Tag Archive | National Monument

Arizona Getaway 2019: Chiracahua National Monument

Day 3, Saturday, March 16, 2019

The last day of our Arizona trip, Mom and I went to Chiracahua National Monument.  It is located in the Chiracahua Mountains of southeast Arizona.  We had been planning to visit the day before, because I really, really wanted to go, but it had been closed due to an unusual cold front and snow the day before.  When I found out it was scheduled to reopen the next day, I made sure we took the opportunity!  I was so excited!  However, when we got there, we learned that although the monument was technically open (The Visitor’s Center at least), the road was closed past the Visitor’s Center; basically, the scenic drive up the mountain.

Chiracahua National Monument

Chiracahua National monument is a rugged section of land, of which approximately 85% is designated as wilderness.  It protects the hoodoos and balancing rocks of a volcanic eruption 27 million years ago, when the Turkey Creek Caldera exploded and spewed white hot ash all over the area.  The ash has, over time, eroded away and created the hoodoos and rock formations that exist there today.  Chiracahua is high-elevation, ranging from 5,124 feet at the entrance station to 7,310 feet at the summit of its tallest mountain.  In addition to the volcanic eruptions, they get the effects of seasons, and a lot of erosion from the winter rain and winds.  The area was designated as a National Monument on April 18, 1924, by President Calvin Coolidge.

Chiracahua is known as the Wonderland of Rocks for its beautiful rock formations.  Apparently though, people in general are less impressed by rocks than I am, as it is one of the lesser visited monuments with annual visitation in 2018 of 60,577.

Faraway Ranch windmill

We checked out the Visitor’s Center, got my passport stamps, and did a bit of shopping.  There was a tour starting at the historic Faraway Ranch, so we headed over there to catch it.  The Faraway Ranch started as a cattle ranch in 1886, owned and operated by Neil and Emma Erickson, Swedish immigrants who met and married in the United States.  They ran the ranch as a cattle ranch from 1886 to 1917, when Neil accepted a job with the new National Park Service and had to relocate.  At that point, his oldest daughter Lillian took over the operation of the ranch and began renting it out to tourists as a guest ranch.

The house at the Faraway Ranch

The guest ranch was quite popular, and many people visited over the years; even though it was remote, you got all your meals provided, a chance to relax, and later on there was even a swimming pool!  After running the ranch for many years, Lillian died in 1977 and the family decided to sell it to the National Park Service to be added to the monument.  It was a fitting end of the ranch of the family who for so long had been a part of protecting and advocating for this beautiful area.

The home is very well preserved to its time as a guest ranch and had many artifacts belonging to the family and stretching back to the late 1880s.  It was fun seeing products and items that were used there over time.  An antique butter churn!  Vintage cleaning products!  One of the lamps in the living room was fascinating, with a beautiful hand painted shade painted by one of the women in the Erickson family.  Lillian went blind as she got older, and although she still managed the ranch with help from her staff, she did need accommodations.  One of the items on display are her Braille playing cards!

A quarter mile away, there is a rustic cabin that once belonged to a neighbor of the Erickson family.  Mom and I walked down there to check it out, despite the cold.  It would have been tough to live in such a remote area during a cold, Arizona winter.  And yes, in case you were wondering, parts of Arizona get very cold.

The cabin at the Faraway Ranch

 

Mom and me, in the cold

Interestingly, it was near here that Park Ranger Paul Fugate disappeared without a trace in 1980, so there’s a cold case for you amateur sleuths to research.  Hopefully one day they find out what happened to him, so his family can have closure.

After we visited the ranch, we ate lunch at a picnic table and got word from a park employee that the road up the mountain had reopened!  We got to drive up and see the beautiful scenery!  Chiracahua is known for its hoodoos, narrow canyons and rock formations.  Unfortunately, there was a thick layer of fog blanketing the higher elevations of the monument.  We drove to the top of the road, but our views were non-existent once we got very high.  We did get to see some gorgeous rock formations at the lower elevations though, which were still above 5,000 feet!

I still enjoyed visiting, but definitely want to return when it is warm enough to do some hiking and see the view.  I bet it is spectacular!

