Jul 16, 2012, 6 a.m.
Whether tent camping or a cabin stay is your style, Madera Canyon is a Southeastern Arizona gem many locals have yet to explore. Thirty miles south of Tucson, wildlife abounds — deer, wild turkeys, bobcats, mountain lions, foxes and black bear make their homes in Mount Wrightson’s forested peaks, seasonal streams, outcrops and crevasses.
Madera Canyon traverses four life zones, so from the desert floor to the highest peaks, a wide variety of plants and trees help construct the stunning landscape and serve as residence for more than 250 species of feathered friends — a mountain paradise for birders.
Handicap-accessible trails, walking paths and various level hiking trails give access to the top of 9,453-foot Mount Wrightson.
Lava River Cave
Flagstaff is one of the most “chill” summer getaways for Valley residents. Visit the Lowell Observatory, the historic Riordan Mansion, great restaurants and pine and aspen-covered mountains. And just 30 minutes from the town center find a lava tube, or to be more precise, a lava river cave that opens in the forest surface, taking thrill seekers and the curious three-quarters of a mile underground.
It is as awesome as it sounds — ease down through a hole in the ground and, with flashlight in hand, make your way over some slick boulders and enter the longest cave of its kind in Arizona. There is one way in and one way out of the darkness, where the average year-round temperature is 40 degrees.
Historians say homesteaders in the early 1900s would collect large quantities of ice from the cave, using it for refrigeration. The lava river cave most likely formed after a brief volcanic eruption millions of years ago. Flow ripples are evident on most of the floor in the last two-thirds of the cave, giving the appearance of a frozen river. It sounds like a nice place to be when the Valley hits 110.
It’s a cool lesson in Arizona history, geology, biology and cave climates — so bring a warm jacket.
It’s a day trip. It’s a weekend getaway. It’s an overnight jaunt. It’s Jerome — Arizona’s most haunted habitat. The Mile High Town, at 5,200 feet at the top of Cleopatra Hill, grew from a settlement of tents serving a copper mining camp to Arizona’s fourth largest city in 1899.
Ninety miles from Phoenix, between Phoenix and Flagstaff, Jerome is no longer a mining town, but an amalgam of artists, artisans, writers, musicians and ghosts — rumors of hauntings have survived the decades. Buildings, some creaky, leaning and definitely old, are precariously perched on the steep hillside (photographers dig Jerome). But there is no need to be afraid; Jerome’s citizens are devoted caretakers and hosts, offering quaint inns, restaurants and shops.
With great lodging, great pizza at Velvet Elvis, great landscape and a half-hour drive to Arizona wine country, Patagonia, the heart of Arizona’s Mountain Empire, holds close a 500-year history of Native Americans, Spaniards, Mexicans, ranchers, miners and Jesuit priests. A picturesque drive off Interstate 10, just south of Tucson, will wind through rolling hills, grazing cattle and windmills. After a spell in Arizona’s nearby wine country, a hike in the hills, a visit to surrounding ghost towns or to watch bats feeding at sunset, you can make a historic adobe inn your home for the night.