April 26th, 2015 by Mike Hug
Throughout the year the calendar is filled with Arizona winery events. Some of the wineries have special events that are strictly for their club members. One that we have oped to join is Coronado and Zarpara Vineyards. Some wineries such as Carlson Creek or Flying Leap that have events where wines are paired at a dinner and people on their email list are invited. Other wineries have dates where musical entertainment is offered during the wine tasting weekends. Then you may find vineyards that celebrate their new releases with a special event such as Sonoita Vineyards with their Blessing of the Vines. There are regional events that take place with many vintners setting up their booths so that the attendees can sample the wines.
These Arizona winery events are held all over the state and one way you can find out about them is to get on a mailing list of the individual wineries or become a club member. You can always go to a winery website and see if they have posted an event that will be coming up in the future. Another source for events is the calendar at AZ Wine Lifestyle Magazine. Anyone can submit an event on this magazine for inclusion. Local chambers of commerce will also let you know about events or their members.
Although Angie and I have gone to smaller events, we prefer the regional Arizona winery events. These usually allow us to schedule a time when our guests at Down By The River B and B are out for the day. Some of our guests may even be at the event and that makes it a little more fun. In mid April, The 4 th Annual Southeast Arizona Wine Growers Music Festival was held at Kief – Joshua Vineyards. There were 20 wineries there along with food, music, a chili cook off and other vendor booths. There was a wide range of wines available for tasting. If you couldn’t find one that you liked then it was because you didn’t try hard enough.
The owners of the vineyards are usually at these events and you will be able to meet them and talk about their wines. You will find a lot of very knowledgeable enologists at these events and we meet other people that share the same interest in wine as us. It also allows Angie and I to pass out our cards to people we meet and maybe end up with future guests. All the while a good band was playing music for our enjoyment as we sampled wine. What better way to spend an Arizona Spring day. Now you may be saying to yourself, I will have to wait until next year to experience an Arizona wine event. Well no because the next Arizona Winery Event is going to be held on May 16 and 17. On that date, The Willcox Wine Country Spring Festival will be held in Railroad Park. There should be between 15 and 20 wineries represented there.
So think about joining the fun for a day or two and book a room at Down By The River so that you won’t miss out on tasting all that great wine at this Southeastern Arizona winery event. What better thing to do than set back in a secluded quite venue and maybe open one of the wines you purchased to go with your meal. It doesn’t get better than this.
April 12th, 2015 by Mike Hug
I love photographing Cochise County ruins in black and white. There are lots of ghost towns in Cochise and neighboring Santa Cruz Counties. Old mining towns dot the landscape. Some boomed and died over 100 years ago while some were thriving 50 years ago. You can find the old ruins of military forts such as Fort Bowie and wander through the building remains at your leisure. Hike the trails around Fairbank and you will come across other ghost towns that had their heyday in the 1880 and 90s. Many of these old towns have little left of the buildings. Maybe you will find foundations or the remnants of adobe walls that have been washed away over the years from the monsoon storms that sweep Cochise County during July and August. Another ghost town with many buildings to photograph is Gleeson, which I wrote about some time back.
Besides ghost towns there are old home sites to explore. There are abandon houses that you will find in different areas of the county as you travel the picturesque back country. These homes are in various states of decay and some are nothing more than foundations or ruins. Travel throughout the county and you will find buildings overgrown with vegetation and in some cases in danger of full collapse. It is always interesting to stop and photograph some of these places. Some can be seen only as you are passing by on a road to somewhere else. In some cases, such as Dos Cabezas, you can’t stop because there isn’t any place to pull off to the side of the road. Then there are others can be seen as you approach so you can plan to stop. What are their stories?
These were usually old abandon family homes that were located in the farming areas. One such area is Kansas Settlement south of Willcox. The area got its name from of the family immigrants that came from Kansas and settled in the area in the early 1900s. The farming was good and the acreage progressively grew. After World War II, the farming grew even faster until 175000 acres were being cultivated. In the late 1970s and early 80s when the price of energy skyrocketed. This caused great hardships and the acreage dropped to less than 40,000. Many of the farms were abandoned or foreclosed upon by banks. Now the area is growing again with grape vineyards. Most of Arizona’s wine grapes are grown in the Sulphur Springs Valley.
