Relive Arizona history Saturday at ghost town’s festival

Fairbank's schoolhouse, restored in 2007, will be open Saturday for Fairbank Day

Fairbank’s schoolhouse, restored in 2007, will be open Saturday for Fairbank Day

It’s festival time in Arizona! Late winter and early spring bring some kind of event to every town all around the state. There’s a festival, show or fair for just about anything and everything — gem shows, coin shows, gun shows, car shows, horse shows and RV shows. There’s a fest for science and technology, beer, wine, pecans and gourds. Chandler — my own hometown — alone claims several this time of year: a science spectacular, a classic car show and fests for barbecue and beer, jazz, ostriches, Easter and St. Patrick’s Day. It would be possible to travel from town to town around Arizona for weeks on end celebrating one festival after another.

You have another option for this Saturday. For a change of pace, consider a road trip to ghost town to celebrate and learn more about Arizona history in one day. Pack up the family and head to southeastern Arizona for Fairbank Day.

Fairbank is a ghost town north of Sierra Vista along Highway 82, 10 miles east of Highway 90. It was primarily known as a railroad stop for trains transporting silver ore from Tombstone to the mill works in Charleston, Contention City and Millville. At its peak, Fairbank recorded 100 residents, several stores, houses, saloon, stagecoach station, and of course, the depot.  River flooding and a rare Arizona earthquake caused the decline of the mines and mills, which trickled down to a decreased necessity for the railroad stop at Fairbank.

f3By the 1940s only a few buildings remained but it wasn’t until about 1974 that Fairbank bid farewell to the last businesses and residents. A few structures from Fairbank’s 1880’s heyday still can be viewed at the site, including the Adobe Mercantile Building, a couple of houses, stable and schoolhouse. Most of these aren’t accessible to the public however. The school building which was constructed in the 1920s to replace one destroyed by fire, has been restored and operates now as a visitor’s center, gift shop and museum.

Fairbank Day observes the long history of the town plus the local area around the San Pedro River. Activities include: townsite tours, guided hikes to the nearby ruins of Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenate, train robbery reenactments, Spanish settlement recreations, prehistoric settlement archeology presentations, U.S. Calvary demonstrations, book signings and discussions by local authors, plus music and food. Donations from the event will benefit the Friends of the San Pedro River organization, which provides support for conservation efforts, advocacy and education in coordination with the Bureau of Land Management.

One of the standing house structures at Fairbank ghost town

One of the standing house structures at Fairbank ghost town

There's obviously a history of snakes at Fairbank

There’s obviously a history of snakes at Fairbank

Vistors can take a short "hike to history" on one of the nearby trails

Visitors can take a short “hike to history” on one of the nearby trails

 

How Fairbank looked about 1890 (From Wikimedia Commons. Image in public domain - copyright expired.)

How Fairbank looked about 1890

 

Fairbank ghost town has its 'day' this Saturday

Fairbank ghost town has its ‘day’ this Saturday

You can also find AzGetawayTravel.com on Twitter and Facebook.

 

 

Family favorite: The Ranch at Fossil Creek in Strawberry, Ariz.

goat crossing

Welcome committee: Ranch at Fossil Creek goats greet visitors

 

There’s a good reason the Ranch at Fossil Creek was featured in the current issue of Arizona Highways magazine. It’s no doubt the same reason the Strawberry, Ariz. attraction was one of last week’s highlights for The Weekly Yelp for Phoenix. The Ranch at Fossil Creek is quickly becoming well-known as one of the Mogollon Rim country’s favorite family “things to do.”

nubian

This friendly floppy-eared creature is a nubian goat

 

Yep, make it a point to bring the kids to see the kids. There, I wrote it, let’s move on. The ranch, on the western outskirts of Strawberry, is a pleasant little side trip when combined with any vacation, whether it’s a day of hiking or fishing around the Mogollon Rim, a weekend of camping at Tonto National Forest or a week-long trek across Arizona.

