Are there rodeo’s in Rodeo?
We took the low road to Rodeo. US 90 past Sierra Vista (and watch out for the bumps in the highway just before the San Pedro Riparian Area..yeehaww…we lost a few cupboard contents on those ones) to the 80 through Bisbee and past Douglas, Hello Mexico just across the border in Agua Prieta and then North towards the Chiricahuas and Rodeo..and yes, they must have rodeos here;)
Other than the migra guy who had a fellow in cuffs and was fishing another guy out of the trunk of an non-descript silver car it was fairly uneventful after the bucking bronco dips past Sierra Vista. The high grass plains are beautiful and the Chiricahuas spectacular, the road is a nice quiet two lanes, no shoulder, just what we are used to.
You can drive through Rodeo in one…two…three…oops slow down, the Sheriff waits at the end of town where it is a 35 mph zone so it does take more than 3 secounds to drive past it all. Rusty’s RV Ranch is on the outskirts a few miles to the North. The sad bit is we missed the new moon but Mike set up the first night, the seeing looked promising, then crapped out as the wind turned and came from the West spilling over the mountains like a large turbulent wave bringng clouds with it as well. Sadly on the following nights it did not improve and the wind was worse so eventually Mike packed it up to keep it from being blown over.
But there was so much to see, and you had to go get gas as well..Hoping someone opens a station around here eventually, other wise it’s 13 miles East to Animas, New Mexico to gas up and back.
The RV park is lovely and open, long 200′ pull through sites, not much in the way of shade but there are a few ponds, two attack geese (Mike did his best to make friends) and a beautiful clubhouse and laundry area.The cats had their afternoon walks to look for lizards, Stinky even pointed out a Texas Horned Lizard…one of my favourites, different than our Baja variety but just as beautiful!
Rusty gave us a great map of the area with birding areas of interest. We drove up to Portal, to the store and Post Office, back to Arizona..and into the Chiricahuas. I was not expecting the incredible rock formations and dozens of caves that open up as you make your way into Cave Canyon…duh..aptly named Pamela;) The green lichen on the red rocks makes for a startling contrast of colours. There was a short path called the Vista Trail that takes you up through the oaks to get a panorama of the Canyon.We made our way up the South Fork Road to the dike but only hiked a short distance as the astronomer was wearing his birks…Hurricane Odile came through here in 2014 and did massive damage. Very much like the winter storm that hit Concepcion in 2010. We new what this landscape looked like. New rivers torn through the canyons, roads swept away..even a trailer by the looks of it had been moved downstream a bit:) Mother Nature carving out her own path.
I’d read this had been home to the Apache Chief Cochise and his Chokonen band, I can see why they wanted to live here. The Valley is the caldera of a 27 million year old volcano, you can see that as you are driving in between the towering cliffs and spires. Each day we took a different side trip, often running into the same people. A lovely pair of ladies told us to check out the Sunny Flat Campground. It was beautiful but only one spot big enough for Myrtle..mental note..come back here once we have an inverter! Cave Creek runs past the campground set in a circle under Silver Peak. The bird sounds were music to my ears everywhere there was water there was song! The ranger station is manned by volunteers here..one ranger for this entire area…yet how many Migra trucks did we see, not to mention the machine gun toting DEA guy that walked past us on one of the trails..money for that..but not what is important..makes me so sad, and angry at the same time. The Chiricahua Ecosystem Management Area, encompassing over 291,492 acres of the Chiricahua and Pedragosa Mountains…..one paid ranger for the entire wilderness, yet America has billions to keep the war machine alive..somewhere it went very very wrong. 7 million dollars is the budget for the US Forestry service…Customs and Border Patrol-300 million dollars…ask yourself…what is wrong with this picture…
The top of the Chiricahuas burned in 2011, known as the Horseshoe 2 fire, the 5th largest in Arizona history (human started) 222,954 acres destroyed, that is also why the rain from Odile did so much damage, nothing to hold anything in place. You don’t see the burned area until you get up the Mountain Road and it is a sad scar on the mountain tops as far as you can see. It comes into view as you drive around to Paradise..yes…you can go to Paradise;) Population 12…
I’d had a tip that the George Walker House was the place to go to see hummingbirds. A charming little B&B with a birding yard..donations accepted for seed and sugar! Mike is a patient guy letting me trip about to all these places..I do make a damn fine telescope sherpa though so I guess I’m worth it;) I saw quite a few Broad Billed Hummingbirds and one Blue Throated but I really enjoyed the Goldfinch drama at the feeders and a beautiful Lazuli Bunting. Battling winds and incoming clouds we continued our journey out of paradise..all too soon;) I could live in a town like this..if they ever get a gas station in Portal..and some fresh food. It’s slim pickings in any of the general stores. Your standard canned American food fare, Wonderbread, Doritos and other questionable packaged goods…do people really live off of Chef Boyardee ravioli’s??
