Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chiricahua National Monument: An Other-Planet Experience

It’s so difficult to describe Chiricahua National Monument. I was sure we had left planet Earth and travelled out somewhere far, far away in another galaxy.

The Park sits in Cochise County in the South-East corner of Arizona. The diversity is unmatchable. To get there, you travel along a valley floor through fairly desolate prairie lands (especially this time of year) to the gateway of the Chiricahua Mountains.

The Faraway Ranch sits between the Gate and the Visitor Center and is worth a look-around to understand how this area developed and then became a tourist destination.

Beyond the Center, Bonita Canyon winds through all sorts of rock formations. They call the park the Wonderland of Rocks and as you travel along, you can understand where that name came from.

Columns and pinnacles of rock rise skyward out from  the vegetation.



These huge, vertical structures were (and continue to be)created from erosion penetrating joints in the soft volcanic rocks.

Travelling further into the park, the view expands and widened and you get a different picture of the extraordinary power and beauty of Nature.






Chiricahua was certainly one of the highlights of our 2011-2012 Winter.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring has sprung, the grass is ris: I wonder where da birdies is

The Why/Ajo, AZ area did not meet our expectations for bird watching or even stalking the wild flowers. We did see some old bird friends and some old human friends (Tracy and Stan were on the other side of another wash and Chuck and Sheila were parked out behind Ajo) but we were quite disappointed in the bird watching.

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male phainopepla female phainopepla

Road-runner (13)edited


Our rule of thumb has been to move on when our waste tanks are full – but this time we didn’t wait because Why came under a GREAT WIND STORM threat so we headed towards Tucson. Well we did not miss the dust entirely - the MH and the car were covered with dust from one end to the other.
The only pavement we knew about was the Casino but that didn’t satisfy the spring-fever bug to find the illusive birds. Our thought was to go down to Patagonia but decided to check into the Escapees RV Park at Benson (Saguaro Co-op) to get out from underneath all the dust and dirt and venture out on day trips from there.

The Escapees Park at Benson is much bigger than we are used to and very resortish which we are also not used to but it served its purpose and gave us a non-dusty place to vacuum, clean and explore places we had not seen at all or at least not in the past 7-8 years.


BTW – this shrub was on our site and I have no idea what it is. Can anyone out there help me identify it?


IMG_4963Our first venture was to the Patagonia area – a place noted for viewing birds. We followed Highway 83 to Sonoita and then down to Patagonia. Spring hadn’t quite arrived there yet (a rather bleak, hilly trail not unlike our prairies to foothills in the late fall). We were surprised to learn they are promoting wine and vineyards in this area. Mind you, we didn’t see any sign of grapes growing – the best sign we saw was the Welcome sign for Sonoita.

We had been to Patagonia before but that was about eight years ago. There always was a bird-watching mood about the area but it now seems to have become a haven for artists, as well as the birders. We visited the State Park but we were too early for some and late for others to see many birds so we stopped at Pattons Hummingbird Haven.

What used to be a private home is now open to the public. Unfortunately a Red-tailed Hawk arrived just before we did and there was a mass exodus of the majority of smaller birds. We stuck around for a while, but only saw a couple of interesting friends.

The Gila Woodpecker is the clown of the bird kingdom. Here he was after the suet but we’ve seen them upside down trying to drinking out of the hummingbird feeder.




Gila Woodpecker

Onto the San Pedro House (Riparian National Conservation Area) and a wonderful place to wander, sit and watch all the activity.

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The most outstanding venture we took was to the Chiricahua National Monument – the Wonderland of Rocks.

Even with all the Geological marvels we have seen – the Chiricahuas are by far the most extraordinary. So spectacular that they deserve a separate BLOG entry (this will come later).

We left some sights unseen (for next time) and wandered up to Casa Grande for one last visit before we started our meandering northern trek.

Next stop – Quartzsite and High Jolly.