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The Old, The Really Old & The Inevitable Future – Southern Arizona | zephyr sunrise

The Old, The Really Old & The Inevitable Future – Southern Arizona

We’ve been driving through the Southeastern portion of Arizona on our way to El Paso to see Erin’s Uncle Dusty. We have been taking our time to make sure we have time to soak in the local culture a bit and see the sites. On this leg we managed to find an interesting dichotomy between different periods in time. We camped at Kartchner Caverns State Park, which is home to a 2.5 mile cave system that is tens of thousands of years old. From here we were able to travel forward in time to 1880 and walk the street’s of Tombstone, AZ where Wyatt Earp and his brothers shot the McLaury and Clanton gang up on Fremont Street. If you know the movie Tombstone they changed the facts a little and moved the gunfight to the O.K. Corral which is actually historically inaccurate but by far the more popular legend. Bisbee, AZ is the county seat and a copper mining town just a quick trip down the road that sits about 6 miles from the US/Mexico border. After we were done hanging around in the past with cavers and cowboys we took a side trip into the “inevitable future” at the BioSphere 2. More on that…

Here is the view from our RV at Kartchner Caverns State Park. The campground is impeccable, nice showers and every site seemed to be in great condition. The caverns are located “in” the hills on the right.




Here is another shot of the grounds. The smaller hills on the right house the caverns. It was about 70 degrees and super dry at the campground.


kartchner-caverns-kublakahnaThey do not allow cameras, backpacks or anything bearing “lint” into the caverns. They are extremely strict about maintaining the integrity of the caverns, you are not allowed to touch anything or they will mark the area with red tape so the oils can be cleaned later. It is one of the most impressive awe-inspiring experiences we have had. I pulled this picture down off the internet showing the largest column from the Rotunda tour we took. This is called “Kubla Khan”.

Notice the person in the lower right corner. This is a massive formation all formed by dripping water. The caves were discovered in 1974 and kept secret until 1988 when the grounds were sold by the Kartchner’s to the State of Arizona. Since then they have invested millions of dollars creating a full airlock system to maintain the integrity of the cave. When you go in, you enter the airlock and then the main tunnel which sits at 92% humidity and 75 degrees all year long.

Now let’s mozy down to Tombstone. In preparation for this jaunt we made sure and watched Tombstone the movie with Kurt Russel. Tombstone is pretty commercialized these days with a lot of actors playing Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp. There are 4 or 5 shootouts that take place in private venues ranging from $10-15 a pop, nothing right out in the street. There are still a few historical buildings that are still standing so we took a look.

Here is a view looking down the main street. The O.K. Corral is to the left and the Bird Cage is all the way up on the right. The Oriental where Wyatt Earp dealt Faro (the card game of the time) is up on the left. Chinatown where the “opium dens” were is down to the right.



The bird cage is in the scene from the movie where the cowboys and the Earps all sit down to watch a variety show and the devil is played by the beautiful new city girl in town that eventually steals Wyatt Earps heart.

If you remember in the movie all the cowboys were shooting inside the place. Apparently that is true and there are still over 100 bullets still lodged in the ceiling of the building. This is one of the best original buildings in Tombstone.

On another note in the move the Earps are all siting in a private box, this is apparently not accurate as all the box seats were strictly reserved for “ladies of the night” to carry out their trade.

Here is a view inside the Saloon “Big Nose Kate’s” where we had a Sasparilla and lunch.


We took a quick side trip to Bisbee, AZ on the recommendation from a few people. The town was pretty dead when we arrived and we only spent a few hours in town. We had some breakfast and walked the main drag. It was a boom town during the copper and silver mining heyday and I believe it is still the current county seat.








As long as there are streets to run on Zephyr is a happy boy. All he wants to do is “Runnnnnnn…side….runnnnn…side” That’s “run outside”!








Now we are going to travel to the “inevitable future”! The BioSphere 2!


This place was a total trip! A private company funded this with no government assistance. The plan was to create a fully self-sustainable, completely sealed living environment. They built this place to house 8 people for the foreseeable future. They would go into the Biosphere and stay in as long as they could. They would receive no food, no water, no air, only what they went in with. They would need to recycle every drop of water and literally create a fully sustained living environment. They lasted over 2 years. This is the hatch they entered through.

photo-8-2My First Project 01















They fully recreated various climates, had animals and an ocean. We haven’t watched the movie about it yet, but it is supposed to be very interesting.

My First Project 15





Inside there is a full on rain forest. The guide told us they used to have monkeys inside but they had to remove them because they were causing too much damage to the wires and such.





My First Project 07






And a desert climate, complete with tarantulas.





This was the most impressive part to me. The “lungs” of the operation. This is the way I understood it. When you live in a fully enclosed environment where literally not a drop of air goes in or out there is a lot of pressure that can build up pushing and pulling. Like when a bottle warms up or cools down it creates it either sucks in or pushes out. If that pressure is not relieved it will eventually collapse the structure. This was a huge issue for BioSphere 2 so they engineered two gigantic “lungs” that literally breath with the structure to maintain the proper pressure. This is a picture of one “lung”. In the center you see a giant metal plate with legs on it. You’ll notice the legs are about 10-15 feet off the ground. The black part of the ceiling is all made out of rubber. It’s a huge diaphragm that moves up and down as the pressure builds or releases. Those legs will touch the ground if enough pressure is released. I think the guide told us that the metal place weighs something like 40 tons.


Living like this in the future might not be inevitable but it is currently being studied by the State of Arizona and is a marvel of engineering. I’m not sure what the take away was for the private company that built this, but I know it was seriously impressive, except for the fact that one crazy person could have taken it out with a single RPG. That’s the world we live in I guess. For now, I’d rather be mobile!