Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fairbank, AZ

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Saturday March 8, 2014

Faithful blog readers will remember that on our way to Bisbee about a week and a half ago we stopped at the remains of the former town of Fairbank.  Today we decided that we would pack a picnic lunch and head back down to Fairbank and hike some of the trails.  

Our RV park is only about 12 miles west of Fairbank on Arizona hwy 82, so we were parked and ready to hike by 10:30.

The town of Fairbank was established in 1881 to serve the needs of the 50 some odd silver mines in the Tombstone hills.  The town's location on the San Pedro river, and next to the railroad tracks, helped it to grow to one of the largest cities in the western US.

    The old general store 

In 1886 widespread flooding closed down most of the mines in the area and Fairbank lost much of it's industry and population.  Fairbank got a second life in 1889 as a shipping point for copper coming out of the Copper Queen Mine in Bisbee, but flooding of the San Pedro River continued to plague the town.  Two years later in 1901 the property was purchsed by a cattle company and only the commercial business could get their leases renewed.  By 1970 the last of the stores had closed an residents had moved away.

The land grant for the old town site was purchased by the BLM in 1986, and by 1988 Congress designated the upper 40 miles of the San Pedro a National Conservation Area- a designation which included the town site of Fairbank.

Our hike today would take us north from the visitors center on highway 82 about 2 miles to the ruins of the Grand Mill and then loop us back over to the San Pedro river and we would follow that back to the Visitor's Center.  It's supposed to be a 3.7 mile trip, but with our explorations we managed to extend that.  Our GPS says we logged 7 miles in all.

Less than a half mile into the hike, we came to a junction in the trail that took us up on a ridge top that was the cemetery for the community.  The site was in very poor condition, most of the grave markers were gone and many of the sites could only be visulized as a pile of rocks or loose brick.

Back on the trail, (we were actually following the original road from Fairbank to Tucson) Joan and I were surprised that the recent rain had not caused any of the grasses to turn green or trees to bud.

About two miles in (not counting the side trip to the cemetery) we came to what is left of the Grand Mill.  Here, at one time, ore from nearby mines was crushed as a first step to extracting the metals, then loaded onto rail cars.

By this time we had worked up an appetite, and began looking for a nice place to spread out our picnic lunch.

As promised, the trail looped back towards the river for our return to the parking area.  We found a somewhat grassy and lightly shaded area to spread out the blanket and eat lunch.

 It was much more pleasant to walk along the river bank on the return trip and although there is not a lot of water it makes for peaceful views.  We expected a lot more greenery, but as you can see the only green plants are the cottonwoods- even the grasses next to the stream are dry and brown.

The old school doubles as a museum and the visitor's center.  

This school was built much later in 1920 to to replace the former one, and was open, and in use, up until 1944.

We arrived back "home" at  4 PM happy and tired.

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

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