Chiricahua National Monument

We recently checked out Whitewater Draw south of Tucson and just outside of Willcox, AZ to see the massive sandhill crane migration. You can see my post here… https://kritterspaw.com/2023/01/28/natures-wonder/. We figured while we were in the area we could check out Chiricahua National Monument as it is not far from Whitewater Draw.

Chiricahua was established as a National Monument in 1924 to protect the over 12,000 acres of ‘pinnacles’ that jut from the ground. It’s said that these pinnacles were formed by a volcanic eruption from Turkey Creek Volcano over 27 million years ago. The volcano spewed ash over 1200 square miles cascading into fields of tall spires forming layers of gray rock called rhyolite.

This isolated mountain range rises above the surrounding grassland sea as if you are climbing into a sky island. Meadows dot the landscape with scattered cactus, mesquite, sycamore, juniper, and oak trees. The remarkable spires signify the unmistakable guardians looming from the forest floor that is Chiricahua National Monument.

The area is rich with hawks, deer, and even bobcat.

The park itself rises up to 9,763 feet and when we were there we found the trails to be solid ice and snow. The pinnacles still wore patches of snow from a snowstorm earlier in the week. The cold temperatures (24F when we were there) ensured the snow lingered for our morning sunrise.

Haigler Creek

When fall has fallen… see my post here https://kritterspaw.com/2022/10/15/fall-has-fallen-2/ it’s time to head south to lower elevation. Mogollon Rim is about 7600′, so we headed outside of Payson to Haigler Creek at about 5500′ to see if fall colors were starting there.

We were pleased to find some dappled color along the shores of Haigler Creek surrounding the cascading stream.

This has become a new favorite spot with its gorgeous scenery and peaceful babbling brook. While it is difficult to get to, certainly not for the 2×2 car, it is worth the effort.

I love the water gushing through the rocks and spilling downstream through twists and turns over fallen trees, branches, rocks, and brush that divert it’s flow. It is so free and unencumbered. It reminds me of a quote I am fond of, “Time is like a river. You cannot touch the same water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of your life”. It’s peaceful machinations are a good reminder of what’s important.

Oregon Coast

Coming from Arizona, Oregon is a whole new experience. While we are used to canyons and ridges, cactus and creeks, deer and elk, scenery loaded with oceans, pelicans, otters, and redwoods is foreign land.

We drove north to Astoria, then slowly worked our way down the coast, camping along the way. We stopped and picked up fresh caught fish from the docks caught that morning, fresh veg at local farmers markets, and bread, cheese, and condiments from charming artisan stores and bakeries.

The scenery was stunning throughout, though we got our fair share of fog and overcast days. Walking on the quiet beaches in the mornings was peaceful and relaxing. Though, I must confess the damp weather was something we weren’t used to from our dry-heat of Arizona. Everything we owned was damp, wet, and difficult to dry.

We stopped at a number of Oregon State Parks, each having its own allure. Some had beach access, while others had tons of trails. Several had campgrounds, many were day use only. It was stunning to see how many State Parks there were. There had to be almost 50 parks just along the coast.

The coastline was gorgeous as we traversed our way down coast. Around every corner was a new sight to see; a new place to stop; a new picture to take. We planned to go 50 – 60 miles / day. Normally that would take an hour, under city highway (no traffic) standards. Every once in awhile we would push to 140 miles give or take / day. We ‘d leave early in the morning to catch sunrise, and wouldn’t get to our next stop until late in the day. We never stayed any place just one day – always at least 2, up to 4 days.

We stopped for lighthouses, beaches, and markets. We stopped for overlooks, pull-outs, and food stuff. We’d relax in our camp at night and enjoy preparing great meals with our fresh goodies.

Our last stop along the coast was Bandon. We found Bandon to be particularly charming with its many rock formations and spectacular coastline. Fish & chips (and a tasty selection of grilled fish options, oysters, shrimp, clams, and chowder) could be had right on the water overlooking the boats, or fresh fish and shellfish picked up from several local choices. There were several restaurant choices in town, and even a fromager (cheesemaker), Face Rock Creamery. There is even a distillery, a cider mill, and nearby wineries (though not in Bandon).

It was an extremely pleasant trip along the coast full of tasty treats and sights. Maybe next time we will venture inland… or maybe not.

Check out my pix South along the CA coast… https://kritterspaw.com/2022/09/30/california-cruising/

Mogollon Rain

With our monsoons brewing, this is a great time of the year to capture awesome clouds and weather.

So we headed out to the Rim to see if we could capture some interesting photos. While we were actually thinking we would get fog after the previous day’s rain. We were just greeted with more rain, and a few elk.

We always consider it a gift whatever we might get. No matter what, it’s always a good day out and beautiful trek through the forest.

Dog Town

Dog town Lake is one of the many little lakes that litter our desert state of Arizona.

We knew we were in for a good time when we saw an osprey on the tree just outside our camp.

We had a great time watching the osprey fish, and were even gifted with a bald eagle.

Dogtown Lake is situated just outside of Williams, AZ, and has a great view of the Bill Williams Mountain.

It’s definitely a place worthy of another visit, if only for the osprey watching.

Osprey hunts for fish

Everything Changes

With everything going on in the world, I guess it goes without saying that everything changes. I’m not talking about the prices, lack of workers, or social upheaval. If you go someplace or do something long enough you are bound to see change, whether it’s at a restaurant, a golf course, or a favorite outing.

