Kartchner Caverns and hummingbirds galore
We were looking for a midway jump between Tucson and Rodeo, New Mexico. At Desert Trails RV they handed us a great packet of information, tours, things to do and see in the area and a brochure for these caves was included. Intrigued we did a bit of reading and after seeing the campground reviews decided it would make a good jumping off spot, mainly for hummingbirds. I had read so much about the Huachuca Mountains and their Mexican Hummingbird migrants…sorry Trump, they have no green cards;)
We left Tucson early with some severe thunderstorms on our trail, luckily pulled ahead of them and didn’t get any bad winds or rain until after we were settled. You could see the lightning all around us. Pulling the trailer with the Tundra in strong winds is not a fun job even though Mike makes it look easy. We battened down the hatches and were glad we stopped when we did, our reward, a glorious rainbow after some passing thunderstorms. We also got the last spot in the campground, albeit a handicap one, maybe they read my mind..Mike always says I have a handicap..many in fact:) even if they are mental:)
We did the perimeter walk around the Caverns hill, Foothills Loop Trail, a two and a half mile easy hike that gives you vast panoramas of the surrounding valleys and mountains behind. Down in the arroyo the hummingbirds were all over the flowering oaks..my luck, blooming oaks and allergies (even the Beezil the cat was sneezing) but up on the hills mostly ocotillos and cactus. There are even old metates, mortar grinding holes in the rocks along the path.
I put up our bird feeders, CTV (Cat TV) in the back window and hung the others on the tree by our big window and they were soon a flutter! I even spotted our first Broad Tailed Hummingbird! The Pyrrhuloxias ( man that is a mouthful!) were soon feeding with hordes of finches and a whole new variety of birds as well. So many new birds to ID. I belong to a great Facebook group called “Birding-Arizona and the South West” and they patiently tell me what the birds are if I can’t find them in the books:)
My kind of place already! I would have loved to photograph the Kartchner Caverns but it is not allowed..probably dawdlers like me holding up the tours led to the ban;)…They are remarkable. They are listed as one of the top 10 cave sites in the world. A trolley takes you to the cave entrance where you go through an airlock with a Park guide, these are warm moist caves and they try to keep the dry desert air out to maintain the humidity, you are even misted as you walk through to keep the moisture level up. I was unprepared for the incredible beauty of the first tour we did through the Rotunda and Throne room, and how warm it was, about 72 °. These are living caves, water dripping from the ceiling, running down walls, still making the incredible formations you come upon. Ribbons that look like giant slabs of bacon hang from the ceiling and soda straw stalactities go from the ceiling to the floor, one almost 21 feet long, the size of a drinking straw. Huge columns rise from floor to ceiling along the half mile walk. The lighting is dramatic and the history as well. The Caves were discovered and kept secret for 14 years while the two cavers who discovered them tried to find a way to protect them, a remarkable story.
Did I mention..I came for the hummingbirds:)…the following day we drove South on US 90 through Sierra Vista and South to the Canyons that line the Huachuca Range. Spectacular deep canyons, truly beautiful. Our first stop was at Ash Canyon B&B. I ‘d read and seen pictures of the hummingbirds that came to stop here, the day was blustery and cold and between cloud burst, hail and sun we managed to see an amazing variety. There is a donation jar on the gate and for $5.00 I thought the time spent here was a steal! Also met up with several other birders and photographers, a treat for me as usually I am the only one about, and I received some hints and spots to check near Rodeo as well!
Around a patio area there were hummingbird feeders and chairs to sit and watch. When we first arrived the hummingbird feeders were quiet so we sat further down and looked towards the arroyo, small deer grazed behind the fence as wild turkeys called. There the fattest squirrels in the world live as they leap from feeder to feeder. On the trees Scott’s Orioles perched eating oranges and Gila and Acorn Woodpeckers came and went..Heaven:) When the sun came out after a shower the hummingbird feeders came alive! I didn’t know which way to turn..soooooooo many hummingbirds!!! Owl heading indeed..an expression we use for turning your head around and around like in the Exorcist;)
After a particularly strong blast of hail and rain we decided to give up and slowly head North again as the clouds were moving in.We did a detour up Ramsey Canyon as a SW Birder on Facebook mentioned an area we could camp there with the trailer. It was getting gloomier and gloomier but we wound our way up this beautiful canyon and found the spot, as well as trails and another Birding B&B. A place to come back to! With a quick stop for lunch and groceries we headed back to Kartchner.
The following day we toured the Big Room at the caverns, once again we were awed at the amazing beauty of this enormous cave and it’s history. It was scheduled to close this same week as the bats would be returning to roost so we felt lucky to see it. Ended the afternoon with hike up behind the campground to some old mines and a beautiful view of this high desert plain. It is always wonderful to be surprised and delighted by a place you knew nothing about. This is a spot we will return to as often as we get the chance. Word to Campers..spots 11 and 12 have sewer hook-up, something we rarely find in State Parks:)
I’ll leave you with one of the glorious sunsets we experienced in this magical place..Stay tuned..coming up…Nuevo México..saludos y abrazos amigos!