Tombstone Off The Beaten Path Tips by matcrazy1 Top 5 Page for this destination
Tombstone Off The Beaten Path: 16 reviews and 47 photos
TRADITIONAL AMERICAN FARM WINDMILL
I was lucky to find this old landmark of rural America on a small farm, close to Tombstone, on the left side of Arizona State Highway 80 driving from Tombstone towards Bisbee.
The multi-bladed wind turbine atop a lattice tower made of wood or steel was, for many years, a fixture of the landscape throughout rural America. However I expexted to see more traditional American farm windmills in the Southwest and Texas especially. In reality I could see them on my way only maybe 10 or maximum 20 times during my trip through nine western and southwestern states (over 11,500 miles driven.) I could see more often modern windmills properly called wind turbines or wind generators that generate electricity.
The water-pumping windmills played key role in the farming and ranching on vast areas of North America and later also contributed to the expansion of rail transport systems, by pumping water from wells to supply the needs of the steam locomotives of those early times. Windmills and related equipment are still manufactured and installed today on farms and ranches, usually in remote parts of the western United States where electric power is not readily available. However most of farm windmills, I saw in the USA, had the mechanism connecting the wheel to the pump missed and didn't work.
MADREAN SKY ISLANDS EAST OF HIGHWAY 80
Sky islands are mountains in ranges isolated by valleys in which other ecosystems are located. As a result, the mountain ecosystems are isolated from each other, and species can develop in parallel, as on island groups such as the Galapagos Islands.
I could easily see something like that driving from Tombstone to Bisbee (only 24 miles = 39 km) through so called the Madrean sky islands that are located at the northern end of the Sierra Madre Occidental, in U.S. states of New Mexico and Arizona, and Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora. In pre-Columbian times various tribes of Native Americans were less or more isolated one from another just by these sky islands. Now, I can better understand huge variety of Native American tribes which once inhabited Arizona and New Mexico.
Look at sedimentary rock formations of the sky islands located east of Highway 80, closer to Bisbee. Light brownish, grey and white nude rocks with well marked sedimentary layers are probably limestome and very old as the slopes of these hills are comparatively smooth. I have seen similar rocky ranges in southern Morocco (the Antiatlas Mountains). Well, I am not a specialist on geology, and I put my geology classes at a college among the most boring ones :-)
THE MULE MOUNTAINS
After going along hills of smooth slopes, Arizona State Highway 80 (Tombstone -Bisbee) close to Bisbee has entered a very rough terrain, with very steep slopes descending into deep canyons. These quite different Madrean sky islands full of sharp rocky formations with the highest peak, Mount Ballard (7,500 feet; 2,300 m) are called the Mule Mountains. The rocks are partly nude, partly covered by various grasses, evergreen bushes and little trees - oaks and pines mainly. This remained me sceneries from a series of Winnetou Western movies I used to watch on TV as a kid. Well, actually they were filmed in former Yugoslavia (Slovenia and Croatia now).
But my foundest memory from Mule Mountais is the single mule deer walking a few meters down the highway 80. Unfortunatelly when I carefully stopped a car on a shoulder to picture him, he suddenly run away :-(. It was the first deer in natural habitat I have seen on American soil. I think the deer I saw was a mule deer as it had, as I noticed, white but black tipped tail and large, mule-like ears.
To differentiate various species of deer (it's sometimes very difficult) always first pay attention to its tail (color of its bottom), ears (size and shape) and surely antlers. But in April deer had no antlers in southwestern USA. Keep in mind that antlers are shed after mating season ( from mid-January to mid-April for mule deer) and regrown each year. Later on I spotted and pictured deer many times, including black-tailed deer with a black underside to tail and similar ears (say, in Olympic NP, Washington State) and a year later Virginia deer (= white-tailed deer, with white underside to tail and smaller ears) in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.
THE DRAGOON MOUNTAINS SEEN FROM TOMBSTONE
Driving from Tombstone to Bisbee (only 24 miles = 39 km) I could easily notice diversity of landscapes. It's said that the Chihuahuan desert is one of the three most biologically rich and diverse desert ecoregions in the world, rivaled only by the Great Sandy Tanmi Desert of Australia and the Namib-Karoo of southern Africa.
The historic town of Tombstone, Arizona is located at the southwestern portion of the 25 mi (40 km) long range called the Dragoon Mountains. There are no marked tourist trails in the mountains but several ghost towns including Gleeson, 16 miles (26 km) east of Tombstone, and Courtland 5 miles (8 km) futher north. I didn't visit them :-(.
Route 80 soon after leaving Tombstone goes quite steep down the Dragoon Mountains (picture 2). There is a great view over huge grassland space down with the Mule Mountains far south. Well, instead of ban on stopping they should put up a parking lot (lookout) there. After getting down I had wrong impression that I was on a lowland, although I was still at the elevation above 1,000 m (3,300 ft). Haha, generally in the western USA you never know how high above see level you are. Many times I was surprised that after hot or pretty warm day, temperature dropped down a lot at night, that is typical for higher elevations.
GRASSLANDS OF THE CHIHUAHUAN DESERT
I drove Arizona State Highway 80 from Tombstone to Bisbee. I passed through fairy flat grasslands placed between not very high mountain ranges. The region contains a series of basins and ranges and is a part of the Basin and Range Province that covers much of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It's an area of elongate north-south trending arid valleys bounded by mountain ranges which also bound adjacent valleys.
Despite common conviction the southeastern corner of Arizona is not the Sonoran Desert. It's a different ecoregion located higher in elevation than the Sonoran Desert to the west. It's a northern part of the Chihuahuan Desert that straddles the U.S.-Mexico border. On the U.S. side it occupies the valleys and basins of the southeastern corner of Arizona, central and southern New Mexico and Texas west of the Pecos River; south of the border, it covers the northern half of the Mexican state of Chihuahua and most of Coahuila.
SOAPTREE YUCCA, SOUTHEASTERN ARIZONA
Driving Arizona State Highway 80 from Tombstone to Bisbee across desert grassland I have passed by very ornamental plants called Soaptree Yucca (Yucca elata). In southeastern Arizona they usually grow solitary, rarely in a colony of a few plants and are short - this subspecies with shorter leaves grows exclusively in Arizona.
I've found this abundant evergreen, palm-like shrub or small tree growing 1.2 to 4.5 m (4 - 15 ft) high one of the most characteristic plant of desert areas of Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas. The gray trunk is covered with dead leaves. It is usually unbranched and has very long, narrow leaves. The grasslike leaves are flat and linear. Soaptree yucca grows at height of 1500 to 6000 feet (460 - 1800 m) above sea level, thus must be very cold-hardy, but also needs lots of sunlight.
Native Americans used the fiber of the Soaptree Yucca's leaves to weave baskets. There is a soapy substance high in saponins inside the trunk and roots of the plant. In the past, this was commonly used as a substitute for soap and shampoo. Also, in times of drought, ranchers have used the plant as an emergency food supply for their cattle.
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