Most will just want to stop, see and pet the goats, shop at the ranch store, and enjoy a cold beverage on the adjoining patio. Other visitors who want a full sense of the ranch can pay $5 for a guided tour. Or a $3 general entrance fee will pay for a self-guided tour and samples of goat’s milk fudge and goat cheese. But the Fossil Creek Creamery store is open to visitors with no admission charge. Visit the ranch’s website for all the details.

The goats are in the forefront at the ranch. Even when you pull into the driveway entrance, the goats are ready to greet visitors. Everyone in the family will get a kick out of them. No, not literally; figuratively. Let’s face it: cute farm animals poking their heads through a fence will garner a smile and a photo or two.

three kids

Three kids enjoy a warm afternoon at the ranch

 

Owners John and Joyce Bittner also keep llamas at the ranch and use them for guided, half-day hiking excursions, according to the website. The llamas will bring packed lunches and other necessities along the trail. The ranch also serves as a location for birthday parties, cheese making classes and children’s feeding events. Children can even “adopt” a goat by sponsoring it for a fee, which includes a photo of the child holding the kid and the opportunity to return for “visitation.”

It’s even possible to spend the night at The Ranch at Fossil Creek in a yurt, located on the property. Now how’s this for a getaway idea? Reserve the yurt for the night before your half-day llama hike. After the hike, make a guided tour of the ranch, adopt a goat kid, and top off your visit with a purchase of fudge and cheese for the ride home!

On our recent visit, creamery store clerk, Molly had allowed us to sample several kinds of cheeses before we decided on the basil and the dill. We also had the chance to taste the chocolate fudge. Why does goat’s milk fudge taste so much more creamy than other fudge?

views at the ranch

Great views from The Ranch at Fossil Creek, above Strawberry

 

Don’t forget the soap! The same goat’s milk that produces such creamy cheese and fudge makes equally creamy soap and body crème. And the soap makes a wonderful foamy lather, Molly assured us. With that endorsement, plus its delightful scent, we just had to find out for ourselves.

store

Fossil Creek Creamery store at Ranch at Fossil Creek

Readers: What are your favorite high country attractions in Arizona? Where you do go to get away from the triple digit temperatures? I would love to hear about some of your favorite day trips around the state.

Start Jerome, Ariz. tour at historic state park

jero

Enjoy the views from Jerome Historic State Park

 

Visitors to Jerome, Arizona are smart to choose Jerome State Historic Park as their first stop when they come into town, to discover the town’s rich and colorful history. Stories of wealthy mining families, town fires, floods, gambling, prostitution and ghosts are circulated at Jerome State Historic Park.

The park comprises the James Douglas family mansion, separate carriage house, and exterior exhibits of a stamp mill crusher and several mining cars. Jerome Historical Society maintains the Audrey Headframe Park, located just west of the mansion, also worth a visit.

gargoyle

Gargoyle greets visitors to the Douglas mansion at Jerome Historic State Park

 

When arriving in Jerome with our out-of-state guests, Jerome State Historic Park usually is our first stop. The five-dollar admission fee is money well spent. The 28-minute video presentation seems much shorter, probably because it’s packed full of exciting tidbits about Jerome’s most notorious characters and earthshaking events. I highly recommend seeing that video first, before you tour the rest of the mansion. Everything you’ll be seeing behind the display glass will make more sense, plus you’ll really have a greater appreciation of your other stops in historic Jerome.

geologic exhibit

Rock specimens on display inside mansion rooms

 

At Jerome State Historic Park, you’ll learn about the Douglas family, the rise and fall of Jerome’s mining industry and other significant events, offering a deeper understanding of the town, its culture and colorful past. Plan to spend at least an hour at the park, if not more. Afterwards, you’ll want to take in all the panoramic views as you stroll around the grounds and exterior exhibits.

engineering instruments

Surveying instruments are part of Jerome Historic State Park railroad exhibit

 

