Days of Nights

in search of dark skies

Category: landscapes (Page 1 of 5)

Graham County AZ

I needed 3 days to camp out over the weekend before I headed for Tucson Mountain Park. I thought about Cochise Stronghold to the west in the Durango Mountains. But first I needed to empty my tanks and get gas and I would have to go to Willcox for that. Doubling back to Cochise did not seem practical. And the sites in the National Forest did not contain enough information to make me feel confident in this destination at this time. Dispersed camping on BLM land right off the highway on the way to Safford at a lower elevation made more sense. There was snow on the top of Mount Graham. And I found out there is an astronomical observatory up there managed by the University of Arizona. There is a visitors’ center at the Eastern Arizona University Discovery Center in Safford. They were not open on the Saturday I went into town. Interesting stuff going on around here. Cotton farming. Many churches. Not a bad location.

Chiricahua National Monument AZ. Rocks, Weather, and Culture.

Bisbee AZ

Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. Pima County AZ.

Two nights instead of three. Still left me a full day to explore this area. Its center is the old Empire Cattle Ranch. Cows from three different companies still graze the grasslands. Empire was organized in 1874, though an existing ranch was here probably much earlier. Nothing about what was going on here before that is related in the interpretive material. This was Apache homeland. They created problems for the European-Americans by trying to protect their territories and resources. “Renegades” they are called. Geronimo and his family among them.

I am impressed by the variety of the landscape here, notable among the trees that grow here. The grasslands are populated by mesquite. Around the springs and the waterways that flow from them are large cottonwoods. And up one wide wash are stands of big spreading Arizona white oaks. They grow up the hillside in smaller sizes. Reminds me a lot of California.

Patagonia Lake State Park. Santa Cruz County AZ.

This was an unscheduled stop on my way to Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. I started out emptying my waste water and filling up with fresh at La Siesta and having a long conversation with Steve. I stopped in Nogales for gas and groceries. I was a bit behind where I had wanted to be, but that was all right. Two sheriff’s vehicles sped by in quick succession. One of them created a road block up ahead. There was a bad accident further along and the highway would be closed for several hours. Wow. Where to spend the night? Fortunately I was right at the road to Patagonia Lake State Park. In my research I remember this having campsites for $30 a night. It was Monday so maybe I would be lucky. Otherwise I would drive back to La Siesta and pay $25 and use more than $30 worth of gas. Well there were two sites available for a trailer. It was a decent spot, with electricity and water. I sprayed the inside of the trailer when I connected the water because the kitchen faucet had been turned on. Oh well the floor needed mopping. The only casualty was a box of baking soda which I don’t use anyway. There is a lake with boat ramps and a swimming beach. Trees. Mostly mesquite but a few pines. In the morning I made use of the free showers. On my way out I made the acquaintance of one of the two Escape owners parked nearby. They are both traveling together. The one I spoke with are from Kelowna BC. The others not home are from Washington. Now I was on my way.

The road accident was a head on collision that killed the drivers of each vehicle. I passed the scene near milepost 18. The pavement was blackened and the roadside shrubbery was charred. A state employee was taking pictures.

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. Pima County AZ.

After a week of Phoenix and Tucson and spending a large chunk of money on truck repairs, it was time to retreat and park myself for awhile. No driving. No spending money. Buenos Aires was just what I needed. In addition there are very dark skies and I stayed to watch the lunar eclipse. This became an experiment in managing my water resources. I ran out of fresh water in the trailer and maxxed out the gray water both on the 9th day. I had an extra 12 gallons in the truck and drew of 5 of the gray water into a separate container. There are those who scatter their gray water in the bushes. I am not doing that. So practically speaking, the way I do things, I am good for 8 days. Which includes doing dishes twice daily, a light laundry, a body wash, and washing my hair.

This area is 10 miles from the Mexico border so there is a lot of Patrol activity. White SUVs along the roads, including driving through the refuge, and overhead aircraft, F-15s, surveillance jets, and helicopters.

The nearby town of Arivaca is interesting. It has been here since the 1700s. Formerly had its day when mining was going on about 100 years ago. Now being populated by artists, humanitarians, and tourists. Just outside of town is the unique La Siesta RV Park. Steve has been theme-ing it with vintage travel trailers. Nice park. Nice guy.

Theodore Roosevelt Lake Recreation Area. Gila County AZ.

Gold Butte National Monument. Clark County NV.

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge. Lincoln County NV.

Valley of Fire State Park. Clark County NV.

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