Vail, Arizona – December 2021 – Views From The New Neighborhood

Our move to Arizona has found us living in a town called Vail, at the far east end of Tucson. It predates the same named town in Colorado by about 100 years, but for most of it’s time was a small, dusty railroad stop. The Colorado town has nothing on the Arizona one, the mountains here have more vertical gain above the town – just without so much snow (thankfully).

In the last 30 years it has grown tremendously but still has that ‘outpost’ feel, being at the edge of town, next to the mountains and desert. This posting has random views of some sights around Vail and beyond.

While Route 66 is the most famous east-west route in the pre interstate days, in reality more people actually took U.S. 80 west to California. This route made it’s way across Southern Arizona, including a portion between Benson and Vail, on it’s way to Tucson.

U.S. 80 crosses Cienega Creek on a 1921 bridge, next to where two Southern Pacific railroad routes also traverse the creek. A cienega is a wetland unique to the Southwestern U.S., resulting in a landscape unlike the surrounding area because of the constant availability of water, with large trees lining the banks.

Just to the east is the ghost town of Pantano, another railroad stop in the late 1800s, early 1900s. Today only the water tower remains.

About 30 miles south of Vail is the town of Sonoita. As you cross the Empire Mountains the landscape changes yet again, with large fields of tall grasses, instead of the Sonoran Desert look of Vail.

A local propane dealer has a cool collection of decorated tanks.

While Saguaro National Park East has a Tucson address, it is in the Vail area. It was a good day to take the dog for a walk, and take a closer look at the cacti.

The Vail area, and all of Southern Arizona, have spectacular sunsets.

Note the full moon peeking through the clouds.

Lowell, Arizona – December 2021 – Rusted Ghost Town

Lowell, Arizona is just south of Bisbee, and today is officially part of the city of Bisbee. Not only has the town lost it’s population over the years, but it actually lost it’s land as the massive copper pit mining was expanded.

Today a portion of the main street remains, with a collection of old buildings, cars, trucks and buses – but it has a unique appeal. It is the scene of numerous photo and video shoots.

Bisbee, Arizona – December 2021 – An Artistic Mining Town

It is only about 20 miles from Tombstone to Bisbee, but culturally it is a world away from the old west gun crowd. Bisbee is known as an artistic town, full of free spirits, having been named the ‘Best Hippie Town in Arizona’.

It was founded in the late 1800s as a mining town, and there is evidence of that everywhere, with the town situated in a steep valley with a 1 street commercial district, and houses scattered up and down the hills.

Many of the houses and commercial buildings have interesting architecture, but the crown jewel is the Art Deco Cochise County Courthouse.

When the mining eventually died out in the 1970s, the artistic crowd found the town perfect for them, with a fantastic climate, interesting architecture and affordability. Today the town thrives on as one of the destinations in Southern Arizona.

Tombstone, Arizona – December 2021 – A Dead Town on a Sunday Morning

The tourist bureau says Tombstone, Arizona is ‘authentic old west’, and the town is on the National Historic Registry. While the buildings are old, it is tough to claim it is authentic when there is an Italian Gelato stand and Harley Davidson dealership.

We were there about 8 AM on a Sunday morning, before the tourists arrived so the only people we saw were the actors getting ready for their day. Regardless it made for some interesting photos.

And with that it is time to get the stagecoach out of town…..

Tucson – October 2021 – From Mexico to Canada in 27 Miles (and 7,000 Vertical Feet) – Mt Lemmon, Arizona

Tucson is located at the base of Mt Lemmon, a 9300′ high mountain. The Catalina Highway goes all the way up the mountain, providing a biological and ecological perspective in the 27 mile drive, and 7,000 vertical feet in elevation gain that is the same as driving from Mexico to Canada.

The road starts in far northeastern Tucson

It doesn’t take long to gain enough elevation for a panoramic view of the city, while passing hillsides of Saguaro cactus.

For many years the road was known as one of the most dangerous in the area, but years of improvements have made it very safe, with numerous overlooks.

The appropriately named Thimble Peak is on the right of this view.

The stop at Windy Point has a large area for hiking around – a good point about 1/2 way up the mountain for an extended break.

There are numerous hoodoos in the lower elevations.

Once you go above 8000′ elevation the terrain changes, with forests of evergreens and aspen trees, with their fall colors.

The small tourist town of Summerhaven has long been a respite from the desert heat.

Mt Lemmon Ski Valley is known as the southernmost ski resort in the country. While Tucson is in the desert, with about 11 inches of precipitation a year, rarely as snow, Mt Lemmon has almost 200″ of snow a year at the summit.

A couple of miles further on up the mountain is the summit. A recent wildfire has left some of the hills burnt, but as always the vegetation returns.

The view of Tucson from 7000′ above the valley floor is amazing. This is one of the countries best drives.

The drive back down took us from 52 degrees at the summit to 85 degrees in the valley floor, as we returned back to the Sonoran Desert.

Central Arizona – September 2021 – Wanderings

A 3 day weekend of wanderings resulted in a number of topics for a posting, and a few random shots that weren’t enough for a single posting.

Jerome, Arizona – What was once a medium sized town for a large copper mine, the town went nearly extinct, but has returned to life as a tourist attractions as … a ghost town full of people.

Another mountain town is Superior – east of Phoenix.

Roosevelt Lake is located near the Tonto National Monument. The reservoir supplies water to Phoenix.