Tag: Charleston

Guide to the Southern Arizona Ghost Town Road Trip (Day Two)

Made with Google Maps

Made with Google Maps

On December 1st, Nightborn Travel posted about Day One of our Southern Arizona Ghost Town Roadtrip, and this post will finish our guide to this journey through some of Arizona’s (sort of) abandoned and historic towns, including our stay in Tombstone, and our visits to Charleston and Fairbank. This area has a somewhat shared history, as Tombstone was once home to the silver mine that provided ore to the mills of Charleston and Fairbanks, which processed the ore into metallic bars that could be more easily transported for sale and refinement.

Tombstone Bordello (c) K. Arrington 2016

Tombstone Bordello (c) K. Arrington 2016

After deciding that Gleeson wouldn’t appreciate us snooping around, we drove the short 30 min road to Tombstone, where we were spending the night in the Tombstone Bordello. We wanted to stay in a hotel with some history, and the Bordello certainly has that because it was originally the home of Big Nose Kate. For those of you not familiar with Tombstone’s cast of characters, Kate is primarily known for her relationship to the infamous Doc Holliday, as well as her work in the “world’s oldest profession.” Although she is well known for her illicit activities, I think it is well worth noting that Kate made her way in the world in a time when options for women were extremely limited, and she was an legitimate entrepreneur as much as she took advantage of businesses that some would consider less legitimate. We enjoyed our time in the Bordello. The people working there were friendly, the rooms were very cozy, and the included breakfast was delicious.

Big Nose Kate's Saloon in Tombstone (c) ABR 2016

Big Nose Kate’s Saloon in Tombstone (c) ABR 2016

Our experience of Tombstone itself was less pleasant, so I will preface this short review of the town by saying that many people do enjoy it, so doing some of your own research on the location and what it has to offer would be good. Tombstone has been very transformed by tourism in both good and bad ways. Tourism has allowed this historic town to persist in fairly good health into the modern era, which is wonderful, but it has commidified nearly everything there. There are some spots, like Boothill Graveyard, which are not too expensive, as they only request a donation for entry, but just about everything else has a price tag. The food options in the main tourist area are also subpar in terms of cost, service, and taste. The cool thing about stopping here is that if you walk down Allen Street, it is easy to imagine that you are in a western movie. The buildings are classic, and if you don’t mind spending some money, there are some interesting spots, like the Bird Cage Theater, which I hear is haunted.

Remnants of Charleston (c) K. Arrington 2016

Remnants of Charleston (c) K. Arrington 2016

Charleston was our first stop on Day Two, once we had packed up and left Tombstone and the lovely Bordello behind. It was actually quite hard to find, because it has been all but destroyed. This is due to the fact that Charleston’s abandonment after Tombstone’s mines began closing was exasperated by an earthquake in 1887, and the remnants of the ghost town were further decimated when the US army used the site to train for urban warfare during WWII. All that we managed to find were the foundations of some of the town’s buildings, and our guide was not specific enough about how to find the site. So, here are some updated directions: If you are traveling from Tombstone, take Charleston Road for 8.3-8.5 miles. Look for a fire danger sign on the right side of the road, and turn onto the dirt road on the same side that is just behind the sign (this will also be before the bridge that crosses over the San Pedro River). You will pass a trailhead there, but we suggest driving a little further past the bathroom and parking at the second trailhead. There are signs there for the Millville petroglyph discovery trail. Take this for a short ways, and then turn left down a small side trail after a warning sign about used munitions in the area. PLEASE HEED THE SIGN! If you want to visit Charleston, you should keep your eyes peeled for anything potentially dangerous left behind from military testing there.

Bridge over the San Pedro (c) K. Arrington 2016

Bridge over the San Pedro (c) K. Arrington 2016

After we snapped a few pictures of Charleston, we also took this opportunity to visit the San Pedro River near the bridge. I would definitely suggest doing the same, and if you are a hiker, you might consider setting aside enough time to hike up to Millville (which we were unable to do). This trail also connects to Fairbanks, but unless you want to hike all day, and/or have a shuttle up there, I wouldn’t suggest it just due to time constraints.

