The last day of our vacation. I felt like we needed two more days. Damn. WE NEED TWO MORE DAYS!
We got up early and organized our stuff so it would be ready to check in at the airport. Everything organized. Everything ready.
Grabbing a quick drive-through meal, I truly regretted not having one more day. I would have liked to have found another great Breakfast Burrito in the region instead of the convenience and speed of the drive through.
We headed up to Pinos Altos, which was supposed to be a ghost town. Two of the four buildings are actually in use as a restaurant now, so not much of a real ghost town. The visitor's center was supposed to be open but was not.
I suppose this is a good thing, because we headed on with our day, up towards the Gila Cliff Dwellings.
Driving on another scenic drive, this time the Trail of the Mountain Spirits, we headed north out of Pinos Altos on Rte 15. The drive was fantastic, lots of twists and turns, and the bartender was spot on that in certain places, even if you know this road you stand the chance of making a mistake at too high a speed.
Doug made jokes about "Thelma and Louise" as he hooted driving around the switchbacks, as I prayed silent confessions of my sins and for forgiveness and acceptance into the sweet loving arms of Jesus should we catapult off into thin air.
So let me tell you, if you're looking for a beautiful place to end your life by car, this is the road for you. Forget I said that. NO. Don't do that.
The geology of the area is outstanding. There information at a rest overlook of the Copperas Creek volcano and how this entire area was formed. Oh, if you love Geology, go read about it. Otherwise, I took pictures.
There had been a fire up there about 20 years ago, and it was amazing to see how the Ponderosa Pine protected itself with its bark, and kept the tree alive and it wasn't consumed. The squares all over the trunks were the burned and charred but the trees still were flourishing. Really cool stuff.
We got to the ranger station and got instructions on what to do, headed over to the trail head. It was a half mile hike to the actual cliff dwellings. I was feeling fat and out of shape, and still having an issue with the elevation.
Doug was patient with me. I am really good for hiking on long flat trails but put some elevation changes going up in front of me and it is a challenge.
We took our time, and got to the top. Worth the trip for sure. We spent a long time up there, soaking it all in and then talking to the volunteer interpreter up at the top, named Alice. She was a riot and we had so much fun talking with her.
And again, no one else was up there. We had the place to ourselves. Alice, the sky, the rocks, the dust, the trails... everything.
Heading back down we realized we had to really make tracks. Getting from where we were to Phoenix in time for our flight might be a challenge. Close to a 6 hour drive, and it was 3pm.
We managed to make really good time, and even stopped to see "The Thing," a "famous" roadside attraction in Benson. Well worth the $1 admission because we had a nice walk to get through the ridiculous maze all the way to see "The Thing" (I won't spoil the surprise for anyone who may ever want to go there) and we got a hot dog at the DQ to boot.
We drove through Tucson again, and waved longingly up at the Catalina Highlands knowing my aunt and uncle were up there.
Our flight was at 11:50, and we pulled into the car rental return at about 9:30. We had plenty of time. Plenty of time! After we got the quick shuttle over to the airport, we figured we'd get through the line and even have time for dinner before getting on the flight. Tequila!
Until we got to the TSA screening line. Which was a mile and a half long. I won't go into detail but let's just say it was as bullshit as any bullshit was ever bullshit.
Best part of it was the woman screaming at us to make sure we didn't have any liquid in our bags. Doug searched his and came up with four beers that he'd stowed in the bag before we went to City of Rocks, in case we wanted to enjoy a beer on the hike.
Not willing to just throw the beer out, he handed me one, and we chugged our beers in line to the amusement of some "bros" nearby.
The flight was uneventful. Four and a half hours later we were home and it was good to fall into my own bed and some sleep.
And that's the wrap-up. The adventure. The whole shebang. The thing that I wish we had more time for was Chaco Canyon up in the northwest part of the state. And that is where we would have been if we didn't spend the extra day in Tucson. But I wouldn't trade that for the world because we had so much fun with my aunt and uncle.
We have something to look forward to if we head back that way, a different route of adventure. Maybe fly into Albuquerque and head west instead.
Congratulations for getting through this whole thing.