During a visit to Arizona, I spent a day each in the Chiricahua and Huachuca Mountains in
the southeastern corner of the state and also visited Monument Valley and Petrified
Forest National Park. On June 15, I drove from Willcox to Portal along the road
from San Simon, where I saw lots of desert birds, including Black-throated Sparrow,
Greater Roadrunner, Scaled Quail, and Gambel’s Quail. In Cave Creek Canyon, I heard an
Elegant Trogan calling and saw Painted Redstart, Hepatic Tanager, Strickland’s Woodpecker,
Bridled Titmouse, and numerous other species.
Rustler Park was devastated by a fire a few years ago,
and I barely recognized it from a previous visit in 1997. There were lots of Yellow-eyed
Juncos, but I didn’t see any Mexican Chickadees this time (although two ladies who were doing
a survey mentioned that they had just seen them). On June 16, I started the day at Ft.
Huachuca. After enjoying an
excellent view of a singing Botteri’s Sparrow, I drove over to the entrance to Garden
Canyon, where I had fond memories from 1997, but it was closed for road
repairs. I changed plans and drove over to Carr Canyon, where I had never been. Wow!
The views on the drive up are stunning. I was enchanted by Carr Canyon and decided to
do a long loop around Carr Peak. I started at the Ramsey Vista Campground and took the
trail to Hamburg Meadow. Not long after starting down the trail, I was surprised to
hear an Ovenbird singing. As the trail approached Ramsey Canyon, I heard what seemed to be a trogan call, but it was different from the call of the Elegant Trogan. The calls stopped by the time I turned on my video camera. I proceeded from Hamburg Meadow up to Bear Saddle. It was a grueling climb, and I started having severe cramps in my thighs
near the top. In order to stop the cramps, I had to consume all of my fluids except for
a 20 oz. bottle of Gatorade. I was near the half-way point. Should I turn back? I would
hate to miss the sights up ahead. I decided to press on a ways. I was starting to get
concerned, but my back-up plan would be to turn back and get water from a stream
that I had passed earlier. Before continuing on from Bear
Saddle, I enjoyed the sensational view towards Mexico from up there. I was blown away
when that panorama started coming into view as I neared the saddle.
I pressed on toward Carr Peak
and became concerned as the trail became steeper, my legs began to cramp, and I wasn’t
sure how to interpret some of the trail signs. It appeared that the trail was going
to continue to climb beyond what my cramped-up legs could handle. So I drank half
the remaining bottle of Gatorade and turned back. Just as I started back, a gorgeous
Red-faced Warbler flew in at eye level and close range. It was in the sun, and it was
an amazing sight. It was much easier on the way down, but I had to finish off the
Gatorade when the cramps started again. I got some water at the stream. Nothing has
ever smelled or tasted better than that cold water. I wouldn’t have made it out of
there alive without it, but I didn’t drink any of it at first. What if it were
contaminated and it made me sick? I might then be in even bigger trouble.
The trail from Ramsey Vista Campground to Hamburg Meadow
seemed easy when I was fresh earlier in the day. I quickly realized that it was
going to be difficult to make it out of there. The cramps became severe, I started
getting overheated, and I wasn’t
sure if I could make it. Cell reception is spotty in the mountains. So I started trying
911 just in case. I finally reached them, and they turned it over to the
Cochise Country Sheriff’s Office. An officer drove up to the trailhead and offered
to bring me water, but I told him that I could probably make it. I finally had to
drink the water from the stream, and it sure was good. It took two hours to
get back up the trail from Hamburg Meadow. I guzzled Gatorade and
water after getting back to the car.
The officer drove just ahead of me on the way down, and the paramedics checked me
out to make sure I was fit to drive back to Willcox. The officer had gotten a few people
up at the campground to help look for me. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers
and the help from the officer and the paramedics. One of the rangers said it would
have been better not to turn back, but I had no way of knowing the conditions ahead and
knew that there was water on the way back.
One of the caves in Cave Creek Canyon.
Gorgeous multi-hued rock formation.
On the road up to Rustler Park.
Stunning views from the road up Carr Canyon.
It was a grueling hike up to Bear Saddle.
The view south towards Mexico from Bear Saddle.
An iconic scene in Monument Valley.
Petroglyphs in Petrified Forest National Park.