One evening last month, Pat and I found ourselves at the dinner table at a bed and breakfast right in the middle of Cochise County's bird-watching paradise.
Virtually all of our fellow 20 guests were birders, out to find a variety of birds and document their sightings.
I told the people near us at the table that Pat and I were not there to see birds, but …
Before I could finish my sentence, a woman across from me said, "Wait, let me guess!"
Five minutes later, she reluctantly gave up, and I told her that we were there for mammoth hunting. She thought I was making a smart remark, but I wasn't kidding.
We'd wound up at the B&B after looking for a place in Southern Arizona where we could celebrate both of our birthdays, mine in March, Pat's in May. We selected Casa de San Pedro, a few miles southeast of Sierra Vista, along the San Pedro River, in Hereford.
Within a very short drive of our B&B were two 11,000-year-old mammoth-kill sites. Since I had recently written about early Arizona hunter-gatherers (in the March 14 Star regional sections), I was eager to see a couple of places where ancient humans killed giant mammoths and bison and left evidence - Clovis spear points and butchering tools - discovered millenniums later.
So the morning after we arrived at the B&B, Pat and I visited the Lehner and Murray Springs mammoth-kill sites, both designated National Historic Landmarks and operated by the Bureau of Land Management "for the benefit and education of the public." The Lehner site was excavated in 1955 and again in 1974-75. The site is fenced with barbed wire behind an identifying plaque. We decided not to climb the fence, simply observing from afar the arroyo containing the kill site.
The Murray Springs excavations were done in 1966-1971. This site is more visitor-friendly, with an interpretive trail around the kill site and associated campsite.
It was exciting to be able to visualize how our ancient ancestors hunted so long ago.
Pat and I next turned our attention to the town of Hereford, established in the 1870s as a railroad siding to load cattle and later a stop for rail travelers between Tombstone and Naco. During World War II, an Army airfield at Hereford provided specialized night training for medium bombers.
Unfortunately, virtually nothing remains today of the old townsite and airfield except a one-lane bridge over the San Pedro River, which serves as a shortcut to Bisbee.
The San Pedro is one of Arizona's most important and historic rivers, one of only two rivers (the other is the Santa Cruz River) that flow north from Mexico into the United States. Originating just south of the border in Sonora, the river flows northward 140 miles to meet the Gila River in Winkelman. It is the last major free-flowing undammed river in the American Southwest.
The San Pedro Valley has served as the home of ancient Clovis and Cochise cultures, and later, Native Americans. Francisco Vásquez de Coronado's Spanish expedition traveled northward from Sonora along the San Pedro River to explore the American Southwest in 1540. The first Americans along the San Pedro were beaver trappers in the 1820s, followed by miners and ranchers.
The famous Mormon Battalion that resupplied U.S. troops in California from New Mexico during the American War with Mexico in 1846 traveled northward along the San Pedro to Tucson.
Since 1988, the San Pedro River, from the international border to St. David, has been designated as the San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area to "protect and enhance the desert riparian ecosystem." According to the Bureau of Land Management, "the river's stretch is home to 84 species of mammals, 14 species of fish, 41 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 100 species of breeding birds. It also provides invaluable habitat for 250 species of migrant and wintering birds."
Pat and I got our look at the San Pedro River on a short walk right out the back door of the Casa de San Pedro B&B. With much of the river now dry much of the year until the summer monsoon, we were surprised to find water flowing and an impressive canopy of green-leaved trees and fauna.
We also spotted a bird or two.
On StarNet: Read Bob Ring's recent columns at azstarnet.com/bobring
If you go
• What: Casa de San Pedro Bed and Breakfast.
• Where: 8933 S. Yell Lane, Hereford.
• Details: 10 guest rooms are arranged around a garden courtyard visited by many birds of the area.
• Price: $169 per couple plus tax, with a minimum two-night stay, or $179 for one night.
E-mail Bob Ring at firstname.lastname@example.org