 

The Grand Tour – Day 7 – Fort Pulaski

We woke up to our last morning at the Marshall House and Savannah, Georgia. We got moving and went downstairs to have another fantastic breakfast with quiche and fruit. Awesome! (Yes, I’m frequently guided by my stomach. So what?) Then we headed out for one last morning wander around town before we had to check out, say goodbye and head on our way. We paid another visit to Colonial Cemetery (I can never get enough of this place!) and we wandered down to get a good photo of the Lucas Theatre.

The Lucas Theatre opened as a movie theatre in December 1921 and at the time, was the largest movie screen in Savannah.  It holds a special place in my heart though, because the first movie shown there, at the Grand Opening, was the silent film Camille, starring Rudolph Valentino!  My namesake!  No, not really, as the movie is about a courtesan, but it is a really good film.  And the 1936 version starring Greta Garbo is awesome too.  Camille is based on the 19th century book La Dame aux camélias by French author Alexandre Dumas’, and the book is also the basis for the more recent film Moulin Rouge (although it diverges quite a bit from the original story).  And in case you are wondering why the film is called Camille, when the main character is named Marguerite, Camille was the American name given to the movie, presumably to give a nod to The Lady of Camellias book title.

The Lucas Theatre, Built 1921, Greek Revival Architectural Style

On our way out of town, we decided to see Fort Pulaski, which is a fort outside of Savannah that was built in beginning in 1829 (it was finally finished in 1847). Although it was begun under the direction of another officer, Robert E. Lee was the second officer in charge of construction, and the one who oversaw the completion of the fort. He was a Second Lieutenant at that time in the U.S. Army.  It was built from bricks, both from a nearby Savannah plantation, and from as far away as Baltimore, Maryland.  Fort Pulaski is named for Kazimierz Pulaski (known in the U.S. as Casimir Pulaski), who was a Polish cavalry soldier who fought for George Washington during the Revolutionary War.  He was a genius at military strategy, learning his trade fighting in battles all across Europe.  He trained U.S. troops fighting the British and participated in the sieges of Charleston and Savannah (shout out to my Polish heritage!).

Jon Posing on the Walk Up to Fort Pulaski

The Arched Entrance to Fort Pulaski

The fort was occupied at the beginning of the Civil War by Georgia troops, but Union troops assaulted Fort Pulaski with rifled cannon (a new innovation that scored the inside of the cannon with grooves to allow heavier cannonballs to travel further and with more accuracy).  Union troops spent a period of time constructing sand batteries on distant Tybee Island, where they then placed 36 guns.  The Confederates knew they were there, but were feeling secure inside the fort.  In fact, Robert E. Lee said, “Colonel, they will make it pretty warm for you here with shells, but they cannot breach your walls at that distance.”  The 11 foot thick walls of Fort Pulaski were considered to be impenetrable, but after 30 hours of bombardment, the Union cannons had breached one wall of the fort and were shelling dangerously close to the fort’s powder magazine.

A View of the Inside of Fort Pulaski From the Upper Wall

The Confederates surrendered the fort and it was occupied and repaired by Union troops for the remainder of the war, successfully blockading the Savannah River and shutting down commerce in and out of Savannah.  At one point, over 500 Confederate soldiers were imprisoned at the fort, in response to the Confederates placing 600 Union soldiers in the direct line of Union fire in the city of Charleston.  These Confederate soldiers became known as the Immortal 600 – and 13 of them died of starvation and dysentery while imprisoned there.  They are buried outside the fort.

Grave Marker for the Immortal Six Hundred – 13 Confederate POWs Who Died at Fort Pulaski

The fort is now operated by the National Park Service as a National Monument, so I was able to get another stamp for my National Parks Passport!  It was an awesome place to spend a couple of hours, checking out the history and enjoying the Southern sunshine.  While we were there we got to see a musket firing demonstration (see the smoke in the photo!), and see what it would have been like to live at the fort (I would rather live at Fort Pulaski than Fort Sumter, hands down). I tried to find alligators too, because I saw on the brochure that they live on Cockspur Island around the fort, but I was thwarted again – no alligators were to be seen.  Jon and I did take a walk on some of the nature trails, but we headed back when we started getting eaten by mosquitoes!

A Musket Firing Demo at Fort Pulaski

After Fort Pulaski, we headed over to Tybee Island to see what it was like. Tybee Island is a resort island with lots of beach access and seaside fun for the kids. We cruised through and took a look, but since neither Jon nor I are real beach vacation folks, it probably won’t be next on our vacation agenda.

Then, we got back on the road for another long drive to our next destination – Americus, Georgia!