Tired of all the anti-commercialism Christmas naysayers and general bah humbug? Head out to Flagstaff, Arizona were for a mere average of 45 dollars a person you can have a Christmas adventure so sugary sweet you may have a bellyache by the time you leave.
The Experience is decked out in rustic would architecture, old fashioned wooden toys and gift wrappings and cornucopia of Christmas trees decked out in a fantastic display of lights and ornaments. As well as a full cast of professional, dedicated actors filling out the Experience. Its enough to make one’s head spin.
The famous North Pole Experience offers a fully imagined Santa’s Workshop were you can transform yourself into an elf (using a healthy dose of imagination) as you try your hand at toy making and quality control checks. You can also get a look at the Santa’s reindeer-powered ride, the sleigh. If you still haven’t had your fill you can visit Mrs. Claus for some warm cookies.
Oh. And most importantly. You can have a visit with the big man himself. Santa.
In the furthest southeastern corner of Arizona are the Chiricahua Mountains…
The Chiricahuas are one of several so called ‘sky island’ mountain ranges. These ranges are surrounded by vast desert grasslands. The Chiricahua Mountains are part of an inactive volcanic range about twenty miles wide and forty miles long. Deep inside these steep, forested valleys resting beneath the craggy peaks are the remains of a violent geological activity that took place over millions of years. Pinnacles, columns, spires and ‘balancing rocks’ scatter the landscape of the Chiricahua National Monument.
The Apache called this place ‘The Land of Standing-Up Rocks’. A suitable name for the extraordinary, almost surreal landscape. Early pioneers in the late 1800s understood the unique beauty of the Chiricahua range and were instrumental in persuading Congress to protect this ‘Wonderland of Rocks’. The Chiricahua National Monument was created in 1924. The monument consists of about 12,000 acres of wild and rugged terrain. In 1976 Congress decided to further preserve the land by designating 87% of the monument as “wilderness” – meaning absolutely no human intervention.
Although the geological wonders seem reason enough to protect this land, the park is a biological crossroads of sorts, a meeting place of four distinct ecological regions. In the Chiricahuas, the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, the Rocky mountains and Sierra Madre ranges all meet. This convergence of these biomes makes the monument unique in its biodiversity. From the Rockies, Ponderosa pine and Englemann spruce live side by side the Soap tree yucca from the Chihuahuan desert. Arizona sycamores and oaks dot the surprisingly well watered canyons. Douglas and White fir, Arixona cypress, Cane cholla, Prickly pear, ferns, mushrooms, and fungi all grow together in the monument. The widlife includes coatimundi, white-tailed deer, javalina and many bird species—over three hundred bird species, in fact, make their home here.
All of these wonders can be enjoyed by you and your family for extremely modest fees that allow actives from day hikes to campground and back country camping. Adventurers from non-desert regions remember to bring plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen! Everyone should remember sturdy shoes and, the proper gear, over all will make for a safer more enjoyable trip.
More information on desert camping/hiking and other questions can be answered be finding the park online at www.nps.gov and by contacting the park directly.
Bisbee, Arizona: copper town. It lies 90 miles southeast of Tucson, tucked into the Mule Mountains. The view of the historic Cochise County seat is something out of a historic painting. Founded in 1880, the town was named for Judge DeWitt Bisbee, a financial backer of the Cooper Queen Mine.
Historically known as the Queen of the Copper Camps, this true Old West mining camp was one of the richest mineral deposits in the world. It produced around three million ounces of gold and a staggering 8 billion pounds of copper, mean while also yielding significant takes of silver, lead and zinc. By the 1900’s Bisbee was the largest community between St. Louis and San Francisco with a population of 20,000.
Although most famously known for its Brewery Gulch nightlife—Brewery Gulch boasted 47 saloons at its peak. Besides watering holes and women, Bisbee offered more wholesome recreation as well, being home to the state’s first community library, a popular opera house, Arizona’s oldest ball field and first golf course.
In 1908, a fire ravaged most of Bisbee’s commercial district along Main Street, leaving nothing but a pile of ashes, but the residents of Bisbee quickly began reconstruction and by 1910, most of the district had been rebuilt and remains completely intact today.
In the 1970’s the mines became unprofitable and the employees left for better prospects. However, many artists and miscellaneous free spirits found Bisbee to be an inexpensive home in which to pursue their artistic visions. The historic Oliver House, now a fabulous bed and breakfast, hosted a poetry reading series that welcomed such poets as Allen Ginsburg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Edward Dorn. For many years Bisbee hosted an annual poetry festival (the Bisbee Poetry Festival).
Most recently Bisbee was recognized for another kind of nightlife by the television reality series “Ghost Hunters”. The Atlantic Paranormal Society (also known as TAPS) was invited to investigate the infamous and historic Cooper Queen Hotel. Bisbee offers a variety of ghost hunting activities for braver night owls, including after-hours walking tours and site specific hunts (the Cooper Queen Included). Many guests of the Cooper Queen request specific rooms the hotel claims are haunted.
Bisbee, of course, also offers many mining related activities including a tour of the Cooper Queen mine and the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum. There are also many shops, restaurants and vintage saloons to explore in the restored Old Bisbee downtown. The Chiricahua National Monument and Tombstone, Arizona are both within a reasonable distance and offer further recreation. The Chiricahua National Monument offers visitors a chance to explore the natural beauty of Arizona while taking in the breath taking sight of the Hoodoos and other volcanic rock formations, while visitors of Tombstone can further investigate the old west.
Bisbee’s best feature, perhaps, is it truly is a quiet little place off the map, where if all one wants is rest and relaxation all one has to do is fade into the scenery and enjoy.