One building that I see when we go out on the Willcox Bench to do wine tasting is the Arzberger homestead. This building always intrigued me. It gives you a feeling of forlorn desolation. The old dead tree still is standing next to the home giving faint hope of shade in the summer sun. We stopped recently and took pictures inside the building and from other angle. The Arzburger’s were one of 17 families that that settled the area from Kansas. The old homestead was still being farmed by the Arzbergers in 2005. Being centrally located is a great bonus when staying here at Down By The River B and B. With all the things to do in the area, one fun thing is to photograph old Cochise County ruins.
April 5th, 2015 by Mike Hug
Golden Rule Vineyard is located in the Sulphur Springs Valley at the northern end of the Dragoons. While driving down Dragoon Road on our way into the Sulphur Springs Valley, Angie spotted a sign that heralded the Golden Rule Vineyard Tasting Room. We were in a hurry to make our appointment so we couldn’t stop. We thought we might stop to see where the tasting room was on the way back, if it wasn’t too late. As it turned out, we were back on Dragoon Road around 4 PM and we decided to go and see where the winery was located. We really didn’t expect it to be open since it wasn’t during their normal business hours.
As we drove down the dirt road, we were enjoying viewing the scenery with the fresh wild flowers that dotted the landscape. Red, yellow, purple and white flowers growing in the fields added to the ambiance of the country road. We finally came over a rise and around a turn to see the vineyards on the side of the sloping hill. We drove on to the parking lot and found that there was another couple from Pennsylvania wine tasting. I got out of the car and took a photo of the tasting room and we were greeted at the door by Jim Graham. Jim and his wife Ruth own the vineyard and run the tasting room. We had met them both previously at a couple of the Willcox wine festivals. There are almost 20 wineries represented at the festivals in the spring and fall.
While sampling wines, they told us about their venture and we told them about our b and b. Jims and Ruth’s story was interesting and we found that Jim has always been farming. He grew up in Iowa and farmed there for many years. Jim was on his way to a conference when he met Ruth on a plane. They started talking and things evolved. In the end Ruth married Jim and moving to Iowa. An uncle who owned the land where Golden Rule is now located decided to quit farming. Jim and Ruth came out to take over the operation and thus started Golden Rule winery. The winery is named after the gold mine that is located on the hill behind the property.
We enjoyed or palaver and of course their red wines. We hadn’t noticed the time but after almost 2 hours before we knew it. We purchased a few bottle to take home but it was a tough choice to decide which ones. They were all so good. Golden Rule is not located in the clusters of tasting rooms that you find in Willcox or Kansas Settlement. Golden Rule Vineyards about 9 miles west of the other tasting rooms. However, if you are coming from Down By The River B and B, the tasting room is on the way to the Kansas Settlement tasting rooms. The drive is enjoyable and you will pass through Texas Canyon with all the beautiful rocks. If you wish to go to the Willcox Wine Festival, book your room at Down By The River B and B. You can have fun during the day samplings wines from many vintners, including Golden Rule, and spend the night enjoying the seclusion of a fine b and b.
March 15th, 2015 by Mike Hug
Think of a Southeastern Arizona getaway, if nothing more than to find a refuge from the cold winter that the Midwest and the East Coast has been experiencing. This year has been harsh for the northern climes but here in Southeastern Arizona the weather has been above normal. We haven’t had much freezing weather at all. The last real cold was at the end of January. The trees along the San Pedro River began to bud back in February. It is now March and the trees are full of leaves and shouting that Spring is here.
After shoveling snow for the last 3 months, we have had many of our guests throw up their hands and get on the computer to find our Southeastern Arizona getaway. They want the warm weather to help thaw out their bodies after such a bad winter. Many are coming to Cochise County because the birding here is exceptional. The migration is starting early and there are many birds coming into the area that might not be here for another 3 to 6 weeks during normal years. There is a lot of activity around the river and we have spotted birds already building nests. We are still awaiting Hummingbirds but they should be here soon.
Another advantage to the warm weather we are experiencing here in Southeastern Arizona is that the night temperatures are also warmer. This is a great advantage because you can stay outside and look at he dark night sky without a lot of warm clothing. You may also experience one of those fabulous Arizona sunsets that you hear about. Stargazing is one of the activities many people from back east aren’t able to do at this time of year. Here in Southeastern Arizona stargazing is unparalleled. Cochise County is known for the dark skies. The Milky Way is aglow overhead and there are many things to see at this time of year. If you want to see planets Jupiter is overhead and with the telescope here at Down By The River B and B you can locate as many as 4 of the moons that orbit Jupiter. Venus and Mars are also up in the early evening.