Post office in Fairbank (c) K. Arrington 2016

Post office in Fairbank (c) K. Arrington 2016

Finally, when we were done in finding Charleston, we drove to Fairbank, which is a ghost town that is now maintained for visitors by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and is free to visit. Due to the fact that Fairbank’s historic nature has been maintained, and is set aside for people to come and experience, it was my favorite ghost town of the entire trip. It was much more comfortable to wander around in than the towns where people still lived, and it lacked the tourist flavor of Tombstone. While many of the buildings here have not been restored to the point that visitors can enter them, the schoolhouse has been renovated and also serves as a museum and visitor’s center. The people working here were extremely friendly and knew all about the history of the town, as well as the wildlife and trails of the area. Besides the town itself, there is a nice loop trail that you can take to the Fairbank graveyard (home to many unmarked graves belonging to people murdered in Charleston and tossed in the river, coincidentally), as well as what is left of the mill that sustained the town in the past. The hike up this trail was beautiful, and overall, Fairbank offered me the best window into this region’s past.

Fairbank's graveyard (c) ABR 2016

Fairbank’s graveyard (c) ABR 2016

We would appreciate any comments that you have on this post! What do you think about ghost towns? Have you visited any that are discussed here? What was your experience? Also, please feel free to ask us any questions about the trip, as we would be happy to help anyone looking to explore these locations. Finally, come back on the 20th to learn about Katie’s journey to Red Rock Canyon and Zion National Park in Utah.

Charleston: The Holy City


I didn’t know what to expect when I went to Charleston, because I didn’t know much about the city beforehand. I allowed my South Carolinian friend to orchestrate my trip in her state, and I trusted her to take me to the best places. My trust was well placed, because Charleston is one of the most beautiful cities that I have ever visited.

After a 4-hour long road trip from Greenville, through Columbia and into the Charleston suburb of Ashley, the small room that we had paid for at the Creekside Lands Inn was a welcomed sight. The toilet was wobbly, and the air conditioner made our room feel like a freezer, but the hotel was well worth the price that we paid. As its name suggests, the Creekside Lands Inn is, in fact, next to a beautiful creek. There was even a wooden landing built out in the water, where you could sit and listen to the gurgling stream in the warm light of the lovely white Christmas lights that were strung along the railing. A few guests crabbed from the landing, and even if you weren’t interested in catching a fresh meal, the creek was full of life. Crabs blew bubbles in the sand, and gangly herons waded through the long, tall reeds that lined the water. It was a beautiful little place to relax after hours on the road, and it continued to be a welcoming and restful spot throughout our stay in Charleston.

After enjoying the water, and napping for a bit, we all gathered ourselves to find somewhere to eat. No one had the energy to drive into town, but looking through reviews of restaurants in Ashley we found the Early Bird Diner, famed for its chicken and waffles. The diner itself was cozy, complete with a game board library, and walls lined with quirky paintings from artists unknown. Tucked in a corner, we giggled as we read the menu and tried to decide which delicious southern dish that we were going to indulge in. Within five minutes, however, it was clear that all four of us were going to order the chicken and waffles. As for me, I had always thought that the combination sounded a little absurd, but being in South Carolina, in a restaurant with reviews that ranted about their chicken and waffles, I couldn’t resist. Needless to say, the Early Bird Diner effectively hooked me on the dish. Their waffles were wonderful, with a perfect accent of cinnamon sugar. The fried chicken was juicy, piping hot, and dipped in sweet mustard it actually was a spectacular mix of flavors.

Stuffed, we returned to the hotel and fell right to sleep- our minds set on the adventures we would have the next day.

