Chiricahua National Monument – Arizona

Hiking this place has been on our bucket list for many years.  A long, long time ago, Mike and I loved to go off into the wilderness for days on end with only the packs on our backs.  We had always wanted to go backpacking in the Chiricahuas, but somehow never did make it down to this southeast corner of Arizona.  We’re not as tough as we used to be and don’t desire to backpack anymore.  But we do love day hiking, and the Chiricahua National Monument ranks up there as some of the best hiking EVER!  All I can say is that we will most definitely be returning to the Chiricahuas next year.  We hiked about 16 miles of these beautiful trails over 2 days, loving every minute of it.

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Salud!

More of Southern Arizona – Buenos Aires Nat’l Wildlife Refuge, Tucson, and Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area

“You gotta be bird people!”, he said through clenched teeth.  I looked quizzically at the irritated man standing in the middle of our campsite.  It was clear that he meant it as an insult.  This strange and uncomfortable encounter occurred while we were camping at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge which borders Sonora, Mexico in Sasabe, Arizona.  Here’s the story … Primitive camping (free) is permitted in the wildlife refuge but only at 83 designated sites which are scattered throughout the 118,000 acres of grassland and mesquite groves.  Most are small sites, but there are a few that can comfortably accommodate a 40+ foot RV like ours.  We were excited to score a very large, beautiful site for our week of vegging in the wide open boondocks.

Our Fantastic Site #39 at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

Our Fantastic Site #39 at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

Very soon after we settled in, we noticed a number of cars and campers driving past us to the campsites further down the little dirt road.  Before long, we got a knock on the door by a group of women politely informing us that the Womens Javelina Hunting Club were coming in for the weekend.  There would be 70-100 women with guns, many of them first-timers.  “Uhh, ok.”  They would probably be stirring up a lot of dust going up and down the road in front of us.  “Ok.”  They would be meeting at the main campsite (the one closest to us just down the road) for breakfast at 4:30 a.m. before they all head out to hunt javelina.  “Ok, thanks for telling us.  No problem.  Have fun.”

It was obvious that we were occupying a premium site, right next to their hunting group’s main tent site, and they were hoping to scare us away.  She then told me that they were all sharing the many campsites along that road.  She said that people would be arriving late into the evening, would assume we were part of their group, and might set up tents in our campsite.  I told her that I would watch for such activity and that I would inform newcomers that we were not part of the group and send them on down the road.  Our conversation was very friendly, but I knew we weren’t reacting like she wanted us to.  She wanted us to be horrified at all this activity, and leave.  But we had already scoped out the entire area and we knew this was the only site that would accommodate us.  And it was a good one!  That evening, we only had one van pull in, but they left promptly when I apologized and told them we weren’t in the hunting club.

The next day is when Mr. Friendly arrived.  We had parked our car to block the entrance to our site (hint, hint).  He was in one car, and his wife in another.  They pulled around my car, driving through the brush, and parked right next to our campfire ring.  He jumped out of his car and started scoping out where he would pitch his tent.  I came out of the RV and said “Sorry!  We’re not part of your group.”  He just stared at me.  So I said “You’re with the hunting group, aren’t you?  They are just down the road a little farther.”   He paused, gave me a snarky look, and stated “This spot looks just fine to me.”

THIS is where he parked his car!

THIS is where he parked his car!

Ohhhhhh, I hate confrontation.  I just stood there with my mouth agape.  I said “You’re going to set up right on top of us?”  He squinted his eyes at me and snarled “Looks like a good spot.”  Then, suddenly his eyes got big, he threw his arms up, said “I’m outta here” and he quickly started backpedaling to his car.  His dramatic change of heart completely surprised me.  Then, I turned around and saw that Mike had come out of the RV to put a bag of trash in our car.  Mike hadn’t heard any of our conversation, did not know this guy was being a jerk, and didn’t even look in our direction.  He was merely walking the trash to the car.  It apparently scared the hell out of this guy.  Did he think I was alone?  Did he feel like Mr. Big Shot intimidating the little lady?  He shouted “You gotta be bird people!” as he jumped in his car (his wife hadn’t gotten out of hers) and both cars peeled out of our campsite.  So weird.  At first I didn’t get it.  I thought he was saying we looked like birds or something.  Mike suggested that he meant we were not hunters.  Ahhhhh, now I get it.  People come to the refuge to see the protected bird species, or to hunt the legal game.

We enjoyed the rest of our week, despite this encounter.  And the women’s group did not disturb us at all.  We did not hear any late night or early morning noise.  Their event only lasted a couple of days, then we had the whole place to ourselves again.3 Buenos Aires Natl Conservation Area Campsite 39

Hiking the Arivaca Creek Trail in Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge

Hiking the Arivaca Creek Trail in Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge

Next, it was back to civilization.  We planned 7 days of fun in Tucson.  Since many of the activities we planned were not doggie-friendly, we decided that we should pay for a hook-up site so that Lucy could have air conditioned comfort while we left her alone in the RV.  We booked a week at the Gilbert Ray Campground on the west side of Tucson.  Poor Lucy.  She couldn’t even go hiking with us there.  But, even so, we enjoyed our stay immensely.  The hiking and the sight-seeing was tons of fun.