The reason I got to visit Paradise is we started out to try to go see the Wonderland of Rocks on the West side of the Chiricahuas but my google maps on our phone took us up a road, that has not been a road for many many years I think. Perhaps before the fire, and Hurricane Odile it was a 4×4 road. It was beautiful..grasslands..even a Winery, but we had to stop and turn back as it made our road into Concepcion look like a super highway…that bad;) So we did the loop around the park, stopped at the South West Research Station and drove up to see if the Winn Waterfall was more than a trickle..it was a trickle. I was trying to get Mike to do the 6 mile trail to the outlook but after hearing the words viewpoint’s (drop-offs) and 3000 foot elevation change..and “hardly any waterfall” he kept telling me…OK…I get it:)
We did hike up Cave Creek Canyon and the trail was beautiful past the berm, to the old campground, the road was semi-passable but I can see why they never completely repaired it, it will wash out again one day. The creek comes and goes, sometimes going below the surface, at other times creating beautiful pools under the oaks, cottonwoods and sycamores. We passed many birders and hikers and stopped and chatted several times. On our way back I stepped past a log and received quite the rattle from a beautiful yellow and black Rattlesnake..startling a lovely lady who had her dog with her..she picked up her dog and headed for the riverbed, I think she had quite the fright. On our way back down we stopped at the visitor center as they have a wonderful reptile exhibit to see what kind of rattlesnake we’d stumbled upon. A Black Tailed (Crotalus molossus). They have a lovely Gila Monster there too…fantastic, stop in and visit them for trail or birding information, they are a wonderful group of volunteers from Friends Of Cave Creek.
As I hadn’t had the chance to see many hummingbirds I prevailed on Mike for one last stop at The Cave Creek Ranch as we were leaving after our hike. They have a beautiful yard and donation box for feed and sugar. The owner, Reed, was very pleasant and helpful. I would certainly come back here to stay if I needed lodging..can we talk them into putting a few RV hook-ups in?:) Javelinas roamed the yard eating the fallen bird seed, was it bad to think bacon when I saw them?…We sat and watched the feeders, countless birds!
A lovely brown Arizona Woodpecker, a first for me and the beautiful Blue Throated and Broad Billed Hummingbirds. The yard buzzes with life, a beautiful sanctuary with wonderful trees and plantings and dozens of places to sit and watch life go by.
Mike was a bit sad about the seeing, he had high hopes to do some photography but those winds…a gentleman resident there said that was normal for Spring so perhaps better seeing in Fall and Winter. The area has astronomy “communities” (seems there are even rival factions) and domes wherever you look so there there must be some good seeing, or extremely good salesmanship. Seems Rodeo has tried to re-brand itself from cow town to an astronomer’s paradise but some of the claims seem somewhat stretched by the various marketing machines.
I did get up after moon set the last night to try to catch the Milky Way..I have been craving dark skies. Mike has to remind me how spoiled we were at Concepcion with it’s lack of neighbors..i.e. no lights at all except for the radio tower in Camalu 50 kilometers away. It was lovely but the cold wind chased me in after awhile.
We decided to leave on the 6th day..no better seeing and the word came..the new Ram 3500 was arriving in San Diego soon…vroom vroom..does that count for a diesel? Mike is looking forward to that towing capacity and not being wagged by the trailer on a regular basis. Time to head back West again:) I really really wanted to see more of the Huachucas but Lake Patagonia was a bit out of the Kitty comfort reach (we try to keep the road trips to under three hours or human torture by kitty yelling starts) so we opted for a short jump back to Kartchner Caverns and then to North of Tucson at the Picacho Peak State Park.
On the road once again…stay tuned as we make our way Westward! Saludos y abrazos amigos.