jeff are moving to our lovely state soon - it'll be so nice to live closer to family, even for just a year!

And that was our March - I can't believe that we've hiked about 130 miles already this year (not counting a 10 mile hike that only Curtis did with friends), and found 148 boxes so far! I'm hoping we can still have some time during the summer to keep up, but if not, there's always next fall. :)