Monday, May 28, 2007

Cave Creek Canyon

After spending two weeks in lovely Sierra Vista, we finally resumed our travels with a visit to the east side of the Chiricahua Mountains in the southeastern corner of Arizona. While the west side of the Chiricahuas is sparsely populated with ranches and small towns, traveling on the east side from Douglas, AZ to Rodeo, NM provides beautiful vistas of unpopulated grasslands and distant mountains. Our route passed by Skeleton Canyon, where a monument commemorates the surrender of Geronimo after years of being chased by U.S. Calvary. The canyon has a colorful history of smuggling, ambushes, and even a legendary tale of Ike Clanton and the Earp brothers of Tombstone fame. Passing through the small town of Rodeo and its part-time gas station, we settled in for two days at Rusty's RV Ranch, a neat park with great views and lots of wind. Across the road is a ranch and airport owned by John MacAfee of software fame, the informal leader of the "Sky Gypsies", a group of ultralight flyers; check their web site; it's interesting reading. Rusty's was our base for exploring Cave Creek Canyon, one of the most beautiful areas in Arizona. At the entrance of the canyon, the tiny town of Portal (population 80) greets visitors with a combination lodge/store/restaurant and post office. In the back of the general store was a small room with mismatched tables and chairs, lots of bird pictures, and the best green-chile cheeseburger in Arizona. It's an interesting place, shaded by huge cottonwoods and Sycamore, with lots of bird feeders everywhere, and a population of folks who look like they attended Woodstock in the 60's (not a bad thing). After exploring the canyon for a while, we drove up to Paradise (population 8) and visited the George Walker House, hosted by a lovely lady named Jackie and her official greeter, Tundra. At her home next door, she's provided bird feeders and food of every type imaginable (including grape jelly and peanut butter), and invites people to sit on her porch and watch the of birds that visit, while patiently providing rookies like us information on how to idenftify each bird. Sitting on her porch watching the birds, like this ruby-throated hummingbird, in such a beautiful environment was a great way to spend an hour or two, and we thank her for her generousity and patience. What a great place! In Paradise I came across this old truck sitting alongside the road and thought it representative of the old mining town that once existed. We traveled back down the mountain to the canyon, and hiked up the south fork of Cave Creek. We'd heard that this area is one of the few nesting areas of the Elegant Trogan, a rare bird that it seems is the holy grail for many devout birders. We met people from all over the country who had traveled to Cave Creek just to see this mystical bird, and had to see if we could find it. Relying on a tip from other hikers, we worked our way past groves of poison ivy, over a rocky creek bed, and under a tall, dead pine tree with a nest hole at the top. After waiting for what seemed like hours, the Trogan appeared! With a call described as a cross between a turkey and a pig, it sat on a branch above us while we ooohed and ahhhhed at its marvelous colors. Some of a group of lady birders from Waco, TX, actually swooned and had to sit down to recuperate. While seeing the Trogan was very interesting, we're not at the point in our "birder" careers that we now feel our life is fulfilled. After all, there's still the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker......We had a wonderful time in Cave Creek Canyon and plan on returning next year. For now, we're off to Silver City, NM for a month; looks like lots to see and do there, so we'll be in touch. Thanks for stopping in!

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