Days of Nights

in search of dark skies

Month: February 2018

Whitewater Draw. Cochise County AZ

Three days to camp out before I could get into Chiricahua National Monument. Only 12 miles from the RV park. Moving day in the pouring rain. Relatively easy set up. But the mud is horrible. Like brown cement. Any amount of walking outside results in large heavy clumps on the boots. Developing a strategy for keeping mud out of trailer. Remove the boots in the truck, scraping the mud off with the machete. Remove the clogs on the trailer steps scraping the mud off on them, and wearing the slipper socks exclusively inside.

There are according to the literature 20,000 sandhill cranes wintering over here. They spend the night in the water, then fly off in the daytime to feed in nearby agricultural fields. They fly in v-formations with as many as 60, keeping up a noisy conversation amongst themselves. They are very large birds with long necks outstretched and their long legs trailing behind them. Their summer home is Alaska and northern Canada. Quite an unexpected and awesome experience.

There are other birds around. Ducks, swallows, and the one vermilion flycatcher I spotted. A hawk spent his days perched on a utility pole down the road from my camp.

I made another trip into Bisbee to see if my mail had arrived from Pahrump. It had not. Also an opportunity to pick up a few groceries I had failed to plan far enough ahead for.

Saturday morning I was up before sunrise to drive over to the main viewing area to observe the cranes before they flew off. Very foggy. Only one group was close enough to actually see. They were many others beyond visibility that were very audible. The birds prolonged their departures and left only in small groups.

The day was sunny but it was too muddy to do anything outside around camp. Cooked inside. A large of number of cranes appeared in the field across the road. Gunshots from beyond startled them suddenly and hundreds took to the air all at once. Amazing. I had the place to myself for two nights but some campers pulled in the afternoon. This area could easily accommodate a couple more.

A great sunset that evening, and an equally impressive sunrise on Sunday. And then hitching up to move up to Chiricahua.

 

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.

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