Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hanging out in Geronimo's Back Yard

One of the places I have been set on going to see this fall is the Chiricahua Mountains of far SE Arizona. Diane mentioned to me several weeks ago that her friend Christine would be in town and we could spend a night in Bisbee.

We set off early Saturday morning and make our way through Globe into Safford before heading South towards the Chiricahua's. This area is most famous for the Apache Indian Wars that took place in the late 1880's. Names like Cochise and Geronimo were a big part of my childhood, and I am excited to be able to walk in the area they did.

Sorghum Fields near Mount Graham Arizona. This crop is something I am seeing quite a lot of this year all throughout SE Arizona. Pretty interesting food that comes from Africa.

The Jeep at the base of the Chiricahua Range. This is where Geronimo held out against the US Army. These mountains just rise up out of the desert. Very cool

We drive through Portal Arizona and make our way into the National Forest. There is a pretty good Border Patrol presence here and we see several trucks even on the dirt tracks we use to cut the corner to the parking area. As you drive in the change of plant life is stunning in you go from open desert to lush forest in about 1/2 mile.

The road into South Fork has a lot of trees changing colors and there is light traffic as mostly serious bird watchers and hunters use this area. We see a lot of hunters on the road.

We park the Jeep at the trail head and have a great lunch before setting off on our hike. We have already done over 250 miles from my house just to get here but the area is beautiful. We are all in great spirits though I think I am catching a small cold.

Christine finds a great place to check out the area from. She is a lot of fun to have on the trip and is a great sport. Rare to meet someone and be able to travel with them so well. I hope she comes out from KC more often to visit.

The area is full of trees that you don't see very often in Arizona The Aligator Juniper is one of those trees.

Some of the other trees are pretty darn big as well

Fall is here and the color changes against the Red Canyon Walls make for some amazing sights. We are lucky because there are few other people in the area and we set off down the trail.

As usual, all hype about bears but my bearless streak continues. I will see one this year. You just wait!

The forest has some really amazing plants like this Yucca that looks out of place away from the desert floor.

I marvel at the beauty of the small as well as the big. Glorious times and we laugh a lot as we wander up the creek. The sounds of birds and water put one at ease.

Diane and Christine pose for me at the sign showing we are now entering the wilderness area. I am a little cautious here because the area is close to the border and some smugglers use the rugged terrain to ferry in drugs and people. You have to be vigilant out here.

Of course Diane has no desire to take the easy way. We spend a lot of time finding the trail on this hike mostly because we don't pay attention to the trail as much as we should. It just means we need to practice more in the coming months.

It is so fun to be able to act like a 12 year old some days. The drop is about 10 feet to the creek floor but you can't tell in this picture.

We wander up the stream bed for a while. I find a lot of cool rocks and things that
catch my eye. There is little conversation as we just get into the rhythm of the forest

The trail is empty for the most part but I did come in contact with a fellow Red Hat Cool Vest Member. Never do ask his name though.

Diane even found us a great place to camp…except you can’t camp along the South Fork. Details my dear details.

Here is a picture of the luckiest guy in the world and the reason why.

We have about a hundred more miles to drive and head back to the Jeep. We make it out and drive out along the Northern rim of the mountains heading towards Bisbee

The area is stunning and has a lot of great opportunities to explore further.

We stop briefly here at the monument but doen't go in as we are on the trail of a rumor that the SandHill Cranes are back in the area for the winter. We are definitely coming back though as both Diane and I fall in love with the area.

As we drove from the monument towards Douglas, I count a big raptor about once every 25 telephone poles. The habitat is just perfect for them here. This Red Tail Hawk is one of the most beautiful birds I have seen. I doen’t have the heart to tell him he has a feather out of place though. You can see a piece of fur from his last meal sticking out of his beak even.

We go to the WhiteWater Draw area just as the sun is setting and are greeted by one of the biggest flocks of cranes I have ever seen. It is so worthy. Here they are coming in wave after wave of birds for several minutes. There had to be almost 500+ birds there.

And I thought landing on a carrier was tough. These guys have no Air Traffic Control. Amazing to watch them come in and land

Something spooks them as we were getting ready to leave and they take off as a huge group. This is about 25% of the flock that I get in the frame. Amazing
We get into Bisbee after dark and find our way to the School House B&B that Diane has booked for us. It is a very nice place and we decide to go downtown for dinner. I am feeling a cold coming on though which is a bummer.

Did I mention that I was the luckiest guy in the world yet?

Bisbee’s Main Drag Sunday Morning. The shops are mostly closed still but we wander down doing some window shopping.

Worthy Sign

Sometimes worthy art is right at your feet. I would love to hear the stories this old man hole cover can tell.

A return trip is definitely in the plans. Maybe on the moto.

We make our way up towards Kartcher Caverns and stop in Tombstone. I am really not feeling all that great so I let the girls go wander the streets while I nap in the Jeep. Tombstone is too commercial for me in many ways and I think that helps put my mind at ease about missing out.

This Hombre though makes me smile as he walks to work. Gotta dig the sombrero

(Photo Above: Big Room at Kartchner Caverns State Park. Courtesy of Arizona State Parks)

There is no way to do justice to just how cool Kartchner Caverns is. You can’t take a camera into the place but I will be back a lot over time because it is one of the most spiritual places I have ever been to. Uber Worthy

This flower outside the discovery center at the park catches my eye. I am lucky because I get to live in one of the most diverse places on Earth and have wonderful people to share the trip with.

