Chiricahua National Monument

Chiricahua National Monument
Chiricahua National Monument

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Chiricahua National Monument, Whitewater Draw...Sandhill Cranes, Bisbee and Meeting people... New friends

While at Kartchner Caverns SP we made sure to visit the Chiricahua National Monument. We had so many recommendations to see it so we drove the 50 or so miles and were we ever rewarded in our efforts. This is a wonderful area for hiking, camping and horseback riding. We started at the Visitors Center and got our Passport book stamped and then took the scenic drive up to Massai Point. Incredible views of the surrounding area.

Typical high desert landscape with beautiful rock formations. After we took a short walk around the high point we drove down a short distance to Echo Canyon trail. This is a 2.5 mile hike down into the canyon and back up. They recommend hiking counterclockwise so there is less steep incline coming up out of the canyon. There was even a grotto area of rock that was very interesting.

Some of the rock formations reminded us of our visit to Bryce Canyon NP with all the hoodoos.

We spent about 4-5 hours exploring the trail and the landscape. We had a light lunch that we brought and then headed back to Kartchner. If you would like more information on the Chiricahua NM you can find it HERE.

I posted some photos in FB of our hike and visit and one of our RV friends, Mona Liza commented that while in the area we should check our Whitewater Draw to see the Sandhill Cranes as they migrate back north. So the next day we took the 60 mile drive to see if we could get a glimpse. We were rewarded for our efforts. The cranes fly off early in the morning, like 6 am, to go to other areas to feed and return to the marshy conservation area in the mid day. That's when we arrived. As we sat on benches around the marsh the cranes would fly in in groups of 20-40 at a time. They were specks in the distance and then suddenly appear. Enlarge the photos for best viewing

It was a cloudy windy day and the cranes were a ways off from us but I did get a few decent pictures using my zoom lens.

Sandhill cranes are very large birds with wing spans of up to 6 feet. The Audubon Society has some great information about them HERE. Scroll down to see the information on the link.

Because it is a marsh area we were able to see Coots, ducks and other water fowl. It was a fun activity and so happy we have friends that make those types of recommendations.

Well since we were so close to Bisbee we decided to make a quick trip there and check out the olive oil store and for me the Old Bisbee Brewery. We were in Bisbee 2 years ago and ate at the Mexican restaurant down the street from the olive oil store and brewery. Again a quick trip.

This time when we stopped at the brewery we noticed they had a vegan chili and root beer too. So We each got a chili, Glenda got root beer and I got a nice tasty Mayan Stout. Wonderful coffee finish and great balance. The chili was delicious and Glenda said the root beer was good too. I truly enjoyed the stout.

Well while were eating a gentleman sat down at the table next to us and we started talking. As we talked another couple sat down at the table next to him. The next thing we know the couple says "we weren't eaves dropping but we heard you say you are at Kartchner Caverns SP and heading to Leasburg Dam SP in Las Cruces". We're planning to stop for one night at Kartchner and we're dry camping at Whitewater Draw to see the Sandhill Cranes and then head to Leasburg SP too. WHAT A COINCIDENCE. Doug and Julie are new full time RV'ers and were traveling from CA to FL and then up the east coast for the summer. They're also world travelers and shared some wonderful experiences in Spain, Portugal, France, India and beyond just to name a few.

They're pulling a travel trailer and started off 26 feet. Reminded us of our old Jayco 22 footer before we started full time. Anyway, after we talked and ate we parted ways thinking we would see them at Kartchner. Well they couldn't get a reservation on short notice there so they stayed at Whitewater Draw one more night and then headed to Leasburg SP. Now here is another coincidence....their site was right behind ours. This is crazy. We got to Leasburg about the same time and went over to say hi. We were both going to be at the SP for 7 days too.

So during the week we had them over to our site for a couple of campfires and some snacks and we also played spades with the wives, of course, winning. Lots of fun. They're both beer lovers like me but different in that they like more IPA beers and I like the dark beers. Lots of beer talk and sharing.

What a great  time we had this last week with them. We did our thing, they did theirs but we got together to share the experience and talk about our travels. What a coincidence.

We find this is happening a lot in our travels and are so happy to living this lifestyle. New places, New adventures and New Friends. We exchanged information and plan on keeping contact as we all travel and share this incredible journey. More on our stay at Leasburg SP in Las Cruces soon. Thanks for following along.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Final fun with friends and family before moving on....Arrived at Kartchner Caverns SP

Ok, the last week was a whirlwind of activity with hiking, last dinner and golfing with our son, Chris and rig preparations for traveling. We won't be seeing our good friends Ron and Patsy until next fall/winter or our son, Chris so we made good use of the time we had left. Our last hike on the Lost Gold Mine trail.

