When we went into the Chiricaua hike we went close to the rock formations. There was 2 hikes, a 7.5 mile and a 4.5 mile. I went on the 7.5. We got to see the different mountains from the top of Coronado Peak. We also got to see some rock formations named duck on a rock, and Punch and Judy up close in the heart of the rocks loop. Towards the end of the hike we heard a Black-tailed rattle snakes tail. I had a great time.
Dawson, age 14
When our boy scout troop went on a tour of the Predator airport, I was very interested. They showed us videos of different immigrant groups smuggling drugs (marijuana) across the border. Afterwards, they showed us the drones and explained how they have good lift and speed because they were so light.
When we entered the first hangar, we looked at some helicopters and looked around inside of it. One of the helo’s had its mechanics on the outside and we learned (sort of) how the “basic” engine works. We walked to the next hangar and they had one of the drones and explained how it would respond if the link was disconnected and it would fly to different points.
We then went to where they flew the drones. It was pretty much just a bunch of computers and satellites which tracked the plane, and after that he answered questions and it was over. It was very interesting to see how people used unmanned probes.
Tyler, age 13
April 14, 2014
Today we toured the area of the base that is in control of the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), which are otherwise known as Predator Drones. They started the tour with what all the jobs were and what they used the drones for most of the time, which is detecting illegal immigrants. Then we went out to the hangar where we saw one of the drones take off and do touch and go’s.
We were able to get up close and touch it and see how light it was. We touched a piece of it that is worth $1.5 million. One of the pilots of the helecopters in the other hangar showed us around the helicopters and how they work
Last we went inside one of the control centers for the drones where we saw a lot of the controls that they have for them. I felt that that was one of the coolest things yet to happen on the trip because not many people can say that they hiked Cochise Stronghold, but even fewer can say they touched a Predator drone.
Nick age 17.
Today Boy Scout Troop 40 toured the famous ghost town of Tombstone. The sun beat down on our necks when we first arrived; it was blazing hot. Everyone put on sunscreen and we were off… off to an excellent reenactment of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Walking into the shop, it was a toursist trap and we were trapped. Many of the boys were eying up cap guns. Especially those of Doc Holiday.
Three of the actors came out and asked for a fourth companion, pointing to Tyler. They asked him to join them. “How many horses have you stolen” they asked. “Zero” Tyler replied sheepishly. “Well how many banks have you robbed?” they asked again. “Nine.” Tyler said. “Ah, you’re no good. Have a nice day.” They said, and that was that.
The show was amazing and the actors were grat. Right after we went back into the store. Austin and I bought Mr. Parks a shirt that had his catch phrase on it. “It’s a Dry Heat”. In that same store, for some reason that escapes me, many of the scouts bought cap guns. Well, whatever floats your boat, or shoots your gun.
Right after we walked over to another show; one with a turn table and a diorama for each part. Every so often a screen would drop down the show a picture of this man or that man. Once this show was over we walked straight over to the longhorn Saloon to eat a burger, fries, and a drink. Afterwards our troop drove over to Mr. Yaisers property to watch the movie tombstone with Kurt Russell. It became extremely cold that night. To warm up (after the movie) we drove to the barracks to sleep.
Jon, age 17
Sorry for the delay in posting. We’ve been very busy, and have been stick in a wireless dead zone for 24 hours. We ate our next to last meal in the mess hall on Wednesday morning, and packed up for an overnight excursion to the Chiracaua National monument. Before we headed about 2.5 hours east to the Chiracaua Mountains, we took the boys south almost to Mexico and up to the top of Coranado Peak.
The road up is a dirt road the goes through switchback after switchback, with a very steep dropoff to one side. Drivers and passengers alike get nervous. We’ve toured this peak on each of the 4 trips to AZ because everyone enjoys it so much.
From the top you can see for 100 miles. The most notable feature is the fence/wall that we’ve built to retard the drug and illegal alien activity in the area. It is a plainly visible line that runs to the horizon. When you drive to the top, you park and there is a short .4 mile hike to the peak. The trail was much improved since our visit last year.