Postscript: I came home to discover that I had Bronchitis (I am sure the moist cave air didn’t help) and have been on some pretty high doses of antibiotics. Should be back in the saddle soon though.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Butcher of Boulder and Snow on the Mountain

Morning at the Chuckwagon is glorious. I love looking out and seeing all the motorcycles and people stirring to get that first morning cup of Joe. It will be a wonderful day for sure.

Today, we ride with the dirt bikes for a bit. I say a bit because I know that we will go off at some time and start our own adventure. There will be 4 chase trucks today so we won’t be needed.

Operations getting under way. Notice how Killer morph's into his alter ego "Monty" once people let him think he is in charge. Not unlike a great episode of the German version of "Rat Patrol" I have infiltrated the ranks here with the Jeep. They don't suspect a thing!

Ahh the Motorcycle that just won't die. This is the KLR. Notice that parts aren't there, it sits for 360+ days a year in Bob's garage, and yet you can always find some fool that will get on it those 5 days. This year is a little different since Wurty is the foo....I mean gunslinger who takes the challenge of the "MOTO THAT WON'T DIE" on.

I hear him telling the less experienced.."Hand Guard? We don't need no Steenkin Hand Guards!"

Why do guys on BMW Motocross bikes go out with us? We almost all ride BMW Street Bikes, but Monty takes pleasure in killing them off on the trail. Poor "TubeSock" doesn't stand a chance. Also notice at this point Boney still has a left hand turn signal....

We gather at the start of the ride up Boulder Mountain. It will be ove 11,oooft when we get to the top. I tell Bob, not to worry about us as we are going to stop a lot for photo's and to play

As we climb out of the valley we see that as usual, there will be some weather developing as the day progresses. The vistas are great


The moto's start to file by the Jeep with Whip in the lead.

Poor "TubeSock on the lead BMW still thinks he is going to have a flawless day at this point. "I feel like screaming "ACHTUNG! The Englishman hates almost all things German!" but I am not that nice a guy :)

We take the jeep up a hill and look at the surrounding country side. The Jeep can just go almost anywhere that I am confident enough to take it.

The 4 of us in the Jeep are having a hoot and the ladies haven't ever gone this far off road before

Monty rides off after checking on us through the Aspens. As much as I am no fan of the British Empire, Monty is a great rider, a very good trail boss, and maybe even an ok guy. I just wish Jesus Perez liked him.

You got to love traction control. I am ready for Paris Dakar!

The valley is dusted in Yellows

The Aspen groves are amazing.

And having a couple of hotties in the Jeep makes life all that much better.

We really are having this much fun. And I am not going to even talk about the green gummy worms..

As we climb to the top of the Boulder Plateau, we cross 11000ft. We don't settle on just getting next to the sign.

We take the jeep up to the summit!

After this we catch up with a couple of the other chase trucks and set off to look for where the bikes went. Monty gave us a small map but it doesn't really tell us where it starts. With no frame of reference we just sort of wander around.

The little truck that Roy brings does amazing on the rough road. I am very impressed

Oh boy, the Jar Head has no clue where we are. My guess is that he must have been doing extra PT during map reading school. What to do?

Give the map to the Hotties who in about 2 minutes "figure out" where we are. And you think they are just here for their looks. But what do you do when you think you might need to get more involved in navigation?

Put a 15 year old ROCK STAR from California behind the wheel!!

I mean what trouble could he get into?

Actually my man Alec did a tremendous job behind the wheel and took us about 10 miles into the back country and really made his Pop proud.

Tell me this isn't Album Cover material. I hope he hangs out with us again someday. The worse part was the Hotties were all over him and I was 2nd Banana. Oh well one day you are in and the next you are out.

The Man and his Son.

There are some great little lakes out here and we figure we could just relax out here all day and not worry about the bikes.

And just as everyone was having the time of their lives, Monty shows up for a surprise inspection. He informs us that things are not going well. The Butcher of Boulder has showed his true face and blown the rest of the crowd all over the bloody mountain. Already Tube Sock had to limp down the mountain on his BMW and we may never see him again.

Even Boney lost control trying to keep up with the Butcher

And then I see him. Smock ready looking for the next victim. The man has no conscience when it comes to leaving the others in the dirt. Hide the children.

Janet has no idea what she has gotten herself into with this crowd on her first ride. I hope she joins us again in the future. She seems like a nice person and even gets along with Monty.

We follow the bikes again now for a bit and notice the weather turning colder and as usual for a Fall Torrey it starts to rain

Then it starts to Snow and hail a bit. The temp is in the low forties and the jeeps heater comes on for the first time

We see a side road that leads to a lake and leave the rest of the party to get on back down the mountain.

It is cold out here but the leaves are amazing to see. We are still laughing and being silly and have no real desire to get down the mountain

The lake we come upon is beautiful and with the colors and weather make for some lovely photography.

I am sure the bikes love riding down this soup. But for now we are all alone and start to see deer and other critters.

We come upon a small herd of Pronghorn and I manage to get a few quick shots as they head off into the trees.

They are majestic animals to watch.

This tree catches my eye as it seems to have gone through a period of indecision as it matured. All is good as life is too linear anyway

We see our friends in a clearing on the way down one more time and I take this shot at about 5oo+ meters. I will be back up there at least once in the next few months to spend more time seeing what is in the region. I am sure soon enough it will be covered in snow too.

So we make our way back to town. Content in knowing we had another glorious day and for someone like me who lives in the desert, a chance to experience the Fall colors.

See you next time