Because let’s get something clear: the Chiricahuas are the star of the show in my book, as this latest visit just confirmed. I don’t know why I keep telling people about them because honestly, the #1 thing The Mate and I love about them is how few people we meet there. (Things #2-7 are to follow. At least they are a bit of a haul to get to.
We started on the west side, a.k.a. the National Monument side, or the better-known side, thrilled to have scored one night in small, pretty Bonita Canyon campground. What better place to debut our giant new tent shelter?
Bonita Canyon offers a jaw-droppingly beautiful drive several miles up to the top of the mountain, where most folks go to hike around the rocky hoodoos. I decided to trade a hike for a ride, knowing I probably wouldn’t have the knees for both.
Our last time through here, three years ago, I wrote a song about it, and those lyrics were echoing in my head as we prepared to bed down at our campsite:
“A lone coyote wails for some connection with her band,
Unless that’s the spirit of Cochise still mourning for his land.
To say that we belong here is historically untrue,
So what about this feeling that we absolutely do?”
Next morning we had the privilege of saying goodbye to our happy place…
and then, a couple hours later, saying hello again.
The two sides of the Chiricahua Mountains are connected by a road, but it’s not one you’d want to try without a jeep. And not in February. We were happy to make the drive, for this:
The tiny town of Portal, AZ (the east side of the mountains is national forest, not monument) is a Mecca for birders. “Bird” is still a noun for me, not a verb, but I do enjoy seeing them, if not actually watching them.
We had two precious days in a cabin with good friends, enough to learn the commuting habits of the local wildlife, like the turkeys who strutted past one way in the morning, and back the other at evening time. Going out at dawn, after a glorious sunrise…
…I discovered their roosting tree:
Later (not pictured) I found them resting in the shade with a pair of deer, like ol’ roomies.
My Chiricahua faves, though, are always the javelinas—collared peccaries—so I was happiest when they strolled uponto our deck, checking out our empty cooler.
Another of my Chiricahua Faves is the presence of sycamores, thanks to the elevation which provides snow, thus water. I got to visit with some on our morning hike.
But in the afternoon, I scratched my real itch: to get up close, nose to nose, with some of those salmon-colored crags. So I crossed the little swinging bridge behind our cabin…
…and started climbing. Keep in mind, the day was overcast, so these rock colors are actually muted here.
The upper part of the trail was so iffy—narrow, sloped, and loose—that I had to make rules for myself: walk. Then stop and gaze. Then walk again.
Tuesday we left the Chiricahuas for good, promising to be back next road trip if at all possible, and knowing that further scenery was going to have a hard time reaching its standards. But halfway up New Mexico, heading north, our recreation stop at White Sands National Monument, the scenery did its best.
After three fairly rustic days, we were ready for some good WiFi and—because New Mexico!—some good green chiles. (Not pictured: green chiles, blue corn, posole—thanks, NM.) Santa Rosa gave us both, and a decent sunset as well.
Next morning: out of New Mexico, across the Texas Panhandle (meeting our goal to spend no $ in Texas) and across half of Oklahoma…which is way bigger than it looks on the map! We did score one nice walk in Red Rock State Park…
Internet has been a problem today as we cross into Arkansas, so I’m going to cross my fingers and hit Publish now…