I skipped the Coronado peak side trip to head to Walmart to do some shopping for meals for the next couple of days. Our plan was to camp in the Coronado National Forrest just outside the front gate to the Chiracaua National Monument. After our drive east, we left Interstate 10 at Wilcox and headed southeast to the Chiracaua Mountains. We passed about 5 cars on the 35 miles, and got to the point that when you push seek on the radio, only one station came up, over and over. (and it was classical)
We turned off the road just before the entrance to the monument onto Pinery Canyon Rd and headed down washboard road though private lands and into the national forrest. Mountains rose on both sides of the road, and a small creek ran along side us as well. A wild fire had passed through the area in recent years and there were many charred and dead trees, but many of them showed signs of renewal, with shoots of greenery popping up from the base.
I got nervous when we pulled up to the first of two camping spots that we scouted last year. There was a 30 foot motor home parked in it. We continued down the primitive dirt road and got to the second spot, which is actually the better of the two. It was unoccupied, and we pulled the Suburbans in to set up camp. The spot was very spacious, so we could keep the vehicles on one end, put the kitchen and fire pit in the center, and put all the tents on flat ground with few rocks on the other end. Dennis and Terry opted for a secluded spot across the creek; guess they needed privacy.
We had to start dinner very shortly after arriving. I collected all the ingredients and got some help from a few adults, and within an hour we had a big pot of taco stew ready. It proved very popular; no complaints and lots of seconds. We had just 4 servings uneaten that got buried.
The campsite was wonderful. Nestled between mountains, under a canopy of big trees (thanks to the creek), beneath a cloudless sky full of stars, and later on under the light of a nearly full moon. We had a small campfire, with many of us keeping track of any embers that floated from the flames. It was very dry and the wildfire threat level was high. The men circle the fire talking amoungst ourselves, while the boys had their own circles, playing cards, chess, or just talkin’ boy talk.
We awoke the next day shortly after dawn and broke camp, packing our tents and personal gear. For breakfast we had an Otis Spunkmeyer muffin, and a bowl of cereal made with powdered milk. The powdered milk was an experiment to introduce the boys to something that they haven’t had before. It was a success, because we drank 6 quarts of it, and no one complained. We drank two 24 cup pots of coffee up too. After breakfast we put together the assembly line for lunch to take along on our hike. I put out tortillas, sunflower kernels, trail mix, slim jims, tuna pouches, peanut better an jelly individual packets, and Oreo packs. Every one got a gallon zip lock bag and went down the line and took some of everything. Everyone got the same thing and I encouraged them to trade if there is something that they didn’t care for. Most everyone had something leftover, and we’ll eat it up today on the way home.
We drove back out and entered the monument. The setup there is that you drive to the top at Massai Point, park your car, and hike down back to the visitor center. We had an extra vehicle and a couple of adults who stayed back at the visitor center so that they could shuffle the cars back down from the top. From the top we began our hikes. We split into two groups; one to do a 4.5 mile hike, all downhill, and one to do a 7.3 mile hike which includes a 50 story climb out of the bottom of a canyon.
The scenery on our hike was beyond words, but I’ll try anyways. There were thousands of columns of volcanic rock that had been eroded to the point that it looks like the rocks are piled on top of each other. Some are spectacular, where a 1,000 ton rock will sit on top another, with a foot print just 18 inches around. We walked up and down climbing amoung these formations. Some notable formations were Duck on a rock, camels head, Thor’s hammer, and Punch and Judy. They were so amazing. You know how they were created, but it’s so fantastic that you just can’t believe that it happens naturally.
Parts of this area have also suffered the ravages of wildfire recently. The ecosystem changed regulary as we hiked. Sometimes we were in forest, sometimes grassy areas, sometime rocky dessert. The climb out of the canyon was tough on the adults. At least it was for me. I am very proud to be the fat old guy that lead the long hike from beginning to end, finishing first. Even as a youngster, I was the guy in the back.
