Louise Speaks: We wanted to make this trip down south worth while so we thought we’d visit every site that we had left to see in southern Arizona. In order to do that, when leaving Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument we had to take a different ride home. Our main destination was the Coronado National Monument (to be blogged about later), which is actually just East of Organ Pipe, but because of mountains we have to go north and then east in order to go south again. About a 200 mile trip to go about 50 miles east. Oh well, it’s why we call these trips adventures, right?
To get to the main highway we have to go thru a small town called Why? Why is 30 miles from the Mexican border and 10 miles south of Ajo. I’m sure Why got it’s name because people must ask, why are we stopping here? We have found many strange named towns in Arizona like Nothing and Hope. Who comes up with these names? I was curious about the name so we had to stop and ask, but since no one seemed to know why, I had to look it up. Apparently the town derives its name from the fact that two major highways originally intersected in a Y Intersection. At the time of its naming, state law required all city names had to have at least three letters, so the town’s founders named the town “Why” as opposed to simply calling it “Y.” Later the old Y-intersection was removed for traffic safety reasons and two highways were built in a conventional intersection.
Why had a cute little store called the “Why Not” that sold snacks and gas. They had tuned an old truck into a planter waterfall that was actually pretty cool. There was a place to eat outside, but not sure if you’d want to since coyotes just roamed the area freely. They seemed pretty friendly as they would just walk up to your car like a welcome committee. We had to get out to pay for gas, and other people were walking around like no big deal. I stayed in the car with Gracie (our travel dog) just in case the coyotes were more interested in furry friends instead of people.
There was quite a bit of business at this stop as it is the last stop before crossing into Rocky Point, a very popular destinations for Arizonans. We just stopped for a few minutes and we were back on the road. We had to go east, 160 miles before heading south again to the town of Hereford,
One of our reasons for stopping in Hereford was because of a restaurant rating we had seen on Facebook. If it’s on Facebook it has to be true right? but we wanted to see for ourselves. We found the Brite Spot Restaurant and it was a cute little place. Definetly a hole in the wall kind of place in the middle of the desert. Nothing else around but this steakhouse. As soon as we walked in, she asked, “are you here because of Facebook”. We laughed and said yes…guess they get that a lot. If I lived here I guess I would eat here, but I don’t think I’d drive very far out of my way to get here. It had a very western feel, so probably a great place to come for tourists.
We did have a quirky thing to find and it was just called “Miracle Valley”. We couldn’t get to close and it did appear to be closed down, but it was massive! The community of Miracle Valley was founded in 1959 by evangelist A. A. Allen, who established the Miracle Valley Bible College on 1240 acres of land. Since Allen’s death in 1970 the property has been purchased and/or occupied by a variety of organizations. The property was foreclosed on in 2009, and a subsequent sale in 2011 to Miracle Valley Arizona Ministries fell through. In 2014 the property was purchased by another group planning to restore the abandoned and derelict campus and re-establish a bible college. Here it is 2017 and it still looks abandoned. We were just able to park outside and take a few pictures.
There is something in Hereford that is definitely worth going to see. From the main street thru town if you look up the mountain you will see a HUGE cross, There is a windy road that takes you up to the the chapel of Our Lady of the Sierras. It is definitely out of the way and you do have to go look for it, but once you find it, you will not regret the effort, The Shrine consists of a 75 foot tall Cross , a statue depicting Our Lady, a chapel, Stations of the Cross and “Mary’s Knoll” at the foot of the hill which has the office as well as a prayer room. The view from the top of the hill is breath taking. The chapel itself is quaint and very inviting and is still a functional chapel.
The history of the Our Lady of the Sierras Shrine started in 1987 when Mr. and Mrs. Chouinard visited family members and decided to hike into Ash Canyon, Arizona. There they found a for sale sign and later bought the 8 acre property in 1988. This was to be the site for their retirement home which they built in 1991. After they had finished their home they decided to erect a cross and Patricia Chouinard stated that she would like a statue of Mary next to it. This appeared to be a relatively simple task that should be easy to accomplish. However, this was just the start of problems that would take them 7 more years to resolve. Many people would have given up the endeavor with all the opposition that they had mounted against their plan. First the county permitting office told them that the structure could not be over 30 foot tall because of height restrictions in the codes, she wanted the cross to be 75 feet tall. The only exception to this rule was if the structure was a monument. By building a chapel as part of the complex, the cross would become a monument and meet the county code. With the preliminary permit approval they commissioned the cross and statue to be built. These elements were to be fabricated from steel and fiberglass with a concrete covering. Local opposition sprang up once the plans of the project became known. The ensuing litigation lasted 4 years and finally in March of 1998 the project was completed and in the fall of 1998 the Bishop dedicated the chapel. In 2002 the 14 Stations of the Cross was completed. In 2004 and 2005 the “Angel of Revelation” and the “Guardian of Children” were installed. There is a waterfall that comes down behind the cross into a pond. There is also a path that leads from there up the mountainside to a grotto that has a view of the San Pedro Valley below. But disaster struck in 2011, when a fire known as the “Monument Fire” started in Mexico and spread to the Shrine. The fire, whipped by winds, destroyed or damaged 40 homes including the Chouinard home and the Shrine of Our Lady of the Sierras. Good news though is that today, all has been re-built and the shrine is open to every one. The Chouinards did not rebuild their retirement home.
We spent quite a bit of time here, and it’s been a long day but this was definitely worth the stop and the time.