Interesting side note: the Douglas family didn’t spend much time at this mansion. It was used more for entertaining guests, investors and mining company VIPs. The home was a model for opulence, complete with wine cellar, marble shower, even a central vacuum system — very innovative for that time! But the mansion also served as party hall, as mine officials hosted a huge Christmas party for the miners and their families each year.

study

One of the main living areas in the Douglas mansion at Jerome Historic State Park

 

Tips for visiting Jerome: When planning a walking tour of Jerome’s shops and cafes, first pick up a historic building and business map at the visitor center. Consider parking at the spacious lot located just past the Fire Station on Perkinsville Road. That way, you’ll have an easy walk to the shops, starting at the United Verde Apartment building, then making your way down to each street level. The first Saturday of each month is the Jerome Art Walk.

Windmill Winery is versatile venue

Windmill Winery isn’t just a winery and tasting room. It’s also a farm, market, plant nursery, wedding venue, restaurant, corporate meeting place, entertainment location and farm implement museum. It’s also a nice destination for an afternoon day trip.

Windmill Winery

The winery features a different set of wine selections monthly, making it possible for wine lovers in the San Tan Valley area to enjoy a variety of varietals from different wine regions. Plus Windmill Winery has its own private label including a sweet white wine and a robust red.

Located at the western edge of Florence, Windmill Winery is just a short half hour drive from the southeast suburbs – probably just over an hour from Phoenix. It may have started out as a nursery, but it has grown into a popular wedding and reception venue, as couples opt for a setting of country charm. When we arrived, owner Harold Christ immediately made us feel welcome and invited us to sample some of the white Hummingbird Nectar and the red Dutchman’s Bold. Although these wines are from grapes grown and processed outside Arizona, plans are in the works for grape vines to be planted onsite. In about seven years, if all goes well, Windmill Winery may be boasting not only its own label, but its own wine.

Windmill Winery burro

With wine in hand, we strolled outside to the tour the grounds. A quaint outdoor patio welcomed us at the door. The patio encompasses several tables and gas heaters for the cooler evenings. The lush setting made us forget we were in the desert – the entire property reminded us of an eastern or mid-western farmyard. And after learning the history of the big red barn, we knew why. The 45-foot high structure was dismantled in Green Bay, Wisconsin then shipped to Arizona and reconstructed on the 60-acre property.

Windmill Winery, as an entertainment venue, has all bases covered. Events such as Brews, Brats and Blind Man’s Bluff, Mardi Gras Madness, and Murder Mystery Nights are upcoming dates the winery’s calendar. Diners need to book these events in advance as they sell out early. The Valentine’s Prime Rib dinner was already sold out. These special events are for advanced purchase only. Also in February, Windmill Winery starts Friday happy hours from 4 to 7 p.m. with half price specials on house wine and light appetizers. There’s also a solid collection of craft brews and local beers available.

Poultry on parade at Windmill Winery

Catered dinners on one night a week provide visitors with a menu that would make any master chef drool.

You might choose from a gourmet burger, created with homemade garlic-mayo aioli, with horseradish cheddar served on a bed of Arugula leaves, topped with a fresh-baked Kaiser roll, including a special condiment of bacon jam or a platter of Hawaiian-style pork with sea salt herbs and spices, slow cooked in banana leaves with a coconut rice grilled pineapple and slice of Pina Colada bread. Hungry yet? Many of the ingredients were grown on Christ’s same property, known agriculturally as Florence Farms. Much of the Florence Farms harvest also finds its way to the kitchens of about a dozen local resorts and restaurants.

One of Windmill Winery's unique landscape features

Although it’s not actually a museum, there’s a collection of farm implements on display such as John Deere tractors and other implements. Harold and his wife Katie recently were featured in an installment of Massey Ferguson’s’ online magazine: MyFarmLife.com. Windmill Winery, located at 1140 West Butte Road in Florence, is open Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. and Friday noon to 10 p.m.

What are your favorite day trips around Arizona? I would welcome any ideas, suggestions or recommendations from readers. Just let me know by emailing me at azgetawaytravel@gmail.com.