After our climb up, things were mostly down hill. Most of the way the trail was well maintained and free from loose rock. There were erosion controls everywhere. On our climb, we encountered a couple of park rangers who we doing trail maintenance. The trail ran very close to a creek bed which had washed out some erosion control rocks and the trail was beginning to erode. They had jack hammers with them to break up large rocks. They had erected a block and tackle system to move said rocks into place along side the trail. It looked like very hard work that I was glad to have them doing instead of me.
We stopped for lunch at a great spot that had a view across the valley of dozens of columns. Everyone found a big rock to sit down (some lucked out and got shade from a scrub bush). We opened up our bags and let the trading begin. I swapped my PB&J for tuna. The sandwiches on tortilla shells worked out great.
We pressed on and walked down gently sloping trails that followed along the side of the hills. At one point I heard a noise off to the side and behind me. Turns out that it was a rattlesnake. The kids were just talking about getting sunburn, so I thought the noise was an aerosol sun block, so I kept going. The snake was about 3 feet off the trail, and he scooted down the hill when prodded with a walking stick. I didn’t see it, but I was told that it was about 2 inches around and 4-5 ft long.
The balance of our hike was uneventful. We finished up after 5:45 of hiking. The guys on the shorter hike were waiting for us for some time. We got the vehicles back from the top and headed home.
After a McDonalds stop for supper, and a stop to see the Thing, we headed back to the post. “What is the thing?” you ask. I can’t tell you. You have to experience the thing for yourself. We packed up the trailer and got ready to go. And here we are, driving to Phoenix to come home. Happy to be seeing our family, but sad to be leaving Southeast Arizona. I’ll try to collect some pictures while at the airport to post.
April 14, 2014 – Tombstone
I enjoyed Tombstone very much. We got to see a reenactment of the shootout at the O.K. Corral. The old buildings and saloons were very interesting. We got to see a historical showabout Tombstone which was also fun.
I learned a lot about Tombstone and the people who lived there. The best part of Tomstone was the gun fight. We ate in a saloon and the food was delicious. I felt like I was in the year 1900. I really look forward to going back again some day.
Charlie age 15
April 13, 2014 – Prospecting
About gold mining: like we had to dig a hole or use a hole that is already dug and have dirt in a bucket to sift the big stuff like big rocks. Then we went to the guys house to clean out the dirt to get the gold pieces. Then we had to clean out the dirt with water to get the gold.
When my group was out there we had to dig out dirt and crack rocks with the pick axe. We had to switch out to other people because it was hot and humid out and we also got tired as well. When we got it to the guy’s house we cleaned out the dirt wth a tube of water flowing into a trapto have gold fall into it. It took quite a while for it to be done. Lastly we cleaned out the trap and start ed to clean out the dirt to find gold.
Nathan, age 12
April 15, 2014 – Unmanned Aircraft System Flight Center Tour
Today we toured the Border patrol Predator Drone flight center. They have 3 predator drones that they use primarily to look for illegal alien activity in the southwest. The tour was fantastic. Our tour guide was Steve, a retired Air Force fighter pilot, who works as a contractor managing operations of the center. He brought both passion and knowledge, and spoke very well. He really made our tour a hit.
The flight center is not huge. A couple of hangers, and a collection of trailers. Everything appeard to be very mobile, although they’ve not moved anything since they started operations about 10 years ago. They used to have 4 Predators, but they lost one in a crash due to pilot error, and it hasn’t been replaced.
The Predators are the Predator B model. The tail fins slope upwards. The other model is the Predator A, which is smaller and the tail fins slope down. They fly the same planes as the Army does, only without armaments. They actually put lead weights in the front of the plane so that the center of gravity is the same as the planes designed to carry weapons systems.
The planes are expensive, but the sensor pod on the front belly of the plane is just as expensive. It has visual, infrared, and radar sensors. It also has a laser to light up targets so other resources can engage them. Steve likened their view from the sky to looking down through a soda straw. They rely on ground sensors and tips to direct their searches. They fly high to avoid detection, and look out rather than down to further avoid detection.