A Beautiful Hike in Tucson Mountain Park (right from our campground!)

A Beautiful Hike to Wasson Peak in Tucson Mountain Park (right from our campground!)

A Fun Happy Hour with Al and Ingrid

A Fun Happy Hour with Al and Ingrid

We enjoyed an evening with Al and Ingrid, our friends and fellow bloggers from Live, Laugh, RV.  Ingrid prepared her very special nachos and homemade brownies.  We all pigged out (in our most eloquent manner, of course).

A Nice Sunset at Snyder Hill BLM Campground

A Nice Sunset at Snyder Hill BLM Campground

We Visited The Mission San Xavier built in 1783.  A National Historic Landmark.

We Visited The Mission San Xavier built in 1783. A National Historic Landmark.

Mission San Xavier

Mission San Xavier

Walking Around the Artistic Little Town of Tubac

Walking Around the Artistic Little Town of Tubac

We Did The Walking Tour Of The Tucson Historic District.  Very Colorful!

We Did The 2-1/2 mile Walking Tour (called the Turquoise Trail) Of The Tucson Historic District, Very Colorful!

The Old CourtHouse on the Turquoise Trail

Built in 1929, the Pima County Courthouse on the Turquoise Trail

High on our list of things to do was a return visit to the Sonoran Desert Museum.  We just love the beautiful setting, the variety of wildlife, and the Raptors in Flight demonstration where the birds fly inches over your head.  It’s so thrilling!  (We must be bird people!)

Owl Alighting

Owl Alighting (not a very clear pic, but I love it anyway)

Taking Flight

Taking Flight

In The Hummingbird Garden of the Sonora Desert Museum

In The Hummingbird Garden of the Sonora Desert Museum

We love it that Jane and Bob, our friends who split the year between their two homes in Colorado and Arizona, invited us to a great hike in Tortolita Mountain Park.  It turned out to be more than we all bargained for and we almost missed our dinner reservation!  We arrived at the Old Pueblo Grill parched, hungry, and sore.  The Grand Marnier Margaritas were the perfect medication!

Hiking the Wild Burro Trail in Tortolita Mountain Park

Hiking the Wild Burro Trail in Tortolita Mountain Park

Jane and Bob on the trail

Jane and Bob on the trail

The next day we were off to the Rodeo!

Jane and Linda at the Tucson Rodeo "Fiesta de Los Vaqueros"

Jane and Linda at the Tucson Rodeo “Fiesta de Los Vaqueros”

It Was Breast Cancer Awareness Day.  Lot of Pink Shirts on Everyone!

It Was Breast Cancer Awareness Day.  Pink Shirts on Everyone!

A Lot Of Action .. All Day!

A Lot Of Action .. All Day!

Dramatic Sunsets Almost Every Night

Dramatic Sunsets Almost Every Night.   I Call This One “The Eagle”

Our week flew by quickly.  Next up, Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area (1500 acres).  Over 20,000 Sandhill Cranes winter here and we were hoping to get there before they leave (usually by the end of February).  Not sure if the cold weather has played a role in keeping them here, but here they were!  And it was Amazing!

Camping is allowed for 3 days near the viewing platform at Whitewater Draw.

Camping is allowed for 3 days near the viewing platform at Whitewater Draw.  The viewing platforms are just a short walk away beyond the hay barn.

This Great Horned Owl Was In The Rafters Of The Hay Barn.  He Was Looking Right At Lucy!  It Was Scary!

This great horned owl was in the rafters of the hay barn. He was looking right at Lucy! It was scary!

Mike and Lucy at Whitewater Draw

Mike and Lucy at Whitewater Draw

The Sandhill Cranes spend the night standing in the shallow water.  They fly off at sunrise to go feed in the fields and return at sunset.  Usually they also return to the water in small groups for a mid-day break.  So one can view the cranes throughout the day.  However, the most dramatic viewing is sunrise and sunset when they flock in mass.  Jane’s pictures turned out better than mine, so I’m posting hers!  I tried to post a video of this, but I haven’t figured out how to do it efficiently yet.

Sandhill Cranes Flying (photo courtesy Jane Forster)

Sandhill Cranes Flying (photo courtesy my friend Jane Forster)

(photo courtesy Jane Forster)

(photo courtesy Jane Forster)

(photo courtesy Jane Forster)

(photo courtesy Jane Forster)

It is not only an incredible sight to see, but the sound!  Oh my god, the sound!  Awesome experience.

Now, we’re off to explore the Chiricahuas!  Cheers!