A very special hiking trip

Judith Kuse

In mid-March, 40 members of the Sun Lakes Hiking Club embarked on this year’s Special Hiking Trip with destinations in the Dragoon Mountains; the wine country of Willcox, AZ; the Chiricahuas and the city of Bisbee, AZ. The entire trip was graced with good trails, companionable hikers and the absence of glitches.

Hikers arrived at the Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains in time to enjoy a picnic lunch. The six-mile, in-and-out hike allowed for hikers of all levels to experience the exceptional scenery. For non-hikers in the group, the picnic area featured historical exhibits and a nature trail to be enjoyed.

Following the hike, the group was on to Willcox wine country and dinner at the Willcox Women’s Club, a building of historic significance. The club raised funds during the 1920s to build the clubhouse, then donated land to the city so the WPA could build it. It was completed in 1936 and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1987 as a significant example of Pueblo Revival architecture. Hikers were treated to a wine-tasting experience provided by Mark and Rhona, owners of Zapara Winery south of the city, as well as a catered dinner.

The next day, it was on to the Chiricahua National Monument where hikers had their choice of several hikes among the stately, imposing Chiricahuas. The opportunities for stunning photography kept the hiking pace in check, and many hikers brought some spectacular souvenir photos home.

The next stop was Bisbee and the Copper Queen Hotel, where the group had dinner in the 1902 Spirit Room. The Copper Queen, built by Phelps Dodge from 1898 to 1902, is the longest continuously-operating hotel in Arizona; it keeps a ghost register featuring vivid stories written by former guests who saw ghosts there. All 52 rooms in the hotel, no two alike, have private baths and possess unique and historical characteristics. The hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

On the final day of this trip, hikers had numerous options. Some chose to tackle the Bisbee 1000 Great Stair Climb. Others toured the Copper Queen mine and/or the Bisbee Historical and Mining Museum. Some took a narrated Lavender Jeep Tour of the city, while others did a self-guided tour of the city using a map provided by the Visitors Center. Some chose to leave Bisbee after breakfast and tour Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista or Kartchner Caverns near Benson on their way back to Sun Lakes. All in all, it was another amazing Special Hike Trip!

The hiking season for the Sun Lakes Hiking Club is November through April. The official scheduled hikes are described on the club website, meetup.com/sun-lakes-hiking-club. Even though the season is closed now, hiking continues unofficially on some mornings during the summer months. If you are interested in summer hiking, please contact Stu Frost by emailing him at [email protected]