Considering this a blog for my photos, I’m not talking about restaurants or golf. We have heard of Black River for decades. We were told it had unsurpassed beauty and wildlife. So, finally, after so very many years of hearing about it, we decided to bite the bullet, buy the White Mountain Indian Reservation permits and check it out.

We began our drive from Pinetop-Lakeside, AZ in a cool 70F day and began to decent the long road to the river. Once we got to the ‘border bridge’ of the San Carlos Indian Reservation we stopped to check out the river at the only viewpoint from the road. We found ourselves in 98F heat and considering the hot and sandy environment, lack of scenery, and animals, we made the decision to turn around and head to the ‘U.S.’ side outside of Big Lake.

Once there we were greeted with cooler temps, including 39F overnight. Not having ever been to Black River, we were surprised to see the lack of views of the river. I suppose if we were to hike down the river with waders the scenery would improve. The Alpine / Big Lake side still wore the scars of the 2011 fire that rolled through Hannigan Meadow and Greer. The Black River had remnants of burned trees and heavy overgrowth along the river way.

Wildcat bridge across Black River

We were further surprised to see the lack of open dispersed camping. Signs everywhere advised no camping in non-designated areas, only in the Pay-Park here spots. The campsites were dusty and trash ridden with no trash receptacles.

Everything changes. We have camped for years, pulling up in any stretch of earth and calling it home for the night. Over the years we have never paid for camping in the forest land we pay taxes on. We have found very little trash early on, but when we did, we always took home more trash than we came with and picked up anything we found. These days we travel for hours to a beautiful spot only to find heaps of trash littered everywhere. Heck, we find it on our road to our subdivision. Now, we have to pay for the pleasure of picking up others trash with no place to put it, other than take it home with us, and pay for it to be picked up.

More and more there are an increasing number of closed forest roads, gated areas we are no longer able to visit, other than designated spots where we have to listen to someone else’s generator. Sorry for the gripe. Everything changes. I’m glad we camped throughout AZ and saw all that nature has to offer. We will continue to do so, but with limited access from what we have become accustomed to.

See more photos from our outing.. https://kritterspaw.com/2022/06/18/benny-creek/

Tucson to Greens Peak in 45 degrees

We got a tip that we might be able to find coatimundi at Cluff Ranch in Pima, AZ, a locale they had been seen many times before. Having never seen a coatimundi, we were anxious to follow up on the lead and hopeful to get a great shot.

We stopped at Tucson Mountain Park along the way. It was sunny blue sky the entire time, but we weren’t there for sunsets, we were there for the animals.

At Tucson Mountain Park we were delighted and entertained as we watched these little ground squirrel brave the ocotillo thorns just for a taste of it’s ‘candy corn’ fruit.

When we got to Cluff Ranch in Pima, AZ, we hiked in to the spot we thought we might see coatimundi, parked ourselves and hid for several hours, waiting in silence hoping for an encounter. Unfortunately, not all animal outings are productive. They work to their own schedule and don’t tend to appear on command.

The heat was intense at 97F, particularly for us mountain dwellers, so we made our way back through Hannigan’s meadow toward Greens Peak in hopes of catching some osprey fishing.

We were rewarded with a 53F day, nearly 45 degrees from the previous day in Southern AZ, and fortunate to see some osprey, yet unable to catch that illusive shot of them fishing… but I’ll keep trying.

Best Laid Plans

We planned well in advance for our trip to Toroweap Overlook, part of the North Rim Grand Canyon.

Toroweap (Tu-weep to the Paiute Indian) refers to ‘the earth’, and translates appropriately to ‘dry & barren’. It’s hard to imagine this long rough rocky 61-mile dirt road through sagebrush and salt bush can open up to something so enormous, vast, and beautiful.

As the Colorado River winds through the bottom of the canyon, the steep walls stretch out to the sky with abundant rock formations.

We got the camping permits 6 months in advance, as required, estimating that the end of March would be less crowded and have best potential for rainy weather and clouds, and not be too hot.

Truth be known, we hit the mark. We hoped for clouds and clouds we got. In fact, we got so many clouds that over the course of 3 nights and 3 days (that’s 6 sunset / sunrise shoots), we only saw the sun once.

Outside of that one time, the sun was behind a dense cloud bank and never made an appearance. And unfortunately, it never even lit up the sky.

While I was disappointed, it was a gorgeous spot to watch the sun rise over coffee, and end the evening watching it set (hoping the light would come).

Alamo Lake

It was my first time at Alamo Lake. I wasn’t sure what to expect. There isn’t much there but a campground and a lake. We brought the boat and figured we’d get some fish and some photographs.

While we didn’t get any fish, we got more than we bargained for when we saw a number of interesting, and unexpected wildlife.

We saw wild burro’s, very likely decedents of the Spaniards in the 1600’s or AZ miners, wandering the hills and coming down for water.

We saw grebes and blue heron…

.. and were surprised to find white, and brown, pelican.

As it turns out we got more than we expected, and were delightfully surprised.

Roosevelt Lake

Roosevelt Lake is one of several lakes around Arizona.

Years ago we used to enjoy it from the vantage point of the water’s edge, in a boat.

Now that we we are retired, we are more apt to enjoy the water from a vantage point high up from the lake so that we can capture photos of her allure from afar.

The Roosevelt bridge can be seen from the distance through smoke and haze. Either way, the water always attracts us and brings us back for more.