They showed us some videos of convoys of drug mules carrying backpacks full of marijuana. They were shot at 5 and 7 miles away and you could easily make out the people’s heads, the packs, and their legs from their heat signature. The predator doesn’t do anything to detain, or direct the illegals, they just provide the information for helicopters and ground personnel to do that.
The FCS is the “cockpit” for the predator. It takes to guys to fly the plane. One to be pilot, and one to control the sensor pod. They rotate, so any pilot can do either job. Flights can be up to 30 hours, so they cycle through pilots. They fly by satellite, so they even fly drones from North Dakota and Corpus Chisti where the other border patrol flight centers are. (and vice versa).
The planes are carbon fiber, with a 66 ft wingspan. They can’t fly in adverse conditions. They can’t land in a cross wind greater than 13 miles an hour, can’t fly in the rain, and can’t handle ice at all. They are a fair weather plane.
An interesting note is that they were flying drones to help direct activities to fight the fire that is raging in the Huachuca Mountains (and drove us out of our campsite)
After we got our introduction presentation and saw the movies they had for us, we headed out to the flight deck, and almost on queue a Predator started up an began to taxi to the runway. We got to watch it take off and do several touch and go’s.
I am sure that many of the boys will say that this is their favorite part of the trip.
It’s just about midnight and the boys are settling into bed after a long day full of activities. We started the day at the hotel, well rested from sleeping on a bed. After a complimentary breakfast buffet, the kids all hopped into the pool and swam to their hearts content. We checked out all clean and rested and fueled up all the vehicles. Luke stopped at a pawn shop and bought a mandolin, which we hope to hear around a campfire soon. Then back to the fort for lunch at the mess and to check into our new digs in an army barracks. We have the entire third floor, of which we are using about 1/3. We have our own laundry, which we plan on getting into heavy tomorrow. We pretty much just dropped our gear and left to head for Tombstone.
At Tombstone the boys did the show that re-inacted the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. This included some other displays and such, but I didn’t attend that portion of the activities so we’ll have to hope that one of the boys writes about it tomorrow. After the show, we all headed to the Longhorn Saloon for dinner. We negotiated a half pound burger, fries, and pop for $5. It was good food and a good value.
We got to Mr Yaiser’s property at about 6:30 and set up for our movie show. Brian Yaiser is a former troop 40 scouter and father or Brian Yaiser Jr. a troop 40 eagle scout from a few years back. He introduced troop 40 to southeast Arizona back in 2006. We’ve camped on his property 3 times in previous Arizona trips.
After a beautiful Arizona sunset behind the Huachuca Mountains, we fired up the projector, unfolded all our 6$ Walmart chairs, and settled in to view the Tombstone, best western movie of all time. We used a bed sheet hung between 2 tent poles for a screen, and hooked an inverter up to a truck for a power source. It is a great experience to watch a movie about historical events that you just learned of, in the place that they happened, in the dessert just 10 miles from where they took place.
Brian’s property is about 15 miles from Sierra Vista, directly across the San Pedro river valley. From his property there is a gentle slope some miles long down to the river, followed on the other side by a gentle slope up to the Huachuca Mountains. Just in front of the mountains is the city of Sierra Vista, and the lights spanning most of the horizon are really breathtaking. Pictures cannot do it justice.
Both scout and scouter enjoyed the film. It got a little chilly by the end, but not enough to suck the fun out of it.
The wild fire that forced us out of our campsite is still going. It is still impacting our itinerary as well. When we packed up the site, we had to empty the tents in a hurry. Of course every tent was neatly organized, so this was a simple task. Except for all the tents that weren’t neatly organized. These tents got gear stuffed in bags. Whose gear in which bag no one knew. How could you. Now we get back to the barracks and Johnny’s underpants are in Herbie’s duffle bag. A big mess that will take some time to figure out. Due to this, we are going to skip one of our overnight hiking excursions (Cochise Stronghold or Chiricaua National Monument, to be decided tomorrow).