So if you wish to enjoy bright sunny days and warm nights to stargaze, then a Southeastern Arizona getaway is the thing you will want to plan. The place you will want to be is located here in Cochise County for birding, stargazing, hiking visiting the historical sites of Tombstone, Fort Bowie and Bisbee. Take a look a Cochise County and see what there is to do in this corner of Arizona.
January 28th, 2015 by Mike Hug
Birding at White Water Draw is best done during the winter and early spring months. That is when the lake is full and the birds that winter in Southeast Arizona are in residence. The birding at White Water Draw isn’t as well known as the Willcox Playa where “Wings Over Willcox” is highlighted. In my opinion, the birding at White Water Draw, near McNeal, is better for close up photography of the cranes. Down By The River B and B is north west of White Water Draw and easily accessible by good roads. After you have a scrumptious breakfast at the b and b, you can be in White Water Draw to view the birds to your heart’s content for the rest of the day.
Angie and I took a day trip to White Water Draw, about an hour’s travel time.
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January 22nd, 2015 by Mike Hug
A common question our guests ask about is “Are there good restaurants in Cochise County?” Down By The River B and B is centrally located in Cochise County and when our guests go out they would like to find a restaurant that is close to where they are spending the day. To that end we have made a list of restaurants from various parts of Cochise County and have that posted on our website. We only recommend restaurants to our guests where we have dined and enjoyed the experience. It doesn’t include every restaurant is open but it has to meet our standards.
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January 16th, 2015 by Mike Hug
As I described the history of the Cochise County Shrine named Our Lady of the Sierras in my last blog, I want to tell you about what it is like now after the fire. At the bottom of the complex is Mary’s Knoll which includes the visitor center, prayer center and business offices. This building was also totally destroyed by the fire. It has been rebuilt and was reopened in 2014. Parking for large vehicles is at this location. The steep drive up the hill is meant to be used only by cars.
Angie and I took some time to go to the Cochise County shrine just after New Year’s Day. It seemed appropriate to start the year off by visiting the shrine with our friend Karl. He didn’t know he would be on a trail with a slope that reminded him of the Grand Canyon hike we had taken together back in the mid 90s. But at least it wasn’t as long as that trail and there were many benches to stop and rest on along the way. The areas where we could stop were locations of each Station of the Cross. Most spots had a metal plaque that showed the station. There are still some stations that have not been repaired yet. The trail leads up the mountainside and past the Chapel and statues to a point that ends at the burial chamber grotto and the last station. Along the way was a Nativity Scene although that is installed during Christmas time.
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January 10th, 2015 by Mike Hug
Our Lady of the Sierras Shrine is located in Cochise County almost to the Mexican border on the side of the picturesque Huachuca Mountains. It is located near the Coronado National Memorial which I wrote about in a blog on September of 2013. This part of Cochise County is known for its beauty with the canyons and great vistas.
The history of the Our Lady of the Sierras Shrine started in 1987 when the Chouinards visited family members and decided to hike into Ash Canyon. There they found a for sale sign and later bought the 8 acre property in 1988. This was to be the site for their retirement home which they built in 1991 then retiring to the area. Prior to building the home they had taken a pilgrimage to a church in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia where spiritual events had been occurring. After they had finished their home they decided to erect a cross and Patricia stated that she would like a statue of Mary next to it. This appeared to be a relatively simple task that should be easy to accomplish.
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January 5th, 2015 by Mike Hug
I talked about the history of the St. David Cienega, a remnant of the massive marsh system that was around the San Pedro River in my last blog. To reach St. David Cienega you must make a right turn onto Cary road from Escalante Rd. You can drive in all the way to the parking lot or park at this intersection and walk in about a mile. Cary Road ends at the old corrals. Alongside Cary road is the old rail bed of the Southern Pacific line that ran down to Douglas. The tracks have been pulled up in the last 4 years. You can walk on the rail bed and look for spikes that were left behind when the crews pulled up the rails and ties. You are elevated above the road using this route so it allows for a view that is not as obstructed as the one on the road. There are also some photo opportunities of old abandoned houses and ruins that can be seen along the way.
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