Our second day in Charleston was the best of the trip. We woke up, spines slightly creaky from the extremely soft beds, stuffed ourselves on the included breakfast, and were driving into the city by 10. Our first stop was Patriot’s Point, which was something that I wasn’t all that interested in, but it turned out to be a really cool area. This was especially true, because I had yet to have the chance to explore any sort of Navy ship. Patriot’s Point offers visitors the chance to walk through the aircraft carrier the USS Yorktown, a destroyer, the USS Laffey, and a submarine, the USS Clamagore. The whole experience was enjoyable, despite my early reservations. The vessels are also functioning museums, and everything was beautifully well kept.

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke


Amid all the exploring, there were two major highlights to the visit to Patriot’s Point. I particularly enjoyed getting to climb through the USS Clamagore. The prospect of being in a submarine, even one that was docked and surfaced, was somewhat intimidating. The small spaces inside hardly helped the instinctual discomfort of being closed in, but it only made seeing the vessel all the more exciting. My friends and I also bought lunch on the USS Yorktown, and had food as close to Navy-style as Patriot’s Point could get people to pay for. The food was actually pretty good, cheap, and it was fun to get to eat in the mess hall.

The ferry out to Fort Sumter leaves the dock at Patriots point, and once we had our fill of the ships, museums, and growing hordes of school children, we bought our tickets and headed out to the national park. While being somewhat smaller than I imagined it would be, Fort Sumter was a special place to see. The ferry crew shared a few stories with us on the way over to the man-made island that the fort was perched on. Once we had landed, a ranger took the time to lay down some ground rules and share more history with us before we were set loose.

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

I haven’t spent a lot of time in places so vested in American history, and being amid the old, war-torn walls made me feel more connected to my cultural heritage than I ever have. Fort Sumter is a way to reconnect to ages long since past, and seeing the places described in history books can only serve to spike curiosity. Besides that, the view of the Charleston port, as well as the surrounding ocean was utterly astounding. The only draw back to the whole excursion was a dangerous colony of fire ants, which had sprung up on the grassy hill in the fort.

After the ride back to the mainland, we headed into Charleston’s downtown proper. There we spent some time wandering the streets, and visited the famous Rainbow Market (which is a much friendlier name for a place also widely called “the slave market”). We learned that slaves had never been sold in this area, but the street had long been home to an open-air market to which wealthy urbanites would send their slaves to for supplies. Now, the market is just a place where tourists crowd eachother to buy knick-knacks and souvenirs. Personally, I didn’t enjoy pressing through the people that packed themselves into the market, and I found it so crowded that I hardly had the inclination to shop at all. That being said, the market hosted local artisans of all sorts, and shopping there had the potential to support small-scale businesses and local people.

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke


We topped off our first full day in Charleston with a Bulldog Tour, the Dark Side of Charleston. Once the sun went down we all gathered outside of Bulldog’s picturesque store front, and once the tour started we were promptly led into an alley where we listened to our guide warn us that this particular tour was not for children. We spent the rest of the next hour and a half wandering downtown on foot and learning about the more secretive history of the city. I won’t spoil any of the stories shared by the tour guide, but the trip was well worth it.

On our last day, I was itching to get out and do whatever hiking we could close to the city. This led us to the James County Park, which was South Carolina nature-lite. There were some nice trails to meander down, and sections of forest, but for the most part it was, as its name suggests, a massive park. Most of the trails ran along manicured grass fields, and a small lake dotted with kayakers. The path also passed a rock wall, a water park, and camping areas. There was also the ever-present sound of yipping dogs and laughing children, which completes the atmosphere of any park. So, not the best place to hike, but this park is pretty wonderful in every other way.

After spending the morning in the sun, and away from the press of the downtown buildings, we drove back into town. With nothing planned, we decided to take some time to just walk around and take in the beautiful architecture of downtown Charleston. At face value, this was probably the least exciting thing that we did the whole trip, but I loved it. The buildings in Charleston are wonderful, and we even got rained onto someone’s porch by an afternoon rain flurry, which as an Arizonan is always a great thing.

Finally, after another delicious seafood dinner, we topped off our trip with one last Bulldog walking tour. One last chance to see the city, which is just as beautiful at night as it is during the day.

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

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