To the left if you're following the trail clockwise

We took this trail

Met some horses along the way

Not sure what this was but something picked the bones

Wonderful desert landscape

We've hiked this trail before but took the counterclockwise direction this time. Of course we stopped at a Mexican restaurant - Los Gringos Locos after.   Later that evening we played Spades at their home...guys vs. the girls...of course. This was the guys night. Win or lose we love to play. Of course winning feels better. :-)  We also played Wizards and Jesters card game and Patsy was the big winner. I don't remember how I did. Ha-ha  We're going to miss our hikes and card games with these great friends. Oh and new beers. Right Ron?

We then planned a delicious dinner with our son and his girlfriend, Audrey before we left. We found a new recipe from the Food Channel and used his grill to cook it. Chicken Involtini and Buttery Grilled Potatoes. Chris grilled up some burgers too for leftovers the next week. We had a nice chocolate cake for dessert.

Weather was great so we ate on the patio

The crew

We had a fun evening and played some spades after dinner. Audrey and I teamed up and whipped the mother and son team. Audrey hasn't played spades much in the past but caught on very quickly and had some beginners luck with great cards all evening.

As I said I had the chance to play golf with Chris before we left. We tried a new course, the Dobson Ranch course just a few minutes from his house. The last time we played it was no contest however this time my persistence paid off and I came out on top by a few strokes. I know we'll be back at it again next winter and I know he'll be gunning for me. Win or lose....I truly enjoy playing with him.

Just a couple days before leaving we got a call from our friends, Steve and Debbie from Down the Road. They were still stuck in CA in a pasture with mud all around from the rains there for the last couple of months. However they were driving their truck to Surprise, AZ to see Steve's father and step mom for a couple weeks. No way we were going to miss the chance to hang with these folks. We made plans to meet about half way between  at Mac's Broiler and Tap in Tempe. Good food and many choices for beer. Of course when they pulled up Steve jumped out and said "there's a geocache right over there in the parking lot" so Steve and I got our phones and apps locked on and found it right away. Can't stop us. Glenda and I are slowly increasing our cache numbers.

We got a seat and ordered our beer and food and the conversation started. We hadn't been together since Durango, CO so there was a lot to cover. On and on we went. I don't think there was ever a lull in the conversation. Well after dinner and another hour later(maybe longer) we finally had to say our goodbyes.

The great thing is we are formulating a plan to meet out east this summer. Steve has a reunion in VA and then they plan to travel north to Maine. That's our plan see the east coast. So Maine would be a great meeting place. I hear Maine lobster is wonderful. Got to check it out. So we'll be seeing them again soon. That is if they ever get out of CA. :-)

The crazy lovebirds

Then on March 1 we had to leave our winter home. We had everything ready to move on and all we had to do was say our goodbyes to our neighbors in the park. Once that was done, we hitched up and moved on down the road (sounds familiar). We drove about 3 1/2 hours to Kartchner Caverns SP about 8 miles south of Benson, AZ. We've been here before in 2015. We love the area and an opportunity to kick back, explore new territory and geocache. We have the same site because some of the other sites have a lot of slope or are too short for us and we knew this one was just right. We have so much space and privacy.

Our site

Looking down the road

Looking up the road

The weather is about the same as in Gold Canyon but we're at a higher elevation. About 4600 ft. above sea level. We have more winds here since it's so much more open around us. We don't plan on going into the Caverns this year. We did that in 2015. Our plan is to visit friends in Green Valley, AZ and Chiricahua National Monument. We also hiked the Foothill trail around the caverns. About 2.5 miles with 400 ft. elevation gain. We also did the optional Mountain View extension for the best views. The trail leaves from the campground and follows around the side through a couple of washes around the back of the caverns then around and up over the caverns with the option to get higher on the Viewpoint trail. The trail then leads back around the front to the visitors center and back to the campground.

Mesquite everywhere

Cairns mark the top of the Viewpoint

Checking out the view

We added our own rocks to the cairns

At the top

What a landscape

We're already immersing our selves in the scenery and are heading to the Chiricahua National Monument tomorrow. Cloudy day today but we got our 10,000 steps in and found 3 caches.

That's a good day.

More exploring and adventure to come.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Down to our last full week in Gold Canyon...Get in as much as we can before we leave

Well today is a rain day in AZ. Not like what our friends Steve and Debbie have had to contend with in CA though. Real feel for them being stuck in one place but at least they have family near by.

