Explore AZ and NM on this road trip retreat - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Explore AZ and NM on this road trip retreat

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Posted: Sunday, November 15, 2009 6:14 pm | Updated: 1:00 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Need to get away from cell phones and e-mail, and enjoy the natural beauty and company that come from a tour of small towns? If so, I recommend this road trip in Arizona and New Mexico.

Taking the U.S. 60 east from Mesa one recent Friday morning, I made it to Globe in a little more than an hour and hopped on the U.S. 70 to my first stop in Clifton, about three hours from the Valley, to take a tour of the Morenci Mines. The mines hold tours Fridays and Saturdays, and the raw natural feel of the mining tradition continues a common theme for the communities on this road trip.

Continuing north on the Coronado Trail, now on the U.S. 191, I soon found out why this highway is breathtaking in its beauty and terrifying in its curves and heights . The Coronado Trail is a famous byway, and as I climbed, the air became cooler and cleaner. I left the desert floor far below and reached the magnificent pines of eastern Arizona.

So far, the trip had met all of my expectations as I drove down the highway, watching for animals and the Alpine Inn, my destination for the evening. The inn is set off the highway, and across the road is a meadow, surrounded by tall pines. As I climbed the inn’s steps, I saw two hummingbird feeders hanging from the porch and about 20 hummingbirds flitting about.

As I watched these little beauties flutter back and forth, I knew I was in a different place and time. The sun was low in the West when out of the pines came does to graze in the meadow. It was a magical moment, but then a male made an appearance just behind the tree line to lead the does away from my picture-perfect moment.

Returning after dinner to my room in this turn of the century farmhouse replica gave me time to reflect on the day and to get a good night’s sleep, for the next morning I was headed to Silver City, N.M.

The next day, I headed down Main Street to the Bear Wallow Café for breakfast. I then started my trip over the state line to New Mexico, just 20 minutes away. Now, I was on the 180 heading south toward Silver City, about two hours from Alpine.

After getting to Silver City, an active mining town, in the late morning, I visited the Western New Mexico University Museum, which houses one of the largest permanent displays of Mimbres Indian pottery and culture in the world.

I then was directed by a local museum member to visit the Mimbres Hot Springs Ranch. I hopped on Highway 152 east to San Lorenzo. To find the Mimbres Hot Springs Ranch, which is six miles south of San Lorenzo off Highway 61, I had to follow signs for about 2 1/2 miles to the ranch, which was clearly marked. I had to drive for a little more than a half-hour.

A natural hot springs bath was on my mind, and after finding a member of the ranch, I found the locale to be pleasant and private, with a community of artists and residents . The ranch is visited by invitation only, but on Dec. 5 and 6 the 29th annual Mimbres Hot Springs Ranch Studio Sale will be open to the public to view and purchase art created locally.

It had been a long day, so I found my lodgings and settled in for the evening at the Bear Creek Motel and Cabins in Pinos Altos, seven miles from the center of Silver City but a lifetime away from traffic and noise and about a 45-minute drive from the ranch.

Pinos Altos (Tall Pines) is at the foot of the Gila Cliff Dwellings. I settled in on the porch and watched dark clouds gather, hearing thunder in the distance. I found a book on the shelf and sat down to read . The cabin was well stocked. A soft rain fell, leaving the scent of pine in the air. I decided to call it a day and went to bed.

Sunday morning, I was ready to visit historic downtown Silver City. My first stop was Diane’s Bakery for a fresh cup of coffee and a cream cheese Danish. After dining, I headed up the street to the local farmers market. Many vendors were displaying their local fare of crafts, homemade goodies and locally grown vegetables.

I wish I could have stayed longer, but I had been told about a lodge on the other side of the Black Range Mountains a little more than an hour away in an area of New Mexico that used to rival San Francisco as the largest population base west of the Mississippi River.

I called to check on availability at the Black Range Lodge in Kingston, and after booking my stay, I crossed the Black Range and Emory Pass on the beautiful mountain drive. Emory Pass allows for a great view of the Gila National Forest. Arriving in Kingston and checking into the lodge by late afternoon gave me time to explore this historic place.

I felt like I was stepping into the Old West as I entered the lodge’s spacious lobby. Its massive stone walls and log-beamed ceilings — built from the tumbled-down ruins of Pretty Sam’s Casino and the Monarch Saloon — were completed in 1940. The original plastered brick construction dates back to the 1880s, when the lodge housed miners and cavalry.

The lodge invites you to relive Kingston’s wild and woolly past, but with modern conveniences. All guest rooms have private baths, thick towels and cozy down comforters. Via satellite, they have a wireless high-speed Internet connection, and recent renovations make the lodge more wheelchair friendly. The first-floor lobby offers area information and history books. A game room invites people to play pool and foosball and to try the “antique” PacMan video game. A computer allows Internet access for Web surfing or e-mail.

My second-floor room opened into a large common room, where I watched a movie on the VCR and challenged a mate to Scrabble. The influence of international and interesting travelers was evident everywhere. I ended the evening by enjoying fresh mountain air from my balcony.

Nestled in the Gila National Forest foothills, the lodge provides easy access to 3 million acres of wild, natural beauty. Monday morning, a walk in the clean air took me across Percha Creek into the shade of tall ponderosa pines and a last take of this secluded but cozy mountain town. For reservations, contact the Black Range Lodge Bed and Breakfast at cat@blackrangelodge.com. The Web site is www.blackrangelodge.com.

The drive home on Interstate 25 south and then Interstate 10 west to the Valley was seven hours. I was home Monday before dark, my four-day weekend adventure through Arizona and its neighbor state giving me just the right retreat.

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