Clifton & Superior

June 2007 -- A week-long trip east out of Phoenix, Arizona, through the "almost" ghost towns of Superior and Clifton, up to the "sky island" of Mt. Graham, and then to the Coronado Trail and eastern Arizona's White Mountains.

Click any image to enlarge.

Here's the route.

"B" is Superior, Arizona
"C" is Mt. Graham
"D" is Clifton & the Morenci mine
"E" is Hannagan Meadow
"F" is Show Low

The vertical line on the right is the New Mexico state line.

Every journey must start somewhere, and this one began with a customer service nightmare at this souless enterprise. On my way out of town, I needed to purchase a memory card for my camera. Not some obscure off-brand type of card, but a standard Compact Flash style. All I will say is that this company is ... dysfunctional.
The most horrific cattle grate I've every seen.
Picket Post Mountain Superior Arizona
Picket Post Mountain, just west of Superior, Arizona. Site of an outpost of Camp Pinal. Soldiers here protected Pinal City and the Silver King Mine from Apache raids.
Home of the World's Smallest Museum!
Superior, Arizona
Old Sprouse-Reitz store
Superior, Arizona has a beautiful, well-kept main drag; the only problem is that it's completely vacant.
The beauty of a decaying adobe structure,
The Magma Hotel.
Picture shot through a glass store front.
A great old café all dressed up with no one to serve.
A berry I'd never seen before. Let me know if you can identify this! I was tempted to give it a taste, but thought better of it.
An old jail? Can't say for sure.
Superior, Arizona's "super" market. Note the Chinese proprietor names displayed over the sign ... just like in the old days.
Los Hermanos - clearly the most hapenin' joint in Superior.
U.S. 60 headed northeast out of Superior, headed for Globe.
The Apache Gold casino on the San Carlos Apache reservation.
Just look at all that glitter and glitz!
The 10,000 foot Pinaleño Mountains, a.k.a. Mt. Graham. We will now begin our ascent.
Heading up Mt. Graham, south of Safford, Arizona
At about 6700 feet ... oaks, sycamores, cottonwoods, running water. Seriously sylvan after months in the Sonoran Desert.
Prescribed burn. The idea is to burn small areas ahead of camper-caused or lightning-cased fires. The idea is to mimic the natural place fire has in our ecosystem as well as to avoid any devastating wildfires that come from too much fire suppression.
The Egg.

Know as a "biologically unique area," Mount Graham's 10,720 foot summit supports eighteen plants and animals that exist nowhere else on earth.

The Mt. Graham Red Squirrel was thought to have been extinct, but small numbers of squirrels were rediscoveredin the 1970's. Their current population is estimaed to be only about 200. Smaller than most, this squirrel was isolated from others at the end of the Ice Age in the "sky island" of the Pinaleños. Their main habitat is in the spruce-fir zone above 10,000 feet. These squirrels are not nearly as vocal as others. Scientists speculate that because they lived apart from other squirrels for thousands of years, they had less need to vocalize.

The University of Arizona had a plan to put up eighteen telescopes, garages, a dormitory and a visitor center over a 3,500-acre area. The plan was pared down and Congress ended up passing a controversial act that exempted three telescopes from the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.

Local Native Americans have also protested the observatory. The mountain is a sacred place to the San Carlos Apaches -- it is home to the spirits who taught their tribe to hunt. In 1992, a court ruled in favor of the University of Arizona, but the Apaches appealed that decision.

Campsite #1, still in the Pinaleños. I saw a Black Bear here.
The two mile Heliograph Trail, leading to one of the Pinaleño Mountains summits, Heliograph Peak.
My lil' buddy.
Heliograph Peak fire lookout
Elevation 10,028
Click to enlarge to see the controversial telescopes.
Cabin occupied by the fire lookout guy. Built in 1933 by the Civilian Conversation Corps.
A heliograph station was placed here by the U.S. Army around 1886. The station was part of a widespread communication system using mirrors and shutters to direct beams of sunlight. Soldiers could rapidly transmit Morse code with sunlight among outposts and troops regarding Apache movements in Southern Arizona and New Mexico..
The fire spotter let me climb up his tower about two flights.
I saw a black bear here. He was in a hurry, so he didn't want to wait around to take a picture with me.
Riggs Lake at 8600 feet.
This modest but very controversial road leads to one of the most advanced, multi-squillion dollar astronomical facilities on the planet.
A so-called minimum security prison at the base of Mt. Graham. Click this image to see why this does not look like anything that could be described as minimum!
Now here is a prison!
The Cochise County Jail.
Greenlee County Courthouse Arizona
The Greenlee County Courthouse, built in 1911. The U.S. Government has officially designated Greenlee County as "frontier" because it is so sparsely populated.
An old jail cell, now a storage room.
Clifton Arizona
Clifton, Arizona. The Apache warrior Geronimo was born here. The town is bound to see more activity very soon as the nearby Morenci mine is once again going full steam ahead.
Clifton Arizona
A neat old drive-in in Clifton.
The Clifton railway depot along the San Francisco River.
The Clifton jail. The guy who blasted it out of the side of a cliff in 1881 turned out to be its first inmate.
Below this airshaft is the jail cell pictured above.
What used to be the main drag in Clifton, Arizona

Union proud!
The gigantic
Morenci copper and turquoise mine is just over the hill.

Copper may once again become king in Arizona. With the skyrocketing price of the metal, the Morenci mine is back in full swing.
It is impossible to describe just how big this strip mine is. These pictures are showing probably just 5% of the total area.
Copper can be seen by the naked eye in Arizona's soil.
Heading north out of Morenci, The Coronado Trail quickly ascends to staggering heights.
Campsite #2. I hung out here for a few days, enjoying solitude, tranquility and lots of wildlife. Only five campsite in this campground and everyone was real quiet and respectful.
The Egg in full lotus position.
Seriously excellent Ford van conversion called a Sportmobile. Makes me misty-eyed for Fred, my long-gone '86 VW Westfalia Weekender.
The Blue Range Primitive Area of Arizona's White Mountains.

Here it is folks: full-on wolf poop! Some campground neighbors saw two Mexican Gray wolves -- one of the rarest of all wolf species -- in at the campground the night before I arrived. Note the flies, indicating its freshness!

There is something wonderful about being in a place so remote and wild that wolves are allowed to live. It says that not every square millimeter of the planet has to be refined to its highest economic use. It says that some places are indeed allowed to simply exist in their perfection.

Now, where are the the brown bears!

Attack of the butterflies! I was attacked by this marauding horde of butterflies as I approach whatever dung pile they happen to be feasting on here. My previous idea of butterflies as "delightful" or "fairy-like" took a serious hit when I saw what they were so jealously guarding.

Okay, enough with the shite photos!
A great trail leading out of the campground.
Wild strawberries! The livin' is easy.
Whoops! My mistake.
A burned tree.
I saw (and heard) elk in this meadow each morning.
Hannagan Meadow Lodge. Built in 1926, about 30 miles from anything at all. Servin' up the best homemade biscuits anywhere. Cabins for rent and trail rides.
Bill McClain, chief wrangler. Check him out in the film "Miracle at Sage Creek". A smart and fun guy, we are working together on creating a trophy buckle for Bill that says HANNAGAN MEADOW TRAIL BOSS.
Me and my very old gelding, Tequila.
If you're ever in Show Low, Arizona, check out Lucy's Cafe for a great breakfast. Nice family owners, good food, great prices.


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