First thing tomorrow morning (after chow) we are headed to the Border Patrol Flight Center to see where they fly the Predator drones. Should be very interesting. Afterwards we have an exciting laundry detail, lunch, and another trip to Tombstone to do some souvenir shopping, and some more time in the dessert at Yaisers. We’ll stay in the barracks that night, and venture out for an overnight camp and hike the following day. Then its back to Phoenix and home to our loved ones.
We got back to Fort Huachuca after our very successful overnight on the San Pedro. Our plan was to gather everything we need for the rest of the day, head to lunch at the mess, shower and swim at the pool, then go to a mining claim to dig up some earth and run it thorugh a sluice to look for gold. After evening mess, we planned on going to Mr. Yaisers property, have a campfire, and watch the movie Tombstone.
Lunch went well, but we lost track of time and didn’t have time to do the swimming. Showers were not optional after 24 hours in the dessert. We showered and headed to the claim in a canyon about a half hour south of the fort. Our host, Mr. Bramwell, showed us the mining ropes and we got 2 5 gallon pails of sifted sand. We hauled these to Mr. Bramwell’s home where he had a sluice set up. We ran it all through, and the boys panned through the sediment. We did find gold, but not enough to amount to anything. From there we headed back to the mess for dinner. After we got most of the way through the meal, Ken got a call from the Fort Huachuca Police. There had been a fire burning all day in the mountains. It turned out to be fairly close to our camp, although there was no immediate danger. They also set up their firefighting command post in our campsite area. They were running a helicopter water pickup right in our campsite, and they wanted us out. We left the boys in the mess with a couple of adults and everyone else hopped into the vehicles to evacuate our site.
With no place to stay, we opted to get a hotel room for the night. We’re at the Sierra Suites, just outside the fort. The boys are all swimming. We’ll be checking into a barracks tomorrow. We’ve decided no to do Paler Canyon Lake and Coronado peak tomorrow. We’re going to spend the time in Tombstone.
I am writing this post sitting on the banks of the San Pedro River, about 2.25 miles north of the ghost town of Fairbank AZ. Fairbank was the town that served as train station for the town of Tombstone back in the mining days.
We began our day at 6:00am. Everyone dressed, brushed their teeth, and we were away to the mess hall for breakfast. We are staying in the Garden Canyon picnic area on post at Fort Huachuca. It is about a 15 minute drive to the mess hall. The road isn’t too good, and instead of bridges, they put in concrete washes that you drive through. Very slowly, or you do damage to your vehicle and its contents.
On the way back from mess, we came upon a reserve unit doing their training on the firing range. We got to see them firing a 50 cal. Very loud. Very impressive. There were a lot of soldiers crawling and walking through the bush with their AR15 rifles. It was so movie like.
We packed our backpacks and loaded up the suburbans for the drive to Fairbank. The boys toured the city. Everything was gone at one time, and they are trying to re-create it one building at a time. Its more like a museum than a city.
The hike to our campsite was uneventful. Everyone made it without redistribution of gear. Some young boys needed a little rest and encouragement along the way. This was work; the kind of work not every young boy gets in his life. The dads loaded up with tents, rations, and lots of water.
We just finished out supper. It was kind of a smorgasbord of freeze dried backpacking food. Everyone got to pick one entrée, then find someone else to split it with and share what they had. Chicken and noodles proved to be most popular. The packages had 2.5 servings, so some of the smaller boys had leftovers, which were gobbled up my Mr. Parks and I. For dessert we had a raspberry crumble, which was very tasty. We used more water than we thought, so a couple of dads collected empty water bottles and trekked back to the trail head to fill them up. The day wasn’t too hot, maybe 80, but then sun was hot, Some got a little sunburn, but most everyone did well.
Our campsite sits right on the river, in the shade of some very big trees. Real green trees. Not oversized bushes like you see everywhere else around here. The San Pedro is an oasis in the dessert. From either side of the valley you can see the line of green that is the San Pedro.
Across the river from our site is a sheer wall some 30 feet high where the river has cut its path.
Since I began to write this till now, I’ve moved into my hammock for the night. Its just beginning to get dark. The boys are scrambling to collect fire wood. It’s been windy, so we weren’t sure if it was safe to have a fire. Someone must have decided that it is. I’ll post this when I have internet access. No 4GLTE in my hammock.
