Headed south on I-10 towards Tucson, we first stop at the Case Grande Ruins, the first archeological site to be preserved by the federal government and the fifth oldest unit in the National Park Service. Though there isn't a lot here, I always find these ancient buildings and people fascinating. There is a nominal fee to enter the monument, but we breeze in with our National Park Pass. What a bargain that is!
Continuing southward we veer off I-19 once again to head for the Saguaro National Park, where forests of these tall "people-looking" cactuses. A universal symbol of the American West, the park protects some of the most impressive forests of these sub-tropical giants that can only be only found in a small portion of the United States. There is no charge to drive through the park.
Back onward to Tucson we pass by the Old Tucson Studios. An Old West film studio, they have been filming in this recreated 1880's Western town since 1939. An active film set that where some of Hollywood's biggest Westerns have been made also provides daily live entertainment and attractions including high-flying stunt shows, gunfights, saloon musicals, trail rides, historical studio tours, and shopping. Alas, the admission is $16.95, our time is limited, and our destination are "real" ghost towns, so we pass.
Circumventing most of Tucson, we head continue on to the San Xavier Indian Reservation to take a look at the Mission San Xavier del Bac. This old mission is acclaimed by many to be the finest example of mission architecture in the United States. Built in 1768, the mission is a graceful blend of Moorish, Byzantine and late Mexican Renaissance architecture. Admission is free but donations are gratefully accepted. In front of the mission, most days will find the local Indians selling the arts, crafts, fresh baked bread and other wares. Unfortunately, on the day that we were there it was so windy that most had escaped the swirling dust.
Now, for a much anticipated destination, an old dirt road to one of Arizona's best ghost towns. Exiting I-19, we first head to Arivaca before heading down SR-289, a dusty dirt road, to Ruby, Arizona. What a great ghost town!! Established in 1912, this old mining town is one of the best preserved in the state. Mining began in Ruby, that was first called Montana Camp, in the 1870's. After the turn of the century, mining began in earnest and the town boomed to over 1,000 residents, bringing out over 3 million ounces of silver before it died.
Today, the old town is looked after by a caretaker and there is an admission of $12.00. However, it is well worth it as you explore the old school, jail, general store, head frame, assay office, warehouse, mill, and more. Early pioneers also built a dam which created a small lake which still stands near a a large plateau of sifting sand created by the tailings. And, there's more - a tale of murder and mahem, and we were sure - at least one ghost lurking around the old school. Stay tuned when I get back, I'll give you all the details and lots of great photos of RRuby. What a wonderful place!!
The road continues on to another ghost town called Old Glory, but unfortunately we couldn't find it. This road is best driven with a high clearance vehicle.
Caked with dust we made our way out of the mountains to Nogales, a hotel, and a much needed shower.