Can't believe we're down to our last full week at our winter home in Gold Canyon. 5 months goes fast. We're keeping busy with many of the activities in the park like the Valentine's Day dinner and Comedy show.

We had a prime rib dinner with mashed potatoes and broccoli with a tiramisu cake for dessert.

OF course we've been getting in as much hiking as possible with our friends. We did another round of hiking at the First Water Trailhead up around Praying Hands and the Treasure Loop with Ron and Patsy.

Praying Hands

Here come the girls

Met some grade school kids on a nature hike too

Beautiful desert landscape

 Of course we stopped at a local restaurant after to get a bite to eat. This was a new place for us called Filly's Roadhouse.  Check out the link. It's near the open desert and is frequented by local ranchers that ride their horses right up to the restaurant and tie up their horses while they eat. Very good food and interesting décor.

Our next hike was with Ron and Patsy and friends, Bill and Kay. We haven't had as much opportunity to hike with them but enjoy their company. We  got to know Bill and Kay too through the hiking club over the last 3 winters. The plan was to hike the Kelvin trail portion of the AZ Trail. The AZ Trail extents from Mexico to Utah , north and south. This is an in and out hike to an old trail trestle that is used by the local copper mine company. Wonderful views of the open mining and the Gila River. With all the rain recently the desert is alive with greenery and beauty. The weather was perfect with a light breeze, warm temps and lots of sun.

Girls just want to have fun

Bill, Kay, Patsy and Ron

Headed to the trestle

Built in 1958

No hike would be complete without a selfie

Stopped at a viewpoint to check out the copper mine

We had such a great time and even walked along the train tracks back to the trailhead. This shortened the hike by about a mile. Just outside the trailhead on the road leading in we saw mailboxes of folks who live near by. Pretty cool.

Well then what do you do after a fun hike? You go get something to eat. We stopped at Porter's Café in Superior, AZ nearby for a burger, fries and cold drinks. Another wonderful day in AZ.

All of this hike has been leading up to a big event for Ron and myself. The RV park hiking club has several hikes that are considered Challenge hikes. Each year so far I have done one. The first year I hiked with the club up Picacho Peak in Tucson and Flatiron in the Superstitions. Last year I hiked Flatiron again with my friend Ron who had not been up there. Ron has done some of the Challenge hikes like 5057 and Picketpost Mountain. Well I talked him into hiking up Picketpost with me this year for my first time( He said he wanted to go back up so I invited him to lead the way).

This is a hike with 2000 ft. elevation gain and some areas of bouldering along the face of the mountain. The hike is about 4.5 miles round trip. It took us about 5 hours to complete with 15-20 minutes of photo taking and refreshments at the top. Going up was a lot of cardio climbing but coming down was all stress on the joints as we descended down the trail. Legs like Jello as the end.

It was a nice cool morning and we got started on the trail about 8 am. It didn't take long before we had to take off the outer layer as we climbed.

Going up there

Halfway up

Starting elevation

At the top

As we climbed we took many looks back at the views around us, Good excuse to stop and catch our breath.

As we climbed we followed cairns and painted arrows and dots to keep us on track. In that kind of environment it's easy to lose your way.

We met a nice young couple on their way down. They really helped keep us going, telling us about the views above. Fortunately we were getting close to the top and we weren't going to turn back now.

Just when you think you're at the top, you crest a saddle and there's more up to go. Not as steep but still up. Finally we crested the very top. We knew it because there is a mailbox and an old metal bench there. Inside the mailbox were several notebook where people had recorded their achievement of making there.

The views spectacular and well worth the blood, sweat and tears. OK, mainly sweat. But it was so worth it. So good to have a friend that would put himself through that kind of abuse again.

Thank you Ron.

Town of Superior in the distance

Been there, Done that.

It's been a wonderful winter here in Gold Canyon. So many things to do with so many wonderful people. Looking forward to returning next winter. There may be some changes next year but we won't know until this summer. We'll keep you posted.

Had a fun dinner last night with our son, Chris and his girlfriend, Audrey. We had dinner at a new place called Mellow Mushroom. Pizza place with several varieties of beers. Hoping to get another golf date in with Chris before we leave. Bittersweet as usual, thinking about leaving but new adventures await us down the road. I also have a few last minutes projects to complete on the rig to make sure we are road worthy. So a bust end to our stay in AZ for the winter. Looking forward to meeting up with Faye and Dave in TX and traveling with them. I can't imagine the trouble we might get into. Ha-ha. What ever it is, it will be fun.

Stay tuned. The best is still to come.