On the 2nd and 3rd day in Arizona, we went on a hike. The hike ws about two miles to get where we were going. On the way there Tim and I were talking and singing songs. When we arrived, Tim, Tyler and I set up our tent that I carried. When we had set up our tent, we were free to do whatever we wanted to do.
For dinner we had a variety of food that were in packages. I had noodles and chicken. It reminded me of ramen noodles that I would eat back home. After dinner I played a game of magic the gathering with Jon and Marc. Jon won the first game, then Marc won the second game. After that, all the other boys and adults made a fire on the beach. Mr. Bauerlein played his harmonica, which he was really good at. We were camping in a river wash, San Pedro River. At night, Marc, Tim, Charlie, Tyler and I played Dungeons and Dragons. The next morning, Tim, Tyler, and I disassembled our tent and we went to get breakfast. For breakfast we had Pop Tarts, Oreos, and a discontinued supply of Tang that Mr. Brounscheidel found on E-Bay. When we hiked back to the cars in Fairbank, again Timand I sang more songs. In total, the hike was wonderful.
Zack, age 13
It was Friday, our first full day in AZ. After eating breakfast at the hotel, we drove to Kartchner Caverns. Our tour started with a movie on the history of the cave. After a maddening 15 minutes of listening to the sound of water dripping, the movie finally started. Between the movie and the information panels located throughout the visitors center, we learned a lot about the caverns. The caves were discovered by two college students who kept it a secret for 14 years. Kartchner Caverns is on the list of the top 10 most mineralistic caves in the world. The only one in North America open to the public. The result is an abundance of colors. It was the most colorful cave I’ve ever been in. The caverns contain 3 large rooms: the big room, the rotunda, and the throne room. The tour we went on took us therough the rotunda and the throne room. In some areas you can still see where the people who discovered it walked. Iwas really cool to be in a place where the majority of the cave has never been touched by humans. Ath the end of the tour was the throne room and Kubla Kahn. The throne room is full of unique columns and strange formations. The room is dominated by a massive column called Kubl Kahn. When we got to the end of the throne room we sat on a series of benches and turned the lights out. Then began a rather impressive light and music show that helped us truly appreciate Kubla Kahn. The Kartchner Caverns are a truly unique experience that I’m not about to forget any time soon.
Marc, age 16
When I went to Kartchner Caverns, I saw that people have been preserving it for years. It was an amazing experience. You could see all sorts of minerals in the stalactites and stalagmites and halectites. There was also an interesting cave formation called “cave bacon”. When we reached the throne room we finally saw Kubla Kahn, a 58” stalactite. Kubla Kahna was one of the most amazing things that I have ever seen in my life. I think that Kartchner Caverns are incredible.
Matt, age 11
The Plane Trip
My first plane ride was fun. When we took off it was like a roller coaster. I ate peanus and pretzels. The plane went up to 30,000 feet and we were above the clouds. When we came back down it was night. It was cool because we could see thousands of houses with their lights on. What was weird was that someone built a quarry in the middle of the city.
The seats were reasonably comfortable.There was a mysterious button on the seats, and we didn’t know what it was. We spent a while pressing it, then gave up. Turns out it reclines your seat, but it only works when you are at cruising altitude. After that we made fun of the Skymall magazine. One of the products was the “worlds best chair” for $8,000 US. We landed smoothly and our bags were unpacked fine. We flew from Buffalo NY to Chicago Illinois to Pheonix AZ.
Tim Mrowka Age 15
My first plane flight was an extraordinary experience. When I got on the plane, I was a little nervous, but that got over when the plane started going down the runway at 150 MPH. I was in the back, so the roar of the giant engines made me get excited. The palne going in the air made me feel a tickle in my stomach, and my head went dizzy for a short while.
When we got above the clouds, it was neat seeing the sunshine and the clouds below me. I think that being in the air was the best part because I got this very happy feeling. Not once did I get angry. I was just very happy. I can’t wait until my next flight.
Chase Baker, age 13