Exploring the Chiricahuas
After an afternoon and night of being not so gently rocked in the motorhome ( my impression of this area is that it tends to get a little breezy ), I loaded up the Prius and headed west towards Portal to see how far up in the mountains my no clearance vehicle could climb.
As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.
Just a beautiful blue sky morning as I drove west on Route 533 ( Portal Road ) towards the small town of Portal, Arizona, reported to be a birding hotspot.
( Just throwing in this image taken on my way home in the afternoon, from pretty much the exact same spot, to show the atmospheric changes over 7 hours of climbing around in the mountains. Very different sky, still an absolutely gorgeous day ! )
Turns out the town of Portal is really just an assortment of small buildings scattered over several miles along Portal Road. A few lodges here and there, a small Post Office and Library located at the end of a short dead end street. I as yet have not discovered where folks around here shop for groceries or even fill their gas tanks. I seem to be a long ways from anywhere out here.
Stunningly dramatic scenery as you drive along this road and start heading up into the Chiricahua Mountains.
The terrain suddenly gets quite vertical on both sides of the road as you start the climb.
The road slowly passes through a canyon following the edge of a stream with a lot of evidence of some pretty serious flood damage. The canyon walls are steep and one side is bathed in the morning sunlight …
… while the other is in deep shade. These interesting “rocks”, obviously fallen from above for they don’t resemble anything in their immediate surroundings, are gigantic. Just look at the trees behind them probably 80 – 100 feet tall. This is some very dramatic country ! The flood damage has actually closed a couple of the side roads and campgrounds here.
You have to notice the oaks and pines in these images to begin to grasp the sheer verticallity and height of these canyon walls.
After exiting the narrow canyon, I stopped at the Southwest Research Station and checked out their hummingbird feeding area and saw my first Blue Throat, one of the largest of the North American hummingbirds. For some reason, all the nectar feeders here are protected by what all but looks like sheep fence cages making photography impossible.
Since the gravel road to this point was in pretty good shape I decided to continue on up the Mountain Road and see how far I could make it towards Rustler Park, located at 9000′ elevation. Though the road got a little rough in places, and you do have to ford a couple streams, the Prius had little trouble handing the road all the way to Rustler Park. A forest fire blew through the campground at Rustler park, and what once must have been a very pretty campground nestled in tall pines, now looks like a barren, charred war zone. While the burned pines remain standing on the slopes above the campground, all the trees have been chopped down within the campground for obvious safey concerns, leaving only chewed up blackened earth throughout the grounds.
On my way back down the road from the campground, I was a little surprised to see two foraging wild turkeys picking their way through the woods at 9000′ elevation, must be a pretty hardy race of turkeys.
As I headed back down the mountain, I took this one shot to show the potential grand vistas that would be seen from this road if only there wasn’t so much air pollution killing such distant views, something I have noticed seems to be prevalent everywhere I have been in Arizona. What a shame.
Back on a much lower elevation, there was a very different look to the skies as I headed back to my campsite at Rusty’s RV Park. I took the dogs with me today to give them a change of scenery and tomorrow I plan to head back into the mountains without them so I can hike a few of the trails and perhaps get some bird shots.
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